How Has Messianism Shaped Modern Antisemitism
"ONLY WHEN THIS JEWISH BACILLUS INFECTING THE LIFE OF PEOPLES HAS BEEN REMOVED CAN ONE HOPE TO ESTABLISH A CO-OPERATION AMONGST THE NATIONS WHICH SHALL BE BUILT UPON A LASTING UNDERSTANDING." ADOLF HITLER
"When the Vermin are Dead..." Caption: "When the vermin are dead, the German oak will again flourish." Der Stürmer was published by the Nuremberg Nazi leader Julius Streicher.
Nazism is a millennial messianic movement in every regard. The German messiah made the extermination of the Jews, as a collective, the foundation for erecting the thousand-year Reich. For the Nazis, the Jews weren’t merely unwanted sub-humans but the epicenter of pathology not just for Germans but humanity in its entirety. Speaking in terms of “infestation” and “pathogens” the German antisemites made it clear that making Europe Judenrein is a benevolent and even altruistic salvific mission. Only the salvation from the Jews will bring about the kingdom of heaven. Only when humanity is “cured” then the wolves and lambs of the world shall dwell together in lasting cooperation and understanding. The destruction of the Jews was the salvation needed to usher in the peaceable kingdom. “The extermination of Jewry throughout the world”, declared a Nazi directive from 1943, is “the precondition for an enduring peace.”
Many seem to look back at the not too distant past of WWII and see some sort of mystical villainy; an unparalleled and impossible to understand inhumanity which is beyond comprehension. This view of out-of-history Nazi criminality is often aided by Hollywood vampire-like Nazis and History channel satanic Hitler. But this seemingly supernatural and evil claim by Nazis is neither new nor unique, nor is it vanishing. Antisemitism in all of its forms revolves around metaphysical messianic beliefs emphasizing the need for salvific actions against the Jews. Antisemitic messianism doesn’t view Jews as individuals but as a historical collective which exists outside of human history competing with it. This applies to all forms of ancient, classical, and contemporary antisemitism whether religion, nationalistic, or progressive.
The centrality of the Jews to the collections of religious fantasies and fascinations, be them claimants of divinities or of national authorities, concerning the salvation of humanity is deeply rooted in the world’s different religious traditions. St. Augustine considered Jews to be the witness people whose perpetual suffering is a reminder of the killing of Christ which for Christianity is the actual salvation of mankind in the most literal sense. Martin Luther advocated for the need to destroy all signs of Jewish life. Converting the Jews to Christianity was and is considered a necessary adjunct to the end of the days by many Christians, and is a prophesized event particularly within evangelical circles. And it is no secret this very belief contributes to some of the evangelical interest in the Israeli Palestinian conflict today.
Not to be outdone, Islamic orthodoxy also didn’t miss out on the childish obsession with the apocalypse. A famous tradition of the hadith proclaims the annihilation of the Jews to be a messianic age event. “The Day of Judgement shall not come about until Muslims fight the Jews when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” This tradition became part of the charter of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, and is mentioned in their creed in fighting Israel.
The prophecy of the ideal future post salvation is a cornerstone of any form of messianism. A thousand-year peaceable kingdom of harmonious existence. This too was and is present in anti-Zionism since its early days. For post-colonial pan Arabists, Israel is the symptom, the disease, the means, and the end. Defeating Israel and throwing its inhabitants into the sea is the beginning of a utopia. For Nasserism, the defeat of Israel was supposed to signal the complete end of colonialism, reactionary regimes, and to usher in the pan-Arabist republican caliphate, thus the victory of Israel was ultimately the demise of pan-Arabism.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a Shia theocracy which also shares the same messianic belief. The Iranian regime views its existence as paving the way for the appearance of the Shiite messiah, the Mehdi. The propagation of Iranian messianism started with the Islamic Revolution and intensified with Iranian scuffles with the west. The Iran-Iraq war was viewed, especially in Iran, as an apocalyptic war, as is the war in Syria today, especially with the Shiite belief the Mehdi will appear in Syria. In Shiite eschatology, the battle of the end of days will witness the rise of Dajal, an antichrist figure who will be Jewish and will lead a Jewish army. One can only hope the Iranian quest after nuclear weapons is not motivated by the religious obsession with an apocalyptic end of days battle, yet Iranian words seem to indicate otherwise. “The Zionist regime will be wiped out and humanity will be liberated.” Those were the words of one Iranian president echoing German messianism and promising us eternal salvation, words which are repeated in spirit by many Iranian leaders. “The age of darkness will end” proclaimed Ahmedinijad in front of the UN in September 2007.
The obsession with salvific action against Jews seems to exist in many sorts of religious dogmas regardless of their rational orientation. The ability of the conspiracy narrative of the global malevolent elite, the rootless cosmopolitan Jew, to transcend deep ideological boundaries is a testimony to the metaphysical nature of the obsession with the Jews. Contemporary far-right antisemitism views Jews as a cosmopolitan class of conspirators actively plotting for the end of white racial purity and presses on the urgency of the act of salvation against them -- as expressed by the shooter of the San Diego Chabad recently. Contemporary far-left ideologues, ironically, are concerned with the same international Jew. According to Labour party antisemites in the United Kingdom, it is Jewish money which is, in the familiar pathological terms, infests and corrupts British politics. The same emphasis on the contamination of public life by Jewish money is made by Democratic US Congress members such as Ilhan Omar. Far-left populists spew the same poison on every occasion. “Satanic Jews have infected the whole world with poison and deceit.” so is minister Louis Farrakhan convinced. To end the Jewish influence is to save the masses from their undue suffering, to relieve them from the exploitation of the Rothchilds and the Soroses, and to end the decadence of the world. The intersection between Marxist conspiratorial thought, socialist messianism, fascism, and antisemitism is inevitable due to their co-emphasis on the need for salvific action.
But of all the forms of contemporary antisemitism, anti-Zionism is the most blatant and glaring when it comes to messianism. Anti-Zionism does not try to mask its utter hate and contempt for the Jewish state. One cannot miss the metaphysical nature of the ludicrous claim the State of Israel is the cause and reason of all regional and even global instability. The irrational conviction that Israel is almost always responsible for any problem in the world including Middle Eastern instability, terrorism, 9/11, American police shooting incidents, etc is the manifestation of the social neuroses that is antisemitism.
The senseless grievances against Israel are in fact nothing more than the modern manifestation of the same desperate and sublime yearnings for salvation. The obvious piety and devotion in opposing the Jewish state are that of spiritual quest for purity. Nothing matters but Israel and nothing harms but Israel. There are no campus demonstrations for millions of oppressed Middle Eastern non-Muslim minorities, no special UN bodies to feed starving Yemeni toddlers, and there were no Students for Justice for Yazidis. I don’t believe it was due to lack of interest, but rather due to a deep belief that all the calamities and all the tragedies were because of the abomination that is Israel and nothing could help any of those poor people more than bringing it to an end. Those senseless grievances against Israel are as metaphysical as a spiritual conviction.
So too, the BDS movement has an obsessive adherence to a messianic anti-Zionist vision. It is no secret the BDS movement doesn’t care about the two-state solution. Omar Barghouti and other BDS activists made it clear over and over they are not interested in a state for the Palestinian but in ending the one for the Jews. The goal of the BDS movement and other anti-Zionist movements is to destroy the Jewish state..The end of Israel is supposed to be the end of all injustice and suffering and the beginning of the thousand-year kingdom. As’ad Abukhalil, a BDS supporting professor said: “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.” Another one proclaimed “Peace-or better yet, justice-cannot be achieved without a total decolonization (one can say de-Zionization) of the Israeli state.” No matter how rationalized those claims might sound, they are essentially looping inside the very same religious messianic promise for salvation.
Messianism, in all its forms, is self-sustaining and doesn’t end largely due to faith being the catalyst of messianism. Faith makes its most demands from the individual in its highest state of unbelievability. History is full of false messiahs and false prophets who were proven wrong, yet it seems that a core of firm believers always remain to revive their messianism later and it is the responsibility of sane rational humans to confront such childish human tendencies. Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism, aside from being hateful and detestable ideologies, are false prophecies promising a fantasy world free of wrong after the necessary destruction needed. Only after breaking the eggs once can make the omelet, they proclaim. Many tragedies of human history were nothing but the whims and fantasies of madmen. Such messianisms are poisonous, dangerous, and calamitous in every way imaginable and their recent rise should concern every free mind. Like all the false prophecies and fraudulent messiahs of the past, this one too demands our faith and our action for the sake of the hereafter, and like all false prophecies this too shall, and will, pass. But, it will only do so when the sane women and men of the world decide upon it.