The New Antisemitism
Around the world antisemitism is once again raising its ugly head. The official newspaper of the Palestinian authority declares that the Holocaust is a myth which Jews have exploited to gain sympathy for their Zionist aspirations. In schools in Jordan, children are taught that the Jews have only their own evil practices to blame for the Holocaust, and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fictitious account of how Jews plan to take over the world, is shown in a 40-installment series. The prime minister of Malaysia declares that Jews are ruling the world via proxy nations, such as the United States. There is a rise of neo-Nazi organizations in Australia, Poland, Russia, France, and Germany. We are witnessing the most intense dissemination of antisemitic propaganda since Hitler's days, with toxic descriptions of Jews as rats, lice, snakes, parasites, and hard-nosed liars. The absurd myth that Jews staged the September 11th tragedies in order to turn the world against Muslims is circulated and even believed by many, not just in the Middle East, but in Japan, Britain, France, and even here in the United States.
Those who hate Jews link them with everything they see wrong in the world. If they hate communism, Jews are condemned as communist leaders. If they hate capitalism, Jews are declared as the captains of the system. If they despise the media, it is because the Jews control it. When legal suits are filed concerning violations of the constitutional separation of church and state, there are comments made about how Jews are trying to undercut the foundation of America as a Christian nation.
It's time for the those who follow Jesus to stand up against such antisemitism. It's time for our ministers to speak out against this evil and to repent of the fact that over the past 2000 years the church has often propagated the myth that the Jews in particular were responsible for Christ's death. If we Christians really believe our theologies, then we should say that it was the sins of all humanity that led Christ to lay down his life on Calvary's tree. Certainly the religious establishment of Jesus' day did call for his death, but I am not sure that the religious establishment of our day would not do much the same. As I listen to some preachers laud America's war in Iraq, support capital punishment, and preach a "prosperity theology," I wonder how they would handle a bearded Messiah who said to love our enemies, to be merciful if we expected to receive mercy from the Father, and to expect only persecution for their faithfulness in this world.
It is time for our Sunday School teachers to tell their pupils the truth about Jews and to warn them against antisemitism.Check out today's church school curricula and you are sure to find messages against racism towards African-Americans, against sexism, and in liberal churches, even against homophobia. But I'll be surprised if you'll find anything decrying antisemitism. Oh, you will find references about the Jews being "God's Chosen People," but little in the way of condemnation of the antisemitic propaganda that is increasingly common among us. A commitment to fight antisemitism does not necessitate being uncritical of Israel or ignoring the injustices of the government against the Palestinians. On the contrary, our love for the Jews requires us to call them to seek justice for Arabs, even as they defend their own right to exist as a free nation. After all, there will only be peace for the Jews when there is justice for all people in the Middle East. But even as we speak up for Palestinians we must be vigilant against the antisemitic propaganda of our times. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said to the church of Germany in the days of Hitler: "Those who do not speak up for the Jews, dare not chant Gregorian."
Dr. Tony Campolo is professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.