White supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross earned his 15 minutes of fame Sunday when he reportedly gunned down a 53-year-old woman, 69-year-old man and 14-year-old boy outside a Jewish center in a Kansas City suburb. He thought he was killing Jews, though all three victims were Christians.
Broad conclusions are usually hard to draw from a single crime, but not in this case. The triple homicide reminds us once again that the moral sickness of anti-Semitism persists in small corners of the United States – and big corners elsewhere in the world.
Over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered more hatred for less cause than any other ethnic group. The pathology slithered out of its hole thousands of years ago and has been going strong ever since.
Its tenacity is astounding. The Hebrew Bible – admittedly a biased source – records massacres of Jews many centuries before the birth of Christ. Secular history shows that Jews were being massacred – just for being Jews – in ancient Alexandria.
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Jews were second-class citizens in Arab countries; they enjoyed long stretches of protection punctuated by vicious oppression. Europe was a recurring nightmare. For nearly 2,000 years – right up through the Nazi era – they were periodically stigmatized, confined to ghettoes, subjected to official abuse, and sometimes slaughtered or burned by the hundreds and thousands.
Some kingdoms, including England and Spain, expelled their entire Jewish populations – sometimes because monarchs wanted to lay their hands on Jewish property.
The Nazis’ murder of 6 million Jews was history’s ultimate hate crime. It did not come out of nowhere; it was the culmination of a long tradition of reviling Jews as international conspirators and embodiments of cosmic evil. The Nazi edict that required them to wear yellow stars was simply a revival of a medieval humiliation.
One would think that the Holocaust would have shamed and silenced the anti-Semites once and for all. No such luck.
Jew-hatred is still endemic in the Middle East, where Nazi rhetoric and vicious old smears are enthusiastically recycled. Islamic extremists have smuggled anti-Semitism right back into Europe, where Jews are regularly attacked and sometimes murdered by Middle Eastern immigrants. Nazism still festers in small circles in America.
We’d like to write off the Kansas killings as an isolated outbreak of a nearly eradicated disease. But history tells another story.