From Prejudice to Destruction
Hostility toward Jews, or what came to be called anti-Semitism in the late 1870’s, has been analyzed seriously ever since concerned people have realized that such behavior is not desirable. Jacob Katz, an outstanding interdisciplinarian (socio-history) and Professor Emeritus at Israel’s Hebrew University, has provided us with an important analysis of anti-Semitism in the modern period.
As the influence of Christian theology declined, with its theories deprecatory to Jews, and secular influences grew, the rationale for anti-Semitism changed to fit the zeitgeist. Katz does not give a traditional history of anti-Semitism; instead, he draws the lines of the transmission of the negative image of Jews and Judaism from generation to generation. The more it changed, the more it remained the same.
The fatal process has been institutionalized within the Jewish mythos itself: in the annual ritual for the Passover, families have recited that in every generation there are those who have attempted to destroy the group (according to the ritual, only God helps them to survive). By 1882, Leo Pinsker, a Jewish nationalist thinker, had announced his belief that “Judeophobia is a psychic aberration. As a psychic aberration, it is hereditary; as a disease transmitted for two thousand years, it is incurable.” It is just such an opinion that anti-Semitism is fixed in the psyche of mankind, inevitable and malicious, that lends credence to Jewish national aspiration (Zionism). Katz implicitly supports this fatalistic view in his balanced, sober, and convincing study.
By the mid-nineteenth century, both the press of the left and of the right in France were regularly disseminating anti-Semitic ideas—although the rationale for each set of...
(The entire section is 726 words.)