A Brief Historical Survey of Jewish Persecution
Posted: Rabi-ul-Awwal 17, 1429| March 25, 2008
Jews have been persecuted throughout history. From the times of the Pharaohs of Egypt to the totalitarian regime of Hitler in Germany, Jews have been mercilessly tortured and discriminated against. Their cities have been burned to the ground by various armies, their unlucky new-born sons doomed for execution at the hands of the Pharaoh, and their worship severely restricted. Their temples have been razed to the ground numerous times, and they have been expelled many times from Jerusalem. They have been mercilessly chased out of their homes during the Spanish Inquisition. All in all, the persecution of Jews was mainly spurred by religious and nationalistic sentiments, and slowly zigzagged its way in terms of severity until it reached the peak in the Holocaust, after which it gradually stopped and resulted in the sponsored establishment of Israel.
Jews were mainly discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and because of their foreign culture. Christians felt revolted by the Jewish beliefs regarding Jesus, and were encouraged to look down upon them. Some Christians also believed that Jews were responsible for killing Jesus. Thus, they had a strong hatred towards them. Many xenophobes disliked Jewish culture, and regarded them as aliens. Politicians frequently blamed Jews for all the problems their society was facing. In fact, many major cities had special sectors of the city – ghettos – allocated for them. Many aristocrats accused Jews of having certain built-in vices in their agenda. Others, such as Hitler, regarded the Semitic race to be inferior to their own race. Thus, anti-Jewish feelings spread rapidly due to the negative stereotypes associated with them. Many of these stereotypes were unfounded, whereas others emerged from the actions of a select few attributed to all.
In the beginning, Jewish persecutions were not opposed by anybody, except obviously the Jews themselves. They were often let to rot in their ghettos. There was no help in sight for them. Then in the 7th century, with the rise of Islam, this dramatically changed. For example, when Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638 CE they allowed Jews to worship freely in the city – a stark contrast to the ban imposed by the previous Christian rulers. While Europeans routinely carried out pogroms against Jews, Muslims consistently offered a refuge for them. Jews were free in Muslim Spain, and even reached their Golden Age under them. And in the Spanish Inquisition, Jews fled to Muslim lands to escape from the intolerant Christian authorities.
Why was Jewish persecution successful? It was successful because it couldn’t be stopped. There was nothing standing between the persecutors and the persecuted. Nations had fused anti-Jewish discriminations in their law books. People regarded Jewish persecution as natural - much like how white masters regarded their African slaves as mere pieces of property. In a society where the white Christian was supposed to be supreme, nobody cared to question any of the ongoing persecutions. However, the situation was different in the Muslim world, where they prohibited the persecution of any culture – let alone the Jews.
The outcome of all this was the creation of Israel. A sorry Europe shipped its Jewish inhabitants off to a foreign land, and hoped that would make up for all of the previous vices they had committed. They gave the Jews a free hand – and also very generous support – to set up a state that would call for the ethnic cleansing of the people living there. That state, under the watchful eyes of its benefactors, uprooted centuries-old towns and villages, rudely disrupted the prevailing atmosphere of peace and tolerance, and instead brought misery and suffering to the bewildered, yet helpless inhabitants. It upset the harmonious equilibrium that had been in place for more than a few centuries, and began a new genocide against the Palestinians.
Today, it is considered extremely evil to even speak against – let alone persecute - Jews and anything associated with them. Denying the Holocaust can land a person in jail. Speaking against Israel will be brandished as being anti-Jewish. Protesting against the ongoing occupation in Palestine will result in furious demands of an immediate retraction. People who are desperately devoted to regaining their own precious homeland from the barbarity of the foreign Israeli occupiers are labeled as terrorists. In effect, Jews are now an untouchable force. (There is an immense double-standard here, as many Jews routinely bash other races – especially their own neighbors. An example is the famous quote of a famous rabbi: “A million Arabs are not worth one Jewish fingernail.”1) Although adherents of many religions have also been subject to equally horrendous persecution, none have been bemoaned as loudly as the Jews have. Millions of Muslims and Christians and others have been killed throughout history solely on the basis of their religion, yet there is a profound silence concerning them. Nobody remembers the cries of the innocent kids being driven out of their homes during the Spanish Inquisition, nobody remembers the floods of red blood created on the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem, and nobody remembers the barbaric hordes of the Mongolian forces slaughtering ancient Baghdad’s inhabitants. On the other hand, sober sermons are frequently delivered lamenting the Holocaust - along with long lists of anti-Jewish barbarities - and the entire world just seems to constantly weep at the mention of aggressions committed against them. There is no doubt that persecuting Jews is completely wrong and abhorrent, but the question still lingers: why is the persecution of Jews more publicized than any other form of hate? Why is being anti-Jewish considered more evil than being anti-anything-else? The answer – no doubt, a very complex issue – is deeply tangled in the fact that exaggerating Jewish sufferings is actually a crucial means of garnering more support for the Zionist state of Israel.
1. Rabbi Yaacov Perrin. "Quotes." 13 Mar. 2008 <http://www.palmyria.co.uk/superstition/quotes1.htm>.