Thursday, March 29, 2012

Christian Philo-Semitism

Haredi Jews in Jerusalem

The words anti-Semite and its opposite philo-Semite are mostly used in reference to attitudes towards the Jews. This is not entirely accurate, however. For from a linguistic point of view Jews are not the only Semites; for example, Amharic is a Semitic language. Nor are Jews the only Semites in Biblical sense for besides Abram many other nations are derived from Noah's son Shem who with Ham and Japhet and their wives survived the Great Deluge in the ark (Genesis 10).

Unfortunately, there are anti-Semitic Arabs (against Jews) even Arabs themselves are Semites speaking a language very closely related to Hebrew. Even more unfortunately, there are gentile anti-Semites (against all Semites), such as white Christian Americans or some good citizens in Germany, France, Great Britain and elsewhere in the world who have racist grudges against all Semites in general.

But the two terms are so deeply rooted into languages associating them with Jews that anti-Semitism is synonymous to anti-Jewish.

There is a good but short article on the subject in wikipedia

Philo-Semitism or Judeophilia is an interest in, respect for, and appreciation of the Jewish people, their historical significance and the positive impacts of Judaism in the history of the western world, in particular, generally on the part of a gentile. Within the Jewish community it also includes the significance of Jewish culture and the love of everything Jewish.

The concept is not new, and has been avowed by thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, who described himself as a "anti-anti-Semite", but it has perhaps recently become a growing phenomenon. It is characterized (among other things) by an interest in Jewish culture and history, as well as increasing university enrollment by non-Jews in courses relating to Judaism (including Judaism, Hebrew and Jewish languages). A philosemite or Judeophile is a gentile who substantially subscribes to, or practices, any of the above. Philo-Semitism is not a unique phenomenon, and it is part of the larger phenomenon of Allophilia, admiration of foreign cultures (like anglophilia, francophilia, etc.).

Daniel Goldhagen, Harvard scholar and author of the controversial Hitler's Willing Executioners, argues that philosemites are often closet anti-Semites. His detractor Norman Finkelstein agrees. The thesis is that Jew haters feel a need to talk about Jews, and with anti-Semitism no longer being socially acceptable they must instead make exaggerated positive statements. Others reject philo-Semitism, as they feel it (like its apparent opposite anti-Semitism) implicitly gives a special status to Jews. This contradicts the traditional goal of Zionism to make Jewry "a nation among nations."
wikipedia (structure rearranged by me)

Christian Philo-Semitism
Love of Jewish people is rampant among many US Christian groups and less so among some other denominations and sects. Love and respect of modern Israel is not limited to religious people, either. The issue is today, of course, politically highly significant and this is known by those seeking leadership among the Republicans as well as Israeli leaders visiting the country. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand the political significance of Christian philo-Semitism is also noted.

European and Russian history with the Jewish people is exceptionally dark and there is currently anti-Semitic streams including both the Jews and the Muslims and - as the Toulouse murders show - between Semitic people themselves.

There are many deep motives for the Christians to love the Jewish people. Rabbis have some problem with the role Jews are giving in eschatology by some active friends of Israel. By building the Third Temple and otherwise helping things forward with Israel these Christians are preparing for the day Jesus Christ returns to Earth and destroys Devil and all Jews are converted to Him.

Such love of the Jewish people as actors in the Divine play that the Bible talks about is not really love. It may contain quite strong abhorrence of anything genuinely Jewish and blatant ignorance about Judaism in general.

Christ killers!
Anti-Semitism is essentially irrational and surrounds like a dark cloud Jews. The more Jews and the more prominent they are, the denser the cloud.

The shout during the progroms in Tsarist Russia is a good example of this irrational character of anti-Semitism  "Christ killers!"

For philo-Semites know from the Bible that salvation is from the Jews and that the Chosen People rejected their King according to the strange and deep plan of their God.

By letting the Romans execute Jesus of Nazareth the Jews became an integral part of the rise of Christianity. In other words, God used His people to do a favour to the Nations. But He has done it in such an awesome and amazing way that it has extracted quite a fearsome price on His own people ... to put it mildly.

Messiah loves the nations
It is not our love of Jesus that is important in philo-Semitism as it can also lead to unwanted phenomena.

It is the love Jesus Christ shows towards gentiles that is at the heart of genuine unselfish philo-Semitism.

When God's children realise how much God is giving to all the nations of the world through His people and the King of Israel this emerging understanding builds true and unselfish love both towards Jesus and the often so difficult and stubborn people of God.

Saint Paul to the Romans
As a former Pharisee, student of a famed Jewish rabbi and ardent persecutor of the Nazarenes Saint Paul was a true philo-Semite despite being so hated also today by his own people.

Nobody has put it better than he in Letter to the Romans

I say then: Have they stumbled that they should fall?

God forbid! But rather, through their fall salvation has come unto the Gentiles to provoke them to jealousy.

Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness?

For I speak to you Gentiles. 

Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my office, that by any means I may provoke to emulation those who are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
Romans 11:11-15 KJ21

Maybe you say "This is exactly what the American Christians are saying to Jews - that at the end of the days they will accept Jesus as the Messiah".

I say "Yes".

Maybe you say "Is this message from Paul then not hidden anti-Semitism?"

I say "No".

But life from the dead

Monday, March 19, 2012

Early Zionist concerns over a Jewish State

A History of Zionism, London 
Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1972 

"Walter Zeev Laqueur (born 26 May 1921) Walter Zeev Laqueur (born 26 May 1921) is an American historian and political commentator. He was born in Breslau, Germany (modern Wrocław, Poland), to a Jewish family. In 1938, Laqueur left Germany for the British Mandate of Palestine. His parents, who were unable to leave, became victims of the Holocaust. He lived in Israel 1938–53 and since then in the UK and US." (wikipedia)

I first read this very detailed work on the political Zionist movement in the Seventies. With almost thousand pages it is packed with information about people, their ideas and how their dream became reality in the birth of the Jewish State on 5 Iyar 1948. The book is quite readable and clearly a love affair to the author. It is a fundamental contribution to the research of the Zionist movement.

I remember from that reading long ago especially two critical views that were expressed on the suggestion by Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) how to solve the problem of prevalent anti-Semitism. After the Dreyfus affair 1894 Herzl was convinced that Jews cannot rely on the government in the country of their residence to defend them and that the best solution is to establish a state where they can defend themselves.

There was - and partly still is - general resistance against the idea of a secular state. Some religious Jews said that the Messiah will rebuild fallen House of David when He comes. It is not right for these Communists and Socialists of the early Yishuv to take such a holy and religious project in their own secular hands.

The concerns expressed by the people quoted by Walter Laqueur were more specific than this generic opposition from religious background. I think both notes are quite relevant also today after the Jewish State is already fait accompli.

(Unfortunately, I do not remember who said these things and where in the thick book the references are. Actually, who said so is here not as important as what was said.)

A rabbi wrote about Jews and state that since the Jewish people have not had a state of their own in the Diaspora they have also been spared from the sins of nations that do have a state.

Someone wrote that, contrary to what Herzl hoped, a Jewish State will not eliminate anti-Semitism. Instead, such an entity will simply just raise anti-Semitism to new heights on national and international level.