Antisemitsm�Betrayal of History; Betrayal of Truth
Antisemitism of today and yesterday mocks standards of academic integrity�of integrity itself
By Richard L. Benkin, Ph.D. (18 July 2003)
No group of people has been maligned more than Jews. Antisemitism dates back at least to Roman times and over the millennia has appeared in locations worldwide even where there are few or no Jews. From early persecutions under the aegis of religious fabricated falsehoods, to academic and state-directed historical misinterpretations or misrepresentations, pseudo-scientific claims stated as facts, plus any other pernicious philosophy of hate, all are currently experiencing a frightful resurgence. The horrors of the Holocaust so shocked the civilized world, that most Westerners believed the worst of those consequences were a thing of the past. Not so. Latent European antisemitism is very much on the rise. Muslim Jew hatred, with an admixture of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism and political anti-Israel invective has been accepted once again by many. The acts of terror committed by them are falsely represented as militancy in the quest of freedom from military occupation and oppression. Thus by legitimizing distorted facts about the State of Israel and Judaism, questioning its very right to nationhood, anti-Zionism and anti-Israel invective have now become the pure and simple antisemitism of yesterday. They have also become a betrayal of standards of academic integrity and the integrity of truth and justice itself.
No people has been maligned more than have the Jews�no people. It is not even close. It has been widespread�encompassing even locations with little or no Jews�and millennia-long�going back at least to Tacitus. Most major social institutions, including governments and all their apparatus, the church and mosque, the press, and academia have developed, supported, and disseminated the deliberate campaign of lies that comprise this effort. It has led to sanctioned anti-Jewish terrorism (1), with the deadliest of consequences.
Most Westerners once mistakenly believed that the worst of those consequences were a thing of the past. The horrors of the Shoah (2) so shocked the civilized world that it was thought its roots in socialized philosophies of hate had indeed been perpetually discredited. While it is hyperbole to allege that the world faces another Shoah, we are seeing its antecedents in the subordination of truth and propagation of historical falsehoods today. As in the past, political goals are used to justify or excuse them, although their roots rest in simple Jew-hatred. No longer confined to fringe publications or the political margin, the phenomenon again finds a friendly environment in respected academic and other institutions. History has shown us the deadly consequences of academic complicity in hate. Exposing it for what it is turns out to be far more than a mere academic exercise.
All victims of bigotry have had to face their tormentors� efforts to twist and pollute the truth, but historical falsification and myth making is integral and indispensable to antisemitism in a way not shared with any other pernicious philosophy of hate. Moreover, for most groups, the parade of bigoted untruths largely has been relegated to the ashbin of history; but such is not the case for Jews. Antisemitism�which former New York Mayor, Rudy Guiliani recently called the “the Western world's oldest and most persistent species of hatred”�is not only alive and well but currently experiencing a frightful resurgence.
The deicide charge�that the Jews killed Jesus and that all Jews bear responsibility for that act�is undoubtedly the “mother of all historical falsification.” While evidence cited includes portions of the Christian Bible, (3) the charge was developed and canonized at various church councils and reinforced by high churchmen�even saints, such as Augustine:
The true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus. (4)
And John Chrysostom:
The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ, and for killing God, there is no possible expiation, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jews must live in servitude forever. (5)
In these two statements, the path from falsehood to action is explicit. Generations of European Christians imbibed this propaganda from pulpits and early schooling through the universities. Even in this enlightened era, the Catholic Church found it necessary to refute the belief in a guide to Catholic schoolteachers. (6) Of late, the hoary charge has been revived prominently. In May 2001, Western-educated Syrian President Bashir Assad repeated it in a public address before Pope John Paul II. If his was a trial balloon, it confirmed long held beliefs that anti-Jewish slanders would go unchallenged. For the Pope�at times a most courageous individual�never refuted Assad�s unchallenged statement. The charge is again being renewed through “The Passion,” a high profile film by actor Mel Gibson, based on the diaries of antisemitic nuns who believed in and promoted the slander.
The deicide falsehood has been the most destructive�and deadly�falsehood, but only one of many. From histories that charged Jews with poisoning wells, starting major conflagrations, and spreading the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages, such falsehoods often bore the imprimatur of many who passed for the day�s academic authorities. Similarly, the blood libel, which alleges that Jews replicate the murder of Jesus by killing Christians and drinking their blood, has often had the stamp of approval from various authorities. The use of academia and other institutions to create a complex of anti-Jewish historical falsehoods, no doubt reached its height in Nazi Germany. Jewish professors as well as any who might oppose the regime were ousted from the universities, replaced with lock step ideologues who dutifully legitimized the Nazis� false version of history and science. Sadly, even after Nazism�s defeat, when the terror defense was no longer applicable, many of the academics, including noted philosopher Martin Heidegger, refused to renounce their public support for this effort.
While garden variety Jew-hatred continues to prompt historical falsification, today it is most often covered with political pretensions; specifically, anti-Israeli or pro-Arab politics. Certainly, the most virulent and retrograde aspects of falsification are found in Arab countries. Harvard Divinity School has been forced to confront this very issue after it received a $2.5 million gift from the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up�the Arabs� most prominent “think tank.” In reality, Zayed is a center for Holocaust-denial and conspiratorial theories all meant to demonize the Jewish people and promote Israel�s de-legitimization. One of its prominent historical falsehoods (“Zionist Collusion with the Nazis”) alleges that the Shoah was the product of Zionist-Nazi collaboration to manipulate the world into creating a Jewish state in the Middle East. Neither the center nor other Arab authorities (academic or otherwise) deny the existence of such courses, let alone decry them. The school is debating whether or not the gift should be returned on moral grounds. The issue is also forcing the school to take a stand in defense of integrity and against hatred�or to slink away quietly instead.
But were the Zayed Center unique in this, we could dismiss these lies as merely a radical phenomenon. Unfortunately, Zayed is the rule rather than the exception. Even in 2003, for instance, Dr. Umayma Ahmad Al-Jalahma of King Faysal University in Saudi Arabia published an article alleging that Jews use non-Jewish blood to prepare hamantashen, traditional Purim pastries. Claiming with no basis “that the Jews' spilling human blood to prepare pastry for their holidays is a well-established fact, historically and legally.” There were no expressions of surprise that this would be called “a well-established fact,” as such things have been socialized into the Arab collective conscience for generations. Al-Jalahma was, in fact, praised for it by the Zayed center and other academic institutions. Not long before, Syrian Foreign Minister Mustafa Tlas penned a fanciful retelling of the 1840 Damascus Blood Libel, in which the Jews did, indeed, murder a priest and use his blood to make matzot. The book, Matzah of Blood, is now in its eight printing and further alleges historical truth to this Jewish practice. As far-fetched as such theories are, they command a majority following in the Arab world.
Unfortunately, neither are these slanders unknown in Western universities. For instance, for his efforts, Tlas was to receive a doctorate from the Sorbonne, one of the most prestigious universities in the Western world. And he would have were it not exposed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Universities on several continents (particularly in Australia and New Zealand) have awarded doctorates for Holocaust denying dissertations, and numerous professors consider it a legitimate topic for discussion, although the Shoah is perhaps the most well documented atrocity in history. Other conspiratorial theories about the Jews abound, even in democratic Europe, where anti-Israeli sentiment is often indistinguishable from antisemitism. Commenting on an academic boycott of Israel for instance, one British professor claims that “when the bulk of the American population finds it has been duped by a real Zionist conspiracy�all the traditional and supposedly long discredited Jewish conspiracy theories will gain new lease on life.”
In the United States, where Holocaust-denial and blood libels remain discredited, false histories about the Middle East spring out of the same anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. Campus Watch and other organizations have found course syllabi at various universities with clear political bias and even warnings that pro-Israeli students are not welcome. A number of universities have sponsored seminars, films, and lectures, which distort the history of the State of Israel. Some of them, such as Rutgers University in New Jersey, utilize state funds when doing so. Historical distortions are presented as historical fact in classes. Such distortions have included the following and more: that Jews have no historical right to any Middle-Eastern land; that there was a large indigenous Arab population in the territory encompassing Israel for centuries; that the population was driven out by the Israelis in 1948; in 2000; the Israeli-proffered Palestinian state was nothing more than a bunch of “Bantustans,” referring to the former South African government�s black homelands. Many professors still teach of an Israeli massacre in Jenin in 2002, despite the fact that original claims of a massacre have been proven false. Some still teach that Israelis shot young Mohammed al-Dura, though even European media have demonstrated that he was actually felled by Arab bullets. But true or not, they promote the professors� political agenda. Edward Said has taught such preposterous distortions including one that the Jews are not a people. He claims this is so because Moses was an Egyptian, and that Jewish identity is based solely on persecution. (7) Yet, he has maintained an honored position at Columbia University. In fact, the academic body that should be enforcing standards in this area, MESA (Middle Eastern Studies Association), has been culpable on this same score.
Many more historical falsifications, often revolving around alleged Jewish conspiracies behind various national tragedies such as Germany�s defeat in World War I, or general world domination have been integral to antisemitism. Complete fabrications, such as the notorious The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, have been and still are discussed as legitimate history.
During the last century, the Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin, supported a baseless theory that it was possible to inherit acquired traits. Although this is a scientific impossibility, the theory fit Stalin�s political agenda of “the new Soviet man.” Soon, academics all over the Soviet Union were touting Lysenkoism (named for its inventor, Trofim Denisovich Lysenko) as scientific fact.
Supporters of today�s Anti-Jewish Lysenkoism aim to demonize the Jewish people and de-legitimize Israel among the nations of the world. Their agenda also includes denying any historical Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and even Israel itself. Their commonality with Stalin and others like him is their willingness to subordinate truth in favor of political ends. Clerics of bygone ages�and their apologists today�justified making the deicide charge part of official church ideology in part by the need to combat various heresies that threatened Christianity in its earliest centuries. The Nazis� scientific racism justified the Jews� elimination from society and their eventual murder. Both were components of a weltanschaung that led to Auschwitz.
Too often throughout history, academia and other authoritative arbiters of truth have been complicit in anti-Jewish atrocities. Sometimes, their support was enthusiastic. In other cases, anti-Jewish terrorism was the inevitable outcome of the authorities� acceptance of the Jewish people�s demonization. Academics have long believed that despite disagreements, they all subscribe to a common set of standards within which research and discourse will proceed. Throughout history and even today, however, academic authorities with evil intent, political agendas, or both have been willing to hold such standards in abeyance with regard to one subject: the Jews. The extent to which such dishonesty is given a veneer of legitimacy ultimately will provide us with a good measure for predicting its consequences.
(1) Anti-Jewish Terrorists: Whether Crusaders, pogromists, Nazis, or their supporters in various social institutions, all of them meet accepted criteria for terrorists in their wanton destruction of innocent lives merely because they were Jewish lives.
(2) The term holocaust has been trivialized by overuse, specifically, by its deliberate application for political capital (e.g., Arab living conditions, abortion, and so forth). Thus, Shoah more accurately expresses the unique program of genocide perpetrated on the Jewish people during World War II.
(3) The terms Old and New Testament inaccurately portray the essential differences between those two works. Much more descriptive are the terms Hebrew Bible (as opposed to Old Testament) and Christian Bible (as opposed to New Testament).
(4) Augustine, Treatise on the Psalms, 415 C.E.
(5) John Chrysostom, Orations against the Jews, 379 C.E.
(6)Daniel C. Napolitano, “The Holocaust: A Teaching Guide for Catholic Schools,” 1992.
(7) Quoted by Edward Alexander, Marc Lange and Nikolai Popov, “Anti-Jewish, Anti-American Speaks at University of Washington,” ChronWatch.com, 13 May 2003.
Source: Original text submitted by the author, 18 July 2003.
The author is a committee member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.
Abstract written by Morton Lang, an IHC volunteer.
Edited by IHC Staff.
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