Evangelicals pride themselves on being the best friends Israel could have, if not because we regard them as being in a unique sense the chosen people then by virtue of the fact that we believe in loving our neighbours as ourselves. While probably no evangelical would want to be regarded as anti-Semitic there is always the danger of taking on board — albeit unwittingly — some of the mythology that finds its expression in "Jewish" jokes, figures of speech and the "everybody knows that the Jews..." statements that are the stock in trade of hate-literature. It was widely perceived in the Germany of the thirties, for example, that the Jews were responsible for Germany's ills. Everybody knew that the Jews were responsible and therefore Adolph Hitler's repressive measures found little opposition even within the church. He was able to exploit public prejudice against the Jews to his fullest advantage.

There are a number of popular misconceptions about Jewish people that reveal themselves in some of the things we say without thinking. For example:

"He didn't look Jewish"

So what do Jews look like? The typical Jewish stereotype can be seen in Leonardo's "Last Supper"; the swarthy, hook-nosed Judas stands out among the Caucasian apostolic band. The widespread "Fagin" concept of Jewish appearance ensured that the Jews could have no place in Hitler's Aryan master race.

Within a year of the conquest of the regime that had perpetrated the atrocities of the Holocaust, a scurrilous "Christian" pamphlet was circulated entitled, Jesus of Nazareth—Was He a Jew? The booklet, still in print, claimed that pictorial representations of Christ as fine-featured with blue eyes and fair hair have "some basis in actual fact" and concluded that "Jesus Christ was definitely, emphatically and decidedly NOT A JEW!"

According to one research study, however, Jews tend to reflect the physical characteristics of the surrounding people. Among English Jews 26% have blond hair and among German Jews 32%. An American research project concluded that only 4% of American Jews exhibit the 'typical' hooked nose.

"Jews know how to make money"

Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice helped perpetuate the idea that the Jew is totally motivated by greed but a little appreciated fact is that during the Middle Ages the Jews, excluded from the European craft guilds, were encouraged to become money lenders with interest rates fixed by the crown in anticipation of considerable revenue in tax. The church forbade its members to engage in the practice but those gentiles who did charged interest rates hundreds of times in excess of their Jewish counterparts. As things stand today there are no figures to suggest that the Jewish population of Britain is better off financially than its gentile neighbours. What is certain is that Jews who do succeed in business or commerce are noticed due to the fact that they are in a minority. Ironically because of their high visibility the minority tends to be regarded as a majority!

The other traditional characteristic of Jewishness epitomised by Shakespeare's Shylock is meanness. However, in the London telephone directory there are listed over fifteen specifically Jewish charitable and philanthropic organisations, the full number in Britain far exceeding this figure. While the traditional concept of the "tight" Jew is played up, Jews such as Godfrey Bradman who underwrote the £2 million legal costs of claimants against the manufacturers of Opren, or Cyril Stein who helped collect £40,000 from El Al passengers for Moran Kadosh's liver transplant, go unnoticed. Philanthropic Jews do not usually wear their Jewishness or their generosity on their sleeves.

"The Jews control everything."

Conspiracy theories are not new. In 1932 The Fundamentalist magazine reviewed an exposé of the evils of the film industry, The Devil's Camera. The review made reference to the "Jew-dominated film industry", implying strongly that the Jews were responsible for the decline in public morals which was encouraged, as they saw it, by the cinema. In the eighties, playwright Jim Allen and his producer Ken Loach claimed that the "international Zionist conspiracy" had infiltrated British broadcasting, publishing and theatre thus preventing the wider presentation of their anti-Zionist play Perdition.

A myth has persisted throughout this century that the Jews are secretly plotting to take control of the world through the control of the economic systems, government and the media. One publication that has done more than any other to fuel this form of Judaeophobia is The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the purported minutes of a secret council of Jewish businessmen who plan to take over the world economy. This notorious forgery greatly assisted in preparing the ground for the pogroms in Czarist Russia and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

The facts stand out in stark contrast to these claims. In Jews and Money Gerald Krefetz points out that of 56 major businesses in the USA that could be controlled by a minority of shareholders, three have substantial Jewish investment. In 1978 Senator William Proxmire (at that time head of the US Senate Banking Committee) revealed that rather than being controlled by Jews, Catholics or negroes, the US banks were "controlled by the most Waspish [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] elements".

That there is a conspiracy behind scenes of world history no Christian should doubt. But the conspiracy is not Jewish. Behind the scenes of world history is the "prince of the power of the air; the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience". What is more, we are not ignorant of his devices. His machinations against the Jews have been evident from the time of Pharaoh through the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust to the present day. We must not fall into the trap of somehow regarding the Jewish people as incapable of doing wrong, neither must we despise, fear or hate them. We are to love the Jews and express that love by praying for them and working for their salvation.

This article appeared as First Word in our Sept - Nov 1987 issue of the Herald.

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