World View: Cyclic Anti-Semitism Surges in Europe

World View: Cyclic Anti-Semitism Surges in Europe

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Anti-Semitic mobs surface in European countries
  • The cyclic resurgence of anti-Semitism
  • The Jews and the Spanish Inquisition

Anti-Semitic mobs surface in European countries

Number of anti-Semitic attacks since the 1980s (Kantor Center, Tel-Aviv University)
Number of anti-Semitic attacks since the 1980s (Kantor Center, Tel-Aviv University)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been scathing in hisrecent criticism of Israel, but at the same time he’s taken note of recent spikes in anti-Semitic incidents, especially in Europe.According to a statement from Ban: 

[Ban] deplores the recent upsurge in anti-Semiticattacks, particularly in Europe, in connection with protestsconcerning the escalation of violence in Gaza.

The Secretary-General emphasizes that the conflict in the MiddleEast must not constitute a pretext for prejudice that could affectsocial peace and harmony anywhere.

In Paris, a pro-Palestinian protest turned ugly when several Jewishshops were burned, and demonstrators chanted, “Death to Jews” and “Gasthe Jews” and “Hitler was right!” 1930s attitudes are returning inGermany. An analysis of anti-Jew hate mail in Germany found that mostof it originated with “well-educated Germans, including universityprofessors.” In Europe, violent mobs attacking synagogues,painting swastikas on Jewish buildings, and chanting anti-Jewishslogans is becoming increasingly common. Occasionally, an activistwill make a distinction between being anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish,but there’s little doubt that many of the mobs today are anti-Jewish. 

The figures show that there was a big spike in anti-Semitismduring the 2009 war between Israel and Gaza and a new spiketoday with the Gaza war. But prior to the 1990s, there wererelatively few anti-Semitic attacks, but the number has beengrowing steadily since then and accelerated after the year2000. 

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is no surpriseat all. The people in the Silent Generation, who grew up during WorldWar II, were in charge through the 1980s. The Boomers, who grew upafter the war, started taking charge in the 1990s, and Generation-Xrose to leadership positions in the 2000s. The Silents well rememberthe lessons of World War II and the incredible horrors that followedfrom the Holocaust. But the Silents are almost gone now, and theBoomers and Gen-Xers are far removed from WW II, knowing little aboutit except that their grandfathers went off to war somewhere in Europeor Asia. and Israel National News and Globe and Mail

The cyclic resurgence of anti-Semitism

Much anti-Semitic material appears in Spanish newspapers such as ElMundo, and I’d like to quote an anti-Semitic rant called “The ChosenOnes?” by Antonio Gala, a Spanish novelist: 

The Hebrew people, tested since antiquity by ups anddowns and the intimate dealings with their God, could have donemuch good for humanity: due to their prudence, their wisdom andendurance, their apparent religious fidelity and their provenadministration of money.

What is happening is that suddenly humanity is sick and tired ofthem: a phenomenon that has been repeated throughout theirhistory, as if they were not made to coexist with others.

This is how it is and will remain, as it always has been. Nomatter what the Jews call their civil or military leaders, theyend up creating problems for everyone: it is ancient history. Nowyou must suffer their abuses in Gaza, and review it all with anapparent injustice. They are never clear.

There is, in fact, a grain of truth in this excerpt: Jews are thetargets of anti-Semitic attacks on a cyclic basis and have been forcenturies. 

There’s a tendency to look for reasons why the Jews are unique in thisregard. Perhaps it’s because Jewish populations tend to cluster together in thesame communities, even when they aren’t forced into ghettos. Orperhaps it’s because the Jewish religion has been designed, over themillennia, to be able to survive with no homeland, even though they’vehad a homeland for a few brief decades since 1948. Or perhaps it’sbecause people consider them to be snooty for referring to themselvesas “The Chosen Ones,” as if God cares about no one but them. 

But from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, they aren’tunique. The Holocaust was a unique event, to be sure, but that wasjust one component of World War II. If you look at the years from1914 to 1945, then you have Protestants, Catholics, and OrthodoxChristians slaughtering each other in the most brutal, bloody, andhorrific massacres possible, so Christians are by no means excused.In fact, even the 1994 Rwanda genocide was Christian versus Christian. 

Since the 1980s, it’s been mostly the Muslims’ turn at slaughter, andit’s been getting worse every year. Today you have bloody massacresof Muslims killing each other in many countries, including Lebanon,Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Yemen, Libya,Bangladesh, Indonesia, and China’s Xinjiang province. The mutual genocideis highly racist and secular, as Sunnis kill Shias, Shias kill Sunnis,and Sunnis kill Sufis. The growing mutual slaughter of the Muslims isclearly headed for a massive, bloody crisis that will be devastatingfor everyone. 

A few days ago, I was watching some of the commemorations being heldon the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. I heard onepolitician intone, “Thank God we’ve solved all the problems of theworld wars, and we understand what to do. Today, a war in Europe iscompletely unthinkable, and we owe that to the lessons that we’velearned.” 

Well, this politician’s slogan should be, “Don’t know much abouthistory.” War was completely unthinkable prior to World War I aswell. That was the time of “La Belle Époque,” when everything wasbeautiful. War was not only unthinkable, it was thought to beimpossible. In fact, many wars are unthinkable until they start, andthen they suddenly become “thinkable.” (For more on why World War Iwas unthinkable, see “The gathering storm in the Caucasus” from 2008.) 

The growing anti-Semitism in Europe is more than just a simple socialphenomenon. It’s a sign that the old WW II fault lines are splittingopen again. Another sign is the growing tensions in Ukraine, and thetensions between Greece and Germany during the financial crisis, whichis far from over. Gatestone and El Mundo

The Jews and the Spanish Inquisition

I want to illustrate the cyclical nature of anti-Semitic attacks byreturning to a Generational Dynamics analysis I’ve written aboutbefore, covering medieval Spain from the 1390s to 1492. 

The 1390s civil war in Spain was marked by especially violentanti-Jewish pogroms that were triggered by a serious financial crisisfor which the wealthy Jews were blamed. Almost every crisis war endswith some sort of imposed compromise that unravels some 80 yearslater, leading to the next crisis war. 

The compromise that ended the 1390s civil war was an interesting one:The Jews would convert to Catholicism or else be expelled.During the next few decades, over half of the 200,000 Jews on thepeninsula formally converted to Catholicism. 

Compromises of this sort only work for so long, but the failure ofthis compromise was especially ironic. The Conversos, as theconverted Jews were called, were now officially Christian, bringingthem further wealth and status. A large part of the Castilian upperclass consisted of Jews and Conversos, naturally generating a greatdeal of class jealousy among the lower classes. It’s typical forriots and demonstrations to occur during a generational Awakening era,midway between two crisis wars, and that’s what happened here. Theriots against the Conversos began in 1449 and became increasinglyworse as the old compromise began to unravel. Thus, an old fault linebetween the Catholics and the Jews was replaced by a new fault linebetween the old line Catholics and the Converso Catholics. 

Those who remember America’s most recent Awakening era in the 1960sand 70s will remember the fiery rhetoric that demonstrators used inthe antiwar movement at that time. Johns Hopkins University professorDavid Nirenberg found that the “anti-Converso movement” rhetoric of1449 and beyond was just as heated: “The converts and theirdescendants were now seen as insincere Christians, as clandestineJews, or even as hybrid monsters, neither Jew nor Christian. They hadconverted merely to gain power over Christians. Their secret desirewas to degrade, even poison, Christian men and to have sex withChristian women: daughters, wives, even nuns.” 

This is exactly what Generational Dynamics is all about. Thegeneration of kids who grew up during the 1390s pogroms becamerisk-averse adults who were willing to look for compromises to avoidnew bloody violence. Thus, there were anti-Converso riots during the1450s and after, but that risk averse generation that grew up in the1390s were still around to contain the problem and look forcompromises, to keep things from getting too far out of hand, despitethe heated rhetoric. When that generation died, no one was left tolook for compromises, and new pogroms began in the 1480s. 

As the old compromise unraveled completely, the riots against theConversos got worse, and a common charge against the Conversos wasthat they were “false Christians.” The most common chargeagainst Conversos was that of “Judaizing,” that is, of falselypretending conversion and secretly practicing Jewish rites. 

This is what gave rise to the Spanish Inquisition. The idea was tohave an official body empowered to determine whether those who hadclaimed to convert to Catholicism had really converted. As newpogroms began in the 1470s and 1480s, the Inquisition wasparticularly targeted to find the “Judaizers.” At first, theInquisition was directed specifically at Conversos, but later wasextended to unconverted Jews. Thousands of Conversos and Jews wereexecuted under the Inquisition, and entire Jewish communities wereeliminated.

The new crisis war reached its climax in the year 1492, when threedifferent things happened that affected Spain for the next century: 

  • A final decree was issued, expelling all Jews who refused to convert. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced to leave the country.
  • Christopher Columbus left Spain and discovered the New World.
  • The Reconquista (Reconquest) of Spain from the Muslims was completed, with the expulsion of the Muslims from Grenada.

With regard to the last point, Muslims had crossed over to southernSpain from Africa as early as the 700s and had conquered almost allof Spain. The Catholics had dreamed of reconquering Spain from theMuslims for centuries. The Reconquest was finally completed in1492. 

To summarize: The great compromise that settled the Spanish pogroms ofthe 1390s was that the Jews would convert to Catholicism. Thatcompromise worked fine for a while, then began to unravel, andeventually became one of the issues in the next great crisis war. 

The great compromise that settled the Holocaust of World War II wasthe creation of the state of Israel, which was supposed to settle theJewish problem once and for all. That compromise worked fine for awhile, but in the decades that followed, it began to unravel. Whatthe next world war will do to Israel can’t be predicted, but what canbe predicted is that Israel will be a major issue in that war. 

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Israel, Ban Ki-moon, France, Germany,Silent Generation, Boomers, Generation-X, Spain,Antonio Gala, Conversos, Inquisition, Reconquest 

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