Anti-Semitism has been called the oldest hatred. In its long and dark history, it has taken many forms – tribal hatred, religious hatred, racial hatred and national hatred.
In a book review for Tablet, Adam Kirsch looks at a new historical account, which suggests that an age-old intellectual hatred had its part to play too:
By Judaism, Nirenberg doesn’t mean the religion as such, but rather a range of intellectual ideas associated (often falsely) with Jewish religion and culture. It is a fascinating and complex theory, but when Kirsch provides specific examples of what Nirenberg is getting at, what they suggest isn’t so much an ideological war as a class war:
For instance, in Ptolemaic Egypt:
Or in medieval Europe:
Though racist and eugenic ideologies came to dominate anti-Semitism in the 19th and 20th centuries, a strong class-based element persisted:
Of course, class hatred is just one ingredient in a vile mix. But we shouldn’t overlook the contribution that it has made not only to anti-Semitism, but other instances of man’s inhumanity to man.
Consider the famines that Stalin deliberately unleashed against the Kulaks, Idi Amin’s expulsion of the Ugandan Asians, the pogroms suffered by the ethnic Chinese in 1960s and 70s Indonesia, Mao’s Cultural Revolution or the killing fields of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.
The extent to which ethnic hatred was involved differs from case to case, but the constant factor is that the victims were singled out, either on an individual or a communal basis, because, though lacking in political power, they had dared to better themselves by their own efforts.
We should never forget that class hatred – in particular, hatred of the ‘bourgeoisie’ – is one of the most murderous forces in history.