TranscriptQuestion: Why are we in the "fourth mutation" of anti-Semitism?
Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Anti-Semitism is a virus that mutates. I begin, you know, with the Hellenistic Age where a lot of people think anti-Semitism began. Actually I say although the Greeks and Romans didn’t all like the Jews, there was nothing personal. It’s exactly like the mafia say when they’re about to shoot you, nothing personal, strictly business.
So anti-Semitism stage one, really got personal with the birth of Christianity and the disappointment of Christians that Jews did not accept one of their own as the messiah. And that really was personal because that was a hatred of Jews not of people in general.
The next mutation took place around 1096 with the massacre of Jewish communities in northern Europe during the First Crusade. And that’s when Jews became not just the people who rejected Christianity but a demonic force. They became the infidel, the anti-Christ, the children of Satan who poisoned wells, desecrated the host and killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzo, the blood libel, that was demonic antic-Judaism.
Mutation three, we can date to 1879 with the birth of this new word, anti-Semitism. And that was not religious hostility to Judaism but racial hostility to Jews and that was serious, because in the end Christians could work for the conversion of Jews. You can change your religion but you can’t change your race. And therefore all you could do, was, to, God forbid, work for the extermination of the Jews so I’m afraid the Holocaust was already implicit in that word itself.
The fourth mutation that we’re living through now is demonic anti-Zionism. It’s focused not on Jews as individuals but Jews as a nation in their own sovereign state and it accuses Israel of essentially all the ills that medieval Christians… you know, we don’t poison wells but we do poison the world peace. We we’re responsible for every kind of distress in the universe. Seventy percent of Pakistan in the days following 9/11 thought that it had been done by the Israelis. The Israelis were blamed for the tsunami at the end of 2004. They’ve been blamed for more or less everything and since ipso facto, every Jew is a Zionist, then every Jew is a legitimate cause for attack. And that is the new anti-Semitism that’s been born in our time.
It’s every bit as dangerous as the others but my argument is that Jews must never fight anti-Semitism alone. The victim cannot cure the crime. The hated cannot cure the hate. And so I’m glad to say Britain has become the first country and surely won’t be the last, where the fight against anti-Semitism is led by non-Jews.
Question: Who is leading the fight in Britain against anti-Semitism?
Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Well, it’s led by a parliamentary committee on anti-Semitism. People of all parties who monitor on a regular basis, all forms of anti-Semitism, that report is fed back into government which assembles an inter-departmental committee, all the departments of government that have any bearing on it, education, health, home office and all that stuff, and all of those committees come together and interface with the Jewish organizations that deal with the symptoms of anti-Semitism. So it is basically a government led activity. And in 2009, the British home office and foreign office convened for the first time, an international conference of parliamentarians to fight against anti-Semitism. Almost all the participants were not Jewish. And this conference was held and hosted by the British government. The next government to do so has been the Canadian government which will be doing so this year. And so we’ve taken this and refused to live by this maxim that we are the people who dwell alone. It is true that we have enemies but it is also true that we have many very good friends.
Recorded on May 24, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman