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Anti-Semitism, an unlikely aid to Jewish survival? Plus tales of tribalism in France, Poland

Anti-Semitism, an unlikely aid to Jewish survival? Plus tales of tribalism in France, Poland

Beneath the surface of polite conversation in the Jewish world there exists a disturbing (for me) school of thought that postulates the following: Anti-Semitism has not been all bad for Jews.

Yes, you read that right. Anti-Semitism has not been all bad for Jews because it has helped them survive as a living religious culture, one that otherwise might have disappeared via assimilation had Christians and Muslims, among whom Jews lived as minorities, been nicer about all those complicating theological details and cultural differences.

Or to put it another way, anti-Semitism forced Jews to cooperate among themselves for their physical survival, solidifying their tribal identity and encouraging them to fight to preserve their culture and faith.

I'm reluctant to embrace that proposition -- given the Holocaust, the Inquisition and the assorted pogroms and injustices Jews have endured across the centuries, and to this day. That's a heck of a price to pay for group cohesion.

Yet I can't utterly reject it; I'm too aware of the emphasis on anti-Semitism that Jewish organizations use to rally community solidarity. Yes, and to raise money.

So I wonder whether a similar dynamic is currently at play among French Christians, Roman Catholics in particular, who seem to be experiencing something of a public political revival? And not just French Christians, but also the entire backlash among more conservative religionists against globalization's massive and threatening demographic changes.

That backlash would include Indian Hindus, about whom I wrote last week, white British Christians (even if only culturally so) who backed Brexit and American evangelicals who voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump despite strong misgivings about his lifestyle and temperament.

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