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Judeophobia - History and analysis of Antisemitism, Jew-Hate and anti-"Zionism"
Chapter 16: Summary - Theories of the Etiology of Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

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Chapter 16: Summary - Theories of the Etiology of Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')


Main Page: Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism') - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate

Judeophobia ('anti-Semitism',Jew Hate) in the Pagan Ancient World

Judeophobia (Anti-Semitism, Jew Hate) in the Early Christian Church

Medieval Persecution of Jews I - Proselytization, Conversions and Ghettos

Medieval Persecution of Jews: II- Crusades, Expulsions, Inquisitions and Massacres 

Medieval Persecution of Jews: III- Blood Libels and other Myths

Persecution of the Jews Under Islam

Judeophobia ('anti-Semitism') in the Reformation

Judeophobia in the Enlightenment and 19th Century France

Germany: Racism and Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Conspiratorial Theories and Russian Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Marxism and Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism') in The United States

Contemporary Anti-Zionism

Holocaust Denial

Theories of the Etiology of Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

We have traveled through an unparalleled malignity. We gave it its appropriate name and exposed the different stages of its mythology. As one main book of our bibliography concludes, Judeophobia “is the longest and deepest hatred of human history. Other hatreds may have surpassed it in intensity for a historical moment, but all in their turn have assumed -or presently commence to assume- their proper place in the dustbin of history.”

This a central purpose of our course - awareness of the uniqueness. You cannot reduce this colossus to simple group-prejudice, as many well-meant liberals and open-minded do, Jews and Gentiles alike. Take the example of Anne Frank, the famous girl who died during the Holocaust. Anne wrote on April 11, 1944: “Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allow us to suffer so terribly up till now?... We will always remain Jews, and we want to, too.” But, alas, in the Broadway version of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Anne’s was metamorphosed into a mouthpiece for the universalistic view of the authors and said: “We are not the only people that have had to suffer... sometimes one race sometimes another.” Judeophobia should not be dejudaized.


From the outset we disregard the scapegoat as a theory, since it is only a description of how Judeophobia is used and not an explanation of why it exists: Judeophobia is orchestrated by leaders in order to direct popular discontent away from themselves.

Albert Einstein went one step further with the scapegoat explanation: “The shepherd boy said to the horse: You are the noble beast that treads the earth. You deserve to live in untroubled bliss; an indeed your happiness would be complete were it not for the treacherous stag. But he practiced from youth to excel you in fleetness of foot. His faster pace allows him to reach the water holes before you do. Stay with me! My wisdom and guidance shall deliver you and your kind from a dismal and ignonimious state.” Blinded by envy and hatred of the stag, the horse agreed. He yielded to the shepherd lad’s bridle. He lost his freedom and became the shepherd’s slave.

The horse represents a people; the lad, a class or clique aspiring to absolute rule over the people; the stag, the Jews. The horse has been suffering the pangs of thirst, and his vanity was often pricked when he saw the nimble stag outrunning him. This is basically the scapegoat theory of Judeophobia. Judeophobia is orchestrated by leaders who wish to deflect popular discontent away from themselves. When rulers have confronted their inability to satisfy those whom they have subordinated, they have frequently resorted to this technique: they seek "the Other," some group unlike the majority, and blame it for the ongoing discomfort. In European history, the group most consistently chosen to be this Other has been the Jews. The scapegoat theory is inadequate, because it is merely a description of how Judeophobia is sometimes utilized; not an explanation of why it exists. For this theory to be operational, Judeophobes had to exist in the first place. Moreover, not every Judeophobic outburst was the direct result of some attempt by leaders or kings to divert angry sentiments. Once Judeophobia became deeply ingrained within European culture, it assumed a life of its own, and was passed on from parents to children generation after generation.

The "life of its own" of Judeophobia is the focus of this final chapter. Judeophobia was an intrinsic part of "common sense" in most European societies which had undergone Christianization. In Chapter 1 we quoted a Hungarian nobleman who defined it thus: a Judeophobe is one who hates Jews more than necessary. This "common sense" lived on long after its origins and initial rationale had been forgotten. The myths we studied were nothing more than attempts of the Gentile society to justify this culturally sanctioned and inherited hatred. Gentiles did not attack Jews "because” they believed they had killed God, rather, deicide provided them with a good excuse to vent their frustrations and anger against a defenseless population. As to why the Jews were cast as the stag, Einstein takes one step beyond the scapegoat explanation: "Because there are Jews among almost all nations and because they are everywhere too thinly scattered to defend themselves against violent attack." Jews are attacked because of their defenselessness.

This theory was propounded in the 1860's by Peretz Smolenskin, a philosopher of Jewish nationalism who founded the Hebrew monthly Ha'shahar. For Smolenskin, the roots of Judeophobia lay in the contempt felt for the inferior national status of the Jews. This situation could only be reversed only by a practical affirmation of Jewish nationhood. And he warned that Judeophobic attacks in Russia and in Germany were not temporary aberrations, rather the first manifestations of worse horrors to come. Many other Zionist ideologists had the vision to grasp the dynamic and aggressive character of Judeophobia. Some of them foresaw the threat of the total physical destruction of the Jews, like Moses Lilienblum. When he witnessed the pogroms of 1881, he discerned Judeophobia's roots in the Aryan society's instinctive enmity towards the Jews. No legal equality would guarantee social equality. By "instinctive," Lilienblum meant that the age and depth of Judeophobia facilitated easy and repeated orchestration. His contemporary Leon Pinsker agreed with him and went even further (maybe too far): since Judeophobia is a hereditary disease reaching back more than two thousand years, it is incurable. Even the most sophisticated and convincing refutation of its beliefs would be unsuccessful in dislodging Judeophobic origins and practice, or the malign instinct which serves as its source.

As we learned in Chapter 1, Pinsker coined the word Judeophobia. For him, the Jews were a "ghost people.” The world saw in them the horrendous image of a walking corpse. The Jews lacked unity, structure, land and flag, they were a people who had ceased to exist, but continued with a semblance of life. They are always guests and never hosts. Since fear of ghosts is innate, said Pinsker, it is not surprising that this fear is even stronger towards an apparently dead nation which lives on. This abstract, almost Platonic hatred, caused the world to see the whole Jewish nation as responsible for the alleged or real crimes of each of its members. Terror of the Jewish ghost was inherited and fortified over countless generations. Judeophobia is a bastard child of demonology. With deep roots in all the human races, the Jewish-ghost fear is a hereditary psychosis. In the 1940s, another Zionistic visionary, Zev Jabotinsky, called it "anti-Semitism of things" as opposed to “anti-Semitism of things." Not longer did it need the acquiescence of "men:" Judeophobia was part of society even when no effort was made to provoke it. These explanations were formulated by Zionist thinkers, who saw Judeophobia as an almost instinctual response of the nations towards the powerless Jews. This powerlessness of the Jews, in spite of the Judeophobic myth to the contrary, is utterly self-evident. Jews were unable to save themselves from the Holocaust, nor to persuade Western governments to bomb the concentration camps and their railroads, nor to get the US to fight against Hitler before it was directly attacked at Pearl Harbor. Had Jews held real power as a group, and not just the power that comes from being, on an individual basis, accessories, advisors, and intermediaries to those in real power, they would have been in a position to interfere with the systematic destruction of the Jewish people during WW2; the nature of the Holocaust was known throughout the world by 1943. These theories are "Zionistic approaches" because they strive to cure Judeophobia (or at least to minimize its effects) by giving the Jews power, and the potential to defend themselves by giving them a state of their own. Besides the powerlessness theories, many other theories exist. To this day no paper has systematically presented all theories. A select few follow, facilitating a better understanding of some aspects of Judeophobia. These theories are categorized within four disciplines.


Sociological theories focus on certain roles in society that Jews occupied, which exposed them to special hatred. For instance, during the Middle Ages they were moneylenders. Under kings and barons they served as “serfs of the imperial chamber" (see lesson # 5) and as such they collected taxes from poor peasants on behalf of landowners. That is why Judeophobia was often seen as a hatred equivalent to the grudges towards the wealthy attributed to proletarians.

From a similar perspective, Bernard Lazare contended in his 1894-book Anti-Semitism, its History and Causes, that Judeophobia would be useful in the advent of socialism (he recanted after the Dreyfus affair.)

Economic explanations go as far as attributing to the Jews the whole economic system, such as Henri Pirenne's theory of the advent of modernity, and Werner Sombart's, who in 1911 considered the Jews the cause of capitalism.

Exaggerations aside, we have to bear in mind that economic factors do not create Judeophobia, they only exacerbate it. Jews have been hated in extremely varied economic situations. More Judeophobia has been suffered by 19th century-poor Russian Jews than by 20th century-affluent Canadian Jews.

To some extent, the socioeconomic position of the Jews was a consequence of Judeophobia and not its cause. Jews went into banking when the probability of imminent expulsions compelled them to invest in currency rather than in property. They lent money because they were forbidden to possess land. They had few other professions because the guilds were rigidly closed and accepted only Christian members, and so on. As Prager and Telushkin summarized: "Jews were not hated because they lent money. They lent money because they were hated.”

Jews often held positions in which they provided the public face of the ruling elites, exerting apparent power. They were also lawyers, doctors, teachers, psychologists and social workers, and therefore Jews often seemed to have power, which was, in truth, non-existent.

The sociological explanation contends that since Jews appear to have power, they are a convenient focus of anger when the pain caused by the social system becomes acute for the lower class. According to Michael Lerner this is the uniqueness of the oppression of Jews: a hidden vulnerability "because Jews are placed in positions where they can serve as the focus for anger that might otherwise be directed at ruling elites, no matter how much economic security or political influence individual Jews may achieve, they can never be sure that they will not once again become the targets of popular attack should the society in which they live enter periods of severe economic strain or political conflict.” But to understand why Jews "appear" to have power, we must leave economics and dive into psychology. The psychological theories on Judeophobia solve a fault of the economic theories, which see the cause in the victim and not in the victimizer. The champion of psychological theories was Jean-Paul Sartre who in Anti-Semite and Jew (1966) described the Judeophobe as "the man who is afraid. Not of the Jews but of himself, of his own consciousness, of his liberty... " For Sartre, Judeophobia is "fear of being alive." The psychological theory is better in that it analyzes the victimizer, but it is inadequate because it considers Judeophobia to imply psychopathology. Judeophobia is evil, but evil is not pathological.


Michael Lerner attributes Judeophobia partially to "the revolutionary antiauthoritarian thrust of Judaism, with its implicit challenge to every ruling class... Elites in the ancient world tended to rule through a combination of brute force and ideologies of existing class divisions as sanctified by an unchanging natural order. Whether in the form of ancient myths about the gods who ruled nature, or in the far more sophisticated form proposed by Plato in The Republic, elite ideology destined society to remain divided by class... Jewish existence was living testimony that these myths and ideologies were invented to perpetuate the needs and interests of the rulers. Jews had managed to break out of the most degraded position on the class ladder, slavery, and had gone on to run their own society successfully. As long as the Jews existed, the ruling elites were wrong and their rule was in question.”

This fact about Jewish history might have been less threatening had Jews contained the story of their origins in a few rarely told mythic tales. Instead, the entire Jewish religion was built upon telling and retelling this story. The cornerstone of Jewish observance, Shabbat, was to be kept "in commemoration of the Exodus of Egypt," by setting aside one day a week when no one could make the Jews work. The very idea that the oppressed could set a limit to their oppression, and that the oppressors would have to kill them before they would pass that limit, was itself a revolutionary reform - the first real victory against slave-drivers and an enduring reminder that oppression could be overcome.

No matter how intently and desperately individual Jews tried to de-emphasize these confrontational aspects of their religion, and sought to identify themselves with the imperial powers and their values, the spirit of independence and freedom made the Jews the most rebellious People of the ancient world. The Jews were the group that rebelled against Hellenistic and then Roman rule with greater ferocity and tenacity than any other.

Jews differed from other people precisely because they followed norms that seemed subversive to the established order. Jews seemed unwilling to accept "reality" and subordinate themselves to imperial powers. This made them seem threatening to the ruling elites, who sought to make their subjects distrust Jews before they got too friendly with them and heard the Jews' ideals of egalitarian society.

Maurice Samuel wrote a series of books between 1924 and 1950 in which Judeophobia is not a Jewish problem, but an affliction of the Gentiles to which Jews had to accustom themselves. Western man hates the Jew because he is the jailer who had bound the world with fetters of moral law. This is "the great hatred" in the amoral pagan soul. A not very different position was taken by Prager and Telushkin in their 1983-Why the Jews? where the higher quality of Jewish life arouses continuous and uncompromising envy of the non-Jewish world.

Eliane Amado Levy-Valensi offered her interpretation during the 1960s: Judeophobia is the result of the Gentiles' failure in stealing Jewish history for themselves. "Judaism was already an ancient religion, possessed of a great literature, with great heroes and wise men in its past, and a divine promise of an even more glorious future. Christianity possessed none of these. From the very outset, therefore, the Christians laid claim to the Bible, at first merely as predicting Jesus and later as being exclusively their own." Also the plight of the Palestinians could be explained from the same perspective. Even Jesus is presented by them as "a Palestinian." The lack of a long history of their own, brings other peoples to hate Jewish ownership of a past. Although no theory alone can fully explain Judeophobia, the combination of several can be useful in dealing with this social disease.


Our overview of Judeophobia can lead to several conclusions:

  1. Judeophobia enables people to vent their sadistic instincts. You can harass, humiliate and kill, and you have an entire ideological body, which is very established and dating back many centuries, to defend your brutality.

  2. When fighting the Jews, a much written about people, the Judeophobe feels more important than he would fighting a less famous group.

  3. As a group, Jews often arouse guilt feelings among Gentiles. This may be due to the fact that morality virtually began with the Jews' Bible, and as such Jews incarnate ethical prohibitions, or because of how they were persecuted (this fact can provoke not only feelings of guilt but also of fear, since revenge could eventually be taken.)

  4. Judeophobia is an intrinsically anti-rational attitude of a generally rational society. A Jew is attacked as such, and if other Jews react to this attack they are deemed "egocentric." The Communists (and also the BBC) claimed that they did not want to stress the “Jewish" aspect of the victims lest the defense would become too partisan. Regarding the last two attacks against the Jewish community in Argentina (the Israeli Embassy was blown up in 1992, the AMIA communal building in 1994, leaving almost one hundred dead), in both cases the Jews were accused of being the perpetrators in order to present themselves as victims. (No one was punished for either attack). Constantin Brunner's theory emphasized the irrationality of Judeophobia by claiming it is group-egoism in contradistinction to rational thought. But he disregarded that this irrational attitude is often expressed by very rational people, a fact which gives it further credibility. In the case of Voltaire, we said in lesson # 7 that Judeophobia could twist the reason of the most reasonable men. And in the case of Germany as a whole, Judeophobia flourished and reached its climax precisely in the land of philosophy, with the active support of leading thinkers, from Fichte and Wagner to Heidegger. Many Nazi ringleaders were intellectuals and artists.

  5. To add to the irrational aspect, the sources of Judeophobia are particularly hypocritical. Jews were burned at stake by the religion of love, slandered by the forerunners of enlightenment and fraternity, and discriminated against by the ideology of equality.

  6. Judeophobia is practiced on (at least) two levels. One is direct and aggressive, the other is subtle,, consisting of condoning the first level. In other words, you can measure a Judeophobic stance not only by how it relates to Jews but by how it relates to Judeophobes. If we take the case of the Church and its central role in the history of Judeophobia, we realize that its role was paradoxical. In his "The Prophets of Israel" (1892) James Darmesteter pointed out how "The hatred of the people against the Jew is the work of the Church (which) protects them against the furies which she has unleashed." Something similar can be said about Israel-bashing. The UN is not responsible for terrorism against Israeli citizens, but by repeatedly condoning it (and systematically condemning Israel) encourages the Judeophobe murderer to feel a partner with the international community in his struggle against Zionism.


Many agree with Archbishop Theodor Kohn (d.1915), himself a victim of racial Judeophobia, in that it is "a sickly condition that only time can heal." But apparently the passing of time is not enough and special action is required. The Church is one of the main players capable of taking that action. In post-Holocaust revulsion at what Christian Europe did to the Jews, the Catholic Church has eliminated its most vicious Judeophobic teachings and prayers. But it has not engaged in any substantial consideration about how it engendered Judeophobia. Little effort has been made to instruct Christians on the role Christianity played in generating Judeophobic culture, and most remain virtually unaware of it.

The French Catholic poet Paul Claudel wrote several plays on the confrontation between Jewry and Christendom. He gradually freed himself from traditional prejudice and developed an original vision of the Jewish people. His awareness of the Christian world's responsibility for the Holocaust, prompted his suggestion in a letter in 1945 to the French ambassador to the Vatican, the thinker Jacques Maritain, that the Pope institute a ceremony of expiation for crimes committed against the Jews. At the time of the Eichmann Trial, German bishops asked all German Catholics to recite a prayer asking forgiveness. And when in 1994 the Vatican finally recognized the state of Israel, William Rees-Mogg published in the London Times a call for a general act of Christian contrition: "The Christian churches ought to make some formal act of contrition for what has happened over these 2,000 years... we do need to apologize for the massacres, for the Inquisition, for the ghettoes, for the badges, for the expulsions, for the accusations of blood guilt, and above all for Christian failure to perceive in time, or protest about in time, the full evil of the Holocaust.”

Start - Judeophobia - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate or so-called Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

Start - Judeophobia - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate or so-called Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

Gustavo Perednik


These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik.They  are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas of the book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or anti-Semitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called anti-Semitism.

Zionism and Israel Information Center is grateful to Dr. Perednik for his permission to popularize his works.

History of anti-Zionism External link: Antisemitism


Reproduced by permission. This work is copyright ©1997-2005 by Gustavo Perednik. Please do not copy it in any form without direct permission from the author.  All rights reserved

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