Jewish Persecution Through the Ages

By our very nature, we humans have the tendency to adapt and mould everything to suit our purpose. We have razed mountains to rubble, developed sustainable civilisations, and harnessed various forces of nature to our service. We need to see the world in a way that makes sense to us because not knowing what’s out there is one of the worst fears of humankind.

Anomalously, this theory also explains both the cause of developments and the inevitable resistance a society poses to them. Some individuals through their efforts generate new and more plausible explanations of existing phenomena. However, society generally fixates on the traditional notions and feels somewhat threatened by the existence of a new answer - something they’re completely ignorant of. 

In retrospect, advancement in human society is also characterised by free-will and greater acceptance of one’s beliefs and perception. So, the only thing that needs to be decided upon is - do the benefits and costs of clinging onto traditionality and remaining in the comfort zone outweigh that of adapting to developments and being more receptive?

Even after considering the sentiment of people and the factor of coincidence in the associated events and stories, all the scientific evidence points to the fact that religion is a product of human psychology. People want to make sense of the immeasurable number of interdependent or independent events that take place in the world around them and when they believe they have hit a dead end, they instinctively correlate them with the supernatural or the divine.

Now, this theory in its own capacity poses a very interesting philosophical question - why are people willing to mortify, hurt, torture or even kill fellow human beings when there is a very high chance that the argument which they believe absolves them of these crimes may be rooted in ignorance? 

Jews, throughout history, have been one of the most abused communities around the world. The Greeks did it, the Roman did it, even fellow monothesitics like Christians and Muslims did it, but they were all eventually put to shame by Hitler. </p>

Monotheistic cultures are widely popular today. When it comes to suitability to the highly dynamic lifestyle of the modern world, they check almost all the boxes. Yet, the forerunners of the bunch - Christianity and Islam - made meagre efforts for upliftment of the Jewish community in their respective reigns over the Middle East and Europe. Also, an important point to mention is that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are highly analogous. Christianity revamped the Jewish ideologies and labeled them as their own, and Islam did the same to Christianity. The fundamental religious doctrine is the same in all three of them, and concepts like prophets, heaven, hell, etc. are fairly consistent. This further intensifies the nefariousness of the former's actions. 

Moreover, it won’t be completely fair to blame this history of blatant inhumanity on poor governance as the laws of that time made no clear cut distinction between the state and the apex religious body. Therefore, it is the medieval thought process of these communities that is to be blamed. 

Ancient Greek and Roman societies were governed by a class of strong believers in polytheism. They prayed to their gods in temples, made blood sacrifices, and tried their best to live their lives by the stories they heard about them. The arrival of monotheistic faith, whose beliefs and practices were not even remotely close to theirs, was not well received by them. Public executions, selective poll tax, and defilement of synagogues were a common method to overrule the other belief system. Jews were expelled from the city and some Roman emperors went to the length of declaring the possession of Jewish scriptures a capital crime. Such acts of hostility, though morally incoherent, can be justified rationally by the fundamental pattern of society's initial reaction to change in any case whatsoever. Moreover, Jews were not the only monotheists being harassed, the Romans reacted similarly to Christianity. 

Moving up the timeline, Rome was Christianised in the late 300 AD and the capital of the Christian stronghold was established in Constantinople, Byzantine. In the late 600 AD, Islam came into being in the Arabian region of the Middle East and started growing rapidly owing to the expansionary crusades of Mohammad and the succeeding Muslim leaders. Jewish groups in Byzantine were treated as aliens for their disbelief in the absolution of Christianity. Their social standing and religious liberty varied with the ruler. Eventually, Islamic leaders reached the borders of Byzantine (Christianized Rome) and toppled the rule of Christians who retaliated with a series of crusades to reclaim the holy lands. All of the conflict lasted for about 200 years and the Jewish community was dishevelled as a byproduct. Muslim rulers aggressively imposed Islamic credo upon them and whenever Christians invaded as a result of the crusades, they wiped entire Jewish colonies off the map. 

The situation was especially bad in Persia, as under the prejudice of being spiritually unclean, Jews were forced to live in ghettos outside of towns. They were not allowed to enter shops, and even if they managed to, they were not allowed to touch or inspect any item. If the latter was to happen, the laws clearly stated that the Jew was obligated to buy the product and the seller had an absolute right of charging as much as they wanted. Also, Jews were not allowed to roam the cities during rain, as it was believed that the  dirt of their spirituality would wash down with the raindrops and rub off on the locals who walked the same paths.  

As the middle ages rolled in, anti-semitic groups evolved their methods of suppression, as they started destroying the political standing of the Jews and catalysed it for their physical extermination. During the Black Death period, orthodox Crhritian and Muslim groups in the middle east accused Jews of poisoning the wells within cities and orchestrating the plague. These accusations were used to make initial arrests, upon which the prisoners were tortured and threatened into confessing to crimes that they never committed. Even for executions, slow death methods like public stoning & death by fire were used. As a final touch of cruelty, their respective properties and places of worship were seized without cause and converted into churches, mosques, and libraries.  

Fast forward to the 1940’s. Religious and racial fanaticism had poisoned Germany. Almost everyone is aware of the horrific ordeal that Hitler and his racial political agendas put Jews through - pogroms, mass shootings, concentration camps and the gas chambers. When the dust settled, two-thirds of the European Jewish population had been exterminated- “genocide” in the perfect sense of the word. The scapegoating does not end there, as Jews were also blamed for capitalism and excessively controlling the american financial market via their dominance of the premiere financial institutions of the time like Rothschilds.

Even today, the other communities prey on Jews for conversions. Their faith is still undermined and their rights as members of the society are still kept subservient to those of other cultures. It is imperative to understand that the concept of “sustainability”- a term which is amassing a lot of popularity lately- is not selective. Developing a world where everyone is willing to live their life of their own volition is the very foundation of the term. Therefore, security and free will for some and impositions on others is a betrayal to the very essence of sustainability as it makes the society more prone to implosion rather than consolidation.


Aryaman Dhiman

I am an undergraduate student at Shri Ram College of Commerce. Over the years, my interests have jumped ship between art, theater, and sports, but my love for religious and historical research remains unchanged.

The Pangean does not condemn or condone any of the views of its contributors. It only gives them the space to think and write without hindrance.