The Chosen People Theory
Knowledge of Jewish "choseness" is undeniably widespread. Several years ago, the University of California conducted a study of anti-Semitism. Non-Jewish Americans were presented with 18 unfavorable statements about Jews, and asked whether they believed any of them. By far the most widely-held belief among those surveyed (59%) was that "Jews consider themselves to be G-d's chosen people."
Let's test whether this belief is indeed a legitimate cause of anti-Semitism - or whether it is merely another excuse. If Jewish "choseness" is in fact the cause of anti-Semitism, then hatred against the Jews should disappear when Jews drop the claim that they are chosen.
Late in the 19th century, the Jews living in Germany and Austria collectively rejected their "choseness" and were assimilated by their host nation. In fact, they believed that the non-Jews among whom they lived were the true chosen people. "Berlin is our Jerusalem!" they loudly proclaimed. Gentile society was their social environment of choice, and Germany their beloved motherland.
Did anti-Semitism disappear? We all know the tragic answer to that question. The Jews in Germany and Austria experienced the most vicious outpouring of anti-Semitic hatred in history. Precisely when Jews rejected their claim to "chosenness," they suffered the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism.
Clearly, the Chosen People Theory does not pass this litmus test.
Other "Chosen" Peoples
Another test of the Chosen People Theory is to see how humanity responds to other peoples who claim to be "chosen." If the claim that Jews are chosen gives rise to anti-Semitism, then all groups who make similar claims of having been "chosen" should also become targets of persecution and hatred.
Christianity and Islam represent two other major religious groups that claim to have been chosen. Christian theology accepts that G-d gave the Bible to the Jews and made the Jews His special messengers. However, it is the Christian belief that once the Jews rejected Jesus, the Christians became G-d's new chosen people.
Muslims likewise believe that the Jewish Bible is the word of G-d. However, Muslim theology claims that when Mohammad appeared on the scene, G-d made the Muslims His chosen people.
If Christians and Muslims both claim that they are chosen, then why hasn't this historically generated hatred against them?
Indeed, nearly every nation on earth has at one time or another claimed to be chosen. Americans claimed Manifest Destiny - that their actions were divinely willed - when they annexed Texas and Alaska, against the wishes of the inhabitants of those areas. The Chinese chose to name their country China because the word means "center of the universe." The name Japan means "source of the sun." For Native Americans, the same word means both "human being" and "Indian" - implying that every non-Indian belongs to some subspecies.
These nations are not hated for having claimed superiority. A claim that one is chosen does not in and of itself cause hatred. If it did, then so many other nations would be the targets of the intense, universal hatred that is in fact unique to the Jews.
The Scapegoat Theory
The Scapegoat Theory is cited frequently as a cause of anti-Semitism. Some historians use it to account for the emergence of German anti-Semitism in the late 1930s.
Their reasoning is as follows:
Hitler, like many totalitarian dictators before him, needed to divert blame for his nation's problems by ascribing them to an innocent victim. He randomly selected the Jews as his scapegoat and launched a massive defamatory campaign to alienate them from mainstream German society. He succeeded in his efforts, and as a result, the overwhelming majority of Germans came to hate Jews.
The Scapegoat Theory gives rise to a time-worn question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In other words, does a group become hated as a consequence of being singled out as a scapegoat, or is it selected as a scapegoat because it is hated?
The first prerequisite for a prospective scapegoat is someone that the citizens of the country are willing to hate from the start. If we would attempt to divert attention from our own shortcomings by blaming a group that is not already hated by society, the people would not accept it. A fair portion of the population will demand to see evidence of the group's guilt and refuse to let us off the hook.
Imagine what would have happened if Adolf Hitler would have stood before one of those huge crowds in Nuremberg National Coliseum and declared:
My fellow Germans, there is a group among us that is the scourge of humanity! They are dominating the German people and destroying our motherland! If Germany is to regain its esteemed status, these people must be persecuted and ultimately eliminated. Who are these people? They are the midgets among us!
Because there is no preexisting hatred against midgets, people with freckles, or bicycle-riders, governments don't try to scapegoat them.
The Jews are chosen consistently as scapegoats because it is so easy to rile hatred against them. Jews are a people that everyone is more than happy to persecute.
Therefore, the Scapegoat Theory is not the cause of anti-Semitism. Rather, anti-Semitism is what makes the Jews a convenient scapegoat target. If anything, the Scapegoat Theory is simply a barometer indicating the level of hatred that already exists against Jews in any given society. It reveals how much anti-Semitism is already present, waiting to be stirred up.
The Scapegoat is obviously an excuse, not a reason.
Deicide: The Killers-of-Jesus Theory
Christians have long claimed that the Jews killed Jesus, and that is why they hate Jews.
Is this the real cause for hatred? If it is, why were Christians not angry at Jews 2,000 years ago, at the time the Jews supposedly killed Jesus?
Christian anti-Semitism did not begin until long after the death of Jesus. It was not until several centuries later that the Church fathers decided that Jews as a group should be persecuted because they "killed Jesus." Bernard Blumenkranz, author of Jews and Christians in the Western World, documents that the intense and ongoing Christian persecution of the Jews did not truly begin until the advent of the Crusades - over 1,000 years after Jesus' death!
Furthermore, once Christian hatred for Jews got under way, it became worse with the passage of time. Logically, time should have eased the strong feelings, as all of us can attest to the fact that anger gradually decreases with time. Time has a way of healing all wounds.
For example, in 1866, following the Civil War in America, a Northerner would have felt much tension if he had visited the South. Today, a visit to the Southern United States arouses no such emotions. Have you ever heard of a resident of New York feeling apprehensive about vacationing in Florida?
The farther away one is from an event, the less rage one feels - provided the event is the actual cause of the rage!
Therefore, if Christians hate Jews because they killed Jesus, that rage should have climaxed following Jesus' death, and petered out during the two millennia since then. History indicates the very opposite pattern - there were no recorded incidents of anti-Semitism immediately after Jesus' death, yet there were thousands of such incidents many centuries later. From this we see that Jesus' death is not the cause of Christian anti-Semitism.
Who Killed Jesus?
According to the New Testament, it was only the Romans who killed Jesus. While Jews are mentioned as accomplices, the Gospels of Matthew, John and Mark all specifically state that the Romans killed Jesus.
If the killing of Jesus is the cause of Christian hatred, why have only the Jewish accomplices been categorically persecuted? Christians should hate Romans at least as much as they hate Jews!
Obviously, Jesus' death is an excuse, not the reason for anti-Semitism.