Judeo-Christian conflict has lasted for nearly two millenia. Much ink has
flowed to justify the slanders inciting to hate and pogroms, or to obliterate
accusations and defend the victims. No century and no Christian country
has been spared Israel's existentialist struggle against Hate.
Contrary to appearances, this conflict does not oppose Jews on one side and Christians on the other. This violence between brother-enemies is parallelled by another conflict within Christianity itself, between the pagan-Christian Church, and the Judeo-Christian Church born from Israel. An ever-present dilemma that renders Israel hostage to the divisions within Christianity concerning the identity of Judaism and the meaning of its perennity throughout history. Placed in the centre of Christian thought, Israel becomes the focal point of contradictions within Christianity and its internal divisions, while maintaining in the unfolding of history its own presence, external to Christianity.
The latest book by Paul Giniewski, L'antijudaïsme chrétien. La Mutation (1), elucidates the complexity of Judeo-Christian relations, correllated with internal Christian scissions. As Sens has already published two excellent reviews of this work (2), we will only add here some reflections that this study has inspired.
Giniewski examines without complacency the age-old teaching of contempt. All the anti-Judaic themes with their theological sources, their techniques of propagation, and their historical consequences are studied. The author frequently cites Christian authors, both lay and clergy, specialists of antisemitism, whose fight nevertheless could not prevent the transformation of traditional anti-Judaism to anti-Zionism, an evolution that the author analyzes in its different manifestations.
The Christian teaching of esteem for Jews examined and reviewed by Giniewski provides a variety of arguments, discussions and Declarations: by the Holy See; by Episcopalian committees, both Catholic and Reformed; and from the works of theologians, historians and Christian philosophers, showing the inanity of the grievances against Jews, and condemning these positions. From this large fresco, tracing 2000 years of Judeo-Christian relations, a small ray of light can be perceived guiding the common action of Jews and Christians toward a mutual reconciliation. This discovery of the Other, this advance of one toward the other is motivated by a determination to de-mystify and to liberate from its obstacles the path leading to this reconciliation. If Christianity, Giniewski writes, needs to be re-rooted in its Jewish inheritance, Israel too is rediscovering the Jewish Jesus, this "commendable son of its people".
Giniewski's study is not limited to an anthology of anti-Judaism. His remarkable erudition allows him to analyze areas of understanding already surveyed and researched by numerous Christian thinkers. In view of this profound mutation of Christianity in regard to Judaism, one might think that antisemitism is ancient history, overtaken... Was not its strongest criticism written by Christian theologians and historians?
And yet... How can one deny the permanence of anti-Judaism disguised as anti-Zionism that penetrates the political sphere of contemporary Europe, as did antisemitism in the not-so-distant past? It is true that there is a major difference between the present situation and the past. In Europe, current anti-Zionism mainly represents state policies, integrated into economic and strategic interests. It continues the rationalist antisemitism of (Charles) Maurras (1868-1952) and, likewise, it imposes an obsessional centrality on European policies. This can be seen in televised reports and in the press, by a uniformity of presentation that betrays a fixed, coherent structure with its stereotype references and vocabulary.
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are twin exterminatory ideologies, conceived, studied, planned and propagated by powerful political, religious and financial bodies. Their coded language is that of covert wars using libel and disinformation to justify the war of Israel's elimination. Today, the "final solution" is replaced by "the suppression of injustice" - in other words, the suppression of Israel, it being understood that the refusal of Israel's national sovereignty in its homeland would re-establish a just, moral order: namely, that of Israel's wandering in exile and suffering; or of slavery in "dhimmitude".
As such, this "justice" which will bring peace consists of imposing on Israel the conditions that will re-establish the "justice" of Israel's non-existence. Similarily, "the legitimate battle against the Occupation" means that Israel should be stripped of its inheritance and history; and, to this end, terrorism can be accepted, even justified. Thus, the contexts of European imperialism and colonialism is, thereby, artificially imposed upon Israel's liberation from the calvary of dhimmitude in its homeland. It is not uncommon to hear that Israel is condemned to disappear- as was said in the 1930s when solidarity with the Jewish plight often evoked derision in the European political circles, which had conceived and planned the extermination of Jews and Judaism.
Parallel to this war of words, European "specialists" endeavour with a perverse care to dissect Jewish history and that of the Shoah - its sensitivity and its vocabulary linked to a unique event in history - in order to reconstruct a simulacrum, which they then transfer to the Palestinians of the intifada. This impressionist technique is worked out and refined by the masterminds behind a newly-founded Arab Educational Institute of Bethlehem (associated with a "Euro-Arab Dialogue from Below" project). The Palestinian mimicry of Jewish history is propagated through the Olive Branch from Jerusalem, a regular newsletter emailed by the Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Fr. Raed Abusahlia). One of its aims is to reveal "the true face of Israel". The Bethlehem Institute is affiliated to Pax Christi International, whose president (since 1999) is the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah. Pax Christi is represented at the highest level in the Vatican and never ceases to promote those political goals of Arafat's which are the most dangerous for Israel's survival.
It seems that the present is returning to the past - to 1840. Then the French Consul in Damascus, Count Ratti-Menton, was credited with having done a service to mankind - for which he was later decorated by his government - in incriminating Judaism for a monstrous crime that he had concocted himself, together with the churches of Damascus (the "Damascus Blood Libel"). Since then, the number of those good souls wishing to unmask "the real Israel" is legion. The international European antisemite has passed on this mission to the Palestinians, objects of its blind fetishism and victims of their theologico-political war against Israel. Likewise, the "Universal Jewish Threat" is reformulated via the accusation that Israel threatens the peace and security of the world, a calumny that serves as a screen for worldwide jihad. The posters of Auschwitz: "Work is health", and the phrase, "Leave your clothes here" before entering the gas chambers, have their equivalents today: "Don't defend yourselves against your enemies, let yourselves be killed". Progressively, these lies, these imageries imprison Israel in a virtual world, with bonds that neutralize it behind a screen of slander and by a silence that is none other than a reconstruction of the silence of Auschwitz, formulated by these persons with clear consciences who only desire "peace and justice". Thus, Israel evolves in a virtual universe of falsified, defamatory images aimed at exploiting public opinion so as to enroll it in a criminal anti-Zionist state policy.
Giniewski skillfully unmasks the foundations and the traditional sources of Israel's delegitimization and the conflicts that it creates within Christianity. Is Israel still the enemy that one relentlessly wishes to exterminate? Or, rather, the loved and indispensable partner for Christian fulfillment? What kind of future can be envisaged from this oscillation between a past which endures and a future that is being formed through the efforts of reconciliation between the Church and the Synagogue, with retreats and relapses?
In fact, Christian thought is omnipresent in this book. Even the refutation of, and the combat against, anti-Judaism give priority to the Christian voice, writings and struggles. One could even say that the book stresses the formidable phenomenon of mutation, of the inner transformation of Christian theology and thinking carried out in these past decades by innumerable theologians and writers. A dynamic of renewal and spiritual enrichment that reveals an immense effort for the rehumanization of man by the deepening of the Christian relationship to Israel.
Although this aspect is not tackled by Giniewski, Christian meditation concerning its relation to Israel and its place within Christianity has an implication for Islam. In fact, Christian anti-Judaism is reformulated by Muhammad in the Koran, where some anti-Jewish phrases from the Church Fathers are re-used. The Judeo-Christian reconciliation movement, which advocates the abolition of the pagan-Christian Church's prejudices by a reformulated exegesis of the texts, provides a contradiction to the koranic verses which - through Muhammad's mediation - became the infallible word of Allah, and no longer that of St. Augustine or St. Ambrose, marked with the prejudices of their time, or the invectives of St. John Chrysostome. The Judeo-Christian reconciliation and the rehabilitation of Israel projects a doubt on the infallibility of this prophecy. Thus, the Judeo-Christian relationship is further complicated by its koranic ramifications just like the inter-Christian relations, as certain verses of the Koran claim that divisions between the different branches of Christianity will endure eternally (5:17). Christians are no longer free to find reconciliation with the Jews, nor amongst themselves. The Islamic world keeps them imprisoned within the koranic interpretation of anti-Judaism and of Christological conflicts - as expressed by Syrian monks from the 4th to the 7th centuries.
In this context, Christianity finds itself confronted - in its relationship with the Jews - by an existential situation in its relation with Islam, for Islamic theology relegates the Christian and the Jew within the same infamous category. Thus, Islam imposes upon the Christian, a system of degradation which had originally been created by the Church for Israel, but was henceforth renewed and aggravated by the jihad. Christian anti-Judaism engendered Islamic anti-Christianity. Within dhimmitude, the Christian was riveted onto the dehumanized Jew, who had been imprisoned in a teaching and a jurisdiction that was now destroying the Christian. The Christians of the East who fought for their liberation from dhimmitude - in order to regain their freedom and dignity - associated themselves with Israel's struggle, for they understood that the liberation of Israel was also their liberation and that Israel's enslavement to dhimmitude enslaved them too.
Today, how can Jews view their brother Christians with whom they were so intimately connected, whether in suffering or in their common struggles to impose upon Judeo-Christian civilization its finest humanitarian achievements? Does the Jew feel solidarity with the Christian? For if Christianity cannot detach itself from Israel, neither can Israel detach itself from this Church which wanted - at the risk of losing its soul - to introduce the God of Israel to the Gentile world. Neither can Israel forget the many illustrious and anonymous Christians who bore witness to a common faithfulness to biblical values.
In the light of the general silence of Churches and governments in regard to the discrimination of Christian dhimmis - even their massacre in certain Islamic countries - one can see that, as Nazism before it, anti-Zionism has developed during a century into anti-Christianity, due to Islam's linkage of Jews and Christians. When so many Christians keep silent and turn away from the martyrdom of civilian Christian populations, Jews must now show solidarity with their Christian brethren.
so doing, Israel would contribute a double liberation for Christianity:
through a reconciliation with its own origins, Christianity can achieve
a reconciliation with its self. And, by freeing itself from dhimmitude,
Israel is opening a path to liberation from dehumanizing prejudices.
* Everything in parenthesis was added for the English translation.
© Bat Ye'or 2001
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