More than 1,300 Israelis, 1,700 Gazans and 27 Americans have died in the Israel-Hamas war, according to the Wall Street Journal, less than a week after the terrorist group Hamas, an Islamic-extremist organization based in Gaza, massacred 250 people at an Israeli music festival.
Though decried by many as antisemitic, the unprecedented bloodshed has inspired some people — on colleges campuses, in the streets of New York, and even among journalists and teachers — to speak in support of Hamas as “de-colonizers.”
Antisemitism is anathema to God’s character and deserves to be condemned wherever it appears. Christians should understand antisemitism’s meaning and history, however, before biblically confronting it.
Antisemitism, described by President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Al Mohler as “one of the oldest hatreds [to infect] the bloodstream of humanity,” is defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as hatred of the Jews.
It’s reflected in the Bible’s account of societies like the Egyptians and Romans and was later codified in the doctrine of the early European Church, which believed persecution of Jewish people was punishment for rejecting Christianity, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The history of antisemitism is split by the atrocities committed against Jews in World War II. Secondary antisemitism occurs “after Auschwitz,” and encompasses new expressions of hatred like denying the Holocaust and comparing Israel’s politics to that of the Nazis.
The IHRA, of which the United States is a member, lists several examples of antisemitism as part of their working definition, including:
- “Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of radical ideology or an extremist view of religion;
- “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor;
- “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded by any other democratic nation;
- “Drawing comparisons of a contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
Secondary antisemitism can be easy to identify, like former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling the Holocaust a myth, or more subtle, like minimizing the amount of lives lost in the Nazi’s “Final Solution.” One of the forms of “soft” — or subtle — secondary antisemitism, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is the “defamation of Israel as the ‘Nazis of today.’”
Israel was founded, as Mohler notes, not because Jewish people wanted to push Palestinians out of their homes, but because the world recognized they had been deeply and irreparably injured by the Holocaust. To compare Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi’s treatment of Jewish people —which was an unequivocal extermination — cheapens the Holocaust and delegitimizes Jewish peoples’ legitimate suffering.
Tragically, most of the supposedly pro-Palestinian rhetoric surfacing in the wake of Hamas’ attack matches one or more of the above examples of antisemitism.
This position is perhaps best exemplified by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), which issued a statement on the war claiming Israel’s “apartheid regime is the only one to blame” for the violence. The statement, which was initially co-signed by more than thirty other Harvard student groups, further warned, “Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence,” and pleaded with the Harvard community to “stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians.”
This letter explicitly justifies the killing of Jewish people by Hamas as an appropriate response to Israel’s supposedly “apartheid” — i.e. racist — regime. It further implicitly suggests that Israel should respond by absorbing the attack as just punishment for its’ alleged racism, which is an unreasonable expectation of a country we would otherwise expect to defend itself.
Those sentiments make the letter, by definition, antisemitic.
There are a host of other examples of soft and hard antisemitism coming out of some of the most venerated, progressive organizations in America, a concerning, if unsurprising, culmination of antisemitism infiltrating European and American academic institutions since at least 2016.
Christians cannot engage in antisemitism, both out of our respect for life and our biblical command to support Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. Mohler explains it this way:
Christians must understand theologically and biblically what is at stake. Israel is central to God’s saving purpose for humanity. The promise of salvation comes through Abraham, as we see in the covenant made with Abraham, that through Abraham and his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And of course, ultimately, the promise of salvation comes through a Savior, who was born to a Jewish mother and whose Jewish identity is central to our understanding of who Jesus is as revealed in Scripture. The Jewishness of Jesus is not an accident, it is central to the identity of Jesus and the promise Christ is the promised Messiah, a promise given first to the Jews and only by extension, as the Apostle Paul makes clear, extended also to the Gentiles.
The Bible is clear that God is not finished with Israel. Indeed, there are promises yet to be fulfilled, promises assured by the very character of God, and there is also promised a great display of the glory of God in an eventual turning of many Jewish people to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With this theological context in mind, continue to rebuke antisemitism, reminding believers that we cannot be in alignment with God while we malign and allow others to malign His chosen people.
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