“Thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:37)

The French have a saying that translates (roughly) as “the more things change the more they stay the same.” This of course is consistent with Scripture which makes it clear that there are certain constants in life. The conflict between flesh and Spirit is an example of this. In prophecy this conflict between the things of God and those of man has been reflected in the political sphere in perpetual enmity between Israel and many of their enemies (e.g. Amalek, Edom.) It is also reflected in the perpetual animosity directed by many Gentiles against the Jews.

Anti-Semitism is an irrational antipathy towards Jews on the basis of their religion. In its most extreme forms it extends to hatred towards people who are descended from Jews regardless of whether or not they practice Judaism. In previous centuries Anti-Semitism often was officially sanctioned in many societies, especially in Europe. Ironically, in that period Arab dominated societies in the Middle East were typically more welcoming of Jews than European nations.

In the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church actively promoted Anti-Semitism, supporting it by holding the Jewish community as a whole responsible for the crime of Deicide – the murder of God – on the basis that they conspired to crucify the Lord Jesus Christ. This accusation is unsound on doctrinal grounds, being reliant on the doctrine of the Trinity. It also is unsound on legal grounds because it is unjust (and unscriptural – Ezekiel 18:20) to hold the descendents of a group responsible for the actions of their ancestors.

A consequence of the Church-promoted hatred of Jews was the imposition in many countries of legal impediments on Jews. In countries were the Church exercised considerable authority this took the form of limiting the places where Jews were permitted to live and the ways in which they could earn a living. But even nations where Protestantism had diluted the influence of the Pope discriminated against the Jews. For instance, until 1870 Jews in Germany were prohibited from undertaking tertiary education, while in the United Kingdom Jew were not granted full rights of citizenship until 1890.

It is well known that the founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, was motivated by his exposure to gross Anti-Semitism to promote the need for a national homeland for Jews. As a journalist he was assigned in 1894 to cover the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army charged with espionage. In spite of his innocence Dreyfus was convicted at an initial trial. So intense was the anti-Jewish feeling that, even though the real culprit confessed to the crime, at his second trial the confession was ignored and Dreyfus was convicted a second time!

The injustice of the Dreyfus case was awful, but it pales in comparison with the violent persecution of Jews in many parts of Eastern Europe during the last decades of the Nineteenth Century. Thousands of innocent Jews were slaughtered in pogroms in many nations, many of the campaigns being officially sanctioned by the governments in those lands.

A proverb, and a byword

The Anti-Semitism Jews experienced in particular in Europe was prophesied in Deuteronomy 28 when Moses told the Israelites that disobedience would lead to their dispersal throughout the world: “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away” (Deut 28:36–37, ESV).

Jewish suffering reached a climax in World War Two when the Nazi-led German government implemented its policy of “The Final Solution” (to the “Jewish problem”) under which at least six million Jews were slaughtered. Towards the end of Deuteronomy 28 there are words which have had application at various times in Jewish history but which were never more relevant than during the days of the Holocaust: “among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see” (Deut 28:65–67).

After World War Two the revelation of the horror of the Holocaust was a catalyst for the establishment of the state of Israel. Some expected that the barbarity of the Holocaust would shame the world into disavowing any support for Anti- Semitism. Such hopes, however, ignored the message of Deuteronomy 28 and we now know that they have not been realized. It might have been expected, however, that at least in Germany the memory of the Holocaust would have ensured that Jews would never again be persecuted but even this has not been the case.

Resurgent Anti-Semitism in Germany

In June 2012 the Cologne regional court in Germany ruled that doctors who circumcise a boy for religious reasons can be accused of committing bodily injury. Circumcision is an essential ritual of the Jewish and Moslem faiths. Although circumcision has become less popular in western societies in recent decades there is considerable evidence for the benefits it offers1. Some of those who prosecuted this case merely wish to prevent boys from being circumcised; others have suggested that Jews and Moslems set out to mutilate and traumatize their sons! Although the German government subsequently committed to legislating to preserve the rights of parents to circumcise their sons the fact that such a case could be brought to court and won suggests that the spectre of Anti- Semitism lingers even in Germany.

Knobloch wrote that she had defended the continued presence of Jews in Germany for decades, “even though Jews are abused verbally and beaten so badly they need to be hospitalized.” She also said that Jewish religious foundations were being “dragged through the mud” by the debate, which “casts doubt over the future of the already tiny Jewish population in Germany.”

It might be tempting to dismiss this legal case as an extreme anomaly, but a leading German magazine, “Spiegel” reported on 10 September 2012 that in Germany “there are the repeated attacks on Jews, mostly by right-wing extremists, but also by Moslems. In the first half of 2012, there were 13 violent attacks, 11 of them carried out by neo- Nazis. Although Jews and Jewish establishments in Germany were attacked on only 16 occasions in 2011, compared with 114 in France, this is no cause for celebration. The reality includes an attack on Berlin Rabbi Daniel Alter, who was beaten by Arab youths in front of his 7-year-old daughter two weeks ago, suffering a broken cheekbone.”

The article went on to describe steps taken by Jewish institutions to protect students from Anti- Semitic attacks: “The Jewish Abraham Geiger theological college in Potsdam advises its 28 student rabbis against wearing a kippah – the Jewish head covering – in public. Out of concerns for its students’ welfare, the orthodox Or Avner School in Berlin has long issued similar guidelines. Whenever its pupils go on trips to the zoo or the museum, they are warned: “Speak German, not Hebrew, and put a baseball cap over your kippah so you don’t give stupid people something to get annoyed about.” Camouflaged in this way, young Jews travel on Berlin’s metro trains”.”

Arab Spring sends a cold chill

If such negative attitudes towards Jews can thrive in Germany it will not be surprising to learn that Anti-Semitism remains strong and healthy in the Arab world. Recent events have only served to exacerbate the problem. A recent article entitled “Let’s hear it for Israel, the Arab world’s all-purpose enemy” in the Canadian “National Post” (6 August 2012) summed it up this way:

“And how is the Arab Spring? Well, there’s bad news, and good news. The bad news is that since the beginning of the phenomenon that has been discussed more and understood less than any in recent years, hostility to Israel in the region has onlyincreased. The good news is that while the appetite to harm the Jewish state and its inhabitants has grown in the Arab/Muslim world since the fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia launched what was supposed to be the region’s democratic renewal, the capacity to do so has diminished.

An increase in hostility was predictable. Hatred against Israel, kept on a low boil, is the organizing principle of the Middle East. … The centrality of hatred to the culture is remarkable. The Cartesian idea is “I hate, therefore I am.” Self-righteousness is overwhelming: each desire thwarted becomes an example of justice denied. … In many ways, Israel is a godsend to the one-trick ponies who rule the region. Their culture defines “ruling” as inoculating your own sect or tribe against all others, including the ones that form your own country. … In such an ambiance, nothing is handier than an all-purpose enemy, just out of reach, close enough to seem a realistic threat but too far to be one. Tyrants can govern by whipping up enough popular sentiment against the Jewish state to give their regimes an apparent national purpose and distract people’s attention from domestic woes, then relax and spend some money in the capitals of Europe.”

Such sentiments are consistent with the tensions we would expect to see between the Israelis, descendents of Abraham through Isaac the son of promise, and the Arabs who are descended from Ishmael. Of Ishmael it was prophesied that “he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him” (Gen 16:12).

It is interesting that those tyrants who have sought to resist the forces unleashed by the Arab Spring have invoked hostility against Israel in an attempt to bolster their position. One example of this is President Assad who has threatened to rain missiles down on Tel Aviv should NATO try to dislodge him. Where the Arab Spring has led to regime change, new leaders such as those in Egypt have expressed anti-Israel views at least as clearly as their predecessors.

Of course no nation in the Middle East is as overt in its expression of Anti-Israel vitriol as Iran. President Ahmadinejad has a long history of vilifying and demonising Israel. On 17 August 2012 AFP reported that “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an annual anti-Israel protest in Tehran on Friday that the Jewish state was a “cancerous tumour” that will soon be excised, drawing Western rebukes.” The systematic nature of this rhetoric is evident from the fact that it was uttered at the “annual” anti-Israel protest. In fact the speech was called his “Quds (Jerusalem) Day address”.

Evoking the spirit of Ezekiel 38, Ahmadinejad said: “The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper Zionists in the Palestinian land …. A new Middle East will definitely be formed. With the grace of God and help of the nations, in the new Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists.” The diatribe was delivered against the backdrop of fears that Israel may attack Iran to cripple Tehran’s controversial nuclear program. For its part, the Iranian military has warned it will destroy Israel if it attacks. “They (the Israelis) know very well they don’t have the ability” to successfully attack, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. “If they make a mistake, our nation’s reaction will lead to the end of the Zionist regime,” he said.

Continuing vilification of Jews and of their homeland Israel confirms that the world remains on course for a major confrontation on the Mountains of Israel as predicted in Ezekiel 38. As we witness these events they should cause us to review our ways and ensure that we are ready for the consummation of all that has been promised to those who pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

(Endnotes)

1 Some of the benefits of circumcision are outlined in chapter

22 of Brother Alan Fowler’s book “Modern Medicine and the

Bible”, Ortho Books, Bridgend, 2002.70.