From the bestselling authors of The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism comes a completely revised and updated edition of a modern classic that reflects the dangerous rise in antisemitism during the twenty-first century.
The very word Jew continues to arouse passions as does no other religious, national, or political name. Why have Jews been the object of the most enduring and universal hatred in history? Why did Hitler consider murdering Jews more important than winning World War II? Why has the United Nations devoted more time to tiny Israel than to any other nation on earth?
In this seminal study, Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin attempt to uncover and understand the roots of antisemitism -- from the ancient world to the Holocaust to the current crisis in the Middle East. This postmillennial edition of Why the Jews? offers new insights and unparalleled perspectives on some of the most recent, pressing developments in the contemporary world, including:
* The replicating of Nazi antisemitism in the Arab world
* The pervasive anti-Zionism/antisemitism on university campuses
* The rise of antisemitism in Europe
* Why the United States and Israel are linked in the minds of antisemites
Clear, persuasive, and thought provoking, Why the Jews? is must reading for anyone who seeks to understand the unique role of the Jews in human history.
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July 28, 2003
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Excerpt from Why the Jews? by Dennis Prager
Hatred of the Jew has been humanity's greatest hatred. While hatred of other groups has always existed, no hatred has been as universal, as deep, or as permanent as antisemitism.
The Jews have been objects of hatred in pagan, religious, and secular societies. Fascists have accused them of being Communists, and Communists have branded them capitalists. Jews who live in non-Jewish societies have been accused of having dual loyalties, while Jews who live in the Jewish state have been condemned as "racists." Poor Jews are bullied, and rich Jews are resented. Jews have been branded as both rootless cosmopolitans and ethnic chauvinists. Jews who assimilate have been called a "fifth column," while those who stay together spark hatred for remaining separate. Hundreds of millions of people have believed (and in the Arab world many still do) that Jews drink the blood of non-Jews, that they cause plagues and poison wells, that they secretly plot to conquer the world, and that they murdered God.
The universality of antisemitism is attested to by innumerable facts, the most dramatic being that Jews have been expelled from so many of the European and Arab societies in which they have resided. Jews were expelled from England in 1290, France in 1306 and 1394, Hungary between 1349 and 1360, Austria in 1421, numerous localities in Germany between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, Lithuania in 1445 and 1495, Spain in 1492, Portugal in 1497, and Bohemia and Moravia in 1744-45. Between the fifteenth century and 1772, Jews were not allowed into Russia; when finally admitted there, they were restricted to one area, the Pale of Settlement. Between 1948 and 1967, nearly all the Jews of Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen fled these countries, fearing for their lives.
The depth of antisemitism is evidenced by the frequency with which hostility against Jews has gone far beyond discrimination and erupted into sustained violence. In most societies in which Jews have lived, they have at some time been subjected to beatings, torture, and murder solely because they were Jews. In the Russian Empire during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mass beatings and murders of Jews were so common that a word, pogrom, was coined to describe such incidents. And these pogroms were viewed by their antisemitic perpetrators as being of such significance that they were equated with the saving of Russia.
On a number of occasions even beating and murdering Jewish communities was not deemed sufficient. Antisemitic passions have run so deep that only the actual annihilation of the Jewish people could solve what came to be called by antisemites the "Jewish Problem." The basic source of ancient Jewish history, the Bible, depicts two attempts to destroy the Jewish people, that by Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 1:15-22) and that of Haman and the Persians (book of Esther). While it is true that the historicity of these biblical accounts has not been proven or disproven by nonbiblical sources, few would dispute the supposition that in ancient times attempts were made to destroy the Jews. Indeed, the first recorded reference to Jews in non-Jewish sources, the Mernephta stele, written by an Egyptian king about 1220 B.C.E., states, "Israel is no more."
Jewish writings from the earliest times until the present are replete with references to attempts by non-Jews to destroy the Jewish people. Psalm 83:5 describes the enemies of the Jews as proponents of genocide: "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the Name of Israel may no more be remembered." Just how precarious Jews have viewed their survival is reflected in a statement from the ancient, and annually recited, Passover Haggadah; "In every generation they rise against us in order to annihilate us."
On three occasions during the last 350 years, annihilation campaigns have been waged against the Jews: the Chmelnitzky massacres in eastern Europe in 1648-49, the Nazi German destruction of Jews throughout Europe between 1939 and 1945, and the attempt to eradicate the Jewish state by its enemies.
For various reasons, the Chmelnitzky massacres are today not well known among Jews and are virtually unknown among non-Jews; perhaps the Holocaust tends to overshadow all previous Jewish suffering. Yet without denying the unique aspects of the Nazi Holocaust, there are a number of significant similarities between it and the Chmelnitzky massacres. In both instances, all Jews, including infants, were targeted for murder; the general populaces nearly always joined in the attacks; and the torture and degradation of Jews were an integral part of the murderers' procedures.