ANTI-SEMITISM is an ancient derangement, the oldest of hatreds, so it is strange that it lacks a more meaningful name. The misnomer "anti-Semitism" - a term coined in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr, who wanted a scientific-sounding euphemism for Judenhass, or Jew-hatred - is particularly inane, since hostility to Jews has never had anything to do with Semites or being Semitic.This week Jews around the world celebrated the holiday of Purim. The story takes place in Persia. It recounts how Haman, an advisor to the king, feels insulted when a Jew, Mordechai, refuses to bow down to him. That act led Haman to appeal to the king for a decree to destroy the Jewish community of Persia and all its provinces.
Jacoby asks "what drives such bloodlust?" The Jewish community had done nothing to Haman, "just as Jews in later ages did nothing that justified their persecution under the Church or Islam, or their repression at the hands of Russian czars and Soviet commissars, or their slaughter by Nazi Germany."
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Of course Haman had his ostensible reasons for targeting Jews. So did Hitler and Arafat; so does Ahmadinejad. Sometimes the anti-Semite focuses on the Jew's religion, sometimes on his laws and lifestyle, sometimes on his national identity or his professional achievements. Ultimately, however, it is the Jew's Jewishness, and the call to higher standards that it represents, that the anti-Semite cannot abide.
With all their flaws and failings, the Jewish people endure, their role in history not yet finished. So the world's oldest hatred endures too, as obsessive and indestructible -- and deadly -- as ever.