Friday, April 08, 2016

Modern European Anti-Semitism Emerges

Europe has seen anti-Semitism in various forms over the centuries: in 1290 A.D., King Edward I issued an edict of expulsion, designed to remove all Jews from England. There had already been a partial expulsion of Jews from France in 1182.

After the Reformation, Lutherans and Roman Catholics, having had to learn to live with each other, also extended more tolerance toward the Jews. This is seen, e.g., in the 1555 treaty signed at Augsburg.

Eventually, Jews returned to both England and France. The good times didn’t last, however.

When Louis XIV annexed, in 1648, the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine - called ‘Elsass’ and ‘Lothringen’ - he at first was prepared to eliminate all Jews in those territories, and relented only when he saw economic advantages in keeping them. He did, however, expel all Jews from Martinique and the French West Indies in 1683.

Frederick the Great, however, welcomed Jews in Prussia.

Technological developments brought about the industrialization of western Europe. Socialist movements arose as a reaction against the capitalism which fueled, and was fueled by, this industrialization.

Socialism was not kind to the Jews. It contained within itself two different types of anti-Semitism, as Lucy Dawidowicz writes:

Hostility to the Jews began to emerge from the newly developing socialist movement. That anti-Jewish outlook had two sources: first, the atheist, anti-Christian bias condemning Judaism as the antecedent of Christianity, and second, the anticapitalist ideology that depicted the Jew as the embodiment of capitalism, the banker, the middleman, the parasitic profiteer.

Examining the terminology, it is to be noted that ‘anti-Jewish’ is more accurate than ‘anti-Semitic’ - the word ‘Semitic’ includes many ethnic groups which are not Jewish.

As the concept of a republic formed by freely-elected representatives became widespread in parts of Europe, the question arose as to suffrage for the Jews. Would the Jews have full citizenship?

Jews were, in fact, full citizens with voting rights across much of central Europe in the mid to late nineteenth century, but the voices against civil rights for Jews grew louder:

First to articulate this leftist anti-Semitism was Bruno Bauer (1809-1882), who in 1842 published an article on the Jewish question, which he supplemented and issued the following year as a separate book, Die Judenfrage. In this work he argued against political equality for the Jews.

Among the Jews, there were those who remained orthodox, and those who adopted the attitude of assimilationism. Both groups were able to find their ways to professional success in the business world, but neither group was exempt from anti-Jewish rhetoric.

Bruno Bauer rejected Christianity, and hoped to rid the world of it. He understood Judaism as a foundation of Christianity, and in order to destroy either, he sought to destroy both.

Orthodox Judaism was, in his view, an anachronistic phenomenon, whereas Reform Judaism was worthless; the Jews had never contributed to the civilization of the world.

In contrast to Bauer, Karl Marx used his materialistic understanding of society to interpret Judaism, not primarily as a religion, but as an economic problem. Like Bauer, Marx rejected both Christianity and Judaism.

Marx quickly embraced militant atheism. Bauer came only later to the same cause. Initially, therefore, Marx and Bauer were in disagreement over this question.

As a materialistic atheist, then, Marx’s disagreement with Judaism was not that it represented a falsehood or an untruth. In Marx’s mind, Judaism was false, but no more so than any other religion.

Marx’s chief attack on Judaism was based on its economic effects. In Marx’s brand of materialism, social questions of culture and religion are ultimately reduced to economics. Lucy Dawidowicz notes:

Marx disputed Bauer’s ideas on the ground that his view of the Jews as a religious group was distorted. The true Jewish religion, Marx argued, was Schacher (haggling, huckstering) and their god was money.

Bauer eventually joined Marx in this line of thought. This harmony between the two thinkers formed a basis for a renewed and more dangerous anti-Jewish trend in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.