On this day, Christians around the world recall a particular execution which took place at the hands of an imperialist power in a small and relatively insignificant piece of occupied territory some 2,000 years ago.
A Jew from Galilee, Yeshua by name, was nailed to a cross and then finally despatched by a spear thrust into his heart. On this day, too, many Christians who are remembering this event are also standing by while others are engaged in not dissimilar acts of hatred: not of the physical kind, as yet, but of the type which leads to the defamation of those same people with whom Yeshua was identified, namely, the Jews.
Our society has in general become much more sensitive to language which vilifies individuals or groups on the basis of their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation: how paradoxical, therefore, that one of the most poisonous and long-lasting forms of such speech, that of anti-Semitism, seems to be flourishing in some universities and political groups.
Some activists have been writing about ‘the Jewish question’ (might that phrase have any resonance in recent European history?)
There is, it has been suggested, a Zionist conspiracy to take over the world. Others with even greater insight have noted that Jews ‘have big noses’: of great benefit, no doubt, in helping them to sniff out opportunities for making money.
What is the basis for this visceral hatred which, it must be noted, has not only been tolerated by Christians but even actively encouraged?
Its roots in the ancient world are varied, and include the belief that the Jews were guilty as a whole for the death of the Son of God, and that they kidnapped and murdered Christian children in order to use their blood as part of their Passover ritual.
In more recent times, it has been manifested in a particular focus on the state of Israel. Many of the recent ‘tweets’ from activists on the Left derive from a fundamental belief that the government of Israel is a Zionist ‘regime’ which practises a form of apartheid against the Palestinian ‘people’, stealing their land and ‘occupying’ it ‘illegally’.
A connection is regularly made between Zionism and Nazism, with the accusation that Israel is perpetrating its own ‘Holocaust’ by acts of genocide against the Arabs.
Little or no consideration is given to organisations such as Hamas which is committed to the destruction of Israel, and which tortures and kills its political opponents, persecutes homosexuals and holds the notion of freedom of speech in contempt.
Holders of these views will argue that they are not anti-Semitic but merely anti-Zionist.
However, their language is so polluted with anti-Semitic tropes that they have reasonably been named the ‘new’ anti-Semites, who deny to Jews the rights which they uphold for other, comparable peoples, who believe in the principle of national self-determination, except for the Jews, and who are morally outraged by the State of Israel but appear untroubled by, for example, the state of Iran.
These are deeply disturbing trends which, if left to flourish, may lead to the resurgence of the kind of conditions in which ‘the Jewish question’ will once again be answered by the gas chamber.
On this Good Friday, we might profitably reflect on the death of Jesus the Jew in this light.