I didn’t make up this question. One of my readers asked. She wrote:
“I am a Black American, [sexual identity] great-grandmother and activist with a Jewish son-in-law that I love very much. I have a Ph.D. in Higher Education, am an [artist], and am a Unitarian Universalist. I am pro-Jewish, but anti-Zionist because of the way that Israel is treating the Palestinians. I want to know why Jews are hated so much. Is it because the Bible says that they asked that the thief Barabus (evidently the computer can’t spell this word either) be spared and Jesus killed?
And this is what I answered her:
Thank you for your impressive and brief message. You know how to write well!
You want to know why Jews are hated so much. Let me try to begin to answer you on this large subject.
First of all, ask people! They will probably tell you that it’s because of the baseless slander that they heard and believe to be true about Jews in the news, the church or the mosque. As you’ve noticed in your son-in-law, most Jews are lovely people – or at least imperfect people like everyone else – but not the monsters that they are made out to be. You knew that. That’s why this hatred so disturbs you, no?
Why are Jews hated also falls in the same category as why are Blacks, women and gays oppressed. Look no further than what is in the hearts and minds of the haters. The hated are just by-and-large great people.
Often, oppressed people and their spokespeople forget to combat their hatred against the Jews. That means that for their survival, Jews need to rely on oppressors of others. The latter then prominently display the Jews as the true oppressors and when the real oppressors are cornered, they start a slander campaign against the Jews and drop their protection of Jews, so that the oppressed can cool their anger on the Jews and not on the oppressors. Jews are often blamed for their wrong loyalties while in fact, they are held hostage because the other oppressed groups have abandoned them. Instead of blaming the victims, all oppressed groups would profit from doing justice and embracing and protecting the Jews.
You can also mean: Why does G^d let this happen? Well, the Bible says in many places that blessing the Jews will make you blessed and cursing the Jews will make you cursed. Apparently, G^d put up this challenge to people and that must mean that it will take them an effort to be plain decent towards Jews. Compliance will get rewarded.
No less a good answer, which is more on a sociological than a theological level, is that the vast majority of the billions of people now around adhere to a monotheistic faith. Even democracy, physics, humanism, socialism, communism, capitalism, and agnosticism are rooted in Judaism, I believe. As difficult as it seems to be for many people to acknowledge and honor one’s parents properly, freely, and lovingly, so difficult it seems to honor the world’s carriers of the most predominant parent worldview. It’s easier to rebel and hate them than to be grateful and protective. And that’s what we see happening.
Many Jews work extra hard because our history with being prosecuted teaches us that we may save our lives and those of others doing so. And we learn how precious life is and saving one person. Much more effort translates into being more successful, which may easily lead to jealousy. Especially if one doesn’t see that the success is deserved because of greater effort. The idea that Jews are chosen is not that we are more privileged – G^d is just and doesn’t do favoritism. It means that we are extra obligated. If we abide by the Higher expectations, we are on the same moral level as people who have normal obligations and abide by them. (Anyone who wants to live by obligations put on Jews may become Jewish. But Jews cannot go down because that would imply denying and degrading our greater abilities – that only do us credit when we live up to them.)
Jews are like one organism, the rabbis teach us. When one Jew hurts, all Jews feel the pain. Jew haters often feel that even stronger. As soon as they hate one Jew, they hate them all. They also have a hard time seeing Jews as individuals. They tend to talk about “them.” Jews easily feel the hatred behind this four-letter word.
Last but not least, Jews are the only nation founded on a universal mission. That’s why we are an exception to all other peoples (we need to stay around and complete our assignment for all people – not just ourselves) and that may give irritation. We upset the rules of history (nations always come to power and then disappear) and are accuse of being disloyal to host nations, of being a fifth column (an accusation going back to Exodus 1:10!) We need to bring G^d’s Teachings to all of humankind. (That’s no doubt why you’ll find so many Jews among Unitarian Universalists.) We need to be humble but proud teachers. When we do that well, we will learn more from our students than our students will learn from us – as all good teachers do but we will be the teachers and need to be respected as such. Gentiles may help by making sure that Jews are safe so that we will have more access to our pride and to time to help others.
Does this begin to answer your question? Thank you for asking.
As one activist to another, I wish you all the best.
PS: Re your remark that Israel treats Palestinians badly, watch this.