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Section: Antisemitism

Prejudice and antisemitism

Burning of Jews during the Black Death epidemic, 1349. Brussels,
Burning of Jews during the Black Death epidemic, 1349. Brussels, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS 13076-77, f. 12v. via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the story in the Gospels, Jesus was executed for treason. Christian teaching blamed the Jews rather than the Romans.

As his followers later regarded Jesus as God, killing him became known as the crime of ‘deicide’.

The Jews were forced by the Romans to leave their own country and live as foreigners in other lands.

Later, when the Roman Empire became Christian, it turned against the Jews because it saw them as the people who had rejected Jesus’ teachings and had actually killed him. In the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, antisemitism did not go away, and at times of conflict negative attitudes to Jews among Christians led to violence and persecution.

This section will show you how antisemitism developed throughout the ages.

How did anti-Jewish measures develop?

When the Christian Crusades started in 1095, the Crusaders attacked Jewish communities on their way to the ‘Holy Land’.

The Crusaders had been taught that it was important to fight against non-believers and Jews were the non-believers in their midst.

There were already laws in the Christian world that made Jewish life difficult; however, more and more were introduced as the Crusading movement developed. Jews were not allowed to own property, to join the trade guilds or to move about freely; and in 1215 the Catholic Church required that Jews throughout Christendom be marked out with a special badge to identify them.

The Church had forbidden Christians to lend money to each other and charge interest.

However, that was one of the few things the Jews could do, having been excluded from most other trades and professions.

In addition, Jews were accused of killing Christian babies in order to use their blood for their religious rituals.

This vicious lie, known as the Blood libel spread from country to country.

Thus the Jews were marked out as different. Not only were they seen as the enemies of the Christian God, they were also the only people from whom you could borrow money, which had to be paid back with interest.

A combination of these factors led to an increase in prejudice and hatred. Gradually Jews were expelled from one country after another, always at the mercy of someone else.

How did modern antisemitism develop?

The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism, written in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr. In the book he argued that Germany had allowed the Jews to control German finance and industry. In 1879 Marr founded the League of Antisemites
The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism, written in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr. In the book he argued that Germany had allowed the Jews to control German finance and industry. In 1879 Marr founded the League of Antisemites Image: Wikimedia Commons public domain

In 1516 the authorities in Venice decided to force the Jews to live in just one area of the town. They built a wall round the area and only permitted the Jews to come and go at particular times; and they locked them in at night.

This area was known as the ghetto, and that word came to define the enclosed Jewish areas which became increasingly popular amongst rulers around Europe.

In the late 18th and during the 19th century, some countries in western and central Europe became more liberal and tolerant.

Laws and rules against Jews started to be relaxed, until finally the Jews were emancipated and could play a full part in society.

Emancipation gave Jews the freedom to live where they wanted, to go to school and university and enter any trade or profession. At last able to study and work hard, some become very successful in the new technologies, banking, business and industry.

By the middle of the 19th century, nationalism became an important idea in many European countries.

Some extreme nationalists thought you could only be part of a nation if you came from the same racial group.

Despite the fact that Jews now saw themselves as citizens of the countries in which they lived, many people still regarded them as different; they remembered the old prejudices and hatred.

These ideas of race reached their peak under the Nazis. They believed that the Jews were a separate race at war with the ‘Aryans’. These views were part of the explanation for the murder of 6 million Jews.

Does antisemitism still exist?

A vandalised grave, the result of an antisemitic attack at Failsworth Cemetery, Greater Manchester
A vandalised grave, the result of an antisemitic attack at Failsworth Cemetery, Greater Manchester © 2011 Caroline Slifkin.

A common saying when remembering the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’. But has antisemitism really disappeared now that so many people are aware of the horrors of the Holocaust? In the late 20th and early 21st century there are still people who preach anti-Jewish hatred. Jews are still often the scapegoats when things go wrong in society. It is still sadly true that synagogues all over the world require security guards, because the threat of attack is real.

The 'Y' Word

The short film ‘The Y-Word’, written and produced by David and Ivor Baddiel, looks at antisemitism in football today. It has received widespread support from London’s Premier League clubs.

David Baddiel says: “The film is not intended to censor football fans“. It’s simply to raise awareness that the y-word is – and has been for many, many years – a race hate word.”  Despite the y-word being used for many years as a term of abuse, some fans may not even know what they are chanting. However, there are certainly others who fully understand that the chants constitute antisemitic abuse.

All football clubs are committed to combating antisemitism and have been working with ‘Kick it Out’ in their campaign to eliminate all forms of racism from the game. This is especially true in London with some clubs being close to the largest Jewish communities. The FA supports the film and hopes “that it has a positive impact in educating football fans on antisemitic behaviour”.

The PFA also supports the campaign. The organisation “has a zero-tolerance stance to all forms of racism, bigotry and hatred and this includes all forms of antisemitism. Chants and songs are a part of football culture but [they] will not condone any form of chanting that causes offence to players or the majority of supporters who go to the game to enjoy football”.

(source: http://www.kickitout.org  © 2011 Kick It Out)

 

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