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By Hyam Maccoby

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Extra info for Antisemitism and Modernity: Innovation and Continuity (Routledgecurzon Jewish Studies Series)

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The ground was thus fully prepared for modern theories in which the Jews were declared to be subhuman or at least radically alien. The image, having become ingrained, only needed, in a non-theological age, to be grounded in philosophy or ‘science’. The philosophy of Hegel, with its concept of the nation as the embodiment of an ‘idea’, became the inspiration of German nationalism, seeking unity and morale after the humiliations of the Napoleonic era. The writings of Herder and his school stimulated a Germanic mysticism.

According to this theory, the races of mankind are in competition with each other for survival. Only the Aryan race deserves to triumph, because it alone has noble qualities of creativity and altruism. Other races are doomed either to extermination or to servitude to the Aryan race. The Jews, as Semites, can never become true citizens in an Aryan nation. The term ‘antisemitism’ was thus coined28 as an expression of the biological theory of the inferiority of the Jews. In theory, this inferiority ought to extend to Arabs too, but Jews were the only Semites living in Europe in any appreciable numbers, and it was not until the rise of consciousness of the Arab world in the present century that the hollowness and hypocrisy of the term ‘antisemite’ became widely apparent, in that it was never regarded as applying to Arabs.

Jews, still excluded from the professions, sank to pawnbroking and peddling, which further degraded their image. Yet through their continuing practice of their religion and learning, the Jews were never so demoralized as they appeared. By this combination of paranoia with deliberate debasement, Christians increasingly demonised the Jews. The chief result of this was the growth of the horrifying ‘blood-libel’, by which Jews were accused of murdering Christian children in order to drink their blood or use it to make unleavened bread.

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