Anti-semitism is a dark stain on the Western soul. It dates back well over a millenium, and has been the cause of countless acts of unforgivable carnage. And for my entire life, I've never understood it. But now, thanks to Robert Avrech, the Emmy Award winning writer and blogger at Seraphic Secret, I finally do.
What I never understood was that anti-Semitism in the West has distinct causes occurring in different historical period. The first period stretches from about 800 A.D. to 1800 A.D. The Jews were in a diaspora, congregating as minorities in close, tight knit communities much of the world over. It was how they survived as a distinct culture. But, it also made them suspect in their home countries, and in an era of tribalism, it was inevitable that Jews would be suspect and scapegoated. The vestiges of tribalism still no doubt undergird some of the modern anti-semitism that we still see.
Between 800 A.D. and 1,500 A.D., Christians were under religious edict not to loan money at interest. Jews became the proto-bankers and money lenders for Europe. Every Royal Court, duchy, and even the Vatican had their Court Jew to handle their finances. These Jews became wealthy and powerful, and thus a very visible object of envy for some. And lastly, there was a very practical reason for anti-semitism during this period. Those who borrowed money did so willingly, those who had to repay their loans were not so willing.
At the end of the 18th century, socialism was born in the French Revolution, and with it, the modern era of anti-semitism. Socialism's greatest enemy is religion, specifically Judaism and Christianity, both of which are wholly entwined in the foundations, culture and law of Western Civilization. The two provide the moral and ethical codes that govern our world. Socialism would change that.
The goal of socialism is to deconstruct traditional Western society and remake it under the auspices of an omnipotent government that would use its police powers to create a new order of ostensible social and economic equality. Socialists want to replace God with government as the source of morality. Thus Judaism and Christianity are under constant and unrelenting attack from the left. Within this context, anti-Semetism in the modern era is simply the grafting on of a new motivation for an old, tribal hatred.
Then, of course, there is Islam. In the last half century, rabid Wahhibis and Khomeinists, who view all religions other than their own as blasphemy, have brought their own genocidal anti-Semitism to the mix. The left, happy to find another group equally dedicated to deconstructing Western civilization and driving out the Judeo-Christian religions, have happily welcomed the Islamists.
Now, to me at least, I can understand the genesis of anti-Semitism and why it is still with us today. It makes anti-Semitism no less evil, but understanding the motivations of those who profess this evil allows them to be more successfully challenged.