Why, again and again and again, time after time, does Jew-baiting, in one form or another, become a force in history? There are always "immediate" historical reasons, but one central, continuous, underlying "cultural" reason is this: anti-Semitism is threaded into the very fabric of Europe's 2000-year-old Christian civilisation.
Christianity is saturated with anti-Semitism. The New Testament of the Bible is one of the main documents of historical anti-Semitism.
As Karl Kautsky, the leading writer of early 20th Century Marxism, showed in his book The Foundations of Christianity, the writers of the New Testament set out, deliberately and systematically, to demonise the Jews and to foment hatred against them as the murderers of Christ. They did it by inventing fantastic and self-contradictory tales about the death of Christ.
The events Kautsky analyses are set 2000 years ago The vast Roman Empire united Europe, much of North Africa, and parts of Asia. The Judeans resisted Roman rule and occupation fiercely. While the upper classes tended to make peace, the people refused to reach an accommodation with Imperial Rome. The Jews were divided into parties and factions - Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots. Eventually, in 70 AD, the Romans razed the city of Jerusalem to the ground, completing the dispersal of the Jews, who already had settlements all over the empire.
The early Christians were one sect of Jews, who, in the nature of things felt sectarian hatred towards the others. As time wore on, the dominant Christian faction, led by Paul of Tarsus, ceased to be Jews, no longer, for example, requiring converts to be circumcised. By the time the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written, decades after the events they purport to depict, the antagonism between Christian and Jew was very bitter.
Christianity grew stronger and stronger in the next 300 years, until it became a mighty power in the ossifying Roman Empire. At the beginning of the fourth century Catholic Christianity became the official religion of the empire. Its priesthood merged with the immensely powerful bureaucracy of the Roman state. Over time it got so strong that it did not have to tolerate other religions, or other Christian factions. A long age of religious tyranny began. The New Testament and its stories, ideas and motifs became, for well over a thousand years, the main subject of art and literature.
Many dozens of generations of children were drilled in the New Testament's malignant tales, presented as the word of God. "Who condemned Jesus Christ to death?" went the question in the Catholic catechism which, until recently, children from the age of five or six learned by heart. The answer? "Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, did it at the desire of the Jews."
Recently the Catholic Church has "exonerated" the Jews of guilt for Jesus Christ's death - 2000 years and many millions of victims too late.
An imaginary parallel will make the point clearer. Suppose that our own civilisation has broken down, as that of Rome did in the fifth and sixth centuries in Western Europe. Most of the survivors regress to subsistence farming. Literacy is almost lost, becoming the special expertise of ideologising monks and priests.
Most of our great books of learning and science are lost. Those we have saved acquire great authority in a world where scientific observation and experimentation have gone out of fashion, and where venerable authority is again, as in the post-Roman Dark Ages, and the Middle Ages up to the Renaissance, considered sufficient.
One of the books which survives, preserved by its devotees, is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
This book was forged early in the 20th Century by the Okhrana, the political police of ultra-Christian and anti-Semitic Tsarist Russia. It purports to be a Jewish account of Jewish plans to take over the world. It recast the traditional Christian Jew-hatred, with which Tsarist Russia was saturated, into a venomous modern political fantasy. It had immense influence throughout the 20th Century. It has rightly been called a "warrant for genocide".
Suppose then that in our imaginary world, thrown back to the level of barbarism, a new religion takes shape, a sort of primitive evangelical neo-Christianity, organised by a powerful caste of priests. It worships, as one of its central "holy books", the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.(And if you find that far-fetched, recall that the Russian Orthodox Church recently canonised the whole family of Tzar Nicholas the Bloody, overthrown in 1917, to be Saints!)
And then, as society evolves and develops over many hundreds of years, slowly redeveloping a civilisation, generation after generation would learn the divine truth concocted by the Okhrana policemen. It would form the subject of paintings and literature and drama. When a new Enlightenment arose, and drove this nonsense off the highways of intellectual life, it would survive as prejudice and folk-wisdom. Living Jews and their behaviour would be judged not according to everybody else's, that is, normal human, standards, but according to the patterns of malevolence outlined in the Protocols.
This is fiction, but it is horribly close to the true story of our civilisation and its development. The New Testament - with whose vicious anti-Jewish libels we are so familiar that they can and do go unnoticed – has, down the centuries, been the warrant for generations and ages of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and Russia.
The Stalinist rulers did not fight anti-Semitism but used and fomented it. They took Christian anti-Semitism and wove it into their own "Protocols", according to which the great evil conspiracy in the modern world, the imperialism at the heart of imperialism. This is “Zionism", centred on Israel, and its “Zionist” supporters and agents all over the world,and especially in America. It is not Jewish exactly.
In theory not all Jews are involved in it, and some Jews oppose it, but for practical purposes it involves all Jews who do not denounce Israel and deny its right to exist — that is, most Jews alive.
Many on the left, misled and befuddled by their justified and proper sympathy with the Palestinian Arabs in their conflict with Israel, uncritically accept, in its "anti-Zionist" mask, this Stalinist reworking of the old anti-Semitism.