Anti-Semitism and Purim


Anti-Semitism and Purim


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It's the Same Old Story

by Carl Pearlston

In 474 BC, the twelfth year of King Xerxes' (also known as Achasverous) reign over Persia, Media, and Babylonia, the Biblical story of Esther recounts that the King's Prime Minister, Haman, became so incensed over the refusal of a Jewish official, Mordecai, to show him obediance, that he went to Xerxes and complained, "There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire. Their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they refuse to obey even the laws of the king. So it is not in the king's interest to let them live."

Xerxes agreed and permitted issuance of a decree for the execution of all Jews in the kingdom, young and old, men, women, and children. Happily, the King's beloved Jewish wife, Esther, intervened, the Jews were spared, and it was Haman who was executed on the same gallows intended by him for Mordecai.

This is the earliest documentation of the frequent charge of "foreign otherness" and disloyalty that, together with the charge of deicide in the death of Jesus, form the basis of modern anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, there were no Esthers in later generations and ages to intervene and save the Jews from annihilation as such charges were repeatedly made throughout history.

When the Crusaders embarked on their holy wars in the 11th to 13th centuries to liberate the Holy Land from its Moslem conquerors, they slaughtered Jews in Europe and Palestine as infidels who lived apart and would not convert to Christianity. In 1144, a myth, which persists to this day and is regularly promulgated by Arab governments, arose in England that Jews murdered Christian children and used their blood in making Passover bread; mass murders of Jews resulted.

When Italian merchant ships from China brought bubonic plague to Italy in 1347, the "black death" rapidly spread over the entire continent with deadly consequences; within 5 years, an estimated 25 million persons-one third of the European population-- had perished. It persisted on an intermittent basis for 300 years. Not understanding that the plague was spread by fleas and rats, the Christian population blamed the Jews, believing that they were in an international conspiracy to poison Christians by tainting water wells and springs. Jews were arrested, and, not surprisingly, torture elicited the desired confessions of poisoning. As a consequence, there were mass murders and cremations of Jews throughout Europe based on this alleged conspiracy. The middle-ages are a continuous story of murders, punishments, and expulsions of Jews, who were always seen as "the other"and not a part of the society..

The case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French army, wrongfully convicted of treason and spying for Germany in a secret court martial in 1896, was portrayed by the French government as a conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons who planned to damage the prestige of the army and thereby destroy France. Jews were seen as a disloyal, foreign element who could not be trusted in society. Despite the reversal of his conviction 12 years later, it was not until 1995 that the French Army admitted that Dreyfus was innocent and the Army wrong.

In 1905, the Russian secret police fabricated a masterpiece of conspiracy theory in "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", purporting to show a diabolical Jewish plot to control the world . It proved to be an extremely popular work, widely circulated by Henry Ford, and published and read today all over the world. Jews were portrayed as loyal only to themselves, not the nation in which they lived, and nefariously intent on subverting the nation to their own purposes. This was the same charge leveled by Hitler, which ultimately led to the mass annihilation of 6 million Jews.

This is also the analogous charge leveled by Pat Buchanan, who has had a long obsession with the Jews, in his American Conservative magazine's article entitled "Whose War?", in which he argues that "neocons" - who have been identified as Jews ---

" to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people's right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity."

"...[they] harbor a 'passionate attachment' to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what's good for Israel is good for America."

Democratic Congressman James Moran had earlier made a similar charge, which one newspaper headlined as "Congressman Fingers Jews as Goaders to War"

It's the same old story, portraying Jews as not loyal to the nation of which they are citizens, as "the other" whose true loyalties lie in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and who engage in poisoning the wells of public discourse to achieve their ends, which are inimical to their host nation. There are variants in the charges: that the Jews variously control the banks, the news media, the entertainment media, the government, that Jews caused the 9/11 attack --- but it is the same calumny that Haman floated 2,477 years ago about Jewish disloyalty and "otherness"; the defamations continue unabated.

Whatever the problem, it is attributed to a Jewish conspiracy. Surely, those who make such reckless and vicious charges must be aware of what the consequences have been in the past, but they make them anyway. One has to question their motives, not just repudiate their odious conclusions.


from the March 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine



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