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Eternal Strangers

 

Critical Views of Jews and Judaism through the Ages

Thomas Dalton, PhD

New for 2020, from Castle Hill  (paperback, 172 pp.)

 

It is common knowledge that Jews have been disliked for centuries— sometimes loathed, sometimes hated.  But why?  

Our best hope for understanding this recurrent "anti-Semitism" is to study the history:  to look at the actual words written by prominent critics of the Jews, in context, and with an eye to any common patterns that might emerge.  Such a study reveals strikingly consistent observations:  Jews are seen as pernicious, conniving, shifty liars; they harbor a deep-seated hatred of humanity; they are at once foolish and arrogant; they are socially disruptive and rebellious; they are ruthless exploiters and parasites; they are master criminals—the list goes on. 

The persistence of such comments is remarkable, and strongly suggests that the cause for such animosity resides in the Jews themselves—in their attitudes, their values, their ethnic traits, and their beliefs.  It is hard to come to any other conclusion than that Jews are biologically, genetically inclined toward actions that trigger a revulsion in non-Jews.  Jews have always been, and will always be, eternal strangers.

Eternal Strangers is a profoundly important book.  It addresses the modern-day “Jewish problem” in all its depth—something which is arguably at the root of many of the world’s social, political, and economic problems.  The matter is urgent; we haven’t a moment to lose.

 
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PART I:  Critiques from the Ancient World

 

  1.  Anti-Jewish Musings from the Pre-Christian Era 

  2.  Of Romans and Christians 

  3.  Transition to a Christian Worldview 

 

PART II:  Into the Modern Era

  4.  Early British Critiques 

  5.  Modern ‘Anti-Semitism’ in France and Germany 

  6.  German Critiques of the Late 19th Century 

 

PART III:  Contemporary Views

 

  7.  Into the 20th Century 

  8.  Judaica Americana 

  9.  Anglo-American Views in Wartime 

 10. To the Present Day 

Bibliography

Index

Contents

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CHAPTER 1

 

ANTI-JEWISH MUSINGS FROM THE PRE-CHRISTIAN ERA

 

 

“This almost universal negative attitude…needs further scrutiny.  Its main source must be sought in the basic fact that the Jews, in spite of their having been Europeans for so many centuries, were still considered, even by themselves, to be utter strangers.”

 — I. Barzilay (1956: 253)  

 

 

Poor Jews!  Condemned by God and fate to be forever misunderstood, neglected, insulted, abused, envied, pitied—indeed, hated by all mankind.  The subject of insult, calumny, slander, nay, even beatings, torture, and all manner of physical abuse.  Such an unkind destiny.  How did it come to this?  How is it that throughout history, Jews have come to be detested, battered, and beaten down?  Is it something about Jewish culture?  Religion?  Ethnicity?  Values?  And how does this long history relate to present-day abuse and hatred heaped upon Jews worldwide, and on the Jewish state?

These are important questions, given the present condition of the world and the power and influence commanded by the Jewish community generally.  Part of the current animosity is based, no doubt, on the mere fact that Jews, a small minority in every nation of the world save Israel, hold grossly disproportionate power to their numbers.[1]  Acting through the United States, Jews are more dominant than ever; we need only recall the statement of former Malaysian president Mahathir Mohamad, who said, “Today the Jews rule the world by proxy.  They get others to fight and die for them.”[2]  People everywhere, no matter their religious or political context, understand an elemental fact of democracy:  a small, wealthy minority of people should not exert disproportionate influence in the life of a nation.  That the Jews do this is undeniable, and they would be disliked on this count alone.

But there is much more to the story.  Their present level of influence is unprecedented, but Jews have had access to power for millennia.  Against this backdrop have been numerous pogroms, banishments, and outright massacres.  Thus it was not strictly their influence that led others to detest them.  Other factors have been at work.  By recounting this history, and the observations of prominent individuals, we may better understand the Jewish phenomenon, and thus learn how to better deal with this most influential minority.

In the present work, I will trace the history of negative attitudes toward Jews and Jewish society, beginning in ancient times.  The point is not to revel in abuse, but to give voice to the most articulate and insightful critics of Jews—and to draw plausible conclusions. 

In the academic literature, such a study would come under the heading ‘history of anti-Semitism.’  There are many such works; the library database WorldCat lists over 800 English-language books on this topic published in the past 10 years alone.  But these books—the vast majority by Jewish authors—reflect a strongly pro-Jewish bias.  Consequently the critics are nearly always the source of the problem, never the Jews or Jewish actions.  The Jews themselves are almost uniformly portrayed as an innocent and beleaguered people, set upon by cruel and vindictive forces.  The various “anti-Semites” are depicted as sick individuals, sadistic in nature, even downright evil.  At the very least, they are severely mentally ill.  Consider this impressive statement from a recent “anatomy of anti-Semitism”:

 

In the 1940s and 1950s, students of anti-Semitism widely regarded that phenomenon … as a ramification of severe emotional or social disorder.  They realized that Christian prejudice… could not explain the firestorm that had nearly obliterated twentieth-century European Jewry. …  In the agonized post-Holocaust reassessment, … psychohistorians, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts tended to focus on flaws in the argument that anti-Semitism sprang from christological sources. …  [American postwar studies] describe anti-Semitism as an emotional disorder produced by intrapsychic tensions and sexual and social anxieties and frustrations. …  Jew haters accordingly exhibit grave personality disorders.  They are asocial or antisocial, alienated, isolated, inhibited, anxious, repressed, rigid, regressive, infantile, narcissistic, hostile, punitive, conformist, dependent, delusive, guilt-ridden, paranoid, irrational, aggressive, and prone to violence.  (Jaher 1994: 10-12)

 

Frederic Jaher all but exhausts his thesaurus in seeking pejorative appellations for the insane “Jew haters.”  And yet we must ask ourselves:  Is this rational?  Were there no other causes that might have motivated the critics of Jewry?  Were all the notable ‘anti-Semites’ in history—and there were many, as I will show—really insane?  All those prominent and brilliant individuals, by all other accounts men of genius—were they closet lunatics?  Or does the problem lie elsewhere?  Is the psychosis, perhaps, resident in the Jewish personality, the Jewish psyche, the Jewish race?  Is it a defense mechanism to reflect one’s own deficiencies upon one’s enemies?

In the following assessment of historical attitudes, I will be seeking common and universal themes.  Attitudes, criticisms, and other negative observations that persist over the centuries and across cultures are significant markers; they indicate a set of robust and persistent traits that are apparently embedded in the Jewish character.  It is enlightening to examine such traits in an open and objective manner.

 

Critiques from the Ancient World

 

Traditionally speaking, the Jewish ethnicity traces back to Abraham, circa 1500 BC.  Jews spread out around the Middle East, interacting with neighboring tribes and cultures while maintaining a strong sense of racial unity.  Within two centuries they reached Egypt, multiplied, and “the land was filled with them” (Ex 1:7).  As the story goes, the pharaoh determined that “the people of Israel are too many and too mighty,” and thus he had to “deal shrewdly” with them.  The fear was that, in the event of some war, the Jews might “join our enemies and fight against us”—though why they would betray their host nation is unclear.  A sort of repression began but apparently the Jews fought back; “the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.”  A series of plagues then hit Egypt on behalf of the Jews, whereupon the pharaoh relented and they were driven out.[3]  If true, this constituted the first ‘anti-Semitic’ act in recorded history. 

            Amazingly, we have independent, physical evidence for conflicts between the Egyptians and the Jews.  The Amarna letters are a series of 380 clay tablets containing letters to two pharaohs, Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, dating between roughly 1360 and 1332 BC.  Nine of the letters refer to one “Labayu” as a noted rebel and marauding trouble-maker from Shechem,[4] in the area of present-day Israel; three other letters are from Labayu himself.  In letter EA 244, one Biridiya of Megidda complains to Akhenaten as follows:

 

May the king, my lord, know that…Labayu has waged war against me.  We are thus unable to do the [harvesting], because of Labayu. … May the king save [Megidda] lest Labayu seize it. … Labayu has no other purpose; he seeks simply the seizure of Meggida.  (Moran 1987: 298)

 

Significantly, Labayu and his two sons were in evident collaboration with “the Habiru” (or ‘Apiru’), which some scholars have identified as “the Hebrews.”  Paul Johnson (1987: 23) suggests that Labayu and sons were the “coreligionists and racial kin” of the Jews enslaved in Egypt.  Labayu “caused great difficulties for the Egyptian authorities and their allies; as with all other Habiru, he was…a nuisance.”  And insolent; in EA 252, Labayu threatens to “bite the hand” of Akhenaten; “how can I show deference?” he complains.  He is furthermore constantly trying to refute his image as a rebel.  Such impudence seems to have given the Habiru/Hebrews an early and rather nasty reputation.

Even if the Exodus was pure fiction, we do have concrete evidence of a people called “Israel” by 1200 BC.  The 1896 discovery of an engraved stone in east-central Egypt, known as the Merneptah Stele, brought to light a cryptic but telling line:  “Israel is laid waste, and his seed is not.”  We don’t know the context, but evidently certain Egyptians came into conflict with “Israel” and defeated them badly—to the point that they were virtually exterminated (at least, locally).  This event might be considered the second historical action against the Jews, and the first to be definitively dated.  In any case, the Jews apparently established themselves in Palestine, creating the unified Kingdom of David by 1000 BC.  Shortly thereafter they built their first temple (Solomon’s Temple) in Jerusalem.[5] 

Another negative incident occurred around the year 850 BC, one that was recorded on the Tel Dan Stele, recently discovered in northern Israel.  On this stone, a King Hazael boasts of his victory over the Israeli kings and the “House of David.”  Evidently the Jews had invaded his father’s land, and Hazael had subsequently exacted his revenge.  As before, an apparently aggressive and hostile Jewish people attacked their neighbors, and paid a price for their belligerence. 

The next detailed account of “Jew hatred” is documented later in the Old Testament, in the Book of Esther.  Esther was the Jewish queen of Persian King Xerxes (Ahasuerus), circa 475 BC.  The king’s second in command, Haman, grew to hate the Jews because of their insolence, especially that of Esther’s cousin Mordecai.  Consequently, “Haman sought to destroy all the Jews” (Esther 3:6).  He issued directives “to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate all Jews,” and built a monstrous gallows, 50 cubits high (about 25 m, or some 80 feet), just to hang Mordecai.  Through various trickery, Esther turned the tables, and Haman himself ended up on the gallows.[6]  This of course is the Jewish version of events, and we have no independent account of this story, but still, it is reasonable to assume some factual basis at its core.  And it shows that the Jews have been able to inure themselves to powerful figures for millennia.

Yet another anti-Jewish incident occurred in the year 410 BC, in which the Egyptian military commander Vidranga attacked and destroyed the Jewish temple at Elephantine.[7]  With these early events we find a trend beginning to emerge:  where the Jews settled amongst other peoples, they seem to have made enemies. 

 

For roughly the first millennium of their existence, no outside writers made note of the Hebrew tribe—or at least, no writings have survived.  We have only the internal, Old Testament account of things, which is no doubt glorified and exaggerated in turn.  Of interest here is how the outsiders, the non-Jews, viewed them when they did begin to take notice.

The first to comment were the Greeks.  Through seafaring trade and imperial expansion they came into contact with many groups of the eastern Mediterranean, including Egyptians, Phoenicians, Syrians, and Jews.  The earliest direct references come from Theophrastus and Hecateus of Abdera, but there are two preceding and suggestive passages from Plato.  The first is in Republic, dated circa 375 BC.  Amidst a discussion of justice in the polis, Plato identifies three social classes:  rulers, auxiliaries (military), and the “money-makers” (businessmen).  He then compares these qualities to neighboring cultures, observing that “the love of money…is conspicuously displayed by the Phoenicians and Egyptians” (436a).  We don’t know if, by ‘Phoenicians,’ Plato means to include the Jews; certainly he does not mention them by name.  At that time there was general confusion about the various tribes of that region.[8]  Still, it is striking that the people there were widely known as lovers of money.

A second and related reference comes from Plato’s final work (ca. 350 BC), Laws.  In Book V he discusses the virtue and value of mathematics, under the condition that we “expel the spirit of pettiness and greed” (747c) that would otherwise invite abuse of that skill.  If a teacher fails to do this, he will have inadvertently produced a “twister,” a dangerously corrupt person—as has happened “in the case of the Egyptians and Phoenicians, and many other races whose approach to wealth and life in general shows a narrow-minded outlook.”  This could reflect a general sense of Athenian elitism, but it is interesting that Plato again cites those two groups specifically.

But it is not until roughly 310 BC that we find the first explicit reference to the Jews, by Aristotle’s chief pupil Theophrastus.  It seems he had a concern about one of their customs:  “the Syrians, of whom the Jews (Ioudaioi) constitute a part, also now sacrifice live victims. …  They were the first to institute sacrifices both of other living beings and of themselves.”  The Greeks, he added, would have “recoiled from the entire business.”[9]  The victims—animal and human—were not eaten, but burnt as “whole offerings” to their God, and were “quickly destroyed.”  The philosopher was clearly repelled by this Jewish tradition.

And Theophrastus’ word for ‘whole burnt offering’?  A “holocaust” (holokautountes)—meaning a complete burning (holos-kaustos).  Incredibly, the very first Greek reference to Jews also includes the very first reference to a “holocaust.”  Fate works in strange ways indeed.

 

It was around that time that the Macedonian general Ptolemy I came to rule Egypt.  His military, for various reasons, could not conscript Egyptian citizens, and so a mercenary army was necessary.  Ptolemy had a ready supply at hand in the Jews.  Gabba (1984: 635) relates that the king employed 30,000 Jews, chosen from among his many prisoners of war.  “Well paid and highly trustworthy, they served to keep the native population at bay, and the natives apparently retaliated against them from time to time.”    

This, in addition to the cultural and religious quirks, was another basis for indigenous animosity towards Jews.  It anticipates the similar use of Jewry by future leaders of Europe and Russia—with comparable results.  But again this incident is revealing.  It is understandable to want to get out of prison, but one must wonder at the evident readiness of the Jews to side with their enemies, for pay, and to do so enthusiastically, with little compunction. 

Hecateus, working somewhat after Theophrastus, wrote the first text dedicated to the subject: On the Jews.[10]  Two fragments survive, one by the Jewish writer Josephus and the other by Diodorus.  Generally speaking both fragments are sympathetic to the Jews, and thus it is striking that the latter includes this observation on the story of the Exodus:  “as a consequence of having been driven out [of Egypt], Moses introduced a way of life which was to a certain extent misanthropic and hostile to foreigners” (apanthropon tina kai mixoxenon bion).[11]  One can certainly understand the anger of any people who have been driven from their place of residence.  But why should this translate into misanthropy—that is, hatred of mankind in general?  It is as if the Jews took out their anger on the rest of humanity.  Perhaps it was a case of extreme resentment combined with extreme stubbornness.  Or perhaps this was already a characteristic trait; we cannot yet tell.

But there is a second question here:  Why were the Jews driven out?  Egyptian high priest Manetho (ca. 250 BC) tells of a group of “lepers and other polluted persons,” 80,000 in number, who were exiled from Egypt and found residence in Judea.  There they established Jerusalem and built a large temple.  Manetho comments that the Jews kept to themselves, as it was their law “to interact with none save those of their own confederacy.”  As the story continues, the Jews (“Solymites”) marshaled allies from amongst other ‘polluted’ persons, returned to Egypt, and temporarily conquered a large territory.  When in power they treated the natives “impiously and savagely,” “set[ting] towns and villages on fire, pillaging the temples and mutilating images of the gods without restraint,” and roasting (‘holocausting’) the animals held sacred by the locals.[12]  The degree of truthfulness here is uncertain, but once again it is reasonable to assume some factual basis. 

 

Into the Roman Era

 

The Seleucid (Macedonian) king Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled over the territory of Judea in the early second century BC.  Internal Jewish disputes elevated to a general insurrection, angering him.  His army invaded Jerusalem in 168 BC, killing many Jews and plundering their great (second) temple.  Greek philosopher Posidonius adds that, upon seizing the temple, Epiphanes freed a Greek citizen who was being held captive, only to be fattened up for sacrifice, and eaten.  This was allegedly an annual ritual.[13]  He further remarks that the Jews worshipped the head of an ass, having placed one of solid gold in their temple.  Nonetheless, within a few years the Jews prevailed in the so-called Maccabean Revolt, reestablishing Jewish rule over Judea—a situation that would last until the Romans invaded in 63 BC.

The decline of the Seleucids coincided with Roman ascent.  Rome was still technically a republic in the second century BC, but its power and influence were rapidly growing.  Jews were attracted to the seat of power, and migrated to Rome in significant numbers.  As before, they came to be hated.  By 139 BC, the Roman praetor Hispalus found it necessary to expel them from the city:  “The same Hispalus banished the Jews from Rome, who were attempting to hand over their own rites to the Romans, and he cast down their private alters from public places.”[14]  In even this short passage, one senses a Roman Jewry who were disproportionately prominent, obtrusive, even ‘pushy.’ 

Perhaps in part because of this incident, and in light of the Maccabean revolt some 30 years earlier, the Seleucid king Antiochus VII Sidetes was advised in 134 BC to exterminate the Jews.  Referring to the account by Posidonius, Gabba (1984: 645) explains that the king was called on

 

to destroy the Jews, for they alone among all peoples refused all relations with other races, and saw everyone as their enemy; their forbears, impious and cursed by the gods, had been driven out of Egypt.  The counselors [cited] the Jews’ hatred of all mankind, sanctioned by their very laws, which forbade them to share their table with a Gentile or give any sign of benevolence.

 

Needless to say, Sidetes did not heed his counselors’ advice.

Two or three decades after Posidonius, around the year 75 BC, prominent speaker and teacher Apollonius Molon wrote the first book to explicitly confront the Hebrew tribe, Against the Jews.  From his early years in Caria and Rhodes he would likely have had direct contact with them, and thus was able to write from personal experience.  Molon referred to Moses as a “charlatan” and “imposter,” viewing the Jews as “the very vilest of mankind”.[15]  Josephus adds the following:

 

[Molon] has scattered [his accusations] here and there all over his work, reviling us in one place as atheists and misanthropes, in another reproaching us as cowards, whereas elsewhere, on the contrary, he accuses us of temerity and reckless madness.  He adds that we are the most witless of all barbarians, and are consequently the only people who have contributed no useful invention to civilization.[16]

 

The Jews are ‘atheists’ in the sense that they reject the Roman gods.  The ‘misanthrope’ charge recurs, having first appeared some two centuries earlier in Hecateus.  But the complaints of cowardice, villainy, and recklessness are new, as is the statement that the Jews have contributed nothing of value to civilization.  The rhetoric is clearly heating up.

In 63 BC, a momentous event:  Roman general Pompey takes Palestine.  For most residents of the region this was nothing to be feared, and in fact promised to bring significant improvements in many areas of life.  After all, the Romans granted citizenship to those they conquered, and brought many advances in standard of living.  But as the formerly dominant force in Judea, the Jews were particularly incensed.  And now the Romans had to face their wrath directly, in the form of an on-going insurrection. 

Thus it is unsurprising that we find a quick succession of anti-Jewish comments by notable Romans.  Five are of interest, beginning with Cicero.  In the year 59 BC Cicero gave a speech, now titled Pro Flacco, that offered a defense of L. V. Flaccus, a Roman propraetor in Asia.  Flaccus was charged with embezzling Jewish gold destined for Jerusalem.  Strikingly, Cicero begins by noting the power and influence of the Jews:

 

You know what a big crowd it is, how they stick together, how influential they are in informal assemblies.  So I will speak in a low voice so that only the jurors may hear; for those are not wanting who would incite them against me and against every respectable man.[17]

 

Shades of the Israel Lobby!  It’s rather shocking that Cicero, speaking near the height of Roman power, should voice this concern—if even as a mock concern. 

He continues on, noting that the senate had a long-standing policy of restricting gold exports, and that Flaccus was only enforcing this rule, not withholding the gold for himself.  Here was his downfall:  “But to resist this barbaric superstition (barbarae superstitioni) was an act of firmness, to defy the crowd of Jews (Iudaeorum) when sometimes in our assemblies they were hot with passion…”  All the gold is accounted for, Cicero hastens to add.  The whole trial “is just an attempt to fix odium on him” (recalling present-day attempts to smear ‘anti-Semites’).  The Jewish religion is “at variance with the glory of our empire, the dignity of our name, the customs of our ancestors.”  That the gods stand opposed to this tribe “is shown by the fact that it has been conquered, let out for taxes, made a slave”—so much for the ‘chosen people’ of God.[18]

Ten years later Diodorus Siculus wrote his Historical Library.  Among other things, it recounts the Exodus:

 

[T]he ancestors of the Jews had been driven out of all Egypt as men who were impious and detested by the gods.  For by way of purging the country of all persons who had white or leprous marks on their bodies had been assembled and driven across the border, as being under a curse; the refugees had occupied the territory round about Jerusalem, and having organized the nation of Jews had made their hatred of mankind into a tradition…  (HL 34,1)

 

The Library then includes a retelling of Antiochus Epiphanes’ takeover of the Jewish temple in 168—the same event found in the earlier work of Posidonius.  But this is no mere duplication; it demonstrates an acceptance and endorsement of that account.  Here, though, it is Antiochus Epiphanes, not his successor Sidetes, that was urged “to wipe out completely the race of Jews, since they alone, of all nations, avoided dealings with any other people and looked upon all men as their enemies (polemious hypolambanein pantas)”.[19]  This is a striking and telling statement:  “they alone, of all nations”.  It’s not that the Romans found fault with everyone.  Rather, the Jews were singled out, of all the ethnicities that the Romans encountered; Jews alone seemed to be uniquely disposed toward hatred of their fellow men.

Upon entering the temple Antiochus finds a statue of a bearded man on an ass—Moses, the one “who had ordained for the Jews their misanthropic and lawless customs.”  Antiochus’ advisors were “shocked by such hatred directed against all mankind,” and therefore “strongly urged [him] to make an end of the race completely.”  In his magnanimity, he declined. 

The great lyric poet Horace (65-8 BC) wrote his Satires (Latin: Sermones) in 35 BC, exploring Epicurean philosophy and the meaning of happiness.  At one point, though, he makes a passing comment on the apparently notorious proselytizing ability of the Roman Jews—in particular their tenaciousness in winning over others.  Horace is in the midst of attempting to persuade the reader of his point of view:  “and if you do not wish to yield, then a great band of poets will come to my aid…and, just like the Jews, we will compel you to concede to our crowd” (Satires I.4.143).  Their power must have been legendary, or he would not have made such an allusion.

The fourth reference comes from Ptolemy the Historian, circa 25 BC.  In his History of Herod he discusses the different ethnicities of Palestine, and comments on the people known as ‘Idumaeans’ (or ‘Edomites’), a tribe living in the southern desert region of present-day Israel.  They were defeated by the Hebrews in 125 BC and absorbed into the Jewish nation.  Ptolemy notes that the original Jews are ethnically distinct.  This is in noted contrast to the ‘converted’ Idumaeans, who suffered genital mutilation as a mark of their incorporation:

 

Jews and Idumaeans differ…  Jews are those who are so by origin and nature.  The Idumaeans, on the other hand, were not originally Jews, but Phoenicians and Syrians—having been subjugated by the Jews and having been forced to undergo circumcision, so as to be counted among the Jewish nation…[20]

 

If the Jews are distinct by “origin” (arches) and “nature” (physichoi), this clearly points to a racial definition, in addition to the obvious religious designation.  The debate about the religious vs. ethnic characterization of the Jews is ancient indeed.[21]

Ptolemy was one of the first, outside the Bible, to comment on the Jewish practice of circumcision.  He does not offer his opinion on it, but clearly sees it as a brutality when inflicted upon unwilling males, presumably even adolescents and adults.[22] 

The last commentator of the pre-Christian era is Lysimachus.  Writing circa 20 BC, he offers a variation on the Exodus story, placing it in the reign of the pharaoh Bocchoris (or Bakenranef) of 720 BC.  On his version, the Jews, “afflicted with leprosy, scurvy, and other maladies,” sought refuge in Egyptian temples.  The oracles advised Bocchoris to cleanse the temples, to banish the impious and impure, and “to pack the lepers into sheets of lead and sink them in the ocean”—which he did.  The exiled ones, led by Moses, were instructed to “show goodwill to no man,” to offer “the worst advice” to others, and to overthrow any temples or sanctuaries they might come upon.  Arriving in Judea, “they maltreated the population, and plundered and set fire to the [local] temples.”  They then built a town called Hierosolyma (Jerusalem), and referred to themselves as Hierosolymites.[23]  If indeed they persecuted the indigenous population, one can see in this a distant predecessor to the current Israeli atrocities in Palestine.

 

The charge of misanthropy, or hatred of mankind, is significant and merits further discussion.  It has recurred several times already—in Hecateus, Posidonius, Molon, Diodorus, and now Lysimachus.  This is striking because the Romans were notably tolerant of other sects and religions, owing in part to their polytheistic worldview.  A society of many gods implicitly recognizes religious diversity; if there are many such beings, who can claim complete knowledge of the divine realm?  Monotheism, in contrast, claims exclusive and absolute knowledge; one God implies one ultimate truth, and other religions with other gods are necessarily false.  Thus it is reasonable to assume that the Jews, as the first monotheists of the Middle East, did not reciprocate Roman tolerance.  In fact this seems to have been a general rule throughout history:  religious intolerance derives from the monotheistic fundamentalists (Jews, Christians, Muslims), not the polytheists or religious pluralists. 

In the case of the Jews, though, monotheistic arrogance was combined with racial distinctness and other cultural characteristics, resulting in a deeply-embedded misanthropic streak.  They seem to have little concern or true compassion for other races—unless, of course, it serves to benefit them.  Authentic altruism seems to be all but lacking.  Even towards those who have shown them good will, good will is not returned.  Rather, Jews have, historically, abused and oppressed anyone, any non-Jews, if it was in their interests.  For centuries Jews have been willing to serve as executors or enforcers of state power (when they had none of their own), with little evident regard for adverse effects on others.  In one of the earliest Bible stories, Joseph, son of Jacob, finds favor with the Egyptian pharaoh, only to use his power to exploit the local farmers when a famine strikes.[24]  Later we read of the Jews’ ruthless slaughter of the Canaanites, and their brutal support for Ptolemy I in Egypt (cited above). 

We see this issue recur even through the present day, with the rather simplistic but essentially valid claim that the question ‘Is it good for the Jews?’ is the overriding factor in Jewish decisions.  Others are valued only in an instrumental sense, to serve Jewish ends.  Sometimes this appears explicitly, as in the recent statement by leading Orthodox Rabbi Yosef, who said, “Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us.  Without that, they have no place in the world—only to serve the people of Israel.  They will work, they will plow, they will reap.  We will sit like an effendi and eat”.[25]  It would be difficult to find a cruder statement of Jewish misanthropy. 

Could there be a Biblical basis for this?  If the Jews consider themselves ‘chosen,’ clearly everyone else is second class, at best.  If God gave the Jews dominion, they can feel justified in imposing on others.  The Book of Exodus states, “we are distinct…from all other people that are upon the face of the earth” (33:16).  Similarly, the Hebrew tribe is “a people dwelling alone, and not reckoning itself among the nations” (Num 23:9).  In Deuteronomy (15:6), Moses tells the Jews “you shall rule over many nations”; “they shall be afraid of you” (28:10).  Rabbi Yosef could have quoted Genesis:  “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you” (27:29); or Deuteronomy, where God promises Jews “houses full of all good things, which [they] did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which [they] did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees, which [they] did not plant” (6:11).  And outside the Pentateuch, we can read in Isaiah:  “Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you…that men may bring you the wealth of the nations” (60:10-11); or again, “aliens shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers…you shall eat the wealth of the nations” (61:5-6).  Is this not explicit misanthropy?  And do these texts not express the essential Jewish worldview?

               

As we will see, Jewish hatred of humanity is not only one of the earliest but also one of the most persistent criticisms.  Many prominent commentators over the centuries have observed this especially pernicious trait.  And it explains much of Jewish behavior through the present day.

 

©2018 by Thomas Dalton