Jeffrey Sanow: On Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semites

Greetings and thank you.  I like to start this discussion with two of my favorite Bible Stories.  The first is from Second Joshua.  This is the story where Joshua sends two spies into Jericho to scope out the defenses. Unfortunately, the king found out about them and sent his soldiers after them.  This is just a guess, but I suspect things would not end well for a spy in that day and age. But they would certainly end – just not well.  So a kind Harlot – Bible speak for prostitute – hid them and directed the soldiers the wrong way so the two spies could escape.  As we all learned in Sunday School, the walls came tumbling down.  Spies and prostitutes have been working together since the beginning of time.  We pray on the same weakness – ego.

My second favorite Bible story is the story of Saul’s conversion to Paul on the road to Damascus as told in Acts 9. I say that because I made many trips to Damascus and always visited St. Paul’s chapel and walked down the Street Called straight.  I encourage you to read that chapter and I can assure you that the places mentioned in Acts 9 exist to this day.  This brings the Bible alive.

The Apostle Paul is a complex character in the history of Christianity. He went from a Jew hunting down followers of Jesus to a follower of Jesus with some antisemitic tendencies. All Christians at that time were Jews, including Jesus. Some have interpreted Paul’s writing as encouraging antisemitism.  This is particularly true for his Letter to the Thessalonians 2.14-15.  Let us look more closely at the origins of antisemitism.

But first let me quote a Lutheran Pastor who was executed in April 1945 for participating in an assassination plot against Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:  God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.” 

With the conversion of the Roman Emperors, Christianity became the sole established religion of the Roman Empire. The refusal of Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah was viewed as a threat by the Roman rulers.  Starting approximately 300 CE, a pattern of discrimination developed against Jews.  Jews could not marry Christians, could not hold positions in government and could not witness against Christians in court.  In northern Europe, certain bizarre claims against Jews became common thought.  This “blood libel” as it was called, stated that Jews had horns and tails and engaged in ritual killings of Christians.

The first Crusades from 1096-1099, inspired by Pope Urban II, were the first example of a Pogrom – the organized massacre of a targeted group of people. The Crusader army swept through Jewish communities, first in Constantinople, across Turkey and south into Jerusalem, looting, raping and massacring Jews.

Martin Luther, founder of the Reformation and Protestantism and notorious Antisemite, wrote a pamphlet in 1545 claiming Jews thirsted for Christian blood and urged the slaying of the Jews. Scholars believe this is the transition from anti-Judaism – hatred of Jews for rejecting Christianity to Antisemitism – hatred of Jews as a so-called race.

Modern antisemitism came into being in the late 1800s. The term was coined by Wilhelm Marr, a German political agitator, in his writing, “Victory of Judaism over Germanism”.  In Russia, at about the same time the Czar’s Secret Police published a forged set of documents known as “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” This was supposedly a secret plot by Rabbis to take over the world. Despite countless reports since the publishing of the fraudulent documents in 1903, many still hold it as truth or, dare I say, gospel.

As German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller wrote: First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a socialist.

The pogroms of the Russian Empire in the 1800s were large scale, targeted and repeated anti-Jewish riots. The 1971 movie “Fiddler on the Roof” won three Oscars plus numerous other nominations and awards and is set in the early stages of the Russian Pogroms against Jews in what is now Ukraine.  Racism and antisemitism in the late 1800s and early 1900s were also facilitated by the development of Social Darwinism and pseudoscientific notions based on theories of racial superiority and inferiority.  This brings us to one of the more horrifying aspects of antisemitism: The Holocaust.

Martin Niemöller: Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist. 

The Vatican said it best in 1998:  “This century has witnessed an unspeakable tragedy which can never be forgotten. The attempt by the NAZI regime to exterminate the Jewish people, with the consequent killing of millions of Jews – women and men, young and old, children and infants – simply for being Jewish.

Christians were not let of the hook by Pope John Paul II who said, accurately, that there were Christians who did everything to save those who were persecuted, even to the point of risking their own lives, the spiritual resistance of many was not what humanity expected of Christ’s disciples.  I posit that the same remains true today.

Martin Niemöller: Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew

On many different levels, antisemitism is an emotionally laden phenomenon. Antisemitic forms of communication rely on various emotions like hatred, anger, fear, disgust, resentment, envy, pride etc. The cohesive value of antisemitism for group formation rests upon shared emotions among its members. In cases of antisemitic violence, emotions also play a major role: particularly in pogroms, an emotional orchestration and escalation of the violent masses takes place. Frequently, antisemitism includes the condemnation of (allegedly Jewish) behavior as immoral. Thus, anti-Semites often employ moral emotions like indignation or resentment which we must combat through truth and logic.

But wait.  I’m not Jewish.  I am a Lutheran white boy of German Scots descent from a small farm in northern Ohio.  What do I know about antisemitism or racism?  Let me tell you.

In almost every country my family and I have lived in, we have been subjected to racism. In India, we were given the “special watermelons” when we bought them from street vendors.  Those were the watermelons that had their weight increased by injecting water from a nearby puddle into the watermelon. It added a certain flavor, too, I might add.  In India, especially at the post office, my wife – a white girl from a farm in Kansas – was always served last.  Our two blond haired daughters were under near constant pressure whenever we were in public to be touched, with a very real risk of them being kidnapped – all because they were different.

In the United Arab Emirates, we were subject to various forms of discrimination and racism. In any store, locals simply cut in front of us. While driving, the risk was even greater.  The racism was institutionalized. As white foreigners, our car had a 5 digit license plate. Muslim Arabs from other countries had a 4 digit license plate.  Local Emiratees had 3- or 2-digit plates. If my wife or I were in an accident, we were automatically at fault.  Why? Because we were there. Had we not been there, the accident would not have happened. Of course, the dress restrictions on my wife and two daughters were extreme and they were all subject to the worse forms of sexual harassment whenever they were in public, especially if they rode in a taxi. Of course, when traveling in the Middle East, I was usually subjected to secondary inspection at Customs and Immigration.

Living, working in and traveling through multiple Sub-Saharan countries, also know as Black Africa, I was frequently subjected to racism. Sometimes it would take the form of near obsequious deference and sometimes it would be “close the door in your face” racism.

At my last job in Uganda, where I was GM of a large security company, I was literally the pretty face to put the clients at ease. And that is exactly how I was treated.  Does this rise to the level of lifelong systemic racism? No, not at all.  But it gave us a taste, a quite distasteful taste, of what it feels like in the real world to be subject to racism and antisemitism.

Antisemitism is a stain on society and culture just as slavery was.  Antisemitism is as old as slavery. The exodus of Jews from a life of slavery in Egypt happened roughly 3,400 years ago.

Exactly what is “antisemitism”? The modern meaning as of today is “hostility to, prejudice towards or discrimination against Jews”.  Historically, a “Semite” was someone from the Levant of the Middle East.  The Levant is essentially Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon along with bits of Egypt and Turkey. However, in modern lexicon, a “Semite” is a Jew.

Let’s look at recent history.  Subsequent significant antisemitic events happened in the runup to WWII.  The most significant event is “the Kristallnacht” which happened 9-10 November 1938 in Germany. The end result was 6 million Jews killed by the Holocaust.

We are repeating history as if the assault on Israel on October 7 somehow allows all of this antisemitic vitriol to erupt on our streets and campuses. Synagogues were attacked with Molotov cocktails in Berlin. In the UK, two Jewish schools closed due to safety concerns. An estimated 100,000 protesters in London demanded the erasure of Israel. In Australia, there were chants of gas the Jews.  In the US, over the two-week period following the October 7 attacks, there were 312 antisemitic attacks.

To further insult this great nation, on 15 November Hamas declared war on the United States of America. They “hold the administration fully responsible for the attack on Shifa Medical Center”.

The antisemitism of the UN is legendary. Employees paid for by your tax dollars supporting the UNWRA in Gaza participated in the Oct 7 Attacks.  As of 10 November 2023, the UN condemns Israel 8 times, with a total of 15 times by the end of 2023.  Yet not one condemns Hamas.  The pro Hamas crowd is equally Anti American.  They forced the closure of Grand Central Terminal not once but twice and tore down the US flag.

The level of antisemitism coming from college and universities is breathtaking.  The chants “from the river to the sea” and “gas the Jews” coming from campuses are unconscionable. At Harvard University, 100 faculty members signed a letter condemning the University’s efforts combating antisemitism.  Other students protested in support of Hamas at the Yale Harvard football game. University of Wisconsin students were chanting “glory to the martyrs”. All of these intellectual, highly educated academic leaders that support Hamas are blinded by either ego or stupidity.  The Hamas “Covenant” clearly states the goal of Hamas – The Islamic Resistance Movement – is the destruction of Israel.  The Covenant states, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it” and “The liberation of Palestine is an individual mandate for every Moslem wherever he may be”

Article 22 of the Covenant specifically targets the Freemasons, Rotary clubs (headquartered in Evanston, IL) and the Lions Club (headquartered in Chicago, IL) – effectively declaring war on the US – again.

Martin Niemöller: Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me

How do we overcome the intellectual, cultural and societal turpitude that exists today?   How is it that today over 50% of Americans age 18-29 think the Holocaust either never happened (20%) or is exaggerated (30%). Why do most educated people think that the persecution of the Jews started with the Holocaust – if they think about it at all?

Would we allow 20% of 18–29-year-olds to believe that slavery was a myth?  Would we allow protesters to chant “Gas the Blacks”? Would the presidents of our elite universities state that Racism is subject to the context of the comments?

We stop antisemitism by first refusing to accept it.  The large donors at universities pulling funding is a step in the right direction. The companies that have stated that they will not hire anyone who signed an antisemitic statement is a step in the right direction.  Parents not sending their children to colleges that support or allow antisemitism is a step in the right direction.

We stop antisemitism the way we stop all forms of bigotry. We call it out, identify it, refuse to accept it and condemn it. We implement and enforce policies the exact same way we enforce the creation of a non-hostile work environment.  Anyone who creates or contributes to a hostile work environment is penalized just as if they called out someone for being black or gay or anything else.

We must go back to the days of Dr. Martin Luther King and his dream that “one day we live in a nation where our children will not be judged by the color of their skin, their religious preference, or sexual orientation, but by the content of their character.

I will conclude with a quote from a man I am honored to call a friend.  Robert Sprague is the Treasurer for the State of Ohio. At a recent presentation, he said, “we must use our voices. we cannot be silent”.

Do not be silent. Speak out to end antisemitism.


Jeffrey Sanow

Jeffrey Sanow is a 24-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency. Jeffrey is an accomplished social skills instructor and expert at training military members and civilian intelligence personnel in the art of leveraging civilian business tools for the conduct of intelligence operations. In simpler terms, it was Jeffery’s job to recruit spies and steal secrets.

Jeffrey retired from the CIA in 2009 and taught intelligence operations at the Advanced Tradecraft Center and at the U.S. Army Joint Readiness Training Center.

Jeffrey served as a Senior Instructor focused on providing clients with the necessary planning, communications and field skills for U.S. government affiliated and commercial sector-based intelligence operations.

As a result of years in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, first as an agriculture development technician and then as a CIA field operations officer, Jeffrey developed a deep, personal understanding of the three monotheistic religions, their social constructs, and the inherent conflicts within.

Combined with his experience and desire to help, Jeffrey began speaking with the goal of reaching as many people as possible in the realm of understanding the nature of the conflicts and their resolution.

Copyright 2024. All rights reserved.

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