Monday, April 28, 2014

Anti-Semitic Hatred a World Problem

Hungarians march against anti-Semitism
A Hungarian restaurant owner recently thought he knew why anti-Semitism seems to have exploded again worldwide:  "The cause, indeed, is poverty. When the economy does not really work and people are poor, somebody has to be blamed, and the Jews and the gypsies are blamed," Miklos Deutsch said.

Deutsch may be right in Hungary, but anti-Semitism isn’t bound by economic restraints.

For example, annoyed that the United States has a black president? Blame the Jews.  Shout “Heil Hitler,” as one white supremacist did in Kansas and kill three people (ironically all Christian) outside two Kansas Jewish centers.

Trying to help a friend win an election and in need of a scapegoat?  Focus animosity against the Jews.  That’s what former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi did recently.  “But heavens above, according to the Germans, there never were concentration camps," he said.

The Germans disagreed vociferously with that claim.

Berlusconi has said a few strange things before.  In 2003, he insisted that former Italian dictator
Benito Mussolini “never killed anyone. Mussolini used to send people on vacation in internal exile.”

Really?  Mussolini was actually a fierce anti-Semite, who proudly said that his hatred for Jews preceded Adolf Hitler's and vowed to "destroy them all," according to diaries by the Fascist dictator's longtime mistress. An estimated 8,000 of Italy’s 32,000 Jews ended up in concentration camps.

The term these days for Berlusconi's claims is “revisionist history.”  That’s so hate groups can avoid being accused of denying the Holocaust. 

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who led the Allies in Europe during World War II, knew people like that would show up eventually. That’s why he required German citizens to walk into concentration camps and see the horror that had been perpetuated on millions of innocent people – Jews, gypsies and many others.  Eisenhower, who was later president, also insisted on complete photos and documentation.  So did the courts that tried Nazi war criminals after the war ended.  The evidence is readily available, clearly itemized by the precise Germans who kept track of the wholesale murders.

Le Pen
Yet, the hatred continues.  In Hungary, thousands of people recently marched into protest against the anti-Semitic Jobbik party. However, the far right-wing party won nearly a quarter of votes cast in a national election.  So did the far-right National Front party of Marine Le Pen in France.  The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)  declined to work with her last year because “anti-Semitism and general prejudice remains in the DNA of the party,” UPIK party leader Nigel Farage said.

Such political parties are hardly unique.  A year ago, the State Department responded by naming a special envoy. Ira Forman, to monitor and combat anti-Semitism following documented increases in incidents of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

In 2013, the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism described “a severe escalation in the worldwide anti-Jewish atmosphere as anti-Semitism continues to infiltrate the mainstream from the extreme left and right fringes, and its manifestations have become an almost daily phenomenon.”

The United States is not immune.  The numbers of attacks here are notoriously inaccurate since surveys reveal that most Jews who have experienced an anti-Semitic verbal or physical attack did not report them.

Nevertheless, the Anti-Defamation League, which defends Jews, reported 31 anti-Semitic assaults in 2013 in this country, “four men in Brooklyn attacking a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke; a group of girls throwing a bottle at a 12-year-old girl, with one of them calling her ‘dirty Jew’ and an attack on a man in Los Angeles by five men who yelled ‘Heil Hitler’ before striking him.”

Such events are likely to continue as hate groups proliferate, led by right-wing Christian groups who hide their anti-Semitism under the veil of religion.     The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks such organizations, identified a long list of hate groups:

  • 186 Ku Klux Klan groups
  • 196 Neo-Nazi groups
  • 111white supremist organizations
  • 98 groups of skinheads
  • 39 Christian Identity groups
  • 93 Neo-Confederate groups
  • 113 black separatist groups
  • 90 general hate groups (subdivided into anti-gay, Holocaust denial, racist music, radical traditionalist Catholic and others)
California (77) leads the way with the most hate groups, followed by Florida (58) and Texas (57), according to the SPLC.  Every state has at least 1 (North Dakota).
Not surprisingly, a group of Republican leaders like Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) protested that some of these groups don’t belong there. 

Their concern is touching, but reflects the reality that the Grand Old Party already has an image problem.  For example, the self-styled Republican Party Animal, a Hollywood political/social group for conservatives, turned out to be headed by a well-known Holocaust denier.

In 2010, Mother Jones magazine reported that anti-Semitic statements appeared on the Republican National Committee's Facebook page and were not removed quickly despite repeated requests.  The comments included claims that  “Israel is responsible for 9/11, Al Qaeda is ‘100 percent state sponsored by Zionist Jews,’ and then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is actually an agent for Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.”

Meanwhile, tea party candidates, who are sucking out the lifeblood of the Republic Party, have been caught pronouncing a variety of anti-Semitic jokes or comments.  Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va), the only Jewish Republican in Congress, finally admitted that anti-Semitism stains the Republican caucus. 

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) President and CEO David A. Harris responded, noting  "It's both admirable and disturbing in the extreme to hear Majority Leader Cantor's candid remarks regarding the dual challenges of racism and anti-Semitism that he has detected in the House GOP caucus."

Harris, like Cantor and an otherwise-unknown Hungarian restaurant manager, all know that anti-Semitism will continue to plague mankind.  

"Some of us at one point believed," Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a New York magazine article, "that we were going to come up with the antidote, the panacea for anti-Semitism. Realistically, however, what we've learned is that the best we're going to be able to do is to keep a lid on the anger and the ugliness. But right now, for some reason, the sewer covers have come off."

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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