Semites and Anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism in the Western world probably began around 4000 BC in today's Turkey and Iran when the first "taller and fairer" Aryan-speaking Europeans drifting south from the Black Sea area bumped into the "shorter dark white" Semitic speaking people moving up the same routes. They probably sniffed one another's food, appearance and language with great suspicion. The territorial imperative being what it is, they probably started killing one another with sporadic regularity. The biological urge to reproduce being what it is, they undoubtedly started mating with one another with unfailing regularity. Although they also established some trading links in these bordering areas, for the most part, both language groups continued to develop separately.
Over the next few thousand years, while most of the Aryans in Europe snoozed in their primitive huts, the Semites were creating civilizations that advanced government, law, agriculture, art, literature, philosophy, science, trade and religion to unbelievable heights. History has shown however, that where wealth exists there is always someone willing to take it away. Consequently, while the Aryan occasionally left his hut and squabbled with his neighbor over the remains of a dead animal carcass, the Semitic world developed squabbling into a highly organized and administered killing process.
Sophisticated Semitic armies roamed the Middle East warring among themselves and killing anyone who opposed them. By 1700 BC they fought their way into Hamitic speaking Egypt and stood in the shadows of the one-thousand year old pyramids. Some struck off across north Africa while others took to ships and plied the whole of the Mediterranean Sea looking for trade or booty. For the next 500 years, while the Semitic people fought against themselves, a revived Egypt, raiders from the north and "Aryans" from today's Iran. Europe for the most part was still considered nothing but a land of primitives and little attention was paid to it. Around 1250 BC, however, Semitic sailors, off the coast of today's Turkey, may have reported running into some non-Semitic seafaring people who had just destroyed a city called Troy.
Over the next hundred years descendants of those seafaring tribes, along with other invaders from the north, would be repulsed by a revived Egypt and they would settle in the coastal areas of today's Israel. In time, they were to become known as the Philistines and would dominate over the many tribes, including the Israelites, the ancestors of the Jews, who were also roaming the area. Around 1000 BC, according to the Old Testament, the Israelites formed a confederation of tribes and created a power base within the area. Within a few generations they created a fairly steadfast nation called Israel. The Philistines were driven into a strip of land along the coast in present day Gaza and other hostile tribes in the area were subdued. Solomon, one of the Israelite Kings the Bible tells us, did extensive building including the Temple at Jerusalem. Heavy taxation and discontent among the northern tribes led to squabbling and around 900 BC the Kingdom violently split into Israel and Judah.
About the same time another Semitic nation, the Assyrians, began to war as never before upon their neighbors. With their swift war chariots these conquerors, from today's upper Iraq, were one of the most brutal civilizations of all time. Their armies had mercy on no one and they slaughtered or mutilated their enemies with utter ruthlessness. One of their warrior leaders would proudly describe his punishment of a conquered city:
I flayed all the chiefs...and covered [a pillar] with their skins....some I walled up...others I impaled upon...stakes. I cut the limbs off the officers....The rest of their soldiers I [let die of] thirst in the desert....Many captives [civilians] I burned...From some I cut off their noses, ears and fingers. Some I put out their eyes. I made one mound of heads [and as a warning also] bound heads to tree trunks round about the city. Their young men and women I burned....
The Assyrians soon fell upon Judea and Israel and around 700 BC Israel was destroyed. In the Old Testament the Jews would curse the Semitic Assyrian Kings who came with:
Chariots, wagons and wheels....weapons and wills of iron [and] laid waste all the nations....They shall take away thy nose and thine ears...thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by fire.
To guard against troubles in the future, the Assyrians had a method of dealing with those capable of leadership who were not killed and thousands were marched off to what is now Iraq. Amidst strange surroundings and neighbors their only hope for survival was cooperation.
In the meantime the Medes, one of those Aryan tribes who had been trading, raiding, and mating with their Semitic neighbors, began adapting ideas of civilization and began attacking and raiding in strength. By 600 BC these Aryans had aligned with the Semitic speaking Babylonians who started on an ordeal of conquest that would not end till they had crushed the Assyrians, conquered much of the Middle East and extended their Empire into parts of Egypt. Around 596 BC they crushed Judah. The Jewish Temple was destroyed for the first time and most of the leading Jewish population was carted off to captivity in Babylon, today's Iraq, and elsewhere.
By 539 BC all Semitic lands in the Middle East fell to the Aryan speaking Persians from today's Iran. Jews who wanted were permitted to return to the area of Judah. By around 400 BC the Jews had pushed the Philistines aside again, rebuilt their temple and over the years developed a few thriving cities. Because the area lay on one of the busiest trade routes in the world they were constantly battling invaders. Because of the different sects of Judaism that had developed during the dispersions, they continued to battle among themselves. To soothe over their differences a form of Jewish "nationalism" was introduced.1
In the meantime, the "Greeks" (a blend of those seafaring people mentioned earlier and more recent arrivals) became the first European country to vie for empire. Adopting Semitic ideas of civilization they planted colonies in Turkey, Egypt, Spain, France, and Italy over the graves of anyone who opposed them. In 336 BC the eastern educated Alexander The Great came to power with his motto: "If you're not with me, you're against me." Over the next 13 years he turned his attention eastward and conquered all the civilized lands to India. After his death, Greek and Semitic ideas of civilization had fused completely.
When the Grecian Empire broke apart the Romans quickly gathered up the pieces. By the year 1 the Romans conquered all of the land surrounding the Mediterranean. By 115, they subdued all the civilized Semitic lands in the Middle east. By 117 they conquered nearly all the "civilized" Aryan lands in Europe including England.
Rome was nothing more than an extension of Greek culture with its Semitic institutions. Rome, however, unlike the Greek philosophers and Semitic prophets, believed that people were to be governed for the good of the State. To rule their many different peoples (and stem the tide of revolts and uprisings), the Romans introduced a code of laws separated from religion and based on custom. As long as people paid their taxes and were not seen as a threat to the Empire, they, for the most part, were fairly free to do as they pleased. Thus, people of all races and religions from as far away as Mongolia, India, Ethiopia and even the unconquered lands of Germany were welcomed if they came in peace.
Since the citizens within the Empire were normally free to travel and resettle, a shift in population began. With their sophisticated backgrounds in trade, banking, and administration, Semitic speaking people from all over the Middle East began pouring into Europe. Because of their positions among the higher professions, much of the ancient Aryan custom, culture, religion and thought was ignored. Consequently, "Rome did not 'Aryanize' Europe; she 'Semiticized' her."2
Although the Jews living out of Judah played their part in the Semiticizing of Europe, the Jews living in Judah proved an unruly lot--as far as the Romans were concerned. When Rome was still in its expansion state in 63 BC a rivalry between two Jewish religious sects, the Sadducees (priests, aristocracy, nobles, financiers and large landowners) and the Pharisees (representing the lower middle classes and to a certain degree the educated masses) reached a climax. The Pharisees asked Rome for aid and on the Jews acceptance Judea (Roman name for Judah) became a province of Rome. Even though the Jews were allowed to have their own Kings, were given Commonwealth status, and were allowed special considerations in religion, the Sadducees, who had at first accepted union with Rome, fired the flames of revolt and Jewish unrest heightened. (Not even the New Testament could escaped the heavy hand of upper class "persons of quality" and the Pharisees would be condemned as "hypocrites.") The leaders of the revolt rejected all proposals the Romans tried to make. They went so far as to forbid the Roman delegations from entering Jerusalem carrying the Roman Standards which they claimed were "graven images."3 They refused to pay Roman taxation, rejected the idea that government and religion should be separate, and like future Europeans, developed a strong national feeling that they should control their own destinies. When the Jews rose up in the year 66, Rome sent Vespasian, one of their best Generals, to quell the uprising.
Contrary to popular belief the Jews were fierce fighters. Jews had fought Canaanites, Philistines, Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and themselves in the past and like many Germans had served in Roman armies. They knew how to fight. By the Year 7 revolts against Rome became commonplace. Never to have practiced religious tolerance among themselves, Jews extremely objected when Herod built temples for all religions. The Zealots put up a furious resistance and even fought moderate Jews who wanted to compromise since victory was impossible. After a bitter four year struggle, Rome finally took Judah and sacked the city of Jerusalem. Judah lost its commonwealth status and the Sadducees and other Zealots were deported, sold into slavery or executed for their part in the revolt. Jerusalem was occupied as a Roman city. (It was not until later, however, that the Romans took the last Jewish stronghold at Masada.)
Although Rome would be condemned for its wars and persecution of the Jews, and also the Christians starting around the same time, religion from the Roman point of view had almost nothing to do with these persecutions. At the time, Christianity was still one of the many sects of Judaism and Jews and Christians were viewed as one and the same. To add to the Roman belief, none of the Jewish sects believed in the idea of cosmopolitanism and flaunted their customs and religion. Many of the Christian sect, for example, took Christ's words literally that God would provide and refused to work or bear arms for the Empire. They roamed the country side and cities begging and teaching that materialism meant nothing and that one should prepare for life after death. Since one Jewish sect was refusing to work or bear arms, and others were refusing to pay taxes, they attracted the heavy hand of Rome as few other nations did. By the year 70, Rome's lions were on a steady diet of Christians while other Jewish sects were being dispersed all over the Empire.
By this time, 75% of the Jews lived outside of Palestine (today's Israel) and for the most part only the Pharisees and Nazarenes had not been deported. By the year 1 there were one million Jews living in Egypt, 200,000 in western Turkey and thousands more in Rome itself. There would soon be 13 synagogues in Rome and 5% of the population would be Jewish. Jews were practicing their religion and customs all over the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, in the year 112 the Jews in Judea rose up again and it took two years for the Romans to bring them under control again. The Emperor Trajan had to call off a campaign in Iran to combat the threat at his rear. The fight the Jews put up was ferocious and cost much in money and lives. Judea was devastated and most of the citizens who had any part in the uprising were executed, sold into slavery or dispersed.
After the war, Judea was pushed into dire poverty. The Jews of the upper strata that remained, looked at the multitude of Jewish farmers and unemployed workers as "scum."4 Like most societies, wealth had become concentrated in the hands of a few. The wealthy, like those of all nations, felt little or no compassion for their less fortunate kinsmen. Besides upholding a social life which was barred to the lower class Jews, the wealthy even practiced their religion differently. Consequently, Akiba ben Joseph (b ca 50; d ca 132), whose descendants were converts to Judaism and who considered himself part of the scum, but had risen to warrior/rabbi after he was forty, set about changing these attitudes among Jews. Picking up on an idea that had been tried in Babylon centuries before, and borrowing the ideas of a few contemporaries, he held that social inequalities among the Jews should be rectified and religious rituals should be of a nature that the poor as well as the rich could understand and participate in.5 His ideas were not easily accepted among the upper classes and for the most part ignored.
In 132 the Jews rose up again with the belief that a man named Simon Bar Kochba (or Cochba) was the "Messiah" come to deliver them. The Jews took to arms in a fervor of military revenge, messianic expectations6 and nationalistic zeal. Jews of every religious sect and political view joined in the revolt except the Christian sect (their Messiah had already come and gone a century earlier). The Jews looked at the upstart Christians as traitors and a complete break occurred between the two which would never be healed. (The Jews and the Christians would go their separate ways from that time on.)
To the astonishment of the Romans, the Jews defeated their army stationed in Judea and retook Jerusalem. The Emperor Hadrian decided that Rome would put an end to the Jewish problem in Judea forever and show the rebels that their God was not invisible as they believed. Another of the best Roman Generals, Severus, was brought from Britain with an army reported to number 50,000. In a three year struggle where the Jews gave no quarter and asked for none the uprising was finally put down. All Jewish temples and government buildings were tore down and a temple to a Roman God was erected over the remains of the Jewish Temple. Hadrian sold into slavery or exiled most of the remaining populace, renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and forbid the Jews, under penalty of death, to enter it. Judah became a Roman province and was officially named Palestine.
Jewish leaders around the world soon came to realize that the dispersed Jews, especially the "less sophisticated" working classes, living in foreign lands without guidelines would break into different sects or be absorbed into other religions and Judaism would disappear. Something had to be done that would hold the Jews together. Consequently, the beliefs of Akiba ben Joseph, which had a small but devout following, were seen as the only solution. He became the father of rabbinic Judaism. Around the year 200, the Jewish community reinstituted some old ideas with new strict guidelines. To a certain degree Jewish religion and law was standardized. Priests, sacrifice, and the Temple were abandoned while teachers (rabbis) and social/religious centers (synagogues) took their place. Throughout the known world a Jewish community had to be established when ten or more Jewish males lived within walking distance from one another. Each community had to provide basic and religious schools for every Jew whether they could afford to pay or not. Charity had to be given to any Jew who needed it and Jews were forbidden to seek help from non-Jews.
Although there was much resistance among the upper classes to sharing their wealth, the Jewish "survival laws" held the Jewish community and its religion together. However, it also barred assimilation and because of the "narrow exclusiveness of Jewish thought,"7 (as opposed to Christ's teaching: "not all my sheep are of this fold"), Christianity became the most successful of the old Jewish sects and thrived while Judaism floundered. Consequently, to many non-Jews in the Western world, the Jews began to represent not only a people who practiced a different religion, but were also a people of a different race--a Semitic race.
By 330 the Roman Empire was in a steep economic and cultural decline. Although Christianity was adopted as the state religion, and the capital moved to Byzantium (Istanbul), the Empire was doomed. By the year 600 the Empire was reduced to a shadow of its former self and in a short time only a parcel of land containing today's Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, and the western half of Turkey remained. Although the Empire would expand occasionally it always shrank again. The formal language was Greek but the dominant population was Semitic and Altaic (Turks, Mongols, etc.), thus its main interests and influences lay eastward. Western Europeans felt no affiliation for this "Near East" Byzantine Empire.
By the year 650, while the mostly Germanic inheritors of Western Europe were still squabbling over the ruins of the Roman Empire and fighting off "Mongol" incursions from the east, the Semitic speaking Arabs were well on their way to creating an Empire that would sweep over one-third of the civilized world.
Because of Rome's domination of the Mediterranean basin for so many years, one could hardly tell the difference between an Aryan and a Semitic until they began to pray. The Arabs, however, rejuvenated the Semitic leadership and put new meaning into the word Semite since they had been fairly secluded in the Arabian Peninsula. Under the banner of Islam, a combination of Judaism and Christianity plus the teachings of Mohammed, the Moslems zealously set off on the road of conquest.
By 720 the Arabs had not only conquered all of the Middle East and beyond to the borders of Russia and India, but controlled all the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea except France, Italy, Greece, and western Turkey. In Turkey their armies were barely held at bay from overrunning Greece and Eastern Europe by a feeble Byzantine Empire. In Spain, they crossed the Pyrenees and fought their way across France until they were within 125 miles of Paris and the conquest of western Europe. Fear ran rampant over Europe and the Semitic "Arabs" replaced the "Mongols" as a word of dread.
In 732 the Arab conquest of Europe was unexpectedly stopped in northern France after a crushing defeat by the Germanic Franks. For no apparent reason other than Byzantine politics, the Arabs also gave up their drive on Greece. By 750 the Arabs had been driven back from Paris, but it would take nearly forty more years till they were driven from Southern France. Afterwards, Arab raiding along the European Mediterranean coast continued to inflict costly destruction, and although there was little dread of Europe being overwhelmed, fears remained high. The two worlds kept their distance.
Until the advent of the Arabs, the majority of Jews had contented themselves with positions as craftsmen or artisans and kept much to themselves. But with the Arab and European world cut off, the Jews came into their own and began to fill the void as traders and merchants as never before. They produced a sophisticated trading network that reached from England to India. Since the Christians and Moslems were both adverse to usury, the Jews also moved into most areas of banking and settled into the areas conquered by the Arabs or into the bordering European countries. In time, many of the Jews adopted their selected countries while maintaining their ways and religion that the "survival laws" had taught them. They became a part of European mainstream life.
By 1095 most of Europe was Christianized but the Moslems still controlled Spain, plus all of North Africa and the Middle East where Christendom's most sacred shrines rested. The Church, in an attempt at reuniting Christendom, urged the Europeans, especially the "race of the Franks,"8 to go and take the Holy Land away from the "wicked race." The first of the Crusades began in 1096 but what they really accomplished was to make racism and anti-Semitism respectable.
Up till this time, the leaders of the European nations were happy to have Semitic merchants due to the economic well-being of their respective nations. The Aryan merchants soon found the competition of the Jews and Arabs of Europe bothersome and unfair practices and hostilities against them increased. Most Semitic people in Europe either melted into the population or left for the Arab world. The Jews, on the other hand, remained and many prospered. Consequently, since the Church had decreed the Semites a wicked race, many Aryan businessmen demanded their expulsion. In 1290, Edward I of England seized on this excuse to line his pockets and mass expulsions were conducted. The French Kings, with the encouragement of French businessmen and Merchant Guilds, quickly followed England's example. The Jews were pushed eastward into Germany, Poland and Russia where unfair practices and deadly raids (pogroms) were directed against them at various times.9
By 1300 the Spanish were well on their way to wresting their country away from the Arab world and voices against the Semites were also heard, but with a new twist. As the Spanish reconquered their land, Jews and Arabs, who had risen to high places in government, came under their control. Most of these Semitic people were normally left in their positions since the conquerors had no idea how to run the country. Although barred from marrying royalty or obtaining high places in the church, the Jews and Moslems became a part of the ruling class in Christian Spain. The influential Christians of Spain however, became unhappy with the "Jewish outsiders" (many of whom could trace their roots back 1400 years) or the Arab outsider (who could trace their roots back 600 years) and demanded that only Christians should be in high places. The Spanish demands reached a climax in 1391 and rather than face expulsion or the loss of their professions, tens of thousands of Jews and Moslems converted to Christianity. Now, as Christians, many entered the Church and rose to the position of bishops and cardinals while others began to marry into royalty.
The Spanish upper classes, "persons of quality," seeing their scheme backfire, looked around for a final solution. They demanded of the Church that only "old Christians" should hold high positions in government and church, no matter what their abilities, because the "new Christians" were not loyal. They held that the new Christians were practicing their old religions in secret (in fact very few were), but most noteworthy, they held that "purity of blood"10 undiluted by Arab or Jewish ancestry should determine one's fitness for office.
The Church opposed the measure because in 1453 the Ottoman Turks, after having taken Syria, Palestine and Egypt from the Arabs, overran one-thousand-one-hundred year old Christian Constantinople and quickly took control of today's Greece, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria and began converting the population to Islam. The Church did not want to alienate people who practiced the Christian faith no matter what their "blood" was. The Spanish however, would not be satisfied and the Church finally gave in.
In 1491 the "inquiries" began and by 1492 hundreds of thousands of Moriscos (as the mixed race Arabs were called) converted to Spanish custom and religion while over a half-million left for the Arab world. Around 100,000 Jews also converted because of the Inquisition while another 100,000 left the country. Arabs or Jews that remained however, were not permitted access to any high post because of their "race and blood."
Thus was "laid the foundations for modern racism by blood."11 In time nearly all of the Semitic people in Europe abandoned their religion, language, tradition or culture and were absorbed into European life. Many of the Jews however, retained most of their traditions ("survival laws") and from that time on anti-Semitism, in the western world, took on a primarily anti-Jewish meaning based on race.
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1 Dimont 31
2 Ibid 137
3 Wells 419
4 Dimont 148
6 Ibid 132
7 Rothrock 25
8 Cantor 321
9 Ibid 397
10 Dimont 288
11 Ibid 286