|Around the world, Jewish people are getting ready to celebrate Purim, the festival instituted by Mordecai as recorded in the Book of Esther. In Israel, throngs of party-goers will spill out into the streets to joyfully remember their deliverance from the evil Haman and his accomplices who sought to wipe out all the Jews of Persia. It’s a lot of fun if you ever get the chance to participate!
This year, however, there is much to be concerned about given the appreciable rise of anti-Semitism around the globe and specifically in the United States of America. like the United Kingdom, the United States has long been considered a safe haven for Jewish communities outside of Israel. Unfortunately, in recent years, the number of anti-Semitic attacks have increased in the USA with the F.B.I. disclosing that in 2017 over 50% of all religiously motivated hate crimes were directed at Jews. Added to this is the fact that the UK and the USA have now witnessed the previously unthinkable rise of politicians who openly embrace anti-Semitic positions.
In the UK for instance, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has warned that Jews would feel compelled to leave the country should the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn come to power. In the United States, a “Jexodus” movement has begun imploring Jews to abandon the Democratic Party following oft repeated anti-Semitic rhetoric from Junior Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. These clearly anti-Semitic statements by her have been met with only a half-hearted rebuke by her Democratic Party colleagues.
Lessons from Persia
Ezekiel 35: 5 warns of an “ancient hatred” harbored against the Jewish people that ultimately seeks their destruction. We see this in the story of Esther where Haman sought to wipe out the Jewish people for the supposed crime of being faithful to the laws God had given them.
The Talmud teaches that Haman rejoiced when he saw that the Pur (lots) he threw to determine the date of the Jews’ destruction had fallen on the month of Adar because that is month of Moses’ death. Driven by a desire to supersede the law-giver, Moses, Haman developed his theory of Jews holding a dual-loyalty, thus making them untrustworthy citizens. Sound familiar? It should, because here’s a recent quote from Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.):
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country”
Omar was referring to Jews, specifically those working for AIPAC, and accused them of seeking to expand their supposed dual-loyalty to the State of Israel. This is nothing less than classic anti-Semitism, repeated in history as illustrated in the Dreyfus Case in France that helped spark Theodore Herzl’s Zionist movement, and the devilish Protocols of Zion which fueled the pogroms of Eastern Europe and Russia, focing thousands of Jews to flee to Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century.
Lessons from Egypt
In a month’s time Passover will be remembered by Jews all around the world by which they will celebrate their deliverance from yet another tyrant, Pharaoh, who enslaved them and attempted to murder all their newborn male children for fear that the they were becoming too powerful. Through the centuries, Jews in the diaspora were forced into occupations considered less reputable, in areas such as finance and loans. When they succeeded, they were then accused of using their financial power to wield undue influence upon the nations in which they found themselves.
Once again, Omar has unfortunately provided us with a modern-day repeat of this old canard. She has claimed that Israel has “hypnotized the world” and suggested that AIPAC pays off politicians to buy their support of Israel. She seems to have bought into this dangerous fallacy that the Jews are secretly using money and dark means to control the world behind the scenes.
While Omar’s anti-Semitic comments have been broadly denounced, there has unfortunately been an attempt by some to excuse her comments as well-founded but poorly worded. The notion is that while criticism of Israel is valid, it just needs to be done in a more sensitive manner. This is nothing less than a Trojan Horse designed to provide cover for an extreme position on Israel and implicate every Jew in the West as complicit with Israel’s alleged crimes.
Lessons from Europe
Studies have shown that in Europe especially, anti-Semitic incidents rise exponentially when Israel is forced to respond to another round of Hamas’s violent targeting of her civilian population with rocket barrages. Jews in Europe are held directly responsible for what is perceived as injustice by Israel when they act to significantly weaken Hamas’s ability to attack her citizens. The exporting of this disturbing mindset to the United States is truly disturbing and should be confronted in uncompromising fashion lest it take root and start to fester.
Some might say that criticism of Israel is valid. Fair enough, but when the intent of that critique is to repeat blatant lies, whether claiming her defense against rocket attacks constitutes a genocide or her security measures to limit terrorist attacks from the West Bank amount to Apartheid, we should realize that the goal is not to engage in open debate, but rather to falsely paint Israel as an evil regime that needs to be dismantled. Any Jewish support in the West for Israel is therefore deemed a dangerous impediment to this hideous goal.
An Evangelical Response
Despite all this bad news, the good news is that Israel and the Jewish people do not find themselves alone this Purim. Millions of Bible-believing Christians around the world understand the special place the Jewish people hold in God’s economy, having thoroughly rejected the kind of classic anti-Semitic tropes that even invaded the Church through such erroneous constructs as Supersessionism and Replacement Theology.
Indeed, many Evangelical Christians read the story of Esther and understand that Mordecai’s reminder that she had been called “for such a time as this” resonates today, compelling them to take a stand for Israel and the Jewish people in the places God affords them a voice. And if ever there was a time when that voice was needed, it is now.