The History & Application of Antisemitism in Europe & the U.S.. Part One: Introduction.

As levels of antisemitism rise once again in the West, it worth considering where the roots of Jewish persecution lie, what makes us continually susceptible to its message, & how different societies have used this racist narrative to their advantage or detriment.

Peter Winn-Brown

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Image of a poster that says, no racism, no fascism, no antisemitism, no sexism, no homophobia, no discussion.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

“Antisemitism, a secular nineteenth century ideology — which in name, though not in argument, was unknown before the 1870’s — and religious Jew-hatred, inspired by the mutually hostile antagonism of two conflicting creeds, are obviously not the same; and even the extent to which the former derives its arguments and emotional appeal from the latter si open to question. The notion of an unbroken continuity of persecution, expulsions and massacres from the end of the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages, the modern era, and down to our time, frequently embellished by the idea that modern antisemitism is no more than a secularised version of popular medieval superstitions, is no less fallacious (though of course less michievous) than the corresponding antisemitic notion of a Jewish secret society that has ruled, or aspired to rule, the world since antiquity.”

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, (1)

Introduction

As Spain attempts to come to terms with its vicious, controversial and violent anti-Jewish past with a new exhibition at the Prado, the curator, Joan Molina Figueras, has gathered together works including the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a compilation of poems to be sung which were promoted by King Alfonso X, which the curator describes as “including the most anti-Jewish repertoire in 13th-century European literature.

There are also works by Pedro Berruguete (see below) who, Figueras tells us, was not just a great painter but also an instrument of the inquisition. “He created works commissioned by the Spanish Inquisition, by the grand inquisitor, Torquemada, himself, for the purposes of propaganda. He was an inquisition painter.

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Peter Winn-Brown

The past can illuminate the present if we shine the light of inquiry openly, truthfully, with attention to detail & care for the salient facts.