Anti-Semitism is prejudice against, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews – either as individuals or as the Jewish nation Israel. During the Nazi rule of Europe, Jews were forced to wear the Star of David as a form of identification. The particular star shown here had the German word for “Jew” written in Hebraic style. This, and the associated Holocaust is history’s most extreme example of anti-Semitism. Among the most common manifestations of anti-Semitism throughout history were pogroms – violent riots launched against Jews and frequently encouraged by government authorities. The term ‘pogrom’ is usually applied to attacks on Jews in the former Russian Empire.
Early Anti-Semitism arose from the Church
Yes – this is true! The concept of anti-Semitism goes back several thousand years and has existed to some degree wherever Jews have settled outside Palestine. But in the ancient Greco-Roman world, religious differences were the primary basis for anti-Semitism, link. Following the final and complete devastation of the Jews and their temple in 70 AD, history shows that mainstream Christianity, namely the Catholic Church, argued that God had rejected the Jews and that the church was the new Israel. As early as the second century, Christians were accusing the Jews of being “Christ killers”. This doctrinal error is now called “Replacement Theology”, link, link. Sadly, this anti-Semitic view is common in the institutionalized church today.
Anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages
There was continuing hostility to Judaism from the late Roman period into medieval times. During the Middle Ages in Europe there was a full-scale persecution of Jews in many places, with blood libels, expulsions, forced conversions and killings. In the 12th century, there were Christians who believed that some of the Jews possessed magical powers and had gained these powers from making a pact with the devil. The persecution of the Jews in Europe reached a climax during the Crusades.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther’s harsh comments about the Jews are seen by many as a continuation of medieval Christian anti-Semitism, link.
Given the long history of anti-Semitism we might ask; “Why have the Jews suffered so much over the centuries?” The answer is found in the Jewish scriptures themselves. In the book of Deuteronomy, God warned the ancient people of Israel what would happen to them of they rejected His laws and went after other gods:
The Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone …. Among those nations you shall find no rest … but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. (Deut 28.64-66)
This uncertainty continues today in Europe. Jew hatred is on the rise in the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands, and is encouraging many Jews to immigrate to Israel.