The Roots of American Anti-Semitism

From The Tablet:

The Christian Identity movement, white supremacy, and the future of homegrown anti-Jewish terror

Stuart Wexler
November 1, 2018

Studies of genocide show that those who kill their neighbors must dehumanize them before such attacks are widely accepted. In America, white Americans had been dehumanizing blacks and unleashing violence on black bodies for 300 years before the rise of the re-formed Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, when the organized targeting of Jews by hate movements began. The small population of Jews who lived in America throughout the 17th, 18th, and most of the 19th centuries did so in an environment of relative tolerance, backed by the assurance of the letter written by President George Washington, a slave owner, to the Hebrew Congregations of Rhode Island, stating that “the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

Yet while American Jews avoided direct attack by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and 1930s, anti-Semitism itself was beginning to change as a small group of anti-Semitic radicals within the Klan moved from passivity to aggression, giving rise to a native-born American anti-Semitic movement whose radical ideology helped inspire the murder of 11 congregants at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Auto tycoon Henry Ford played a key role in this transformation. Through his widely circulated Dearborn Independent, Ford popularized alarming slurs against the Jewish people, borrowing from the fraudulent and anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion to accuse Jews of a secret, global financial conspiracy to undermine the United States and the western world.

At the same time, a man who helped publish Ford’s periodical, William J. Cameron, became interested in and promoted a school of pseudoscientific anthropological thought that repositioned Jews in the history of Judeo-Christianity. Cameron argued that the 10 missing groups from the lost tribes of the House of Israel (Israel’s Northern Kingdom), upon being overcome by the Assyrians, fled to the Caucasus, and populated that region. The remaining two tribes of Israel, the so-called House of Judah, eventually migrated to and settled in Europe. The latter were the true chosen people: Anglo-Europeans. European Jews, those who had been immigrating to America in droves in the three decades before, were in fact descendants of Mongol-Turkic Khazars.

This strange stew of white supremacy, anti-Jewish conspiracy baiting, and racialized anthropology—which began overseas as British-Israelism, and morphed in the United States into Anglo-Israelism—is central to the white nationalist ideology that continues to pursue and enact violence against Jewish targets. It is an ideology that, even if he may not realize it, helped fuel Robert Bowers’ rage against Jews.

America’s own homegrown anti-Semitic movement was codified by West Coast seminarians toward the end of WWII, and was branded as Christian Identity by the late 1960s. While adherents of this movement often shared sympathies with the Ku Klux Klan, and some were even members, they also embraced the idea of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and the notion that White Europeans were the true chosen people. Yet they faced a problem in trying to get normative Christian doctrines to accommodate these ideas. Even if they could situate Jews in another geographic location, Christ would still include Jews as people capable of salvation.

Christian Identity (CI) believers wanted to go one step beyond those Christians who, in the past, had persecuted Jews for supposedly rejecting Jesus. If Jews were as devious and immoral as these men believed, if they were to become an enemy that even Jesus could not forgive and love, then Jews must not be human at all.

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