NATIV Online        

Vol. 10 / June 2007 / Sivan 5767                          A JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND THE ARTS


Reason, Science and Progress:
Modern Pretexts for Judeophobia, Left & Right

Elliott A Green


The Paradox of the Church Fathers

When we consider the noxious phenomenon of leftist Judeophobia – particularly that of Israeli leftists – we ought to bear in mind that its roots go back to medieval Christian theology. Indeed, some issues alive today were discussed in Roman times by the early Christian writers known as the Church Fathers. They showed a paradoxical attitude toward the Jews. On one hand, Clement of Alexandria (3rd century), Eusebios (4th century), and others, considered the Jews pioneers of rational thought and civilization. On the other hand, they claimed that an alleged Jewish conspiracy against Jesus, leading to his crucifixion, had provoked divine punishment of the Jews, leading to the destruction of their Temple and their city, Jerusalem, and to their exile and dispersion from their homeland, Judea. On the favorable side, Clement wrote:

...the philosophy of the Hebrews will be demonstrated beyond all contradiction to be the most ancient of all wisdom. (Clement, The Stromata, Book I:xxi)

On the hostile side, Eusebios wrote:

The calamities that immediately after their conspiracy against our Savior overwhelmed the entire Jewish race...” “[the Roman] governor of Judea [was]...destroying...unlimited numbers of men, women, and children...confiscating all their lands...not even from a distance might the Jews have a view of their ancestral soil...[Jerusalem] was closed to the Jewish race...[and] colonized by an alien race. (Eusebios, History of the Church, I:1; IV: 6; Williamson-Louth tr.)

In the same vein, Isidore of Seville wrote as follows in the 7th century:

Because of their sin against Christ, the Jews were defeated and dispersed...the wreckage of Jerusalem; the Jews despised...the perpetual wreckage of Jerusalem.1

The two-fold or paradoxical depiction of the Jews lasted through the Middle Ages2 and Renaissance till Bossuet in the late 17th century. Meanwhile, Pico della Mirandola3 had – near the very inception of the Renaissance – credited the ancient Jews with influencing the important ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras (in his Heptaplus, 1489), expounding the positive, favorable side of the paradox. Two hundred years later, as the 17th century waned, Bossuet’s universal history resumed the paradox of the Church Fathers, placing great importance on ancient Jewish history and the Jews’ civilizing role. Yet, he also agreed with the Church Fathers about the punishment that the Jews were to suffer and why. Then, in the 18th century, a new school of “Enlightenment” rose up that did not speak in the name of Christianity, and even rejected Christian dogmas, so it seemed. One might think that this would apply to Christian dogmas on the Jews, as well. But it was not exactly so. Kant and Hegel received a Christian education, of course. Voltaire was educated by Jesuits. They retained certain favorable prejudices about Christianity, as well as certain hostile prejudices against the Jews.4 Indeed, certain issues raised about Judaism by the Church Fathers and medieval Christians are still alive today – particularly among what is called the Left – albeit in secular garb.

To be sure, the Enlightenment did not have a uniform attitude towards Jews and Judaism, yet this school, broadly speaking, was the matrix of growth of what today is the Left. We know of course that today Left can mean both one thing and its opposite, and that if loyalty to the working class is a principle of the Left, as some believe, then it was not a principle of the Enlightenment and has long ago slipped off the Left’s agenda in practice, and often in theory. But today’s Left in Israel – those who have identified themselves as Left5 – still tend to enshrine Reason, Progress, and Science. Now, precisely on these items, Kant, Voltaire, and Hegel hated and/or despised or belittled the Jews. Although they do not represent the whole Enlightenment, these three are most significant for their lasting impact in promoting Judeophobia and contempt for the Jews in what we may call their “modern” form, that is, a form that does not explicitly or avowedly draw on Christian reasons for Judeophobia.


Christian Dogmas Proven by Reason – The Jews Reject Reason

Medieval Christian theologians and philosophers believed that they had proven Christian dogmas by reason.6 Therefore, if Jews continued to reject these dogmas, then the Jews were unreasonable, perverse and rejecting Reason.7 Further, Christians accused Jews of falsely and unreasonably interpreting their own Holy Scriptures (The Muslim Qur`an, by the way, accuses both Jews and Christians of falsifying their respective Scriptures), since they refused to accept what Christians believed were proofs of Jesus as the messiah or, for example, to see proof of his birth from a virgin in the verse, “Look, the young woman [`almah] is with child and about to give birth to a son. And she will call his name Immanuel.” (Isa 7:14)8 God had blinded the Jews, taking all understanding away from them.9 Likewise, the notion that Jews were incapable of reason was a theme of the anti-Jewish Enlightenment thinkers. To be sure, Rousseau – also of the Enlightenment – argued,

I will never believe that I have rightly heard the Jews’ reasoning as long as they do not have a free state, schools, and universities where they might speak and argue without risk.10

At that time, Jews were deprived of many rights enjoyed by Christians, and laws protected the Church from blasphemy, as Rousseau pointed out. Voltaire, Kant, and Hegel formed their views of Jews without being bothered by such an argument.


Marcion & Luther Deny any Jewish Roots in Christianity

Indeed, far from representing a new beginning, it seems that Kant and Hegel’s views on Jews derive from – or were influenced by – specifically German Protestant notions, especially Lutheran, which represented harsher views of Jews than those of Roman Catholic tradition. Luther’s own view of Jews harks back in a sense to Marcion, an early Christian heretic (usual dates: 84 CE-160 CE) whose denial that true Christianity had Jewish roots was rejected by the Church Fathers. Marcion rejected the whole Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, and parts of the New, which as we know, sees the Jewish Scriptures as foretelling Jesus as the messiah. For instance,

The mention of Abraham as an example of faith was eliminated from Galatians (3:6-9), as well as the connection between the law [Jewish Scriptures] and the Gospels (3:15-25).11

The church father Tertullian described Marcion’s beliefs:

Marcion laid down the position that Christ, who in the days of Tiberius was, by a previously unknown god, revealed for the salvation of all nations, is a different being from him who was ordained by God, the Creator for the restoration of a Jewish state, and who is yet to come. Between these, he interposes a separation of a great and absolute difference as great as lies between...the law [Jewish Scriptures] and the gospel, as great as is the difference between Christianity and Judaism. (Against Marcion, IV:6).

Marcion was rejected as a heretic but his influence did not disappear, rather it paradoxically returned long after his rejection. Bat Ye’or goes so far as to argue that Marcionism now shows up today among pro-Islamist churchmen, especially priests from Arab countries who display the dhimmi attitude of sycophancy toward Muslims and Islam, and perforce reject any Jewish roots of Christianity.12

Rivka Schechter described Luther as representing a turning point for the worse in the Christian perception of Jews. She traces his positions back to Marcion. “Marcion anticipated Luther by about 1400 years,” she wrote.13 Indeed, Luther represented – among other things – a return towards Marcion’s view that denied any Jewish element in Christianity.


Luther’s Successors Cancel the Positive Side of the Paradox

Valerio Marchetti has drawn a line from Luther to subsequent German Protestant scholarship which wrote in disparagement of the Jewish capacity to produce philosophy or to make a positive contribution to philosophy and denied that Jews had done so in the past. This line in fact leads to Kant, born 178 years after Luther’s death in 1546, although Marchetti does not mention Kant or Hegel by name.

Marchetti points out that German thinkers who elaborated on Luther’s views, formed a trend toward dejudaizing Christianity and Greek philosophy in the view of Lutheran theology and in German speculation on the history of philosophy. These German Protestant theologians denied any positive Jewish influence on ancient Greek philosophy, particularly rejecting any Jewish connection to or aspect of Pythagoras.

At least three intellectual routes open up [in the second half of the 17th century] that organize an elaborate desire for the ‘dejudaization’ of German culture. (Marchetti)14

The first route was to separate the Hebrew Scriptures from the Talmud, with the Scriptures being taken away from Diaspora Jews and appropriated to Christianity. Secondly, a separation was made between the origins of religion and those of philosophy. Religion and philosophy were deemed to be separate things by their natures. The third route was a German effort to “restore the pure Athenian [that is, allegedly non-Jewish] origins of philosophy; hence the Church Fathers are seen as having overly judaized the origins of philosophy” (especially because they had endeavored to find Biblical origins for pagan Greek philosophy). Besides Clement and Eusebios mentioned above, these Fathers include Justin, Origen, and even Ambrose. Most importantly, German Protestant theologians after Luther cancelled the paradox in the Church Fathers’ view of the Jews by implanting the lasting theme in German theology, philosophy, and general German intellectual life, that the Jews had not contributed to or positively influenced ancient philosophy. After these successors of Luther, the predominant German Christian view of the Jews was unfavorable.15

To be sure, Luther’s German contemporary Reuchlin (1455-1522) had continued the line of the Church Fathers, asserting a “Jewish-Greek genealogy for Western culture”. (Marchetti) Reuchlin’s mentor, the Italian Renaissance scholar, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola,16 had claimed –following the ancient writer Hermippos (3rd Century BCE) – that Pythagoras had “transferred very many things into his own philosophy from the Mosaic law”.17

One of the specific issues commonly treated by the German theologians studied by Marchetti was that of whether Pythagoras was influenced by Judaism or may even have been a Jew or a convert to Judaism. Evidence –suggestive if not conclusive – for Jewish influence on Pythagoras does indeed exist in ancient writings in Greek (Hermippos, Antonios Diogenes, Iamblichos, Diogenes Laertios, and Porphyry). Some Church Fathers held this view (Origen, Ambrose).18 The notion was picked up by Renaissance thinkers, not only Pico and Reuchlin, but the British John Selden, the French Philippe Tessière, and others. My purpose here is not to discuss the veracity of this belief, but the attack on it. Marchetti reports that several German Protestant thinkers set out to specifically refute the assertion of Jewish influence on Pythagoras or that he had had Jewish ties. In doing so, they generalized beyond Pythagoras, finding “Perpetua...discordia” and “maxima etiam discrepantia” [“perpetual disharmony...also maximal disagreement”] between ancient Jewish and ancient Greek thought, according to a doctoral dissertation accepted in Hamburg in 1700.19 That is, they refuted not only any affinity of Pythagoras to Jews or Judaism, but any affinity to Judaism of ancient philosophy in general. Marchetti demonstrates that German theologians took pains to assert this separation between Judaism and Greek philosophy. Intending at first to refute Pico, Reuchlin, Selden, and others, they provided a background for Kant and Hegel’s claims of Jewish incapacity for philosophy and cultural backwardness, that is, for viewing Jews and Judaism as inferior. Hence, their works constitute links between Luther in the 16th century (1483-1546) and Kant and Hegel in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Note the parallel between Marcion’s claim that true Christianity did not have any Jewish roots and the claim made in Kant, Hegel, and earlier German scholars that ancient Greek philosophy did not have any Jewish roots.


Kant, Hegel & Voltaire Assert the Backwardness of the Jews

An incapacity for philosophy implies an incapacity for Reason, Science, and their derivative, Progress, the three values which the Left has traditionally seen the Jews as lacking. On the issue of Progress, Kant (1724-1804) and Hegel (1770-1831) gave Christianity pride of place, although they allegedly did not accept Christian dogmas. Moreover, Jews as Orientals, could only be culturally stagnant. To Kant and Hegel, the ancient Jews (and other ancient Oriental peoples) were clearly inferior to the Greeks in regard to culture.20 Kant believed that Judaism was not “spiritual” or “moral”. It had no conscience or moral intention, nor was it a true religion.21 Indeed, Kant drew up a ladder or hierarchy of religions, with Judaism on the bottom rung.22 Further, “Only in Judaism did Kant refuse to identify an inner moral kernel.”23 Yovel argues that,

By denying that the laws of Judaism had religious content...Kant was removing from Judaism even the tiny smidgen of worth that one might expect that a historical conception such as his would confer on Judaism.24

More important for our theme, Kant propounded that, unlike Judaism, Christianity was grounded in Reason, a prejudice commonplace in medieval Christian philosophy/theology.25 Further, Kant saw the Jews as opposed to Progress, which for him personally took the place of religion. Kant went so far as to insist that “few if any of the origins of Christianity are Oriental [including Jewish], most of them being Occidental.”26 Since he saw Christianity as Western and as capable of Progress, and Judaism as Oriental and little related to Christianity, and the Orient as incapable of Progress, then Christianity was necessarily superior to Judaism, an Oriental religion. It also followed from this that Judaism was incapable of Progress.

Hegel likewise believed that Christianity represented progress compared to Judaism. He belittled the role of Judaism in world culture. According to him, the Jews suffered “a want of culture”.27 The young Hegel, in Yovel’s summary of his view, claimed that “Judaism had not made any positive contribution to European culture or to the world spirit”28 [weltgeist].

Further, in Hegel’s “historical scheme, the Greek world is regarded as an antithesis to the Oriental world and consequently to Judaism...the Hellenic ideal is the rejection of Judaism.”29 Even within the Oriental world, the Egyptian religion was superior to Judaism.30 When the ancient Jews had their national independence, it provided them merely with enough to eat and drink, “only a mediocre existence”.31 Thus they were incapable of producing prosperity. In view of this claim, Hegel seems to implicitly contradict himself when he argues that Judaism is the least “natural” religion since it aims at dominating nature technically. Be that as it may, Judaism’s “positive” rather than “natural” character led to the greatest slavery of man,32 according to him.

Nevertheless, in his later writings, Rotenstreich asserts, Hegel modified his position on Judaism to a less hostile view.33 Therefore, he may be considered less hostile than Kant. Unlike Kant, Hegel advocated the emancipation of the Jews, that is, equal civil rights in the state for Jews as individuals. However, Yovel comments that Hegel paternalistically “refused to recognize a more profound equality of Jews, an equal spiritual and historic status as a people and community.”34 Further, Hegel held that once a nation had fulfilled its world-historic mission, it could not again take on such a mission.35 “The Jews...could not again have a history.”36 Hence, Hegel and strict Hegelians must perforce oppose Zionism which embodied a Jewish effort to act out of character, as designated by his philosophy. That is, the Jews had already performed their historic role (in the best case) and could not have another. Zionism contradicted Hegel’s dicta and therefore must cause cognitive dissonance among the believers, which in turn might elicit anger and hatred.

Returning to Voltaire (1694-1778), he was a Deist and carefully studied Marcion.37 He sets out to degrade and belittle the Jews. Ironically, in his work Dictionnaire Philosophique (eds. 1764, 1769, etc.), Voltaire betrays his purpose by devoting a great deal of space to those whom he wishes to belittle, thus implying by the attention that he gives them that the Jews are much more significant and formidable than he would have the reader believe.

Voltaire aimed to show the Jewish religion and culture as derivative and secondary. The Jews were imitators and borrowers; by innuendo – thieves. Voltaire asked suggestively, “Did the Jews take the custom of fasting from the Egyptians, all of whose rites they imitated up to flagellation and the scapegoat?”38 Voltaire did not ask whether the Egyptians might not have copied from the Jews. His belittling impulse showed clearly in another entry. “You were almost always slaves,” he tells the Jews.39 Sometimes he explicitly applies the words “thieves” and “plagiarism” to them and their works.40 That is, they were imitators and borrowers, although “thief” can be understood more literally, as when he called the Jews “Arab thieves”.41

To show his contempt for Jews, Voltaire calls them Arabs; “the Hebrews, a very recent Arab horde”.42 Today, of course, to be called an Arab is flattery, in some circles, or commands the highest degree of pity. After all, aren’t the Arabs the most unjustly maligned and abused and persecuted people in History? Aren’t the “Palestinians” – often depicted in contemporary Western discourse as a collective Jesus– suffering at the hands of the Jews, as well as being the vanguard of progress? Voltaire means to demean Jews both by calling them “recent” (the French nation, formed in the Middle Ages about 2,000 years after David and Solomon’s kingdom held sway from Jerusalem, is not described as “recent”) and “an Arab horde”. As an Arab horde, Voltaire means to say, the Jews are not civilized and did not contribute to the progress of civilization. Curiously, while Voltaire saw the Jews as Arabs, Kant called the German Jews, “the Palestinians who live among us”.43 Kant meant thereby to underscore the alien essence –in geographic origin and ethnic nature, not only in religion – of his contemporary Jewish countrymen. The Jews were the Other par excellence.

D’Holbach, Voltaire’s younger contemporary, was less important than the other three, but he summed up the common position. The Jews were “cowardly and degraded Asiatics”. Jewish “superstitions...have only served to retard progress toward true science.”44 One might ask whether d’Holbach would change his mind in view of so many Nobel prizes for science awarded to Jews out of proportion to their numbers. This empirical fact, seemingly contradicting his firm conviction, would have probably led a mind such as d’Holbach’s to suspect something diabolical was afoot. The cognitive dissonance would likely have angered him.

Voltaire, d’Holbach and their school of “rationalists”45 spent great energies on “debunking” or ridiculing the Bible where it favorably presented ancient Israel – especially when it showed Israel radiating splendor. However, when Voltaire and Company found a Biblical narrative that put Israel in an unfavorable light, in terms of abstract Christian morals (which the Christians themselves did not always practice), then they accepted the truth of the Biblical account. Many of Voltaire’s misrepresentations and falsehoods were already refuted and exposed in his own time, particularly by certain French Catholic scholars.46 Yet Voltaire’s hallowed aura as a champion of freedom of speech and thought has remained in place into our own time.


Esteem for the Jewish Heritage from the Early Renaissance till the End of the 17th Century

Now, Kant, Hegel, and Voltaire represented a significant turning point for the worse in the view of Jews held by the West. Not only the Church Fathers had seen the Jews as pioneers of civilization, but some of the great minds of the 17th century saw the constitution set out for Israel in the Bible and transmitted through Moses, as the model of an ideal republic.47 Consider Petrus Cunaeus, John Selden, Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, etc. Jean Gerson and Marsilio Ficino in the 15th century and Bossuet in the 17th followed Eusebios in seeing the Jews as pioneers of philosophy. Eusebios had written:

For of all mankind these [the Jews] were the first and sole people who from the very first foundation of social life devoted their thought to rational speculation...48

Eusebios was echoing the view of Clement of Alexandria49:

On the plagiarizing of the dogmas of the philosophers from the Hebrews, we shall treat a little afterwards...the philosophy of the Hebrews will be demonstrated beyond all contradiction to be the most ancient of all wisdom. (Stromata, Book I, chap. 21; trans. Roberts-Donaldson)

While Kant, Voltaire, and Hegel may have been rejecting Christian dogma, they were also rejecting the ancient Christian esteem for the Jews, at least as expressed by the Church Fathers. Now, this rejection of that particular esteem referred to a theme that was to become highly important in an age that valued the Progress of Civilization.

Progress for the Enlightenment meant, roughly speaking, improvement over time, movement from the inferior to the superior as applied to human society; the general movement of civilization towards the better. It can also be seen as a function of reason, that is, Progress is a destination or objective pertaining to reason and realized, achieved or fulfilled in history. In some views, progress is a historical necessity. The Christian tie to the notion of progress lies in Christianity’s long seeing itself as superseding Judaism; thus being a higher, superior stage of religion. Thus it had always represented

Progress in respect of Judaism (Muslims believe that Islam supersedes both Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad is considered the last or “seal” of the prophets.)


The Enduring Influence of Kant, Hegel & Voltaire on Modern Ideologies & on Scholarship on Ancient Times

Kant and Hegel defined the Jews as inimical to or incapable of Progress. Hegel and Voltaire saw them as incapable of Civilization. To d’Holbach, they were an obstacle to Science. They all –implicitly or explicitly – saw the Jews as hostile to or incapable of Reason. They all saw the Jews as alien, backward, and unprogressive. The Jews were stripped of dignity and pride, of human worth, more than before. They were degraded by the new conception. Thus, from the beginnings of Leftism, major streams within it defined the Jews as incapable of adhering to –or hostile to – the core values of Leftism – Reason, Progress, and Science. Robert Misrahi stresses at length the influence of Kant and Hegel on Marx’s views of the Jews (Marx et la Question juive, 3ème partie). Likewise, some ideologies today designated “rightist” also took inspiration from Kant, Hegel, and Voltaire – and this included their view of Jews.50

Needless to add, the notions and attitudes of Kant, Hegel, and Voltaire exerted immense influence throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Voltaire inspired libres penseurs, “free-thinkers” and “skeptics” who often rigidly adhered to Voltairean prejudices. Kant and Hegel influenced Marxists,51 German nationalists, Nordic racial supremacists, and a myriad of scholars, particularly Germans, of ancient history, classical studies, archeology, anthropology, Biblical criticism, etc. Indeed, Schechter argues that they were continuing in the Lutheran tradition, which ultimately was manifested in Nazism.

The Third Reich was not the product of an ideology supposedly born at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, as most researchers of this ideology have believed. The ideologues of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were no more than epigones who repeated Lutheran theological principles that had been hallowed over the course of four hundred years in German culture and in its religious expression.52

Unfortunately, Schechter somehow leaves out Luther’s Judeophobic influence on so-called “leftist” and socialist ideologies, which are also heirs of the Lutheran-Kantian-Hegelian tradition. In fact, Judeophobia could “infuse itself into both right and left wing ideologies” in the 19th century.53 Indeed, is it at all useful to distinguish between “left” and “right” as if they were separate bodies of thought and policy? Especially in the Third Millenium when much or most of the “left” has adopted Judeophobic notions widespread among the “right” before World War 2, or perhaps today’s “left” has merely reinvigorated its own Judeophobic tradition so prominent in the 19th century and into the early 20th?54


A Leftist Distorts the Church Fathers’ Position on Jewish Contributions to Civilization

The case of Martin Bernal shows just how highly charged specific issues judged by Kant, Hegel, and Voltaire still are. Bernal, a political scientist of Marxist views, has produced a monumental work, Black Athena, devoted in part to tracing the increasing scorn for belief in any Eastern influence on Greek and Roman civilizations – despite abundant Greek and Roman testimony and other evidence of Oriental influence, including Jewish – which emerged in the late 18th century and has been the dominant trend since the late 19th century. This anti-Oriental trend, Bernal complains, was eager to portray ancient Greece as isolated from the East, from Phoenicia, Egypt, etc. Bernal accepts, in general, ancient Greek and Latin testimony about Oriental influence on Classical culture, yet overlooks or misrepresents the testimony about the Jews. Therefore, ironically, Bernal himself does the same as do the targets of his criticism when it comes to the Jews. For one thing, he sees the ancient Jews as geographically isolated from Greece, thus incapable of imparting influence. Consider:

Israel [in antiquity], an inland state with very little contact with the Mediterranean, let alone the Aegean. (Martin Bernal, Black Athena II, 1991, p. 6)

Curiously, Voltaire wrote something equivalent: “...until the time of Alexander there was not the slightest intercourse” between Greece and Israel.55

What’s worse from the standpoint of scholarly method is that Bernal misrepresented the writings of the Church Fathers, such as those quoted above. He claims:

...the [Church] Fathers were united in the belief that the Greeks had learnt most of their philosophy from the Egyptians – though the Egyptians might have learnt some of theirs in turn from Mesopotamia and Persia...(Black Athena Vol. I, 1987, p. 24)

Bernal’s self-image as an iconoclast and corrector of conventional falsehoods does not stand in respect of the Jews.56

Despite the 20th century efforts by liberals and leftists to defend Voltaire’s reputation in reference to their own avowed values, they need to explain the 18th century use of Voltaire both by a Catholic clerical Judeophobe and by a more secular writer who rejected emancipating the Jews – who had inferior rights in monarchic 18th century France. Instead he recommended deporting them to French Guyana.57

Meanwhile, as Frank Manuel has observed, in the Church, since the French Revolution (an outgrowth of the Enlightenment) “theological hostility to Judaism tended to merge with the new ‘scientific’ and political anti-Semitism.”58 The clerics too were eager to be “scientific” like everyone else. Hence, the ostensibly non-religious 18th century Enlightenment Judeophobia and demeaning of Jews had the effect of reinforcing the Judeophobia of the Church. Moreover, the prejudices and generalizations of Kant, Hegel, and Voltaire made an enduring impression, serving in later generations not only as principles for ideologues but as paradigms for, inter alia, legions of scholars in various disciplines – sometimes shaping their perceptions to the detriment of their ability to perceive contributions to ancient civilization by Jews and Judaism, as they disregarded ancient Greek testimony about the Jewish role. In addition they left a lasting impact on “progressive” and “Leftist” thinking into the 21st century, as well as on some movements ordinarily considered “Rightist”. Jews attracted by such bodies of thought – perhaps for reasons such as admiration for Reason, Science and Progress, or the ostensible universalism, human equality, and social justice that “leftist” movements preached, or the charms of the Marxist intellectual system, forever disclosing hidden truths and answering every question – were liable to adopt their contempt and hostility for Jews and Judaism as well.


The Left in Israel Follows the Medieval Christian Teaching on the Jewish Rejection of Reason

For more than 100 years, parts of the Zionist movement have been openly Marxist, while other influences from German philosophy have reached Zionism and Israel in various ways. In Israel, issues manipulated by Kant, Hegel, and Voltaire, have continued to inspire personalities on the Left. As an example, Yigael Tumarkin defended Shulamit Aloni on the grounds of Reason, Science and Progress; although he acknowledged that her actions as a minister were not always reasonable:

I stand by Minister of Education and Culture, Shulamit Aloni, and not because I am one of her followers.

Her opinions are my opinions, but...I cannot justify making provocative proclamations...[by Aloni – EAG] which are denied the next morning...Nevertheless, I will stand at her side against any nationalist and clericalist lynch [that is, Jewish clerical – EAG]. Show me one religious state throughout history that had progress, tolerance, and a good life for its inhabitants...

Because only the revolt against religion brought man to progress, democracy, and achievements in culture and science. Not the ghetto, not the rabbinical courts or the Kabbalists of Safed brought redemption, but the Jewish Enlightenment...

My heroes are not the Baal Shem Tov or the Gaon of Vilna, and of course not the eccentric rabbis of today, who are not capable of arriving at any consensus which is compatible with the 20th century...

“ makes us free” [a quotation from Theodor Herzl, according to Tumarkin – EAG]...

...the black clothing is a black flag above elementary morality and our very existence...The knitted skullcap and the Book of Joshua...will bring about a second Masada. (Letter to the Editor of HaAretz, “My Sister in Lack of Faith”, 21 October 199259)

Tumarkin thus demonstrated that the banner of Reason, Science, and Progress continued to wave among the Israeli Left in the 1990s,60 while he viewed these values as in fundamental contradiction with Judaism, seemingly unaware in his hatred for the Jewish religion that his attitudes on Judaism –particularly his belief that religious Jews are defective in reason – have roots in another religion. It is unlikely that he comprehended that the notion of a Jewish incapacity for reason and philosophy go back to medieval Christians and later, after Luther, through subsequent German theologians to Kant and Hegel and from them to Marx and other moderns.

Looking back to 1993 with the benefit of hindsight, we may ask whether Shulamit Aloni – with whom Tumarkin so profoundly agreed, he believed – was rational or scientific in her advocacy of the Oslo Accords of that year. Was Aloni more rational than the rabbis whom she and Tumarkin despised who opposed Oslo [although there were also rabbis, as we know, who sat with Aloni in the Rabin-Peres cabinet, and thereby helped to bring about Oslo, whatever they may have subjectively wished]? The disastrous Oslo accords demonstrate that the left is far from rational or scientific. It made these accords paying no heed to Clausewitz’ teachings about war and diplomacy, while it refused and refuses to realize that Israel’s Arab-Muslim adversaries have their own unique culture and character which must be understood. Likewise the West – which often reproaches Israel for alleged moral breaches, while overlooking Arab and Muslim crimes – must be understood.



Gilbert Dahan, La Polémique chrétienne contre le Judaïsme au Moyen Age, Paris, 1991, p. 127.


Jean Gerson echoed Eusebios and Clement’s positive view of the Jewish role in civilization in a statement made in 1405 towards the end of the Middle Ages. Civilization or culture had “started from the earthly paradise [Eden] and passed successively from there to the Hebrews, from the Hebrews to the Egyptians, from Egypt to Athens, from Athens to Rome, from Rome to Paris,” as paraphrased by Edouard Jeauneau, La Philosophie médiévale, “Que sais-je”; Paris: PUF, 1967, p. 6.


Pico was known to have studied Hebrew with the Jewish poet Eliyahu Levita. Daniel Malkiel discusses Pico’s interest in Jewish lore and that of the Italian Renaissance generally, in “Christian Hebraism in a Contemporary Key”, Jewish Quarterly Review, v. 36, 1, Winter 2006, p. 123. During the early Renaissance, Hebrew study “was even preferred to Greek”, writes Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, v. I, repr. NY: Harper & Row, 1958, p. 208. As to Pico, “Among all those who busied themselves with Hebrew in the 15th century, no one was of more importance than Pico della Mirandola. He...even made himself familiar with the literature of the Talmud.” Ibid.


Valerio Marchetti describes the trend toward dejudaization of Christianity and of Greek philosophy in Lutheran theology and in German speculation on the history of philosophy, which I believe influenced Kant and Hegel. V. Marchetti, “An Pythagoras Proselytus Factus Sit”, Dimensioni e Problemi della Ricerca Storica, no. 2, 1996 (in Italian despite the Latin title). Rivka Schechter describes Luther as representing a turning point for the worse in the Christian perception of Jews, referring to “Luther’s successors, the philosophers, the poets, and the ideologues [who] removed from Germany all inhibitions, and the Third Reich was the crowning achievement of this process.” See Rivka Schechter, “Paul-Luther-Goethe-Hitler”, Nativ, vol. III, 1 (12), January 1990; p. 36 (Heb.).


I am referring particularly to intellectuals and academics of the older generation.


Anselm of Canterbury and Roger Bacon, for example. For Anselm, see Jeauneau, op.cit., pp. 41-46. Bacon wrote: “...Christian law should be means of the teachings of the philosophers...For there, noble testimonies are given concerning the articles of the Christian faith, namely, the Trinity, Christ, the Blessed Virgin...angels, souls...eternal life, the resurrection of bodies, the pains of purgatory, the pains of hell, and the like...Philosophy, however, does not agree in this manner with the religion of the Jews and of the Saracens, nor do the philosophers provide testimonies in their favor. Hence...the religion of the Christians is the only one that should be held.” Opus Maius, Part Four, Second Distinction, VI:1-2, trans. R McKeon, D McCarthy, E L Fortin, in Ralph Lerner & Muhsin Mahdi, eds., Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook, Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1963, p. 375.


See inter alia, Robert Chazan, “Medieval Anti-Semitism”, in David Berger, ed., History and Hate: The Dimensions of Anti-Semitism, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1986/5747, p. 62, also p. 53. Dahan supplies a number of instances wherein Christians tried to persuade Jews of the rationality of Christian dogmas. Dahan, op. cit. Yet, Jews “dare not speak” their true reasoning in these exchanges, as Rousseau recognized in Emile, Book IV. The medieval Jewish-Christian Disputations were theatrical efforts to overwhelm Jews in the name of reason, backed up by Christian numbers and political power. The Jews were handicapped in debate of course by Christian blasphemy laws. The disputations, therefore, somewhat resembled UN General Assembly meetings.


As early as the 4th century, the Church Father Sozomenos had complained: “...the Jews, although enjoying many very clear prophecies about the coming of the Christ, remained behind the pagans concerning faith in Christ; that’s enough said about that.” Sozomenos, History of the Church, I:1:8; translated from the French version of A-J Festugière – Sozomène, Histoire Ecclésiastique, Paris: Ed. du Cerf 1983-1986, Sozomenos’ complaint is not yet a claim that the Jews are incapable of reason, although his attitude may be a station on the way.


Dahan, p. 131.


This follows his statement: “At the Sorbonne, it is as clear as day that the predictions of the Messiah [in the Tanakh] relate to Jesus Christ. According to the Amsterdam rabbis, it is just as clear that they have not the least connection with him.” Rousseau, Emile, Book IV.


Chris Price, “Marcion, the Canon, the Law, and the Historical Jesus.” at <>.


Bat Yeor, “Juifs et chretiens sous l’Islam: Dhimmitude et marcionisme”, Commentaire, no. 97, Printemps 2002.


Rivka Schechter, p. 31. Leon Poliakov writes that Luther’s passionate hatred of Jews made the “diatribes of his forerunners seem bland” by comparison and that it may not have been “equaled to this day”. L Poliakov, Du Christ aux Juifs de Cour, Paris: Calmann Levy, 1955, p. 236.


Marchetti, “ aprono almeno tre percorsi intelletuali che organizzano una complessa volonta di ‘degiudaizzione’ della cultura tedesca.”


Harry Redner claims that “Anti-Semitism has always played a part in German philosophy,” H. Redner, “Philosophers and Anti-Semitism”, Modern Judaism, 22, 2002, p. 115.


Cecil Roth, Jews in the Italian Renaissance, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1959, pp. 127-128.


Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Heptaplus, Italian trans. by E. Garin, Carmagnola: Arktos, 1996, p. 3. Pico’s work Heptaplus, comments on the seven days of creation and is described as aiming to demonstrate the priority of the Jewish tradition. Pico referred to Hermippos [late 3rd Century BCE] who reported Jewish influence on Pythagoras [cited by Josephus, Against Apion, I:162-165]. Pythagoras had some definite social and political ideas, so it is of interest that Pico was a friend of Lorenzo de’ Medici (“The Magnificent”), ruler of Florence. Ivan Cloulas, Laurent le Magnifique, Paris: Fayard, 1982, p. 328.


For Ambrose, see Marchetti, op. cit. For Origen, see Against Celsus, chaps. V, XV. Other Church Fathers giving credit to Jews for contributing to Greek philosophy included Clement, The Stromata, Eusebios, Preparation for the Gospel, Justin, Apology and Hortatory Address to the Greeks. Marchetti comments that the notion of a “Jewish Pythagoras” was familiar to the Church Fathers.


Johann Friederich Mayer and Daniel Bandeco, Pythagoras utrum Fuerit Judaeus [dissertation], Hamburg, 1700; quoted in Marchetti, op. cit., note 38. Redner claims that, among German philosophers, “the German was held to have a special kinship” with the Greeks, a kinship racial or otherwise [Redner, p 116]. If Redner is right, then Germans around 1700 and since could not acknowledge Jewish influence on ancient Greek culture, so highly esteemed in Germany, since that would place themselves in an equal – or even worse, an inferior – position to the Jews. No doubt there have been exceptions to the rule among German-speaking scholars.


See Hans Reiss (ed.), Kant’s Political Writings, Cambridge: CUP, 1970, p. 52n. The Greeks, not the Jews, had “an educated public”.


In Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Simple Reason, quoted in Robert Misrahi, Marx et la Question Juive, Paris: Gallimard, 1972, p. 152. Kant’s accusation that Judaism is not a religion originates in Luther writings, according to Schechter, op. cit. p. 32.


Yirmiyahu Yovel, Hidah Afelah, Tel Aviv: Schocken, 1996, p. 34 (Heb.).


Ibid., p. 25.


Ibid., p. 35.


Nathan Rotenstreich, The Recurring Pattern: Studies in Anti-Judaism in Modern Thought, NY: 1964, p. 36. The notion of Christianity being superior in rationality to Judaism is found, inter alia, in Roger Bacon, Opus Maius, quoted in Lerner and Mahdi, eds., op. cit., p. 375.


Ibid., p. 27. The words of Rotenstreich. The claim that Christianity does not have roots in Judaism is identified with Marcion.


In Lessons on the Philosophy of History, quoted by Frank Manuel, The Broken Staff: Judaism Through Christian Eyes, Cambrdge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992, pp. 297, 301. Misrahi, op. cit., quotes a substantial passage containing this remark, p. 167.


Yovel, p. 123. In this Hegel was following Kant, says Yovel.


In the words of Rotenstreich, Recurring..., p. 63.


Ibid., p. 61.


Misrahi, p. 162.


Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly, “Hegel, les Juifs, et Nous”, Temps Modernes, no. 608 (3-4-5, 2000), pp. 286-289.


 Rotenstreich, Recurring..., pp. 63-64.


Yovel, p. 122.


Nathan Rotenstreich, Jews and German Philosophy, NY: Schocken, 1984, pp. 161-163.


Yovel, p. 122.


Voltaire studied Tertullian’s Against Marcion which preserves Marcion’s statements. He mentions Marcion sympathetically in the Dictionnaire Philosophique, “Tolérance”, sec. 1.


Dictionnaire Philosophique, “Carême”.


Ibid., “Judée”, Voltaire’s British contemporary and sometime critic, Edward Gibbon, was also part of the “modern” endeavor to belittle the Jews and their accomplishments. He too belittled the Jews as slaves, claiming that they were “the most despised portion of their slaves” (of the Assyrians and Persians). See his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol II, ed. J.B. Bury, 5th ed., London, 1909; pp. 2-3. For Gibbon also see Ibid., p. 453.


Voltaire, op. cit., “Abraham”, “Job” et passim.


See Charles Lehrmann, The Jewish Element in French Literature, Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971; French ed. 1961, p. 121.


Voltaire, op. cit., “Genèse”.


From Anthropology from the Pragmatic Viewpoint, quoted by Misrahi, p. 149.


Quoted in Leon Poliakov, De l’antisionisme à l’antisémitisme, Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1969, p. 164.


On Voltaire, see Frank Manuel, op. cit., especially pp. 112-118; Lehrmann, op. cit., pp. 116-125. For Voltaire’s own words, see especially his Dictionnaire Philosophique and Philosophie Générale (in many editions).


For instance, the Abbé Antoine Guenée, Pierre Guérin du Rocher, Jacques Bonnaud, Abbé Bergier, etc.


This “Political Hebraism” is discussed by Fania Oz-Salzberger, “The Jewish Roots of Western Freedom”, Azure, no. 13, Summer 2002.


Eusebios, Preparation for the Gospel, VII: 3, Gifford tr.


Clement, The Stromata, or Miscellanies, I: 21 in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Coxe, ed.


Redner, p. 116.


Misrahi insists on their influence on Marx himself particularly on the Jewish Question. However, biographies of Marx commonly stress Marx’s debt to Hegel whereas that to Kant is usually neglected or underestimated, on this issue in particular. Communists used to quip that Hegel was standing on his head until Marx stood him right side up [by his materialist conception of history].


Schecter, p. 30; also see pp. 36-37.


Redner, p. 116.


On socialist Judeophobia see, inter alia, the writings of Edmund Silberner, Robert Wistrich, Solomon Bloom, George Lichtheim, etc.


See Lehrmann, op.cit., p. 119.


The Times Literary Supplement published my letter pointing out Bernal’s misrepresentation of the Church Fathers, TLS, 15 June 2001. No response from Bernal was published.


The Roman Catholic clerical bigot C.L. Richard in Arthur Hertzberg, The French Enlightenment and the Jews, NY, 1968, p. 251; also see Lehrmann, op. cit.; p. 130


Manuel, op. cit., p. 247. In this vein, the Jesuit historian of philosophy, Frederick Copleston, disregards the Church Fathers’ teachings as to the Jewish influence on – even precedence concerning – philosophy. F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome, vol. I, London, 1947.


Arieh Stav has collected – in several publications – statements by Israeli intellectuals presenting a view of Jews and/or the Jewish religion derived from and/or inspired by the tradition of Kant, Hegel and Voltaire, as well as Stalin and other Marxists. See for instance, A. Stav, The Israeli Death Wish, Shaarei Tikva, Israel: Ariel Center for Policy Research, 1999, especially pp. 52-68; also see Netta Kohn Dor-Shav, The Self-Destructiveness of the Jews, Shaarei Tikva, Israel: Ariel Center for Policy Research, 1998, pp. 15-34.


I am referring especially here to academics and intellectuals and members of the older generation. The younger people – also called “leftists” – who are militants in Western-financed bodies such as B’tselem, Gush Shalom, etc., are typically shallow in their thinking and knowledge, although they may have been firmly indoctrinated by “non-governmental organizations” financed by Western governments and by other political indoctrination vehicles. This sort of Left is a separate problem.