On Words: Antisemitism

Antisemitism. It is a word that conjures up the oldest bigotry known in human history. You may even think that there is a consensus about the meaning of this word. However, you would be wrong. In fact, there is more controversy about this word today, then when it was first coined in the late 19th century. (By the way, the first sign you are an antisemite is if you decide that antisemitism means Arabs can’t be antisemites, because they like Jews are semites.)

Now if you go to the dictionary here is the definition of antisemitism:

If you want to actually break it down, this is how it would look:

Anti = hatred

Semit = Jews/Judaism (it actually had to do with the racial theories that were prevalent in Europe at the end of the 19th century)

Ism = a school, movement, idea: also an explanation

This was an attempt at the time to give anti-Judaism (aka, Judeophobia) a more academic face. In other words, there was a desire by the highly educated to make it a respectable way to view the world, rather than the rantings of an out of control mob. Of course, we all know how those ethnic/racial theories worked out: The Holocaust.

In the decades following the end of World War Two, there was a fairly universal belief that the underlying hate that created the Holocaust was something that the world needed to do away with. And for a while, antisemites actually tried to hide their antisemitism, by taking all anti-Jewish dog  whistles and applying it not to individual Jews, but to the only Jewish State.  They would say that they are not antisemitic, but anti-Zionist.

In response to this perversion of reality the Jewish Agency, run by human rights legend Natan Sharansky came up with the concept of the 3Ds to show when criticism of Israel descends into antisemitism:

Demonization. When the Jewish state is being demonized; when Israel’s actions are blown out of all sensible proportion; when comparisons are made between Israelis and Nazis and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz – this is anti- Semitism, not legitimate criticism of Israel.

Double standards. When criticism of Israel is applied selectively; when Israel is singled out by the United Nations for human rights abuses while the behavior of known and major abusers, such as China, Iran, Cuba, and Syria, is ignored; when Israel’s Magen David Adom, alone among the world’s ambulance services, is denied admission to the International Red Cross – this is anti-Semitism.

Delegitimization: when Israel’s fundamental right to exist is denied – alone among all peoples in the world – this too is anti-Semitism. (cite)

Moreover, this antisemitic assault against the only Jewish State has led to the new International definition of  antisemitism. This definition has been adopted by several European countries, the USA, even the new Secretary General of the UN. (Here, Here, Here, Here) At present it should be noted, that a bill is presently stalled in the US Congress adopting this definition for the purpose of hate crimes legislation, and to provide civil rights protection for Jewish-American students in the US.

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits. Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel. (cite)

Interestingly, these modern antisemites even got away with it for awhile, until they couldn’t help themselves, and they simply showed their true face. Antisemitism is on the rise globally. It is not simply the Right, that so many in the progressive world would like you to believe. They want to blame Trump for the rise of Jew-hatred, when in fact antisemitism is rife throughout the regressive Left. 

Remember the Soviet Union was one of the most antisemitic nations in modern history, and the propaganda that they preached did not simply disappear with the demise of their totalitarian state. In fact, their adherents are still active and quite prolific in European politics, simply look at the UK’s Labour leader if you have any doubt. The rise of antisemitism has become a paralyzing issue in the UK.

The ultimate interesting question about antisemitism is why in fact does it endure? It is over 2500 years old. What is it about Jew-hatred that it rears its ugly head in every generation? It may evolve. It may morph into another “ism,” but there is always the idea that the Jew is the ultimate outsider, hell bent on domination and destruction.

People tend to need to scapegoat for their own failures. The question is why the Jews?

In response to the rise in antisemitism, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Israel, Yad Vashem, has brought together 50 leading scholars on this subject, and created an on-line class, through the Future Learn website. These scholars attempt to answer the questions: “why antisemitism,”  “where does it come from,” “who is an antisemite,” and “what is it about antisemitism that makes it so attractive to so many people?” There is also a discussion (in future weeks) how antisemitism portrays itself in modern political discourse when it comes to Israel and Zionism.

Remember, Zionism is simply, the right of self-determination of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland.

Yet somehow, the antisemitic world has decided that the Jew, among all the peoples of the world, have no right to their own freedom. According to the antisemite, the fact that the Jewish people not only took that right anyway, but flourish because of it, is a sign that the Jews are evil and  nefarious. For them, Jews asserting their freedom is a zero sum game. For these people, they cannot be free if the Jewish people are free. Personally all I can think of is that this is such a sad way to live, and to exist. Such hatred can only lead to war, poverty, hate, and despair. What a sad way to raise your children.

Here is the link to the class: Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

I am not certain that we will end up with any real answers to these questions. What I do know, though, is that Jews are no longer being silent about antisemitism. That Jews are not allowing others to decide their future. If someone is going to hate me for asserting my right to be free, then they may live within their walls of hate. Personally, I seek the future.


About Elise "Ronan"

#JewishandProud ...#JoyfulNeshama
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6 Responses to On Words: Antisemitism

  1. anneinpt says:

    Reblogged this on Anne's Opinions and commented:
    Here is an excellent, concise but thorough analysis of antisemitism, from the original coining of the term through to today’s antisemitism disguised as “only” anti-Zionism from the left, and neo-Nazis on the right.

    Elise Ronan often comments here on my blog. Her blog is well-worth reading too.

    Read on:


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