a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.
ANTISEMITISM & SCAPEGOATING
Antisemitism is very different in nature than any other form of bigotry. While other bigotries see their targets as inferior in some form, antisemites see Jewish People as powerful, sometimes supernatural, evil puppet masters, manipulating everything in the world to their benefit. Antisemitism often presents as conspiracy theories.
Antisemitism is known as the world’s oldest hatred because it’s over 3000 years old. As such, it’s built into the societies we live in.
Because of the nature of antisemitism, Jews have been the easy scapegoats for nearly every ill, war, plague, catastrophe, and more in history.
Deicide means the act of killing a god. Since the very early days of Christianity, Jews have been collectively accused of deicide — that is, the killing of Jesus. In fact, for two millennia, the persecution of Jews in Europe was justified because of these accusations of deicide.
The earliest recorded Jewish accusation of deicide took place in the first century BCE. Mathew 27:24-25 was used as justification.
However, the historicity of this charge is highly questionable. Jews in Roman Judea had no authority to sentence anyone to death. Historians believe that the Romans downplayed their role in the murder of Jesus in the Gospels because Christianity was struggling to gain acceptance throughout the Roman Empire.
It wasn’t until 1964 that the Roman Catholic Church declared Jews couldn’t be collectively held responsible for the death of Jesus.
In the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of causing a number of plagues, particularly the Black Death, by poisoning wells.
As a result of such accusations, Jews were massacred throughout Europe. Jewish quarters were destroyed. Jews were burned alive by the hundreds. Others committed suicide to avoid the persecutions. Many Jewish communities throughout Central Europe were exterminated entirely. In fact, such persecutions triggered the migration of Ashkenazi Jews from Central to Eastern Europe, where they remained for the next six centuries, until those communities were decimated during the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, this practice of scapegoating Jews for plagues, epidemics, and pandemics didn’t end with the Black Death. During COVID-19, government officials have pointed fingers to the Orthodox Jewish communities in New York.
WARS & REVOLUTIONS
Jews have been blamed for almost every war in history — from the French Revolution to World War I. Shockingly, Jews have also been accused of causing World War II and even the Holocaust. Sometimes the blame is more insidious. For example, Jews have been accused of “walking willingly to their deaths” during the Babi Yar massacre during the Holocaust.
Today isn’t much different, though antisemitic conspiracy theorists often use euphemisms, such as “Israel” or “Zionists.” Both Israel and Zionists, for example, have been blamed for 9/11 and the Syrian Civil War.
Because of ancient tropes about Jews and money, it’s not a surprise that Jews have been blamed for the ills of capitalism. Though an ethnic Jew himself, the Father of Communism Karl Marx had some deeply-engrained anti-Jewish views.
Though officially the Bolsheviks denounced antisemitism, many Bolsheviks during the Bolshevik Revolution confounded Jews with the bourgeoisie they were fighting against. In Stalinist times, “Zionists” were blamed for the many ills of capitalism.
Conspiracies about Jews and capitalism take many forms. Some examples include the Rothschild conspiracies and conspiracies that Jews control world banking.
As if being blamed for capitalism is not enough, Jews have also been blamed for communism. A conspiracy theory known as “Jewish Bolshevism” alleges that Jews were responsible for the Russian Revolution. This conspiracy theory has been perpetrated by the Russian Orthodox Church, who’ve blamed Jews for the murder of the tsar and the rest of the Romanov family.
The Nazis also conflated Jews with communists, which was one of the many ways they justified their antisemitism.
In the US, McCarthyism disproportionately targeted Jews.
Today Jews are still the scapegoats for a plethora of issues: from “making people gay” to police brutality in the United States to the African slave trade.
Scapegoating not only endangers our lives but also lets the real perpetrators off the hook. Since antisemitism is usually insidious, it’s really important to familiarize ourselves with antisemitic tropes.
Though said tropes have mutated and evolved throughout the millennia, the bottom line is still the same: it’s all the Jews’ fault.