Everything you need to know about anti-Semitism and religious conflicts



Was Shylock a victim or a villain? The question never arose when Geoffrey Kendal came to school in the 1950s and 1960s to play Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice was a big favorite because he seduced us on several levels. There was the continuing suspense of whether Shylock, a Jewish money lender, would be able to demand the pound of flesh he had wickedly inserted into the deal, if the needy merchant, Antonio, did not repay the loan. .

The pound of flesh closest to the heart was Shylock’s vengeance: he had been insulted by Christians; he had been publicly spit on his “Jewish gabardine”. But Shylock’s grief reaches epic proportions when Christians inflict an ugly “Love Jihad” on him: his daughter Jessica runs away with Lorenzo, a Christian. Worse, she fled with her “ducats”, the currency of the time. “O my daughter; my ducats ”. I don’t remember a courtroom with such suspense when Portia saves Antonio from Shylock’s blade.

Anti-Semitism, long before the Elizabethan era, remained a strong two-pronged sentiment. One was the direct Christian prejudice against Jews in Europe which culminated with Hitler in Germany. The Islamic conquest of Spain in the 8th century led to the flourishing of a composite culture in which Muslims, Christians and Jews contributed equally. The Reconquista or the return of Christian rule in 1478 led to the Spanish Inquisitions which were harder on Jews than on Muslims.

The general projection of the two as heartless bullies automatically accelerates anti-Semitism among various religions. Pixabay

The fundamental conflict, whether in Northern Europe or the Iberian Peninsula, has always been between Christianity and Judaism, not least because Christians blamed the Jews for the death of Christ. What has always intrigued me is the deafening acrimony between Judeo-Muslims. I will never forget the day at the Royal Palace in Rabat, Morocco, when I found myself sitting in the office of André Azoulay, the senior advisor to the late King Hassan. He was the second most powerful man in the Kingdom. He was a Sephardic Jew like so many in the country who held key positions. A mandatory annual event was the jamboree organized by His Majesty for Sephardic Jews in the Diaspora. These sentimental reunions were part of the continuity of a medieval tradition. When 50,000 Jews were expelled from Spain after the Reconquista, Morocco and other North African states accorded the new “refugees” extraordinary hospitality. Even after Jews from that part of the world took up residence in Israel, they remembered how well Morocco had treated them. I have seen photographs of King Hassan towering over Sephardic salons in Jerusalem.

By the 1980s, the Jewish state and the international Jewish community had grown so powerful that even Shakespeare’s “reshuffle” became a legitimate intervention. Rather than rejecting The Merchant of Venice and selecting one of Shakespeare’s plays in 1989, director Sir Peter Hall chose to polish Shakespeare and give Shylock’s character rationalism. Dustin Hoffman practically reinvented Shylock, lowering his usurious interest rate, thus bolstering the sympathy factor for the money lender. A sort of Christian league against an unfortunate “professional” has been played out. Ironically, Shylock’s tragic ending is the heart of the play’s mirth.

The attenuation of Shakespearean prejudices against Jews was clearly a function of guilt over the excesses of WWII. By comparison, the remarkable rise in anti-Semitism in recent decades is breathtaking. Sympathy for Jews gave way to fear for the Jewish state. The outstanding achievements of the Jewish people will always shine, but individuals are overwhelmed by unhealthy Zionist excesses.

These excesses are amplified by Donald Trump’s singularly one-sided support for everything Benjamin Netanyahu asks. The general projection of the two as heartless bullies automatically accelerates anti-Semitism. Take the Deal of the Century: Only the duo and their closest bands were thrilled. There will be a corresponding spike in ill will.

An undercurrent of anti-Semitism remains unnoticed because the global media more readily focuses on Islamophobia. Pixabay

Do you think American campuses are jostling in adoration for Trump and his pal – after signing an executive order aimed at tackling anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“This is our message to universities: if you want to accept the federal dollars that you receive each year, you must reject anti-Semitism. What do students need to do to become good boys eligible for federal funds? Drop the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanction from Israel” that has been popular on campuses.

Jewish lobbies in Poland, for example, exerted their considerable influence on real estate transactions. Properties owned by Jews before the war were successfully taken over by the former owners at a price of gold. When a Polish law sought to prevent these transactions, the State Department intervened. Officials in Washington would keep a vigilant eye to protect Jewish interests. Imagine how the Poles would react to such interference.

The rise of anti-migrant and anti-Semitic leaders in Hungary, Germany, Austria, Poland is a depressing list. By their behavior, the Trump-Netanyahu duo only made the situation worse.

At an international conference in Warsaw last year, Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz accused Polish leaders of anti-Semitism. His language was incredibly coarse: “The Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk. How would this explosion have been recorded with viewers of Primetime TV in Poland?

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An undercurrent of anti-Semitism remains unnoticed because the global media more readily focuses on Islamophobia. Is the underreporting of anti-Semitic incidents a deterrent? The very first question Trump’s first press conference was asked by Jake Turx, the new White House correspondent for Ami magazine, an Orthodox Jewish publication from Brooklyn. The question was about the recent wave of hate crimes against Jews. Trump completely misunderstood the question. He thought the young reporter accused the new president of anti-Semitism. A few licks followed. A surprised Jake Turx sought to appease Trump.

“You have Jewish grandchildren. You are their Zayed (Yiddish for grandfather). The fog may have lifted that day, but Turx’s post from that day forward is a useful guide to burgeoning anti-Semitism, including the vicious knife attack in Monsey, New York, during Hanukkah celebrations last December was among the minor incidents. (IANS)


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