Anti-Semitism is at the core of Western culture. Even when a popular expression is “Judeo-Christian values,” it should not hide the fact that these “values” are lopsided. On one hand we have a God of revenge, on the other a God of mercy, Judas is the archetypal Jew, a traitor, as if all the apostles were not Jewish. The relations between the two creeds, Judaism and Christianity, were symbolized by the Disputations on the validity of both religions, the verdict known in advance: Judaism is wrong, Christianity is right. An analysis of classical European literature, in its French, English and other expressions, shows a regular feature of anti-Semitism stereotypes, from Shakespeare to Voltaire.
In modern times, what was mainly anti-Judaism — Jews converting to Christianity were welcomed if not feted — became anti-Semitism. Theological arguments, in a less religious society, were not anymore convincing. The ascending role of secular nationalism gave way to a secular form of anti-Jewish discourse, insisting on the racial identity, without possibility of opting out. Jews are intrinsically bad and should be either checked very closely (milder anti-Semitism), or exterminated (stronger anti-Semitism).
A rather equivalent attitude prevailed in Muslim societies. As the Christians, Muslims had to recognize the anteriority of Judaism and to affirm that their monotheism was of a higher level. When not using religious arguments, Muslim countries rely on racism: Jews, even without a theological component, are by definition inferior.
Western anti-Semitism, contrary to what Western societies would like to believe, is not a phenomenon of the past. It is very well alive.
How can we understand the interest, if not the obsession, of the West for anything Jewish. The symbol of Jews is less a specific religion, Judaism, but a national one in its Israeli expression. Israel is therefore treated as the archetype of anything bad and evil in the world. No word is strong enough to condemn Israel.
This obsession is so ingrained that many Western decisions are self-defeating. The European Union, for instance, recognizes the vitality of Israel’s economy, research and development, and sign treaties for joint endeavours, a normal way of dealing with national interests. Such is the case for inviting Israel to become a member of OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2010, or to become a partner in CERN, the first and only non-European member of European Organization for Nuclear Research in 2014.
But why threaten to impose special labelling for Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank, when not such a treatment is even considered for products from Chinese-occupied Tibet or Turkish-occupied (half of) Cyprus.
How can we understand the French proposition, encouraged by many European Union members, to impose a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and declare that Jerusalem, the Holy City of Judaism before there was Christianity or Islam, is Palestinian? Even more striking is the attitude of the Vatican. Christians constitute a dwindling population in the Middle East, except in Israel. They are massacred, their churches burnt down. The Holy See, in response, signs a treaty putting its own churches in Jerusalem under the tender loving care of the Palestinian Authority. It could be the reaction of a Catholic Church frightened by an unpleasant reality, it is also a demonstration of self-defeating anti-Semitism: we hate you, Jews, more than we love ourselves.
Non-Western countries, specifically Asian ones, do not have this kind of background. When religions are neither Christian nor Muslim, such as Confucianism, Bouddhism, Hinduism, they have no reason to be obsessed by Jews. You cannot ignore Judaism if you are a Christian or a Muslim, but you may be totally unaware of it when you are an adept of a non-monotheistic faith.
Does that entail that Asian countries are more open to Jews in general, to Israel in particular?
Till 25 years ago, the two major Asian states, China and India, were leading members of the Conference of Non-Aligned States, officially neither with Washington nor with Moscow. The leaders were Nehru, Chou En Lai, Nasser, Tito. The Conference was hostile to Israel but, in the case of China and India, this had no anti-Semitic connection. New Delhi and Beijing considered in their national interests to lambast Israel and befriend Arab states. When they estimated it was in their national interest to establish relations with Israel, even close relations, they did so without any theological or racial issues. They do not pretend to be ontologically superior to Israel and entitled to dictate their views, they maintain relation both with Israel and Arab states for the promotion of their own interests
The results are already tangible. A few years ago, two-thirds of Israeli economic exchanges were with the European Union and the United States. Today the second-largest partner is China and India is coming close. This trend, an upsurge of Asian countries in world economy, is obvious. The country’s economy is booming, and less and less dependent with the West.
An example of the open minded approach of the Asian countries comes from South Korea. This country studied the reason of the exceptionally high number of Israeli scientific Nobel Prizes and the rate that Israel discovers new technologies. They estimated that the intellectual ability encouraged by the study of Talmud was one of the explanations. They decided to introduce Talmudic studies in the schools. It has nothing to do with religion but was considered a tool, albeit of Jewish origin, for the specific goal of enhancing Korea’s place in the field of knowledge. The mere idea of a Western country doing the same is ludicrous.
If we believe in the “Judeo-Christian” discourse, Israel is part and parcel of the West. When we witness the permanence of anti-Semitism in Western culture, this link is questionable.
The West is, most probably without being conscious of it, encouraging Israel, and its high technology sector, to be increasingly linked with Asian countries, accelerating the rise of Asia in the world. In that way, the West’s enduring anti-Semitism, consciously or not, is helping bring about the end of Western political, cultural, economic and perhaps even cultural domination of the world.