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Anti-Semitism is hostility toward Jews. In Christian Beliefs &
Anti-Semitism, Charles Glock and Rodney Stark define anti-Semitism as "The
hatred and persecution of Jews as a group; not the hatred of persons who
happen to be Jews, but rather the hatred of persons because they are Jews".
David Berger, a professor of history at Brooklyn College, said that
"Essentially, anti-Semitism means either of the following: (1) hostility to
Jews as a group which results from no legitimate cause or greatly exceeds
any reasonable, ethical response to genuine provocation; or (2) a pejorative
perception of Jewish physical or moral traits which is either utterly
groundless or a result of irrational generalization and exaggeration".
Etymology and Usage
Wilhelm Marr is credited with coining the German word Antisemitismus in
1873, at a time when racial science was fashionable in Germany but religious
hatred wasn't. So far as can be ascertained, the word was first printed in
1880. In that year Marr published "Zwanglose Antisemitische Hefte," and
Wilhelm Scherer used the term "Antisemiten" in the "Neue Freie Presse" of
January. The related word semitism was coined around 1885.
Roots of anti-Semitism
There have been a number of motivating factors that spurred anti-Semitism,
including social, economic, national, political, racial, and religious
factors and any number of combinations of the above. In the twentieth
century, the most visible forms of anti-Semitism were:
* Racist anti-Semitism. Some people perceive Jews as people of a racially
distinct origin from other peoples, and claim that discrimination on
the basis of such distinctness is valid.
* Religious anti-Semitism. Like almost every other religion in history,
Judaism has faced discrimination and violence from people of competing
faiths and in countries that practice state atheism.
Dennis Prager believes that the root cause of anti-Semitism is that Jews are
socially and culturally different from the societies that they live in; in
most eras Jews have not let themselves become assimilated into the majority
culture. This led to belief that the Jews believed themselves superior to
others, resulting in hatred towards Jews. Such phenomenon existed in ancient
ancient Egypt, ancient Persia, and in the ancient Roman Empire. While other
conquered peoples assimilated and joined the religion of the majority, Jews
In consequence of their alien status, Jews were often excluded socially and
politically from the societies in which they lived, or alternately, were
forced to enter professions that were considered socially inferior (tax- and
rent-collectors, money-lenders, etc.) Over time, these professions
engendered animosity among the people who came into contact with
Jews--peasants, who were forced to pay their taxes to Jews could personify
Jews as the people taking their earnings, while remaining loyal to the lords
on whose behalf the Jews worked.
Early forms of anti-Semitism
Disdain of Jews can be traced back to the Graeco-Roman period and the rise
of Hellenistic culture. Most Jews rejected efforts to assimilate them into
the dominant Greek (and later Roman) culture, and their religious practices,
which conflicted with established norms, were perceived as being backward
and primitive. Tacitus, for example, writes disparagingly of many real and
imagined practices of the Jews, while there are numerous accounts of
circumcision being described as barbarous.
Furthermore, throughout the Diaspora, Jews tended to live in separate
communities, in which they could practice their religion. This led to
charges of elitism, as appear in the writings of Cicero. As an ethnic
minority, Jews were also dependent on the goodwill of the ruling imperial
power, though this was considered irksome to the indigenous population,
which regarded any vestiges of autonomy among the local Jewish communities
as reminders of their subject status to a foreign empire. Nevertheless, this
did not always mean that opposition to Jewish involvement in local affairs
was anti-Semitic. In 411 A.D. an Egyptian mob destroyed the Jewish temple at
Elephantine in Egypt, but many historians argue that this was provoked by
anti-Persian sentiment, rather than by anti-Semitism per se--the Jews, who
were protected by the imperial power, were perceived as being its representatives.
The enormous and influential Jewish community in the ancient Egyptian port
city of Alexandria saw manifestations of an unusual brand of anti-Semitism
in which the local pagan populace rejected the biblical narrative of the
Exodus as being anti-Egyptian. In response, a number of works were produced
to provide an "Egyptian version" of what "really happened": the Jews were a
group of sickly lepers that was expelled from Egypt. This was also used to
account for Jewish practices--they were so sickly that they could not even
wander in the desert for more than six days at a time, requiring a seventh
day to rest, hence the origin of the Sabbath. It was these charges that led
to Philo's apologetic account of Judaism and Jewish history, which was so
influential in the development of early church doctrine.
Judaic traditions extend at least a thousand years BCE (before the common
era), and are the historical predecessor for the religions of Christianity
and Islam, both of whom hold some Judaic traditions and texts as sacred,
though differ in aspects that are central to each distinct branch of religion.
Hence Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, each took different course in terms
of beliefs, as well as traditional customs; each creating a separate and
distinct culture, from the parent Judaism. Those who held to traditional
Judaic belief were considered "deniers" of the newer beliefs and traditions,
in much the same way that every religion considers people of other religions
to be denying the truth.
While many more subtle manifestations of Church anti-Semitism can be traced
to anti-Jewish sentiment in Egypt, these more blatant early accusations of
anti-Egyptian sentiment and the rejection of the Exodus mythology were not
coopted by the Church since they countered Christian doctrine.
The development of Christianity led to theological anti-Semitism. It was
created by the New Testament's replacement theology, or supersessionism,
which taught that with the coming of Jesus a new covenant has rendered
obsolete and has superseded the religion of Judaism.
Until 1965, for instance, the Catholic Church preached that "the wicked
Jews", as a people, were collectively responsible for the death of Jesus
Christ. This doctrine was repudiated as part of Vatican II. Many Protestant
Christian denominations still teach this.
A number of Christian preachers, particularly in the Middle Ages and
Renaissance, taught that the Jewish people choose to follow a faith that
they actually know is false out of a desire to offend God.
Medieval Anti-Semitism, Blood Libels, the Black Death, and the Crusades
From the medieval era to the 1900s there were Christians who believed that
some (or all) Jews possessed magical powers; depending on the culture,
people believed that the Jews gained these magical powers from making a deal
with the devil.
This was also often accompanied by beliefs that Jewish religious practice
entailed devil worship, or "Satanic" actions, such as drinking the blood of
Christian children in mockery of the Christian Eucharist; this idea is known
as the blood libel, the history of which is described in more detail in its
own entry. Jews were also falsely accused of torturing consecrated host
wafers in a reenactment of the Crucifixion; this accusation was known as
The Enlightenment and the Rise of Racial Anti-Semitism
Racial anti-Semitism, the most modern form of anti-Semitism, is a type of
racism mixed with religious persecution. Racial anti-Semites believe
erroneously that the Jewish people are a distinct race. They also believe
that Jews are inherently inferior to people of other races.
Modern European anti-Semitism has its origin in the ethnological theory that
the Jewish people are a sub-group of Semitic peoples; Semetic people were
thought by many Europeans to be entirely different from the Aryan, or
Indo-European, populations, and that they can never be amalgamated with
them. In this view, Jews are not opposed on account of their religion, but
on account of their supposed racial characteristics. As such are mentioned:
greed, a special aptitude for money-making, aversion to hard work,
clannishness and obtrusiveness, lack of social tact, and especially of
The Pale of Settlement, Pogroms, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion
One of the most damaging anti-Semitic tractates published is the infamous
Russian literary hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This subject has
its own entry.
Holocaust, Warsaw Ghetto, An Antisemite that oppose the holocaust Protest of
Zofia Kossak-Szczucka etc...
Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism
Most anti-Semites are opposed to Zionism. Historically, however, there were
anti-Semites who supported Zionism as a means of emptying their country of
Jews; this is uncommon today. Some anti-Zionists are also anti-Semites. In
the popular media of the Arab Middle East, the terms "Israeli", "Zionist"
and "Jew" are often used interchangeably, indicating a conjoining of
anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The conflation of the three terms is false,
as there exist non-Israeli Jews, and non- and anti-Zionist Jews.
Most Jews hold that in the vast majority of cases ideological anti-Zionists
are also anti-Semites, combining the two concepts in a way that cancels the
distinction between them. They hold that the unconditional denial of the
right of Jews to a state implies considering Jews inferior as to rights --
which is anti-Semitism by definition. They further hold that self-proclaimed
anti-Zionists almost always fail to distinguish between Israel the state,
and Israelis and Jews as individuals; this often leads to anti-Semitic
Many people who consider themselves anti-Zionists do not oppose the
existence of a Jewish state per se, but merely that of the one that was
placed in Palestine. These people argue that the country was already
populated by Palestinans, at whose expense a Jewish state should not be
Jews distinguish between anti-Zionism and specific criticisms of the Israeli
government, or of a facet of Israeli society. For instance, most Israelis
and Jews hold that one can oppose the occupation of the West Bank without
being anti-Zionist. Anti-Zionism is recognized as anti-Semitism when groups
repeatedly and publicly criticise the State of Israel for a specific policy,
yet fail to do the same for other nations which have the same policy.
Jews hold that one's racial group had no relevance to one's Judaism or
citizenhip in Israel. They point to the the fact that the State of Israel
has allowed people of all races and skin colors to become Israeli citizens
including Hispanics, Vietnamese, Yemenites, Druze, Bedouins, black Africans,
etc. Those belonging to another religion, but of Jewish ancestry, face
greater hurdles in citizenship and civil liberties in Israel.
Modern Anti-Semitism in America and Western Europe
* In the years leading up to America's entry into World War II, Father
Charles Coughlin, an anti-Semitic radio preacher, as well as many other
prominent public figures, condemned "the Jews" because they were
leading America into war. While most Jews in America supported the
interventionist camp, not all did.
* Jews were condemned by populist politicians for their leftwing politics
at the turn of the century. Many Jews were leftwing, but not most.
* Jews are condemned for their supposed "high level of participation" in
the slave trade.
Modern Anti-Semitism in the Arab World
Holocaust revisionists often claim that "the Jews" or a "Zionist conspiracy"
is responsible for the exaggeration or wholesale fabrication of the events
of the Holocaust. Critics of such revisionism point to an overwhelming
amount of historical evidence that supports the mainstream historical view
of the Holocaust. It should be noted that most academics also agree that
there is no reliable evidence for any such conspiracy.
Contemporary Manifestations of Anti-Semitism
In recent years some Jewish groups have noticed what they are describing as
"the new anti-Semitism". The large increase in anti-Semitism over the last
twenty years is taking on new forms that had not previously existed. Concern
exists over anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the anti-Globalization
movement, among many in the political left-wing, and among those who
consider themselves anti-colonialist.