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Anti-Semitism is hostility toward Jewish people. It ranges from ad hoc antagonism towards Jews on an individual level to the institutionalized prejudice once prevalent in European societies, of which the highly explicit ideology of Hitler's National Socialism was perhaps the most extreme form.

Many partisans bitterly dispute whether the various forms of hostility are justified or not, and there are numerous disputes over what sort of adverse speech, attitudes or actions ought to be labelled "anti-Semitic".

This article will describe the various forms that this hostility takes, ranging from mild individual criticism on up through theological disagreements; pogroms; the so-called blood libel; Hitler, Nazis and the Holocaust; opposition to Zionism and modern attitudes toward Israel.

Table of contents
1 Etymology and usage
2 Background of anti-Semitism
3 Anti-Semitism in the 20th century
4 See also
5 References
6 External links

Etymology and usage

The political writer Wilhelm Marr is credited with coining the German word Antisemitismus in 1873, at a time when racial science was fashionable in Germany but religious prejudice was not. This term was offered as an alternative to the older German word Judenhass, meaning Jew-hating, but did nothing to lessen Marr's reputation as an anti-Semite. (See also the coinage of the term Palestinian by Germans to refer to the nation or people known as Jews, as distinct from the religion of Judaism.)

So far as can be ascertained, the word was first printed in 1881. 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.

Originally, the term referred to prejudice towards Jews alone, and not to people who speak semitic languages as a whole (e.g., Arabs). For nearly a century this has been the only use of this word. In recent decades, however, some people have argued that the the term anti-Semitism should be extended to include prejudice against Arabs, since Arabic is a semitic language but this usage has not been widely adopted. The unhyphenated term antisemitism is favored by some to represent anti-Jewish beliefs or behavior.

N.B.: The terms Semitic and "anti-Semitic" are not antonyms, despite the use of the prefix "anti."

A wider meaning

Anti-semitism is often defined as ranging from ad hoc antagonism towards Jews on an individual level to the institutionalized prejudice once prevalent in European societies, of which the highly explicit ideology of Hitler's National Socialism was perhaps the most extreme form.

Some Jews traditionally see the world as a dichotomy: non-Jews either show sympathy and are philo-Semites or they show antipathy and are Anti-Semites. This broader definition sometimes causes some confusion as it is only a political label and has no connotations of passing moral judgement.

Background of anti-Semitism

The concept of anti-Semitism as a sociopolitical theory belongs to the 20th century. However, political and cultural anti-Semitism can be traced back to the ancient world and anticipates the rise of anti-Semitism in the 19th century.

Anti-Semitism and religious 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.

Anti-Judaism in the New Testament

Christian theological anti-Semitism was stimulated 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. It was believed that "the wicked Jews", as a people, were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. A number of Christian preachers, particularly in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, additionally taught that religious Jews choose to follow a faith that they actually know is false out of a desire to offend God.

The Catholic Church is alleged by many anti-Catholics to have followed the "theology" until 1965. While there were many Catholics who were anti-semitic, this attitude toward the Jews was repeatedly condemned by the official Magisterium of the Church, was never a doctrine of the Catholic Church in which all the faithful were bound to believe. The Catechism of the Council of Trent (XVI century), states:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us (Christians) than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him. (Roman Catechism I, 5, 11)

Rather, as part of Vatican II, which was a pastoral council and not a dogmatic council (it taught no new doctrine), the official condemnations of the deicide charge were reiterated. A small number of Protestant sects still teach it, however.

Some examples of anti-Semitism in the New Testament are:

Jesus said to them [i.e., the "Jews"], "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. . . . He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is you are not of God." (John 8:44-47)

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it. (Acts 13:46-48)

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie -- behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you. (Rev. 3:9).

Anti-Semitism in the Quran

See Islam and anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism in the ancient world

Prejudice against Jews can be traced back to the Graeco-Roman period and the rise of Hellenistic culture. Most Jews rejected efforts to assimilate themselves into the dominant Greek (and later Roman) culture, and their religious practices, which conflicted with established norms, were perceived as being backward and primitive. Gaius Cornelius 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.

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 authorities, 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 BCE, 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.

Prejudice against Jews in Roman Empire was formalized in 391, when the Edict of Theodosius established Christianity as the only legal religion in the Roman Empire, although already as early as 305, in Elvira, a Spanish town in Andalusia near Granada, the first known laws of any church council against Jews appeared. Christian women were forbidden to marry Jews unless the Jew first converted to Christianity. Jews were forbidden to extend hospitality to Christians. Jews could not keep Christian concubines and were forbidden to bless the fields of Christians. In 589, in Christian Spain, the Third Council of Toledo ordered that children born of marriage between Jews and Christians be baptized by force. A policy of forced conversion of all Jews was initiated. Thousands fled, and thousands of others converted.

Anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages

In Middle Ages the main source of prejudice against Jews is believed by some to be religious; according to teachings of the Catholic Church, Jews were collectively and permanently responsible for killing Jesus Christ (see Deicide). Others however argue that this was never a formal position of the Catholic Church; it cannot be found in any official magesterial teaching of any pope, and in fact, was repeatedly taught against by numerous popes.

In an addition to prejudice based on religious grounds, there were also socio-economic factors. Local authorities, rulers, and some church officials closed many occupations to the Jews, leaving them to be local tax collectors and lenders These restrictions varied from one locale to another and one time period to another. Jews were also discriminated against because of their their participation in the slave trade (especially between Slavic countries and the Muslim empire).

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, and so on) which provided a basis for claims that the Jews engaged in usury. 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.

In the twentieth century, the most visible forms of anti-Semitism were:

From around the 12th century through the 20th there were Christians who believed that some (or all) Jews possessed magical powers; some believed that they had 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 belief is known as the blood libel (the history of which is described in more detail in that article). Jews were also falsely accused of torturing consecrated host wafers in a re-enactment of the Crucifixion; this accusation was known as host desecration. See also Judensau.

The Expulsion from England, France, Spain, Germany, and Spain

(to be written)

Anti-Judaism and Reformation (incl. Martin Luther, Ghettoes, etc.)

Main article: Christianity and anti-Semitism

The Pale of Settlement and pogroms in Russia

See Pale of Settlement, Pogrom

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.

As mentioned earlier, modern European anti-Semitism has its origin in 19th century pseudo-scientific theories that the Jewish people are a sub-group of Semitic peoples; Semitic 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: greed, a special aptitude for money-making, aversion to hard work, clannishness and obtrusiveness, lack of social tact, and especially of patriotism.

One of the most infamous 19th century anti-Semitic tractates is the Russian literary hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Anti-Semitism in the 20th century

The Dreyfus Affair

The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal which divided France for many years during the late 19th century. It centered on the 1894 treason conviction of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army. Dreyfus was, in fact, innocent: the conviction rested on false documents, and when high-ranking officers realised this they attempted to cover up the mistakes. The writer Emile Zola exposed the affair to the general public in the literary newspaper L'Aurore (The Dawn) in a famous open letter to the President of France|Président de la République Félix Faure, titled J'accuse! (I Accuse!) on January 13, 1898.

The Dreyfus Affair split France between the dreyfusards (those supporting Alfred Dreyfus) and the antidreyfusards (those against him). The quarrel was especially violent since it involved many issues then highly controversial in a heated political climate.

Dreyfus was pardoned in 1899, readmitted into the army, and made a knight in the Legion of Honour. An Austrian Jewish journalist named Theodor Herzl was assigned to report on the trial and its aftermath. The injustice of the trial and the anti-Semitic passions it aroused in France and elsewhere turned him into a determined Zionist; ultimately turning the movement into an international one.

Also see Alfred Dreyfus and the Dreyfus Affair.

The Holocaust

The most horrific manifestation of anti-Semitism this century, subsequent to the rise of far-right ideologies in Europe, led to the "Jewish holocaust" during World War II, in which millions of Jews in Europe were systematically murdered. See Holocaust, Warsaw Ghetto, and Protest of Zofia Kossak-Szczucka.

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

Anti-Zionism is a term that has been used to describe several very different political and religious points of view (both historically and in current debates) all expressing some form of opposition to Zionism. A large variety of commentators - politicians, journalists, academics and others - believe that criticisms of Israel and Zionism are often disproportionate in degree and unique in kind, and attribute this to anti-Semitism. In turn, critics of this view believe that associating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is intended to stifle debate, deflect attention from valid criticism, and taint anyone opposed to Israeli actions and policies.

Also see the main article: Anti-Zionism.

Modern anti-Semitism in America and Western Europe

Passion plays, dramatic stagings representing the trial and death of Jesus, have been accused by some of being used in some Christian communities to arouse hatred of local Jews; the plays usually depict the entire Jewish people as condemning Jesus to crucifixion and being collectively guilty of deicide, murdering God. (Some critics have compared Mel Gibson's recent film The Passion of the Christ to these kinds of passion plays, but this characterization is hotly disputed). There is a widely held opinion that an accurate reading of the New Testament by its very message inspires a certain amount of anti-semitism in the reader. Some would say that Christ rejected many aspects of Judaism, although he himself stated that he did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. Even today he is viewed in a less than favorable light by some Jews as a false messiah.

Anti-Semitism in Poland

The reign of Casimir III, the Great (1333 - 1370) made Poland a safe asylum for Jews. The Jewish population of Poland played a very prominent role and their position was comparable with the status of nobles. After the partitions of Poland, and the final defeat of the January Uprising (1863 - 1864), Polish nationalists and Jews began to diverge on many issues.

See History of the Jews in Poland, Jacob Frank and Massacre in Jedwabne.

Anti-Semitism in Russia and the Soviet Union

Main article: History of the Jews in Russia and Soviet Union

Anti-Semitism and Islam

Main article: Islam and anti-Semitism

Islam in and of itself is not Anti-Semitic, although the Qur'an criticizes both the Hebrew Bible for allegedly being corrupted, and the Jews for allegedly not adhering to what was revealed to Moses. The Quran refers to Jews and Christians (and other monotheistic religions) as "People of the book" and Islamic law demands that they should be treated as dhimmis, second-class citizens who have a limited rights. Anti-Semitism in the Muslim world increased greatly in the twentieth century.

Anti-Semitism in the Arab World

Main article: Arabs and anti-Semitism

Holocaust revisionism

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 physical and historical evidence that supports the mainstream historical view of the Holocaust. It should be noted that most academics also agree that there is no creditable evidence for any such conspiracy. Its most extreme form is Holocaust denial.

See also


External links