The Ubiquity and Persistence of Anti-Semitism

The Ubiquity and Persistence of Anti Semitism

There is, of course, nothing new at all about anti-semitism and its life-and-death threat to the survival of the Jewish people. Just this week, in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church’s daily office readings have been from the Book of Esther, which tells the Purim story of how Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai foiled Haman’s plot to exterminate the Jews. Tragically, for much of the Christian era, Christians have been among the primary practitioners of hatred of Jews. That was why the Church’s repudiation of anti-semitism at the Second Vatican Council was such a landmark moment. Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone [Nostra aerate, 4].

By then, of course, modern politics had highlighted newer threats to the Jewish people and to their newly achieved nation. 

In his April 19, 1964, entry in his My Journal of the Council, Yves Congar recounted how he « learned that the Arab states have threatened to break off diplomatic relations with the Vatican (and so cause very grave inconvenience to all Catholic works) if the text on the Jews remains in the schema De oecumenismo. » Congar even anticipated that it might be buried « in an extended text that will discuss either racism or other religions. » To his credit, Congar, a few days later (April 25), wrote « it is quite scandalous and unacceptable that the Church, in order to please some Arab governments that obey no other reason than. just an instinct that is simplistic and all-inclusive, should have to refrain from saying what should be said on a question which comes within its province, and on which it has a duty to speak. »

Indeed, it was not until 1993 – forty-five years after Israeli statehood had finally been achieved and twenty-eight years after the Church’s official repudiation of anti-semitism at Vatican II – that the Holy See finally established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

I claim no professional expertise in this matter and cannot begin to unravel all the historical and psychological factors which account for the persistence of anti-semitism and have made it so ubiquitous in our world. That persistence, however, seems to be one of those perennial facts-on-the-ground that must permanently be taken into account. Yet, in the wake of Hamas’s recent abhorrent genocidal acts of war against Israel, what has somehow made the already horrible even more so, has been the displays of left-wing antisemitism among the pro-Palestinian « usual suspects » on college campuses and similar settings. College campuses in particular have become notorious as places where such automatic, knee-jerk, hateful responses referencing ostensible grievances rooted in « oppression » and « colonialism » have become normalized.

It has always been one of the inherent ironies of pro-Palestinian anti-semitism that its hatred and hostility against Jews just confirms the underlying reason why the Zionist movement and the creation of the state of Israel were so necessary in the first place! It also highlights why it would be so difficult for any Israeli government to tolerate a terrorist Palestinian state on its border.