Sunday, May 25, 2014

Antisemitism or ignorance

I was disturbed very recently by the remarks of a Honduran priest, someone who is fairly politically radical.

In trying to explain the Good Samaritan story he made a few remarks about Jews that upset me. I am oversimplifying what he said, but I think this is the gist of what he said.

He suggested that in the time of Jesus some Jewish leaders used the laws of the Torah to enrich themselves. He then proceeded to note that Jews have really succeeded in business throughout history. But then he started to make a jump to talk about Jews in Honduras. I objected strongly and vocally.

I felt that he was making several jumps and generalizing about Jews. In the process, what he said could be used as a caricature of Jews. I fear that he is naïve about Judaism and Jews, as are all too many people – even educated people – who have never met a Jewish person and rely on broad generalizations. This is also complicated by the history of anti-Judaism in Christianity and the misuse of the reference to the Judeans in the Gospels.

Of course, his response was that he was opposed to what Hitler did and was only talking about what happened in the time of Jesus. But that’s not what I heard. He responded that maybe I didn’t understand what he was saying.

I responded by saying that we must be very careful about how we speak, avoiding generalizations that can lead to racism. I didn’t use the word “anti-semitism” for a number of reasons, including that he might not understand what I meant by that.

He later talked about the “Arabs” in Honduras. I interjected that the so-called Arabs or Turks (turcos) are mostly from Lebanon and Palestine. They came here and to other parts of Latin American largely to escape the Turkish Empire.

A little later he began to speak about the Israel-Palestine conflict, speaking of it in terms of the children of Sarah and the children of Haggar. I objected again and reminded him that there are Christian Palestinians.

There were other remarks he made, including one wondering whether Facussé was a Jew. Facussé is the son of Catholic Palestinian immigrants.

All this leads me to believe that, in large part, he was acting in ignorance, talking off the cuff, not really careful in his facts.  All too common here.

How sad.

--- A few years ago I wrote a blog entry about anti-semitism in Honduras which can be found here.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Thanks for speaking out.

Antisemitism is alive and well in Latin America. The Church bears some responsibility, since they were teaching that Jews are Christkillers until about 50 years ago. But, as you say, it's mostly rooted in ignorance.

It's wonderful that you are there to speak out.