Mahmoud Abbas, the dictator/president of the Palestinian Authority, wrote his doctoral dissertation blaming Jews for the Holocaust. He gave full public expression to this awful view in a speech last week. It is worth reading because it crystallizes the beliefs of modern antisemitism.
As I just completed the draft of an upcoming book on antisemitism, I read it with great interest. He expressed what I have always suspected many anti-Semites believe but do not say publicly. Or if they do say it publicly, they say it in evasive ways.
But Abbas did not obfuscate. He displayed unequivocal hatred for the Jewish people. Whether we are Jewish or Christian, we need to consider his words and ask ourselves what we can do to combat the return of modern anti-Semitism. Here’s what Abbas said:
1. Jews caused the Holocaust:
According to Abbas, “From the 11th century until the Holocaust that took place in Germany, the Jews – who moved to Western and Eastern Europe – were subjected to a massacre every 10 to 15 years.
But why did this happen? The Jewish issue that was widespread in all European countries… was not because of their religion, but rather their social role related to usury and banks.”
This statement is patently false. Jews were expelled from much of Europe in the fourteenth century. It was medieval theological anti-Semitism that led to their expulsion.
Jews owned few banks, and rather than commit usury, they often forgave loans and were invited into towns by local bishops to help the economy. Two chapters in my upcoming book are devoted to this issue.
2. Jews did not come from the land of Israel:
Abbas draws from a discredited theory that European Jews did not descend from the Jews of the Bible. Rather, they are descendants of a Turkish kingdom that converted to Judaism.
“The Khazar Kingdom…in the ninth century…was not religious and then it became Jewish… It later broke up, and all of its residents moved to Europe. These people are the Ashkenazi Jews. They have no relationship to Semitic culture, Abraham, Jacob and others.”
Modern antisemitism has tried to undermine the connection between Jews and the land of Israel. Abbas’s remarks are no exception.
The theory of the Khazars converting to Judaism has absolutely no historical evidence. And even if some Khazars converted to Judaism, the Khazar kingdom was tiny and could not by any measurements have been the source of European Judaism.
Aside from Zionist Arthur Koestler, virtually all the proponents of the Khazar theory have also been proponents of modern antisemitism.
3. Israel is a colonial, imperialist Western country:
This final point is the intellectual consequence of the second point. If Jews did not originate in Israel, then their presence in the modern Middle East is simply one expression of Western power rather than biblical commitment or fulfillment.
Abbas even says the Jews did not come out with the idea of returning to the land of Israel. It was the idea of the Western powers all along, and Jews simply became their instruments.
Sadly, this idea of Israel as a Western colonial power is shared by many intellectuals. And there is an element of truth to it. Israel is more Western than Middle Eastern because it practices democracy and guarantees equal rights to all of its citizens. That truth presents a problem to oppressive societies and governments.
The deeper problem with this analysis is the facts disprove it. Archaeological discoveries prove a Jewish presence on the land more than 2000 years ago.
Hundreds of Jewish prayers written over the centuries express a yearning for a return to the homeland of Zion. The entire Hebrew Bible revolves around the land of Israel.
While disgusted by Abbas’s speech, I see a silver lining in it. It exposes clearly the antisemitism permeating the modern Middle East. As Jews and Christians, we need to draw from our faith and commitment to combat it.
How Can We Combat Modern Anti-Semitism? Leave your answer below.