Burned but NevernConsumednby Arthur EcksteinnThe Burning Bush: Anti-Semitismnand World Historynby Barnet LitvinoffnNew York: E.P. Button;n457 pp., $22.50nThe first writer known to have madenthe outrageous accusation of ritualncannibalism against the Jews was anpagan Greek named Apion. But it wasnthe Christians who established prejudicenagainst and hatred for Jews as a fixturenof Western civilization. The Christians’nanimus against the Jews derived fromnthe idea that “the Jews” had rejectednand betrayed Jesus of Nazareth, engineeringnthe Crucifixion. This was ancharge originating in the embitterednearly relations between what were essentiallyntwo closely-intertwined religiousncommunities (indeed, for at leastna generation and perhaps a bit morenthe Christians were seen — and sawnthemselves—as merely one sect withinnJudaism; the definitive break only occurrednafter A.D. 70). Litvinoff in factndoes not do as much as he could inndiscussing the complicated issuesnsurrounding the Trial of Jesus. Henmight have pointed out that thenSanhedrin were hated collaborators withnthe Roman provincial administrationn(which could appoint—and dismiss —nits membership); that Pontius Pilate wasnonly the first of a very long line of toughnRoman officials who saw the representativesnof Christianity (rightly!) as troublemakers;nand that even in the Gospel ofnJohn it is merely the High Priests andntheir flacks, not the Jewish populace as anwhole, who are violently opposed tonJesus (see John 19:6). But Litvinoffndoes vividly point out the paradox ofnChristians consistently persecuting thenethnic group into which the Savior hadnbeen born: thus when the Rabbi SolomonnHalevi was baptized in Spain inn1391 he adopted the name Pablo denSanta Maria because, as a member ofnREVIEWSnthe Levite clan, he claimed direct andnliteral descent from the family of thenHoly Virgin.nStill, under the Christian governmentsnof Europe down to the FrenchnRevolution, Jews were despised andnpenalized basically for what they did notnbelieve, not for what they were. Thisnmeant that Jews could save themselvesnfrom persecution (which involved anythingnfrom extra taxation to mass expulsionnto death via pogrom) by the simplenact of converting publicly to Christianity.nMany did precisely that. Meanwhile,ncertain popes sought to restrain thenmost virulent outbreaks of popular anti-nJewish hysteria. Hence Clement VI inn1348 dismissed as ludicrous the accusationnthat the Jews were spreading thenBlack Plague by poisoning Christiannwells: he pointed out in a special decreenthat many Jews were dying of thenPlague, while at the same time thenPlague was spreading through countriesnuninhabited by Jews.nThe Enlightenment of the 18th centurynwent a long way toward defusingnChristian hostility toward Jews on thenbasis of religion. (The same was true ofnJewish hostility toward Christians:nLitvinoff, ever balanced in his presentation,nminces no words about this.) Bynthe 1780’s the government of LouisnXVI was organizing a literary competitionnon the subject “How to Make thenJews Happier [!] and More Useful innFrance.” In Germany in this samenperiod the emblematic figure was thenphilosopher Moses Mendelssohnn(grandfather of the composer). As annassociate of the poet Gotthold Lessing,nthe real founder of German humanism,nMendelssohn proved the power of Jewishnintellect once released from thenbonds of the Christian-imposed ghetto.nMendelssohn is one of LitvinofFs heroes,nand understandably so.nThe 19th century was even better. InnWestern Europe the Jews were emancipatednfrom the social penalties they hadnendured for hundreds of years, andnwere allowed to enter the mainstream ofnsociety for the first time. The impact ofntheir arrival — in every field from commercento political science to art andnnnliterature—was enormous. Yet the 19thncentury also witnessed the rise of pseudoscientificnracist nationalism, a threatnto the Jews far more deadly than Christiannpersecution or distaste. Racist nationalism,nlike its contemporary, radicalncommunism, was in fact a desperatenattempt to recapture the primeval sensenof community that was being pitilesslyntorn asunder in the 19th century byncapitalism, the greatest engine of socialnchange and individual freedom. Andnwith both racist nationalism and radicalncommunism, the fevered search fornprimeval unity (of “nation” or “class”)nled inevitably to the massacre of thosendesignated as “outside the family.”nHence the I9th century — “thenCentury of Progress”—paved the way,nfor the Jews, to the Holocaust. Nor didnassimOation help. For now the problemnwas not, as earlier, what the Jews did notnbelieve, or what they wore, or the waynthey spoke: it was what the Jews ineradicablynwere, namely (in racist eyes)n”an inferior breed of Asiatics . . .ncondemned from birth” who threatenednto infect the “purity” of thenvarious European communities.nLitvinoff carefully (and rightly) distinguishesnmedieval Christian anti-nSemitism from this new form, for fromnthis new form there could be no escape;nany Jew—a poet, a scientist, anwar hero, a totally assimilated descendantnof a convert to Christianity —nremained a “virus” that had to benexpunged.nEurope, both medieval and modern,nthus turned out to be a nightmare fornthe Jews. Nor has the post-Holocaustnreturn to the Middle East, thenrefounding of the Land of Israel,nturned out to be more than a qualifiednsuccess at best, according to Litvinoff.nThere, the initial political-militarynproblem of threatened destruction andngenocide at the hands of the Arabs hasnbeen, for the moment, surmounted.nBut it has been replaced by a hideouslynironic moral problem: Jewish control,nby right of conquest, over a hugennon-Jewish population that remainsnfundamentally hostile. This has alreadynled to calls from some quarters for thenMARCH 1989/31n