ROOTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM
Discrimination and prejudice have been in our world for as long as humans have themselves. Discrimination has caused problems in societies all throughout history. But despite all of the terrible things that have happened because of prejudice and discrimination, it continues to live on in our world today.
Anti-Semitism, prejudice against Jews, is a form of discrimination that has caused perhaps the most problems throughout history. Many people describe anti-Semitism as more than simply “prejudice” or “discrimination” against Jews. It is often the result of hatred and despise of the Jews, resulting in persecution and destruction. Anti-Semitism can often occur because a religious group is trying to make itself look better (Anti-Judaism/Anti-Semitism). Jealousy and envy are also major causes of anti-Semitism. A study on anti-Semitism found that people who are anti-Semitic are likely to also have negative feelings about African-Americans, Immigrants, gays and lesbians, illegal aliens, and women (JCRC – Anti-Semitism).
As have all prejudices, anti-Semitism has been around a long time. It has been around since the time of Christ. One of the first events that gave rise to anti-Semitism was the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Mrs. Hahn’s Notes). Jews were considered the murderers of Christ. Because of this hatred towards Jews, Jerusalem was destroyed, killing over 1 million Jews who resided there (A Calendar of Jewish Persecution).
Jews were also persecuted extensively throughout the Roman Empire. In 135 AD, Roman Emperor Hadrian declared Jerusalem a pagan city. He forbade Jews to practice circumcision, the reading of the Law, eating of unleavened bread at Passover, or any Jewish festival. In 315, Constantine the Great established Christianity as the official religion throughout the Roman Empire. He also created many anti-Jewish laws. Later, between 379 and 395, Theodosius the Great made even more anti-Jewish laws, such as prohibiting them from serving in office. He also permitted the destruction of their synagogues if it served some religious purpose. (A Calendar of Jewish Persecution).
The next major event of Jewish persecution was the Crusades. Beginning in the late 11th century and early 12th century, Germans persecuted Jews, Muslims, and other religions because of their beliefs. The Germans accused the Jews of killing Jesus Christ. Over 12,000 Jews were killed in Germany during the First Crusade. The mid-1100’s marked the beginning of the Second Crusade, when the Germans persecuted the Jews again. However, the Second Crusade was not as bad as the first, since much less Jews were killed. (A Calendar of Jewish Persecution).
During the next 500 years, Jewish persecutions occurred often. King Philip banished Jews from France for seven years in 1181. Edward I banished Jews from England in 1290. King Philip the Fair banished Jews from France in 1306. Five thousand Jews were burned at the stake in France because they were accused of poisoning wells and fountains. In 1394, Jews were banished from France again. The Spanish Inquisition was directed against Jews in 1478; and Spain banished Jews in 1492. In 1516, the first Jewish ghetto was established in Venice, Italy. This was a part of a city where Jews would be moved to keep them away from the normal population. (A Calendar of Jewish Persecution).
Most early anti-Semitism occurred because of religious conflicts. However, the 18th and 19th centuries marked the beginning of what is called “Modern” anti-Semitism. Modern anti-Semitism differs from older anti-Semitism because it is not only based on religion, but also race and other stereotypes about how Jews look and act (Modern Anti-Semitism). Modern anti-Semitism marked a great increase in anti-Semitism with the creation of Nazism and the Holocaust (A Summary of Anti-Semitism).
Beginning in 1794 and continuing into the 1900’s, Jews were banished from Russia. Frequent massacres took place resulting in nearly all Jews fleeing from Russia (Calendar of Jewish Persecution). However, possibly the most dramatic event of Jewish persecution history began in 1933. Adolf Hitler, ruler of Germany, placed all Jews in ghettos and later had them all moved to labor camps. After a short time in the labor camps, the Jews would be killed and replaced by more Jews. These massacres, now referred to as the Holocaust, occurred until 1944, when Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
“Gradually I began to hate them. For me this was the time of the greatest spiritual upheaval I have ever gone through. I have ceased to be a weak-kneed cosmopolitan and have become an anti-Semite” (Adolf Hitler).
Over six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, making it not only the most dramatic event of Jewish persecution, but also one of the world’s largest tragedies. A recent article in The Salt Lake Tribune named the Holocaust one of the worst tragedies in the past 1,000 years. Among the other tragedies are the Black Death from 1346-1350, which killed 25 million Europeans; The Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, which killed over 20 million people worldwide; and from 1981-1997, over 30.8 million people worldwide were infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. (Can Humanity Outlive Next Millenium?). It is also notable that the Holocaust is the only one of these tragedies that was 100% preventable.
Some say anti-Semitism is increasing again in the 90’s, but it actually occurs less than ever (European Anti-Semitism). Anti-Semitism and all prejudice in general have declined greatly in the past 50 years. Blacks and other minorities have received equal rights in America. Women have earned the right to vote and do numerous other things. But despite the changes, there will always be some types of prejudices. Hate groups that consist of white people who hate all other races still exist, even though they are usually very small. There are even some Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians that are prejudiced against white people.
Preventing anti-Semitism is not difficult. Steps have already been taken to prevent all prejudices in general. The first and probably most important step is education. If children and adults were taught that all people are equal, no one would have any reason for prejudice. Also, everyone must make sure that they do treat people equally, and not discriminate against people because of their race, sex, or religion. If these simple steps are followed, prejudice and anti-Semitism will continue to drop until they are virtually nonexistent.
I think it is amazing that such a large problem can arise from a simple state of mind. Millions of people have been killed because of one simple type of judgement. It has nothing to do with the individual person, it is simply because the person is a Jew. Also, it isn’t just a few people who are being anti-Semitic. Millions of people, even political leaders, have caused the destruction of Jews.
The Holocaust had the third largest death rate among the worst tragedies of the past 1,000 years. Also, among the eight tragedies listed in the Salt Lake Tribune, only two were preventable-the rest were natural disasters or disease outbreaks. The other human-caused tragedy was in 1642 China when rebels destroyed a seawall in China, causing 300,000 to drown. Over six million people were killed during the Holocaust. It seems unbelievable to me. The Holocaust shows me how ruthless people can be. Hitler was a man with a lot of power, and he used it to destroy what he hated most: the Jews.
I think anti-Semitism and all other prejudices will be eliminated by the end of the next millenium. 1,000 years ago, no one would’ve imagined a woman in a “man’s” job or a black person living with a white person. Considering how much development we’ve been through in the past 1,000 years, it is not long before we forget about differences because of color, religion, or sex and realize that everyone is a different person. There are still hate groups and white supremacists, but I don’t think they will always exist. It may be a hundred years or so, but they will eventually be gone along with all prejudices.
Anti-Judaism/Anti-Semitism. (Online) http://www.yale.edu/adhoc/research_resources/dictionary/limited/anti_semitism.html
Anti-Semitism…What Is It? (Online) http://www.cdn-friends-icej.ca/antiholo/summanti.html
A Calendar of Jewish Persecution. (Online) http://www.hearnow.org/caljp.htm
Definitions of Anti-Semitism (Online) http://www.cdn-friends-icej.ca/antiholo/defantis.html
Modern Anti-Semitism. (Online) http://www.remember.org/guide/History.root.modern.html
A Summary of Anti-Semitism (Online) http://www.cdn-friends-icej.ca/antiholo/history.html