New or Déj à Vu?
Déjà vu—that familiar feeling of having experienced the same situation before—describes the growing awareness that, throughout modern Europe, the anti-Semitism of the 1930s is resurfacing.
A report issued by the parliament of the 25-member European Union (EU) cited Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Germany as EU countries where anti-Semitism is growing.
“The old cancer is back….Jews in Europe cannot lead a normal life,” said Cobi Benatoff, president of the European Jewish Congress.1
Beate Winkler, director of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, believes the EU report is “enough to cause fear and great distress” among Europe’s 1.2 million Jews.2 Unlike the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, which was driven by the fascist right, the current upsurge comes from the left—the “politically correct, centre-left which simultaneously condemns acts of anti-Semitism while defending regimes which support terrorism against Israel,” said Peter Sichrovsky, Aus -trian member of the European Parliament.3 And it is reaching into areas of Europe that traditionally were free of anti-Semitism.
Some time ago, as I was handed my mail at the post office in Edinburgh, Scotland, the clerk looked at me quizzically and asked, “What kind of political organization is The Friends of Israel?” I explained that we preach the good news of the Messiah, educate Christians about the Jewish background of the Bible, and actively oppose anti-Semitism. After several more questions, he smiled and said, “Did you know I’m Jewish?” He then told me he was raised in Edinburgh and, until the Iraqi war, had never been afraid to admit he was Jewish; now he is.
Not only has life changed for the Jewish residents of Scotland’s capital, but it also has changed for all Jewish people in the EU. In Britain alone, for example, anti-Semitic incidents (physical assaults, arson, desecration of property, etc.) rose 75 percent between 2002 and 2003. France recorded a sixfold increase.4
The New Hybrid
Unlike the 1930s, when anti-Semitism targeted the Jewish people and their religion, today’s anti-Semitism is more political, fueled by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
A 2003 European opinion poll of 7,500 people in 15 EU countries revealed that 60 percent of Europeans consider Israel the greatest threat to world peace, an even bigger threat than Iran, North Korea, and the United States.5 However, former Soviet dissident and Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky called this so-called political criticism “pure anti-semitism.”6 In reality, today’s anti-Semitism combines international politics and traditional anti-Semitism, resulting in a hybrid that could be labeled, “New Millennia Anti-Semitism.”
As Americans living in Britain, we have seen this hybrid merge with anti-Americanism following the events leading up to, and including, the Iraqi war. This merger is not surprising because the media strongly misrepresents the news regarding both Israel and the United States, catering instead to the EU’s 17 million Muslims who are regarded as a valuable “market” to please.
The historically famous BBC, once known for unbiased, factual reporting, is now cited as having an “unrelenting anti-Israel bias.”7 The Guardian newspapers reported that the Israeli government found, “Britain suffered the sharpest rise in anti-Semitic attacks of any country last year, and British press coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a leading cause.”8 The British media rarely reports Palestinian attacks on Israel but widely reports Israel’s retaliation. Sadly, Sharansky noted, “Anti-Semitism has become politically correct in Europe.”9
Emanuele Ottolenghi of Britain’s Guardian newspaper believes “some of Israel’s critics use anti-Semitic stereotypes” and “frequently offer a mask of respectability” to anti-Semitism. “By describing Israel as the root of all evil, they provide the linguistic mandate and the moral justification to destroy it.”10
Most disturbing, reported Chris McGreal, also in The Guardian, is that the “new” anti-Semitism “emanates from influential groups such as academics, politicians and the media and is dressed up as criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”11
The truth, of course, is that the land is not Palestinian; the land belongs to Israel.
Unfortunately, today’s hatred of Jewish people is a reflection of Europe’s declining spiritual state and its ignorance of God’s plan for both the world and the nation of Israel. Of greater concern is the growing number of Christians being lured into this anti-Semitic, anti-biblical mindset.
Thankfully, there is still a significant element of Bible-believing Christians in Europe who support Israel. They oppose anti-Semitism and are committed, biblical Zionists who love the Jewish people and exhibit the same convictions that drove others to rescue Jews during World War II. Evidence can be found in modern movements that support Israel, such as the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem that last year drew almost 7,000 people, the majority of whom came from Europe.
Nevertheless, it is important to understand the forces that are popularizing “Christian” anti-Semitism.
The Offshoot of Wrong Doctrine
In 1917 a spiritually stronger Britain, with its Balfour Declaration, led the world in the drive to create a homeland for the Jewish people. Today Britain is spiritually bankrupt, and few British Christians publicly support the Jewish homeland. By studying this spiritual decline, one can understand how this new form of anti-Semitism crept into British Christian society.
In a recent survey, 14,000 Brits responded to the question, “How did such a spiritual catastrophe occur since the end of World War II?” Hundreds of pages of replies revealed four root causes: (1) a decline in believing, caring pastors, (2) a lack of solid Bible teaching, (3) a failure to call for holiness, and (4) a failure to defend the faith.12
The scarcity of solid Bible teaching, the second most significant cause, directly affects anti-Semitism. Seeking to confirm this conclusion, I recently visited a spectrum of British churches to hear what they teach. I found tepid, empty messages lacking in any scriptural basis, content, or understanding. Also lacking was any sense of mission or purpose and any presentation of the gospel. How could this happen?
Following World War I most Euro -peans were optimistic about the future, believing that out of the “war to end all wars,” a Utopian world would emerge. Christians saw a spiritual kingdom coming to Earth through social improvement. World War II destroyed both dreams and ushered in a spiritual cynicism that found its way to the pulpit.
Many pastors began to promote the amillennial view of history, which fit the pessimistic mood of postwar Europe and the public’s sharply declining spiritual interests. Theologically, Amillennialism sees no future, earthly Kingdom of Jesus Christ, but rather teaches a final culmination of history as Christ gathers all believers to heaven and metes out final judgment to unbelievers.
Such a belief denies God’s future for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. It also repudiates the biblical teaching of Christ’s premillennial return to Earth to establish a thousand-year, literal Kingdom with Him ruling in Israel on David’s throne (1 Chr. 17:11–14; Rev. 20:4). The premillennial view of history requires both a literal nation of Israel and a Jewish people.
Not having the premillennial view of history and misunderstanding God’s plan for the ages, many disillusioned European Christians began to drift away from the churches. As a result, they failed to understand the prophetic significance of the establishment of the State of Israel and, like the British government, turned against both it and the Jewish people. Instead of remembering God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people and curse those who curse them (Gen. 12:3), great numbers chose to turn against them, not realizing the consequences.
At this point, aggressive amillennialists began to move into premillennial circles by playing on the fear that prophetic teaching is divisive and results in declining church attendance. Believing they were avoiding divisiveness, churches ceased teaching such prophetic books as Daniel and Revelation. Soon they began excluding other Old Testament books and some of the apostle Paul’s passages. This attitude clearly runs contrary to the doctrine, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).
As the movement spread, biblical understanding and knowledge began to fade from church pulpits. Lacking a proper scriptural understanding of history, including Israel’s significance in God’s plan as well as the role of the Jewish people, Brits began to view God as irrelevant. They sought solutions and answers elsewhere, creating a precipitous spiritual decline. Without a solid biblical foundation, they were easily lured into the insidious deception of “Christian” anti-Semitism.
Analyzing the Evil
The primary driving force of anti-Semitism is, of course, man’s sinful heart. After salvation, one need no longer follow the old nature, with its anti-Semitic tendency. We have a new nature, given to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Sadly, despite the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of many Christians, anti-Semitism continues. It may not appear in the form of a conscious attack on Jewish people; it may, in fact, be the subtle denial of God’s future role for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. This lack of understanding confuses one’s view of the present State of Israel.
The second driving force is Satan, who is fighting to maintain his present rule of the earth (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Upon Christ’s premillennial return to establish His earthly Kingdom, Satan’s rule will be overthrown. Then the Jewish people will recognize that Jesus was their Messiah all along and accept Him as their King (Zech. 12:10; 13:1). Thus Satan wants to destroy them beforehand, so his evil kingdom can continue. He will not succeed.
God assures us of Satan’s defeat when the Messiah returns to establish His Millennial, earthly Kingdom (Rev. 20:1–3, 10). As the days draw closer for Christ’s coming, Satan will use anti-Semitism in his attempt to destroy both Israel and the Jewish people. This satanic effort will reach a crescendo during the future Tribulation.
But in the end, Israel will triumph:
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it (Zech. 12:3).
Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ of hosts: “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (8:23).
- “Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Britain Says EU,” March 31, 2004 <http://archives.tcm.ie/breakingnews/ 2004/03/31/story140775.asp>.
- “Viewpoints: Anti-Semitism and Europe,” December 3, 2003 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/ 3234264.stm>.
- “Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Britain Says EU.”
- Chris McGreal, “EU Poll Sees Israel As Peace Threat,” November 3, 2003 <www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1076442,00.html>.
- Guardian Newspapers, “Rising UK Anti-Semitism Blamed on Media,” January 25, 2005 <www.buzzle.com/editorials/1-25-2005-64763.asp>.
- Chris McGreal, “The ‘New’ Anti-Semitism: Is Europe in Grip of Worst Bout of Hatred Since the Holocaust?” November 25, 2003 <www.guardian.co.uk/farright/story/0,11981,1092466,00.html>.
- Emanuele Ottolenghi, “Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism,” November 29, 2003 <www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1095694,00.html>.
- McGreal, “The ‘New’ Anti-Semitism: Is Europe in Grip of Worst Bout of Hatred Since the Holocaust?”
- B. London Jr., “The Challenged Church,” The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, July 15, 2005 <www.family.org/pastor/resources/pwb/a0037200.cfm>.