The necessity of European anti-Semitism
Rudolph Giuliani, the man with a simple solution for every complicated problem, tells Europe how it can Stop the Hate of Jews in a NYT op-ed that appeared just a week after An Oxymoron: Europe Without Christianity by Kenneth L. Woodward. If Rudy read his hometown paper before submitting to it, he might see how much more complicated this problem is. I've been researching the Spanish conquest of America (for a book on the history of Latin American architecture and urbanism), and recently completed a novel about the rise of the Ottomans and the last days of Christian Constantinople, so I've been thinking a lot about these relationships. It is clear to me that Europe could not have become "Europe" without Christianity, and anti-Semitism was an inevitable by-product.

Before there was Europe, the Roman Empire had held together the lands all around the Mediterranean by military and commercial might, governing by Roman law but more or less indifferent to the multiplicity of religions. "Europe," without that overwhelming superpower, was able to bring itself together (more or less) by the shared religion. Danes and Irishmen only recently Christianized and older Christians like Spaniards and Italians needed enemies of their faith to remind themselves of their common values. Hence, the ideological urgency of Crusades and pogroms, and in Spain, the Inquisition (with so many languages in the Iberian peninsula, how else could Spain hold itself together?). Europe is past that stage now, one hopes, but until it developed mighty industries and commerce to achieve the same purpose, the common religion was essential to Europe's identity and power.

It should be obvious then that anti-Semitism is a very different, and much weaker, phenomenon in America. It was never essential to our identity. For most of us, the Atlantic Ocean was enough of a barrier between us and the non-Americans. Anti-Semitism here is an import, not as deeply rooted and therefore more susceptible to Giuliani's law-and-order remedies. Here we massacred "Indians" and lynched blacks, but that's another story.

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