I recently read an article on a Jewish site about anti-semitism – very much worth taking a look at (follow the links). The short summary is that anti-Semitism cannot be explained by sociological reasons, because every sociological reason that has been cited to explain it applies to some other ethnic group out there. Those other ethnic groups may also have been hated and persecuted at particular places and times, but anti-Semitism is different from all other genocidal hatreds – it is older, and deeper, and has an almost magical ability to resurface in different times and cultures in recognizable forms (the blood libel seems to have shown up in every nation of Europe and the Middle East at some point).
The author of the article offers the suggestion that it is the Jewish religion, rather than any set of socioeconomic factors, that explains the anti-Semitic mystery. It continues to be my intention to move on from Cardinal Lustiger, but I just can’t seem to do it! In this passage, the Cardinal elaborates on the definition, which I quoted earlier, of a Jew as “a man who brings the news of God’s choice to his neighbor” – and, while agreeing with the author of the article cited above that religion is at the heart of the issue, offers his own interpretation:
The peoples who read the Bible as the expression of the truth thus receive the revelation of the one God of all nations. This is why they cannot but think of Israel’s God as the only God of all humans and then their own God. And whether they want it or not, any Jew is then perceived among the nations who read the Bible as belonging to the people through which God reveals himself.
The argument of any pagan for or against God, or for or against his idols, is thus bound to become, sooner or later, an argument for or against the Jews. […]
Many secular Jews will claim, with Sartre (to whom Cardinal Lustiger is responding in this passage), that Jewish identity is a result of – a response to – anti-semitism. Cardinal Lustiger turns this idea around: it is the mere existence of the Jews – no matter how secular or even unfamiliar with Judaism – that serves as a reminder of God for all Bible-reading nations, causing those who hate God (knowingly or unknowingly to themselves) to channel their hatred into anti-Semitism