The Origin of Anti-Semitism
Perhaps it’s peculiar, given my Jewish heritage, or perhaps it’s entirely predictable, given my progression from atheism to Catholicism, but I’d never thought to explain anti-Semitism in the way that Meir Soloveichik describes here:
As Stanley Hauerwas notes, Berkovits fails to understand that “societies putatively founded on values of ‘universal validity’ cannot help but interpret the particularistic commitments of the Jewish people as morally retrogressive.” In contrast, many Christians have come to appreciate, and even celebrate, God’s special relationship with the Jewish people. Wyschogrod, in his description of God’s election of Israel, notes that anti-Semitism is, at its core, a resistance to, and jealousy of, this election. “Instead of accepting Israel’s election with humility,” he writes, the nations of the world all too often “rail against it, mocking the God of the Jews, gleefully pointing out the shortcomings of the people he chose,” for “Israel’s presence is a constant reminder to them that they were not chosen but that this people was.” At the same time, as Kendall Soulen notes in his excellent introduction to Wyschogrod’s thought, for Wyschogrod, it is through God’s love of Israel that we come to know his love for all the world—or, in Soulen’s words, “God also desires to be Redeemer of the world as the One whose first love is the people of Israel.” Thus Soulen cites Wyschogrod: “Because [God] said: ‘I will bless those who bless you, and curse him that curses you; in you shall all the families of earth be blessed’ (Gen. 12:3), he has tied his saving and redemptive concern for the welfare of all humankind to his love for the people of Israel.”
It seems to me that this assumes that anti-Semites ultimately believe in the God of Israel, and although a significant number may believe while proclaiming not to do so (even, in some sense, believing that they do not believe in Him), I’m not so sure this is sufficiently broad as a core theory. I’d be more inclined to explain anti-Semitism as a rebellion against Western civilization’s heritage (expanded to include the Middle East). The Jews are a direct reminder and descendants of our foundational culture, particularly of the moral components thereof that complicate sinful desires and corrupt intentions.
Western and Middle Eastern civilization don’t feel the same way about, say, the Greeks, because not only was their contribution more academic in nature, but modern Greeks’ connection to ancient Greece is by mutable geographic nationhood, whereas Jews’ nationhood is intrinsically related to their being the direct inheritors of their — and our — tradition.