Why Does Antisemitism Still Exist?
Antisemitism’s Modern Forms
The evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, which is why historian Robert Wistrich called antisemitism “the longest hatred.” Every time this irrational vitriol seems to be dying out, it reinvents itself with a different look and a different name. But the goal is always the same: to rid the world of the Jewish people.
In the ancient world, antisemitism began as a clash between pagan rulers, who demanded obedient homage, and their Jewish subjects, who could only worship and obey the God of Israel. The Jewish people could not bow down to any other god and were bound by the Sinaitic Law to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart and incurred the wrath of tyrants.
This was the situation described in the book of Esther where the king’s consort, Haman, demanded the Jews bow to him, and when they would not, turned the might of the Persian Empire against them. The Hanukkah story takes place under the rule of the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who attempted to make the Jews into Hellenistic pagans by banning their religious practices and desecrating their temple.
One would think that once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, this problem would go away. Instead, antisemitism took hold in the heart of Christian Europe, and among those who persecuted and hated the Jewish people were professing Christians. Space does not permit a full treatment of this sad story, but centuries of state and church-backed denigration, persecution, forced conversions, and expulsions paved the way for the Holocaust.
Proof of this is found in Martin Luther’s antisemitic writings that were published and distributed by the Nazis to justify their anti-Jewish laws and, eventually, their extermination program. Hitler admitted as much when he told two Catholic bishops who questioned his policy that he was only putting into effect what Christianity had preached and practiced for 2,000 years.
The form of antisemitism found in Nazi ideology was not based on religion, however, but on racial theories promoting the superiority of the Aryan race. Whereas Christianity had sought the conversion of the Jews, and state leaders had sought their expulsion, the Nazis sought the “final solution” to the Jewish problem—the murder of all Jews and their eradication from the human race.
The modern form of antisemitism that has found a stronghold and large-scale acceptance today is political. It is against the Jewish state and is called anti-Zionism.
Not all criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic. However, criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic when it: 1) delegitimizes the state and questions its right to exist; 2) uses anti-Jewish rhetoric and stereotypes or compares Israelis to Nazis; 3) judges Israel by a different standard than any other nation; or 4) becomes an excuse to attack local Jewish individuals and institutions.
During the 2014 war in Gaza, a defensive war on Israel’s part to prevent further missile launches from Hamas, there were attacks on synagogues and Jewish citizens in France, refrains such as “Jews to the gas” in Germany, the use of swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations, and antisemitism caricatures in newspapers and social media.
The Face of Evil
While anti-Zionism is the new “socially accepted” expression of antisemitism, it is important to note that racism and religious bigotry do still exist. Widespread religious antisemitism is found throughout the Muslim world. Interestingly, the secular globalists in the West will not condemn it because of their own anti-Semitic biases.
Antisemitism is likened to a virus that never entirely dies but mutates and begins growing again as a new strain needing new treatments. There is no explanation for this but a biblical one. Antisemitism is at its root spiritual—the ugly face of evil.
Psalm 83 describes it as a war against God Himself in which the Jews are the target. Revelation 12 describes it as war by spiritual forces depicted as a dragon.
It is, therefore, imperative that Christians stand up against this evil influence vocally, politically, and aggressively—but also with much prayer.