The most familiar act of anti-Semitism is the Holocaust, but anti-Semitism goes further back. The Holocaust began with the ideas of anti-Semitism, stereotypes, sinister cartoons, and the gradual spread of hate. Anti-Semitism is the prejudice and discrimination against or harassment of Jewish people. Martin Luther once wrote, "That next to the devil thou hast no enemy more cruel, more venomous and violent than a true Jew" (Dawidowicz, 23). Anti-Semitism is just like every other type of prejudice and discrimination, it represents a denial of human rights. Though violent Anti-Semitism acts are rare, there are still occurrences of anti-Semitism today.
The roots of anti-Semitism were believed to be started in Ancient Israel. When Ancient Israel was invaded and destroyed, rulers blamed the Jews for the disaster. "The Jews had turned to another God and neglected their own ancient laws and Gods, therefore the Gods punished Israel"(Patterson 3). The Jews were then forced to leave Israel.
After leaving Ancient Israel, many Jews arrived in Ancient Greece and Rome. "It was in Alexandria where the first anti-Jewish acts were recorded" (Patterson 5). There they had limits to social and commercial life. "The Syrian emperor Antiochos Epiphanes IV (175-163 BC) even tried to stop them from practicing their religion"(Patterson 4). They were forced to worship Zeus, but revolted. This gave the Jews political independence and granted them certain rights. This only led to more tensions within the city.
Greek writers attacked Jews and wrote they were slaves in Egypt and expelled because they were lepers. "In certain places Jews were tolerated but forced to wear certain clothing or identification, restricted to certain quarters, and required to pay special taxes" (Patai 74). Apion who was Alexandria's most prominent anti-Semitic writer, held Jews accountable with every
offense imaginable. "He accused them of hating people, being traitors, ridiculed their beliefs, killing human beings and kidnaping" (Patterson 5). Jews were said to have rituals celebrating their murders and kidnaping's.
With the new faith, Christianity, and the failure to convert Jews, the Catholic Church charged Jews with the crucifixion of Jesus. Roman Emperors sent officials to rule Judea directly and convert the Jews to Christianity. Tension exploded and in A.D. 66. A bloody war between the Jews and Romans would take place for four years. Christians began to bring a negative picture of Judaism in their writings. John Chrysostom, "Doctor of the Church", criticized and attacked Jews of his city. He called them ; "lustful, rapacious, greed, perfidious bandits . . . inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil" (Patterson, 9). Jews questioned if the Christians forgotten Jesus was a Jew?.
As the Medieval and Middle Ages approached Anti-Semitism did not end. Jews were denied citizenship and civil rights. The Crusades were a massive murder for the Jews. They were fighting over the Holy Land. "As many as ten thousand were killed, one third of the Jewish population in Germany" (Patterson, 12). This only led to the resentment of Jews and more alarm.
They were denied positions of authority in government and military, membership in guilds and professions, and from owning any land. After time they were cloistered to ghettos and had to wear hats or badges for identification purposes. Government restricted Jews to certain jobs as well. "Popular lore came to depict the Jew as having horns and a tail, like the devil, and a distinctive smell" (Patai 74). "When the Black Death (1347-1350) occurred Jews were accused for poisoning wells and food supplies" (Patia 75). This would put Jews at the lowest group in society and become harassed for every misfortune.
During the Enlightenment period, the Jews were given a new freedom. While many philosophers argued that Jews and Christians were equal and deserved equal rights, there were the few who disagreed. Voltaire was one who detested the Jews. He wrote that Jews were the "enemies of mankind" and claimed they were "most obtuse, cruel and absurd" (Patterson, 18). Voltaire gave others the idea that Jews were the sworn enemy.
Emancipation followed the Enlightenment era. Emancipation abolished special taxes on Jews and permitted them to leave their ghettos. This angered many. They feared Jews would take over and punish them, as they had done to them. Due to the Emancipation act, nationalism and anti-Semitism ideas