A fine article by South African immigrant to Israel Peter Bailey, “Why is there antisemitism?” and attending a Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration of the six million Jews who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 have again brought to the forefront of my mind the phenomenon that confronts me daily in the media, and which I find inexplicable and appalling: antisemitism.
I have only ever received kindness from Jewish people – family, friends and strangers – and for my own edification I felt the need to put to paper my thoughts or possible rationales as to why the world is just so: why do so many dislike or even hate Jews, people they’ve never met and who have only ever served humanity, based purely on their religious and spiritual beliefs.
My upbringing was Christian, my mother a devout Presbyterian and my father a rather less devout Presbyterian, but a practicing Christian nonetheless.
My mother would often refer to Jews as ‘God’s chosen people,’ and this she said without malice or envy, purely as a matter of fact. Mom had many Jewish friends and she certainly did not differentiate between them and her Christian friends; all were her friends and there was no distinction.
My father too had many Jewish friends from his days at the Bar, on the Bench, and socially. Not being as devout a Christian as my mother, he did not refer to them any differently – they were his friends, period.
Ancestrally, my great-grandfather was a prominent South African who was influential in the discussions and drafting of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and fought with vigor to ensure the tenets of the Balfour Declaration were ratified into International Law at the San Remo Conference in 1920.
He was also one of the few voices who reminded England that it had obligations to meet when it was doing all it could to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish State. He was a personal friend of Dr. Chaim Weizmann and an avowed Christian Zionist, as am I. His belief was that Palestine, or the Holy Land as he referred to it, was the Biblical home of the Jews, and that historical precedent existed justifying his belief. Doubtless his beliefs and convictions were carried down the following three generations to influence me from a relatively young age.
Persecution of the Jews is not a new development: 3,300 years ago the Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians and were led out of Egypt to the Promised Land – Israel as we know it today – by Moses. This predates the time of Muhammad and establishment of Islam (632CE) by more than 2,500 years, so no argument from the fundamentalists on that point. Since that time, persecution and enslavement or a combination of the two has been a constant throughout the millennia.
The Holocaust carried out between 1933 and 1945 was not the first such systematic action and killing of Jews. In contemporary history, the Holocaust was preceded by the pogroms carried out in present day Ukraine and Poland, Romania and Iraq from the late 1800s through to the late 1940s. Historical estimations dating back to 135BCE indicate that nearly three million Jews were killed for being Jewish in countries as diverse as Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden and even England. These pogrom-related three million deaths are in addition to the six million who died at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust, realizing a total of nine million murdered – absolutely astonishing and appalling.
Jews are a passive, peaceful people.
Jews in my experience and in all recorded history have been a passive, non-aggressive people, in stark contrast to the majority of the world’s peoples. In all the records of conflicts, the Jews have never been the aggressors. This holds true today, where Israel is not and never has been the aggressor, and has on all occasions only defended itself or its security.
It is a tendency of humanity to cast blame and attach liability to parties or peoples who are not able or inclined to defend themselves, easy targets, and so it is with the Jews who have been blamed for every worldly misfortune, often historically due to the preachings of the clergy and in the present day due to radical Islamists.
The liberal press we have today, which has such influence on what is deemed “politically correct” and which is so eagerly digested by the world’s misguided liberals, has much to answer for. Responsibility for the random massacres that continue to this day is most often to be laid still at the feet of the liberal, bigoted press, devious politicians, and the vitriol and actions of fundamentalist Islamic Imams.
When Jews are persecuted – and while I refer specifically to the present, doubtless it applies for all of history – the silent majority remain silent and are derelict in not voicing any form of defense for the Jews, save for a few lone voices who generally are insufficient in number to have any impact. This situation is exacerbated by politicians and commentators who seek paths of least resistance and the desire for popular acceptance. The need to conform and not be at odds with the majority is a human tendency, and sadly this characteristic has resulted in all too many people failing dismally in their human obligations.
The new and to my mind destructive, naive and mindless concept of political correctness serves also as a reason for what Jews endure daily worldwide. A recent example of this is the massacre of the Muslims in Christchurch, which quite rightly drew international condemnation.
At much the same time, a synagogue killing of Jews was carried out in the US and over 200 Christians massacred in Nigeria, both events drawing very little from the press and even less from politicians and the people. Such is political correctness at its worst; far more palatable and acceptable that Jews and Christians are killed than Muslims.
It is also true that the press reports in such a manner as to conform with what is currently acceptable, regardless of whether their articles will stand up to scrutiny, and no one will scrutinize in any event. The current Gaza situation bears this out: yesterday Hamas terrorists launched 450 rockets against Israel, and the newspaper headline reads that an IDF attack on Gaza killed a mother and child. The Israeli civilian losses, which there were, are not of sufficient importance to warrant any indignation. It transpired also that the mother and child were killed by Hamas, not the IDF – not that the press retracted their false accusations.
Envy and jealousy
The emotions of envy and jealousy can be immensely destructive, and have resulted in countless negative and damaging consequences, sometimes on a vast scale. It is both a common perception and in my mind a reality that the Jews are a people whose small numbers bely completely their massive contributions to humanity at large. However, far from acknowledging their contributions to humanity, too many in the world react with aggression resulting from what must include malicious jealousy.
The success of Jewish enterprises and corporations across the globe are legendary to those who care to know. The dominant Hollywood movie industry was started and continues to be directed by Jews, and the Rothschild family whose name has always been synonymous with success and wealth is also Jewish. And the list goes on and on. Doubtless these internationally known corporations and enterprises are the cause of envy and resultant resentment to many.
Medical, science and technological advances made by Jews and Israelis also provide a long list of innovations that benefit mankind. More than one revolutionary cancer treatment is currently undergoing clinical trials. Twelve Israelis have won the Nobel Prize in the last 50 years, per capita the most on the planet. During the 20th century, Jews won 138 or 21% of all Nobel Prizes, quite an accomplishment for a people that accounts for only 0.2% of the world’s population.
Rather than acknowledge these achievements that in most cases are to the benefit of mankind, a substantial proportion of the world’s population respond by being resentful. It should be borne in mind that much antisemitism and malice derives from feelings of inferiority that, real or imagined, are enormously powerful motivators and result often in acts of aggression.
My perception, borne out by personal experience, is that Jews are also intellectual people, given so often to deep and analytical thinking that would go some way to explaining the success of Jews worldwide and Israelis probably in particular. This trait would explain much, including possibly the antisemitic sentiments so many seem to harbor.
The State of Israel
Israel is the target of so many weapons – those wielded by seemingly most of the world’s press, and the extensive arsenals of all of Israel’s neighbors in the Middle East.
The great irony, for me, is that it’s not the fault of Israel that Israel exists, and yet it is Israel that is continuously under attack and has been for 71 years.
I understand and subscribe completely to the precedent created by Biblical history: that Israel was the home of the Jews thousands of years before Christianity began, and longer still before Islam came into being. One of Israel’s names in those historical times was Judea, the connection therefore to me being obvious, even though it would seem to escape completely those today who choose not to acknowledge this.
Israel as we know it had its beginnings with the Zionist movement initiated by Theodore Herzl with the publication of his work Der Judenstaat in early 1896. Subsequently, and after the death of Herzl, the movement for a home for the Jews was taken up by the brilliant physicist Weizmann. Largely through his efforts, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which was a declaration of intent to provide the Jews with a home, determined after much investigation, deliberation and negotiation to be Palestine.
With the cessation of WWI hostilities, and by virtue of the Smuts Resolution at the Sen Remo Conference in 1920, Britain was granted a Class A Mandate over Palestine, which enabled the settlement of Jews in Israel in accordance with the intent contained in the Balfour Declaration. Due to attempts to appease the surrounding Arabs, Britain tried on many occasions to thwart by any means possible the immigration of Jews to Palestine. Despite this, and showing tremendous fortitude, the immigration continued, and on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel, Eretz Israel.
Immediately following the declaration, the Arab states surrounding Israel on three sides went to war with the sole objective of destroying Israel, the War of Independence. This was followed in 1956 by an Israeli invasion of Sinai to effect the lifting of Egypt’s closure to Israel of the Straits of Tiran, essential to Israel’s oil imports.
A lull in hostilities followed despite continuing tensions, and when Egypt started massing troops along the Israeli border in June 1967, the Six Day War started when Israel undertook pre-emptive air strikes. The Yom Kippur War followed in 1973 when the surrounding Arab neighbors made another attempt to destroy Israel. Many isolated conflicts have followed since. All, without exception, the direct result of neighboring Arab aggression or to safeguard Israel’s national security. There has never been a conflict due to Israeli territorial ambitions or ideological differences.
Despite Israel having come into being through legitimate internationally validated legal process, the Arab neighbors continue to perpetrate hostile acts against it.
The “spoils of war” have resulted in territories changing hands for as long as history has been recorded, and were it a principle by which victors gained possession of conquered territory only for the duration of the conflict before returning it, the world would be very different to the one we know.
The most obvious reversal would be the return of the United States of America to England, which quite obviously is pure folly of thought. Despite the smaller scale, the same principle applies to Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem. For Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad to continue to agitate for the return of territorial losses in conflicts the victors, Israel, did not initiate is devoid of any precedent.
This does not, however, influence the distorted logic of the terrorist organizations that continue to do all possible to harm Israel and Israelis. These terrorist organizations are so blinded by anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish fervor that this is unlikely to change anytime soon, if ever. Antisemitism runs rife and at a deeper level here than likely anywhere else on earth, certainly since the end of World War II. The international press and of late misguided liberal US Democrats have been vocal in their antisemitic condemnation of Israel, even when Israel acts against terror attacks perpetrated against her.
Family/elder and peer pressure
Two of the most powerful conduits for sentiments, opinions and actions is that of hereditary influence and peer pressure. In the absence of free-thinkers, parental and ancestral opinions and prejudices along with peer pressure often determine attitudes and actions. This is more likely to occur in less sophisticated societies, where exposure to alternative opinions and international realities is not a given.
Doubtless much of the Middle East falls within this general category, and as such many of the various populations provide fertile ground for indoctrinations and recruitment of adherents. Often the worst perpetrators know no better and have their antisemitic hatred developed over generations and deeply entrenched, beyond I believe the possibility of any redemption or conversion. It is this inhuman mentality, developed over generations, that makes it possible to celebrate the deaths of Israeli citizens resulting from terrorist actions. The vast majority of humanity would not, I contend, find themselves able to celebrate such tragedies.
This document is not intended as an exhaustive nor extensively detailed history, certainly not an answer, but rather as a basic exercise to put my considered thoughts down on paper in an attempt to rationalize for myself that which cannot be rationalized: the antisemitic phenomenon which for me is beyond any comprehension, and which is the cause, today, and for millennia past, of the death of millions of Jews and ongoing daily terrorist attacks against Jews the world over.
A lawyer by training, Philip Weyers is a great-grandson of Gen. Jan Christiaan Smuts, former prime minister of South Africa, and lives in Irene, Gauteng, South Africa
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