Why are Jews persecuted?

What did the Jews do in history to get such harsh treatment? As I recall, they never seemed to have done anything wrong, but everyone has chosen them as a scapegoat for everything. What’s the deal? Why are they persecuted throughout history?

I guess the religious answer is that God is testing his chosen people. The historical reason is that nothing is more annoying to despots than people who won’t acknowledge them (the tyrants) as the highest authority. Their problems in Europe come from the fact that they were a minority commonly believed to have killed the majority’s deity.

Mark Twain said the reason people do not like Jews is an envy of their business practices. As proof, he pointed out that people in Scotland do not dislike Jews. But, he said that there are only a few Jews in Scotland and they would move if they could but they can’t seem to save up any money. As a counterpoint to Jews’ business acumen, Che Guerva pointed out that the Catholic Church is the only institution founded by Jews but run by Italians. Should not have let that one get away.

Whoo. That’s a big question. Suffice to say, there are lots of reasons, and I’ll try to state as many as I can.

Caveat: Stating a reason does NOT mean I agree with it, or even that I consider it rational. Denoting other people’s idiocies does not make me an idiot, thank you very much.

[ul][li]“They, of all people, should be Christian.” Christ was the King of the Jews, and was their Savior. Ergo, by some Christians’ minds, the Jews should have recognized Him as such, and dropped Judaism in favor of Christianity. Those Jews who do not are specifically rejecting Christ as a Savior, and are therefore damned to Hell and scum of the earth.[/li][li]“They killed Christ.” Well, actually, it was the Romans what nailed him up; but because of the Barabas story and the idea that the temple leaders conspired to free a horrible murders in order to ensure that Christ got killed, some people believe that the Jews especially have Christ’s blood upon their hands. Ergo, someone unwilling to abandon Judaism is just as responsible for the death of Jesus as the temple leaders were.[/li][li]“Their weird rules aren’t our weird rules.” Orthodox Jews follow customs that close-minded non-Jews consider silly and idiotic; meanwhile, those Orthodox Jews don’t follow the silly and idiotic rules that said close-minded non-Jews follow; ergo, the Jews are strange and unclean.[/li][li]“They control all of the money in the world.” In medeval times, the Christian Church forbid money-lending, stating that charging interest on a loan was a sin. Well, the Jews didn’t really care what the Christian Church considered a sin, and so many Jews got into the money-lending business. And thus developed the idea of the Jews being rich, controlling all of the money of the world, and being interested only in money.[/li][li]“They aren’t really German/ French/ Americans/ etc.” A belief also applied to Catholics for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Just as Catholics were expected to be beholden to the Pope, and therefore could never really be trusted as a member of a country (after all, given a choice between following the President and following the Pope, the Catholic will always follow the Pope; and any Catholic politicians take their orders directly from Rome), the Jews were considered to be loyal to Judaism over all else. Judaism was a true International Conspiracy in many people’s eyes; Jews were naturally supremely loyal to each other just on the basis of being Jewish, and if a Jew were given the choice between betraying his country or a fellow Jew, he would betray his country every time. This argument was extremely popular at the turn of the 20th Century- look over the Dreyfuss case in France, and look at some of the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda (which also ties in with the ‘Jews control all of the money’ idea). This occasionally resurfaces in the modern U.S. with Jews being accused of being more interested in Israels survival than in the good of the U.S.[/ul][/li]
I’m sure this is incomplete, and I’m sure others (especially those well versed in Judaism and Jewish History; I will be the first to admit I’m not) will have more complete and more interesting things to say.


Curmudgeon Of The Day Winner, 1/19/00
As Selected by RTFirefly

*John Corrado, while you have given a pretty good run-down of the excuses that various Americans (and not a few Europeans) have used to rationalize their prejudices, I’d say Ursa Major provided the closer answer to what has caused the problems throughout the years.

While Christians have a shameful tradition of ignoring the words of Jesus while inflicting harm on the Jewish people, we are hardly alone.

The Jews have been persecuted by the Greeks (see the origins of ©Hannuka), by the Hellenistic pagans of the mid-East (followers of Zoroastrianism persecuted Jews for several hundred years), Romans (at different times Nero, and later Domitian, put the Jews a bit higher on the hit list than they did Christians), and Muslims.

I would guess that the refusal of the Jewish people to conform to surrounding cultures when those cultures promoted actions contrary to the Jewish faith has led to most of the persecutions.

A quibble: The issue of money-lending did not start off from the Jews not respecting (or kowtowing to) rules of the Christian Church. Both groups (Jews and Christians) looked to Scripture to find the injunction against loaning money for interest to those of the same belief. By that standard, you could charge interest, but if you were Christian, you could only charge interest to Jews (a limited number of people), while if you were Jewish, you could only charge interest to Christians (a much larger group). Initially, Christians were quite happy with the arrangement. Since Scripture prevented them from setting up “loan houses” among themselves, having a separate group within their midst who could provide loans was a desirable thing. Of course, it did not hurt that if you were a king/count/baron who got into too much debt financing your latest war or boat or mistress, you could simply dissolve those financial obligations by declaring the Jews outlawed and confiscating their assets.


Hostility for the Jews pre-dated Christ, though… so let me add one more potential reason for the madness.

In polytheistic days, your tribe, household, village, would have patron gods. It was polite to give other tribe/household/village gods at least lip service, especially if you were travelling in their territory, while still venerating your own.

Along come the Jews, who insist that their God is the one, the only - not just a god, but the God. They refused to worship idols (the unfortunate business with Aaron and the golden calf notwithstanding) which was just plain rude.

This undoubtedly did not ingratiate them with the various powers that be.

Just a thought…

  • Rick

Tom, aren’t you leaving out the ancient Egyptians? Back when Joseph or maybe when his bros showed up, doesn’t it say the the Egyptian official would not eat with him/them because they (the Egyptians) considered them unclean. There is an excellent book called The Historical Jesus. The author points out that Judaism was more or less evangelical just before and just after the beginning of the Christian Era. The destruction of the Temple and the Roman extermination of the large Egyptian Jewish population (I guess the Egyptians got over their earlier problems) made the non-evangelical exclusive Pharisaic (sp?) Judaism predominant. The early Christians adopted the even earlier Judaic evangelical techniques and took off.

The pre-Christ (or ante-Christ?) persecution of (or at least antipathy for) Jews also stems from the fact that the Land of Canaan, which God gave them, and which they won fair and square, was in a really great place. It flowed with milk ‘n’ honey, it was a crossroads in the trade routes of the day, and any people living there would benefit culturally as well as economically. And those rotten Jews (or Hebrews) got it and wouldn’t give it up! Well, wouldn’t you wanna go to war with 'em?

Plus, they never lost their identity even when exiled in a strange land or occupied by an alien government. Resistance to assimilation really pisses people off.

The Dave-Guy
“since my daughter’s only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?” J.H. Marx

Another factor, Jews were often prohibited from owning land, so they became professionals instead. Doctors, Lawyers, Merchants, Jewellers, anything that would allow them to make a living without owning property. Turns out that they became more successful than the landowners, which really pissed off the people who made the rules.

The secular answer is that it’s basic xenophobia, amplified by the passage of time. While most conquered nations will adopt the religion and culture of their new homeland/rulers, the Jews (or at least the Orthodox ones) have always insisted on maintaining their own religion and limiting their assimilation into the prevailing culture. This was the national equivalent of painting a bright red target on their backs.

The religious answer is that the Jews failed to keep the laws of the Torah and thereby made themselves subject to such punishments as described in Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 26 (I’m pretty sure those are the right chapter numbers; someone else can correct me if I’m wrong.)

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

<sigh!> The Gospel accounts quite clearly say that Pilate was merely a catspaw for the temple authorities. The conclusions drawn from this may be abominable, but saying, “It was the Romans’ fault,” is simply to deny the evidence, such as it is.

Not that simple. Usury is forbidden outright by the Torah. At about the same time as Christ, Hillel (one of the founders of Judaism as we know it) came up with the interesting argument that since loaning money at interest was just a kind of partnership, and there was nothing wrong with partnership, there was nothing wrong with usury, no matter what the Torah said. In capitalism-friendly times, like the 1950’s, Jewish apologists have frequently pointed this out as a sign of Judaism’s liberal tendencies, compared to nasty old stick-in-the-mud, legalistic Christianity.

(But try telling Pat Buchanan and his tribe that capitalism is forbidden by the Bible…)

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Looked up those chapters now. It’s Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

Chaim Mattis Keller

IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void, and darkness lay upon the face of the abyss. But could God leave well enough alone? No, and let me tell you, things haven’t been the same since…

Designated Optional Signature at Bottom of Post

The historical answer is that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death. Never mind that Christianity wouldn’t be the same had they NOT had him killed, but why quibble when you can hateful?

On a related tangent, anyone ever see “The Last Temptation of Christ”? I can see why certain groups would raise a stink, but it’s a really cool movie - an intersting concept.

the early christian church organizers had a lot of “spin doctoring” to do to convert people to their new religion. there was dis-associating jesus from the jews first, then pointing blame, etc. the palestine area was occupied by the romans, much the way france was during WWII, im sure there were some jews without much conscience who profited from this arrangement, possibly jesus was seen as a threat to the status quo and made an example. possibly some jewish profiteers were whispering in the romans ears. that certainly doesnt mean the jewish people as a whole put jesus to death. it is unfortunate that the early christian organizers couldnt see the implications of their storytelling; truth,rumor or fiction.

Despite all the bad news, gotta about the Holocaust:

Borrowing money is a lot easier, no more pounds of flesh or anything.

Every cloud has its silver lining :wink:

Huh? What are you saying?

I thank all of our members who saw fit to try their hand at answering this emotionally charged question in a calm, rational manner. However, I believe this topic is custom-made (if not intentionally designed) to attract anti-Semites and others of their ilk. Those of you who wish to argue with such opinions may do so in Great Debates.

GQ Mod