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Europe and the Jews

When did the Christian world believe that Jews had horns?

Here are a few examples of behaviour against Jews in Europe a few years ago (you can find more at the European Forum on anti-Semitism www.european-forum-on-antisemitism.org) :

> In Belgium, thugs beat up the chief rabbi, kicking him in the face and calling him "a dirty Jew." Two synagogues in Brussels were firebombed; a third, in Charleroi, was sprayed with automatic weapon fire.

> Oxford professor Tom Paulin, a noted poet, told an Egyptian interviewer that American Jews who move to the West Bank and Gaza "should be shot dead."

> A Jewish yeshiva student reading the Psalms was stabbed 27 times on a London bus.

> In Italy, the daily paper La Stampa published a Page 1 cartoon: A tank emblazoned with a Jewish star points its gun at the baby Jesus, who pleads, "Surely they don't want to kill me again?"

> In Germany, a rabbinical student was beaten up in downtown Berlin and a grenade was thrown into a Jewish cemetery. Thousands of neo-Nazis held a rally, marching near a synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath. Graffiti appeared on a synagogue in the western town of Herford: "Six million were not enough."

> In Ukraine, skinheads attacked Jewish worshippers and smashed the windows of Kiev's main synagogue. Ukrainian police denied that the attack was anti-Jewish.

> In Greece, Jewish graves were desecrated in Loannina and vandals hurled paint at the Holocaust memorial in Salonica.

> In Holland, an anti-Israel demonstration featured swastikas, photos of Hitler, and chants of "Sieg Heil" and "Jews into the sea."

> In Slovakia, the Jewish cemetery of Kosice was invaded and 135 tombstones destroyed.

> In Lyon, France, a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire. In Montpellier, the Jewish religious centre was firebombed; so were synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles; so was a Jewish school in Creteil. A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails, and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus in Paris, the words "Dirty Jew" were painted.

Anti-Semitism, despite the impact of the Holocaust, has never left Europe. It became unfashionable for a while, but now it is back, particularly - if the statistics are to be believed - in France. "Stop saying that there is anti-Semitism in France," President Jacques Chirac once scolded a Jewish editor. "There is no anti-Semitism in France." Perhaps the following statistics help us to understand better what is happening in France. There are approximately 4.7 million Muslims and only about 480,000 Jews presently living in France. To answer Chirac, perhaps we should say, "Something smells very Vichy in the air"!

Perhaps it's time for light relief, so let's look at some popular misconceptions, particularly from medieval times, just to show how ignorance was rife in that lamentable period of Christian history.

> Many Medieval Christians actually believed that Jews had horns and a tail. This was due to a mistranslation by Jerome of a passage in the Book of Exodus describing Moses as he came down from Mount Sinai. The Hebrew used the word for a 'ray of light' shining from his forehead. This was mistranslated as 'horns'. Michaelangelo actually sculpted Moses the Lawgiver with a nice set of horns!

> It was believed that Jews had a characteristic smell that would disappear as soon as they convert!

> One piece of research on the Jewish nose concluded that it was the hereditary outcome of a habitual expression of indignation.

> Still on noses, yet another study found that most Jews do not have a Jewish nose, but a Greek nose.

> The German leader Bismarck once said that Germany's male nobility should marry Jewish women, to "improve their race"! (Of course he didn't realise that offspring would legally be Jewish, which would have been quite interesting!)

"Whadyamean?" goes the cry, "some of my best friends are Jewish!" This can be a comment delivered with full sincerity, but often the body language and voice tone tells you otherwise. In fact many Gentiles, when confronted by an accusation that prompts this opening remark, are unaware of any negative feelings towards Jews. This is particularly so for Christian Gentiles. Yet it can be there, lurking in deep dark corners of your psyche, or what the psychologist called the racial memory or archetypes. It's like those unreachable fat deposits in your sink 'U' bend. It blocks the flow of water and can only be shifted by a spurt of caustic soda.

Steve Maltz

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation ,

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