Anti-Semitism in the US Today is a Variation on an Old Theme

President Donald Trump speaks at an annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Las Vegas. Despite courting the Jewish vote, President Trump has used anti-Semitic rhetoric. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Senators Jacky Rosen and James Lankford, who describe themselves as “a practicing Jewish Democrat from Nevada and a devoted Christian Republican from Oklahoma,” are spearheading a new effort to fight an old problem: anti-Semitism in America.

The Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, wrote the senators in an opinion column for CNN, will “collaborate with law enforcement, federal agencies, state and local government, educators, advocates, clergy, and other stakeholders to combat anti-Semitism by educating and empowering our communities.”

They’ve got a big job ahead of them.

Ancient roots

After calls for her resignation,
Trenton City Council member Kathy
McBride had to apologize for using
the phrase ‘Jew her down’ in a
meeting. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar responded to GOP threats to censure her for denouncing Israel, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” She was referring to the dollars AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, purportedly throws at legislators standing up for Israel. Omar later apologized.In early September, Trenton’s City Council President Kathy McBride uttered the phrase “Jew her down” in a public discussion. McBride said she was sorry 12 days later. The Associated Press ran the headline: “Politician apologizes for use of anti-Semitic trope.”

President Trump tells American Jews: “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel.”

Likely none of these politicians grasped in the moment the anti-Semitism underlying their remarks. This was not the first time on American soil that Jews were charged with financial cunning, government manipulation and questionable loyalty.

These canards, rooted in ancient and medieval anti-Judaism, have a long history in America.

Religious anti-Semitism

There are different strains of anti-Semitism.

Religious anti-Semitism is the charge that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. In this formulation, their descendants must, forever, pay for that treachery – sometimes by being locked behind ghetto walls, other times with their lives. It dates to the split of Christianity from Judaism in the first century.

Fifteen centuries later, in 1654, New Amsterdam Governor Peter Stuyvesant tried to expel the 23 Jews fleeing persecution who had just landed in the colony. He called them a “deceitful race – such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ.”

Subsequently, American Sunday school primers, Bible mission tracts and popular novels recalled Jews’ complicity in the murder of Jesus and sought to convert them. Sabbath Lessons (1813) taught Sunday school children about the “conspiracy of the Jewish rulers against Jesus Christ.” In the novel “The Prince of the House of David” (1855), a part of a trilogy which reportedly sold over 5 million copies, the author, an Episcopal priest, called on “the daughters of Israel” to abandon Judaism and follow Christ.

An illustration from the 1882 book, ‘Slaves of the Jews,’ showing a line of women, seeking employment, standing before a lecherous man who was obviously Jewish. Image courtesy of LOC/Creative Commons

Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” carried religious anti-Semitism into the 21st century. Its Jewish mob – the men’s beards and noses immense, their heads covered in prayer shawls – appeared on the wide screen screaming “Crucify him” to a bloodied Jesus standing before the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.

Money and power

The anti-Semitism making headlines today doesn’t always replay the charge that the Jews killed Jesus. Instead it draws from a long roster of other anti-Jewish stereotypes. They depict the Jews as a people interested only in money, malevolently employing their wealth to undermine the political order.

In just six words, “about the Benjamins,” Minnesota’s Rep. Omar echoed age-old claims of Jewish cunning, financial manipulation and government control. Her remarks echoed those of an 1852 New York Times journalist who wrote of Jews’ “sharp schooling in money-getting” and that, controlling all capital, they declared “empires solvent or bankrupt, at will.”

Later in the 19th century, in the January 1897 Atlantic Monthly a friend of Harvard professor and ambassador James Russell Lowell recalled how Lowell – a minister’s son who knew Hebrew – decried Jewish bankers, brokers and the ones who had slipped into politics and diplomacy. Lowell feared that they were poised to control “the Earth’s surface.”

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service