The Oldest Bigotry

Anti-Semitism is the world’s oldest bigotry. Go ahead – see if you can come up with an example that’s older than thousands of years. It rises and falls in frequency and in severity, but it always shows up.

Here’s a dramatically condensed version of history to put this in context, a story which you might recall from Sunday School and your history text books.

Jews started in Ur – that’s part of what is now southern Iraq and it’s where Abraham came from. He settled in what eventually became Israel. Then the Babylonians came, destroyed the first temple and dragged the people away into slavery. Then the people returned, only to be banished by the Romans, who sacked the second temple.

That’s when Jews became the diaspora, wanderers looking for a safe place to live. But eventually every place Jews settled became dangerous or deadly. There was an Inquisition, pogroms (those brought my ancestors to the U.S.) and a Holocaust, so each time we wandered yet again looking for a safe place to live.

Jews have always been accused of being evil, of being dishonest. The most heinous of those accusations was the nineteen hundred years of the Catholic Church declaring unequivocally that Jews killed Jesus. I was called a Christ killer many times while growing up, although I know for a fact that I wasn’t around 2000 years ago, so I really couldn’t have had a hand in anything that took place back then. Near the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1964 I was absolved by the Vatican of personal responsibility for the crucifixion. It was a shame that a lot of the bad guys in high school didn’t get the message.

Overall, though, life in the United States for Jews has been pretty good and has seemed pretty safe, if at times limited and sometimes threatening. But violence against Jews has taken a terrible turn for the worse in recent years. The frequency of anti-Semitic acts is increasing, as is the severity of its violence.

The Anti-Defamation League reports that, “In 2020 and 2021, there were 7,528 incidents of extremism or anti-Semitism in the United States.” That’s over 14 per day and the rate is increasing. Take a look at the ADL tracker – filter for your state and look at just the recent incidents near you.

“Incidents” is a strange word to use for anti-Semitic violence. If you were the rabbi just walking down the sidewalk and you got pushed to the ground and kicked repeatedly by a couple of toughs,* you might use a different word.

You’d surely use a different word if you had been at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that awful October morning in 2018 or at the Chabad in Poway, CA in April 2019 or in that kosher deli in Brooklyn in December 2019. You would have had a different word, all right, if you had somehow survived the shootings.

Here’s the point: Hate is on the rise in America. I usually write about the anti-democracy hatred and racial cruelty of far right extremists, but it’s concurrent with the dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hatred in our country. And there is a difference.

If attacks like the ones listed above had been against Blacks there would have been BLM marches across the country and perhaps around the world, as there were following the murder of George Floyd, and rightly so. But these attacks were against Jews. There were and are no marches for Jews. Nobody comes to the rescue. It has always been this way. That’s just how it is in the world’s oldest bigotry. Refer to the videos below.

The hatred by angry Palestinians is rising in London following the May hostilities between Gaza and Israel. Have a look at the short videos below to get a feel for reactions to what is happening. As you watch, keep in mind how the public is reacting to this violence.


.Many thanks to Mel Zahn for sending the videos.

Note: I’ll appreciate it if you can identify the woman in the first video or provide a link.

The public isn’t reacting to this violence at all, just as these videos report. No help. No support. Crickets.

The violence in Israel and Gaza last month has been reported mostly in an irresponsibly simplistic way, as though this isn’t an enormously complex problem. Castigation of Israel has been the main theme, based primarily on the fact that there were many more Gazans killed and injured than Israelis.

Using John Oliver as a placeholder for all the grand pontificators who have dumped myopic criticisms on those events, he managed to mangle the logic of that casualty disparity. He specifically said it wasn’t a fair fight because Israel has Iron Dome and Hamas Gazans don’t. I haven’t a clue why he thinks fairness is an issue in this violence. I’m thinking survival should be the issue, like surviving rocket attacks. The way Oliver presented the issue sounds as if he would label it a fair fight if more Israelis had been killed. I’m not sorry to disappoint him.

Be clear that nobody lobbed 4,360 rockets at John Oliver, as Hamas did to Israelis, so he’s fully ignorant and missing the point. So did much of the world’s reporting of those dreadful days. This video and this one will explain that for you.

Key point: If you had been on the receiving end of those rockets, you wouldn’t have focused on playing fair. You would have done whatever it took to stop more rockets from being fired at you and your loved ones.

The leaders of Hamas knew in advance the likely response if they fired rockets into Israel. They’ve seen that movie before. Still, they fired rockets at Israeli civilians. They did it from Gaza apartment buildings and hospitals and office buildings, knowing that Israel would attack to stop yet more rockets from being fired. They knew that Israel silencing the rocket launchers would cause the death of a lot of Palestinians. Indeed, that was made worse because Hamas forced Palestinian civilians to remain in those buildings even after they were explicitly warned by Israel of coming attacks.

If there’s one thing Hamas leadership is good at it’s creating dead Palestinians so they can claim victimhood, gain world sympathy and make Israelis look like monsters. Where’s the fairness in that, especially for Palestinians?

Anger, hate and violence are always present or about to show up wherever Jews have gone. It’s the continuation of the world’s oldest bigotry and it is part of the reason why Israel exists and why Never Again means exactly that. The cavalry is never going to come over the hill for Jews, not in Israel, not in the United State and not in London (although the police did detain 4 suspects after the current anti-Semitic hate fest).

Jews have to take care of ourselves, regardless of whether John Oliver or anyone else thinks violence is a playground game with fairness rules. If the world doesn’t understand Never Again after the murder of the 6 million and Israel being repeatedly attacked by neighbors, there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to clarify it for them.

Palestinians are convoying through the streets of London yelling, “Fuck the Jews! Rape their daughters!” and the world’s condemnation of that vile hatred is  .  .  .  inaudible. It’s the same old crickets of the world’s oldest bigotry.


  • * Google “rabbi attacked” and you’ll find links to stories of this happening in other countries, too.


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One Response to The Oldest Bigotry
  1. Victoria Baum Reply

    Well said, Jack. There is no “JLM” and never has been. So many “others” have been identified, oppressed and discriminated against.
    Why, as a human race, can we not stop seeing the differences and begin understanding our “sameness”.