Monday, September 20, 2010

Why the Jews?

This is based on a comment I made here.

Commenter Anan wrote:
I would argue that since the 7th century BC, Jews have been best treated in South Asia [where they have always liked Jews], in pre 1979 Persia [traditional close allies of the Jewish people since Cyrus the Great], and by the Ottoman Turks.
It's complicated. Things moved back and forth. But in Iran, Jews were very badly treated when the mullahs were socially powerful. It was only the Pahlavi regime (with its emphasis on Iranian identity) that was a break in this tradition.

Anan also asked:
I never understood why so many people, not just muslims, didn't like Jews. Is it because of the "Christ killer" accusation? Is it because of jealousy? What else is going on?
Hellenistic period Greeks disliked Jews because many Jews ostentatiously rejected Greek culture (and thus its conceit as being patently superior).

Romans disliked Jews because they stood out against claims of the civil religion of the state (particularly treating Emperors as divine) and periodically revolted.

Christians disliked Jews because they were the Chosen people and produced but rejected the Messiah. Which rather contradicted Christian claims to be the true, continuing Israel. It particularly contradicted Church claims to be guardians of the truth and Jews provided an easy target to preach against to make priests "gatekeepers of righteousness". (Modern Christian preachers use the same patterns against gays, lesbians, etc.)

With the extra twist in the case of the Jews that, having teamed up with the Roman state, to save Christians the embarrassment of having joined the "Deicide" state, the accusation of Deicide was then shifted to the Jews: the Christians' monotheist competitors and the people "not in the room".

Muhammad, and so Islam, disliked Jews because they produced the Prophetic tradition he claimed to be the peak of, but rejected him. Which contradicted Muslim claims to be possessors and guardians to the truth and (continue to) provide an easy target to preach against to make imans "gatekeepers of righteousness".

In other words, Christians and Muslims disliked Jews because they hijacked the Jewish prophetic tradition and then objected when Jews refused to go along for the ride.

Nationalists disliked Jews because they got in the way of the notion of ethnic unity.

Revolutionary socialists disliked Jews because they insisted on keeping to their religious identity and had been (largely due to past Christian exclusions) deeply involved in commerce.

So: if you believed your culture was superior, wanted people to recognise Emperors as divine, appropriated the Abrahamic tradition, wanted ethnic conformity, wanted to transform society, the Jews were a problem. Basically, if you have a theory that is at war with various types of diversity, the Jews are a problem and, as a minority, are a relatively easy target. The Jews provided a vulnerable minority to preach against by selling effortless virtue to the majority: a form of bullying cowardice the Catholic Church invested in for centuries and is often engaged in by preachers of various religions.(Again, gays, lesbians, etc are in the same boat and have overlapping enemies as a result: some of whom, of course, are Jews.)

There are various useful texts on Jew-hatred and its origins. The Anguish of the Jews (which I review starting here), Norman Cohn's classic Warrant for Genocide (which I review starting here), The Devil and the Jews (which I review here), Constantine's Sword (which I review here), The Popes against the Jews (which I review here). I also review two classic texts on pre-Holocaust European Jew-hatred here.

ADDENDA Another way of putting it, is that Jews are a minority with a persistent identity who regularly run afoul of the enemies of human diversity. Which does not lessen their similarity to the queers.

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