Josephus was one of the first-century historians. A short walk on his memory-lanes will tell us about the pagan emperor of Rome and his victory celebrations after massacring thousands of Jews in Jerusalem. The other historians about Europe will put most of us near a painful "shock and awe" when it comes to Christian cruelty to the Jews. The scholars tell us that long before the Crusades the target for Christian vengeance remained focused on an insignificant fraction of the European population. They were the Jews and their presence in Europe was largely the result of the massacre in Jerusalem, by the Roman emperor – Titus Flavius Vespasian, during 66-73 CE. Historically, this war is known as the Jewish War.
Josephus witnessed the Romans rounding up thousands of Jewish captives – young men and women. They were then exported to Rome for selling into slavery and prostitution in the lucrative slave markets. These are the Ashkenazis that represent about 80% of the Jewish population today – a breed that got extensively mixed among the Semitics and the Aryans for about two thousand years. The savagery during the Jewish War was the major cause that brought the Jews in Europe – and not the prophesied diaspora of Prophet Ezekiel.
Only a fraction of them succeeded in escaping the massacre. They are the origin of the Sephardic Jews today, and closely related to the Jews of ancient Israel. On their way to hiding in the North Western Africa, and finally to Spain and Portugal, they left their holy scrolls in the caves of Qumran, a place around the Dead Sea. These are the "Dead Sea Scrolls", uncovered in 1947 through 1956. The credit for the first discovery goes to a Bedouin shepherd boy, by the name Mohammed Ahmed el-Hamed entering a cave while searching for a lost sheep. Another minor fraction of the war-torn Jewish tribes took shelter in Yathrib – now Medina, and has been addressed as the ‘Bani Israel’ in the Quran a number of times.
In the early twelfth century, Christians were forbidden by the church in money-lending business. The lending business remained a monopoly of the Jewish communities. When Henry-I became the heir of every Jew, he claimed for himself a substantial share of all their profits in the lending business. As a result, in response to the king’s demand, the money lenders had to raise their interest rate, causing hardship for the ordinary borrowers. The king then cunningly blamed the Jews for their sufferings and made the Jews the perfect scapegoat for the Christians’ fury.
Over the years since Shakespeare, thousands of scholars have written thesis and antithesis about the Jews and their persecution in Europe. The scholars made it evident that under Elizabeth-I, the daughter of Henry-VIII, a state church had developed. It was Protestant in name but Catholic in nature and was called Anglican. It had then arisen from Henry-VIII disagreeing with the Pope. The Church of England was headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was an increasingly important figure in the early part of the seventeenth century.
Shakespeare’s tale of The Merchant of Venice is centred on the demonization of the Jews, in the money-lending business. While charming and witty, the real purpose of the story lies in the portrayal of Shylock as the hard-hearted money lending villain in Venice. Though, it is difficult for modern readers to understand Shakespeare’s approach to his readers, but an understanding of the literary tradition, from which Shylock was labelled, will help the reader realize the background. The restraints of Renaissance drama demanded that Shylock – the Jew be a devil who was unable to show even a drop of compassion for his enemy – the Christian. Though utterly criminal to the modern democratic sprit the model of literature that prospered in the European society was a devilish image of the Jews for all occasions.
The episodes of evil feelings the Christians had towards the Jews sharply deviated anything that the Christ ever preached. More to the surprise, this period was not the pagan days of the Roman emperor, feeding human to his lions. It was the fully developed Christianity, formulated by the Council of Nicene Creed and that was presided by the Emperor Constantine himself. The entire history of the Jews in the middle ages was marked by extreme persecution.
After the Norman invasions in 1066, thousands of Jews fled from other European countries to England. Despite being extremely hard in an agricultural society, the Jews were forbidden from having real property or to employ any servant.
At the coronation of Richard I in 1189, Jewish massacres and tortures formed part of the planned celebration. By the end of the twelfth century, Richard had herded all the Jews into the larger cities to keep close watch on their financial transactions. Richard’s successor John created a ghetto in the city of Lincoln, setting up Jews as the king’s property and making it illegal for anyone to injure the king’s Jew, just as it was illegal to harm his dogs and cattle.
Long before the Jews came to England, there was a thriving literature of Jewish devilry. They were blamed for all perils, even plagues and natural disasters. Though gruesome, the realities of anti-Semitism were the norm of the society. The myth circulated in fiction and gossips were highly harmful toward Jewish image. Jews were regarded as a form of the devil incarnates.
The theatrical plays of the medieval time cast Jews as wicked and comic characters. By the sixteenth century, the Jews were a favourite low-comic dramatic character. The actor playing the Jew was frequently required to wear a red fright wig, red beard and long red nose and was both the actor’s and the audience’s scapegoat for throwing rotten eggs on them.
That was then in Europe, but the British people didn’t renounce their anti-Jewish feeling even in the eighteenth century. One of the purposes of the British Empire was to popularize the English language after they deceitfully took over India in 1757. Calcutta (now Kolkata) became the capital of British India in 1772. The need for working knowledge of the English in Calcutta became increasingly important. Capt. D.L. Richardson taught English literature at the Presidency College built in 1817. One of his favourites was The Merchant of Venice. Historical incidents suggest that Richardson made his audience believe that the character of Shylock truly represents a model of Jewish viciousness towards the Christians.
Just as the Elizabethan playhouse in England (The Curtain in 1577, The Rose in 1587, The Swan in 1595), a number of theatres kept on popping up in Calcutta. Most of them were actively patronized by the British rulers. The Oriental seminary Theatre in Calcutta staged the ‘Merchant of Venice’, for the first time in 1853. Its popularity was so outreaching that the show became a trend-setter for the other theatres that were built during 1873 to 1893, namely Bengal theatre, The Great National Theatre, The New Star Theatre, Minerva theatre and a few others.
It was, in fact, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice that made the word ‘Jew’, synonymous to a Scrooge who charges ruthless interest to the poverty-stricken people. It is quite frequent even today to hear a common cursing upon a penny-pincher as a "Jew". Irrespective of their exposure to Shakespeare or their social status in the Indian subcontinent, this trend of the society includes day-labourer, school-students, street hawkers or even the rickshaw-drivers.
Unlike that Shakespearean time of hell, the Jews seem to have uncovered an old weapon that caused them the misery for about two thousand years since Jesus was crucified. Amazing it may sound, this weapon is fitted with a set of new ammunitions that is lethal and yet it doesn’t contain any explosive or nuclear material. What is this weapon? Just wait a few paragraphs.
Pat Robertson, a wholehearted Christian fundamentalist, took a flight to Israel, during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006. Almost all the British TV stations showed him in several interviews. Without any faltering he kept repeating that he loves all Jewish people because they are the chosen people of God. He was shown praying with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for an Israeli victory. On August 15, 2006 at the Virginia Beach, Pat Robertson denounced the cease-fire with Hezbollah and concluded that the "entire bloody conflict was pointless." He told the Newsweek that if the US administration does anything other than making Jerusalem the capital of Israel, "they would be messing with the power of God."
A remarkable story in the Newsweek has been marked as a "landmark in the history of strange bedfellows." During re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas. Among the dead astronauts was an Israeli, Ilan Ramon. Some eminent personalities had gathered there to hear a speech by the former House Republican leader, Tom DeLay, at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida. To the astonishment of his audience, DeLay, a Baptist Christian, recited the prayer for the dead in Hebrew, while wearing a Kippah – the Jewish skullcap, normally worn by the Rabbis.
The document, formulated by the "Quartet" (United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) for the solution to a lasting peace and security in the Middle East, is known to the world as the "Roadmap". In April 2003, the Quartet released its Roadmap, outlining a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis. The Roadmap, despite representing a blueprint for a secure State of Israel, was condemned by the evangelical Christians more than the powerful Jewish lobby in Washington ever did. At a conference in Washington, speaker after speaker utterly denounced the Roadmap and called it a "Roadmap to hell."
No doubt, those days of England, when the Jews were king’s property, is now fossilized history. Today, the table has turned around. In his article: ‘A Message to my Fellow American Jews’, Jacob Bleistein boldly wrote: "As American Jews, we hold the balance of power. Our influence over American foreign policy is unprecedented. America is the world’s only superpower. Our influence on Israeli policy is also exceptional…."
Obviously, the scenario of a Baptist Christian reciting the Jewish prayer in Hebrew may not be puzzling to those who make political events happen. For the ordinary people, however, these are miracles. Naturally, they must have been meditating over the years to have a grip on the mantra that turned the Christian, the cruel enemy to the Jews for the last two thousand years, into the most loving friend.
As recorded in the Christian-Bible, it was the connivance of the Jewish high priest Caiaphas that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. The book of Revelation is the last chapter of the New Testament. It refers to the "Second Coming" of the Christ and his re-establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Despite being a Christian prophecy, the Second Coming of the Christ, has suddenly gained a new dimension with a profound Jewish hallmark on it.
As mentioned earlier, this is the new ammunition. The Second Coming of Jesus is no longer self-propelled. The messianic incident is now conditioned upon Israel being one piece of land controlled by the Jews, and no such things as Israel and Palestine living side by side. Consequently, the military occupation of the West Bank to reunite Judea and Samaria with the State of Israel, does sell like a hot-cake to the Christian Evangelists – most of them now love to be identified as the Christian Zionists. They feel so intensely for the Jews and Israel that the safety and security of Israel have become more of a passion to them than it is to the Jews themselves.
Unlike those short-sighted Muslim scholars whose knowledge of Christian Bible barely extends beyond the bounds of the Qur’an, the Jewish mantra comes from the same Christian Bible. While the Muslim theology discredits the Christian Bible as having been changed, the Jewish strategy thrives on its entirety. Despite the Jews not believe in the messianic stature of Jesus nor taking the New Testament as their holy book, they now know all the nitty-gritty of the New Testament than the Muslims. Obviously, they are now equipped with the brainwashing mantra customized for the evangelical Christians who hold enormous influence in the shaping of US politics, and in turn the power behind all the past wars in the Middle East and the looming ones in the future. A vast number of the evangelical Christians believe that the "Covenant of Abraham" promised the Jews their entire ancient homeland forever. Many of these evangelicals also believe that Jesus won’t return in Jerusalem, until the Jewish state of Israel is fully established including the West Bank.
Evidently, the Jewish mantra is more than Weizmann’s inventing artificial acetone to help Britain win the First World War that obliged Britain to make the Balfour Declaration for creating a Jewish homeland in Israel. In reality it is the Jewish art of winning friends and influencing people that led to the creation of Israel and paved the way for its flourishing for closely sixty years. Perhaps the Jewish mantra leans heavily on Confucius who believed that hatred could never be settled by hatred, but by love, tact, diplomacy and a conciliatory desire to respect each other.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (Dr. Robert Eisenman & Dr. Michael Wise), How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie), scholars forming the editorial board of Coles’ publications, The Encyclopaedia of Britannica, The Newsweek, and other credible writers.]