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Jonathan Freund

Interim Executive Director Board of Rabbis of Southern California / Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

2010 Jonathan Freund and The Board of Rabbis of Southern California


in For thousands of years, Jews have been criticized and persecuted human for refusing to adopt the social and religious values of the societies in which they lived. The term "antisemitism" itself was coined in the late-1800s, by German nationalists who were seeking a scientific euphemism for the centuries-old term "Jew-hatred" (Judenhoss), in order to legitimize the ongoing anti-Jewish campaigns throughout Europe. The word soon came into general use as denoting all forms of hostility manifested toward Jews throughout history, reaching back to ancient times. 2 history. 1


Antisemitism * may include beliefs that Jews conspire to destroy other religions and cultures, or that they control or unduly influence governments and other entities. Antisemitism may demonize Jews, and blame them collectively for the ills of society. Antisemitism has cast Jews as Communist heathens and at the same time as Capitalist exploiters, as both war-mongers and cowards. 3 Like racism and sexism, antisemitism also takes more subtle forms, such as the denial of full and equal participation in society, stereotyping, or the application of double-standards to the behavior of Jewish people and the actions or policies of the Jewish State of Israel, standards or criticisms that are not applied to other peoples or nations. Kenneth Stern, of the American Jewish Committee, defines antisemitism as Hatred toward Jews [that] is directed toward the Jewish religion, Jews as a people, or, more recently, the Jewish state. 4 One of them is that Jews are judged by a standard different from that applied to others.... The other special feature of anti-Semitism, which is much more important than differing standards of judgment, is the accusation against Jews of cosmic, satanic evil. Complaints against

Bernard Lewis offers two crucial characteristics for identifying antisemitism:

Many experts use the lower-case, no hyphen spelling of "antisemitism, to equate it with similar hatreds such as "racism" and "sexism." Quotations in this document have retained the spelling of their original source.


The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), in its "Working Definition of Antisemitism" from 2005, similarly refers to antisemitism as Hatred toward Jews toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. 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. 6

people of other groups rarely include it. 5

As these definitions show, it is not always possible to fully separate antisemitism, hatred of the Jewish people, from anti-Judaism, hatred of adherents to the Jewish religion, or from anti-Zionism, hatred of the Jewish state. The three are related and often overlap, especially in post-Enlightenment times. Modern antisemitism maintains many of the same qualities of traditional Jew-hatred and anti-Judaism from earlier centuries. The original misapplication of the word "Semitic," which refers to a language group and not an ethnicity, is sometimes used to downplay antisemitism's exclusive focus on Jews. In actuality, there are no Semitic people, only Semitic languages. Claims that peoples other than Jews are victims of antisemitism, or that "Semitic" people cannot be guilty of antisemitism, are at best a misreading of history and at worst a canard; both result in the diminishment and denial of the true effects of antisemitism on the Jewish people. Antisemitism has never included hatred against Arabs or other people. As noted above, the term antisemitism itself was coined specifically as a substitute for "Jew-hatred" and specifically to mean hate directed solely against Jews. Historians often identify three main forms antisemitism, each of which developed in response to specific historical periods:

1. Religious Antisemitism, or Anti-Judaism 2. Racial Antisemitism

In 1942, the director of the Race Policy Office of the Nazi Party reassured the deposed Prime Minister of Iraq, a Nazi ally, that antisemitism was concerned wholly and exclusively with Jews. He emphasized that the Nazis had always shown sympathy and support for the Arab cause against the Jews, and that "this movement [Nazism] was directed exclusively against Jewry, and not against other peoples who speak a Semitic language. (Bernard Lewis, "The New Anti-Semitism." The American Scholar 2006)


3. Social-Political Antisemitism, including Anti-Zionism

Despite the differing contexts of their formations, all of these forms of antisemitism, still exist today.

Religious Antisemitism, hatred of Jews for their religion, is the oldest form of
antisemitism. This is sometimes called anti-Judaism. A few examples: Roman conquerors of Jerusalem rename the Kingdom of Israel "Palaestina," as part of their strategy to cleanse the land of Jews, eliminate all associations between the land and the Jewish people, and erase from history the right of Jews to live in their ancestral homeland. Christian antisemitism is based on the failure of Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah, and the Gospel-based depiction of Jewish responsibility for the Crucifixion. Blood-libels, accusations of well-poisoning and responsibility for the Plague. Jews are required to wear distinctive hats, garments or badges; this practice begins in the 8th c. Muslim world, and is widely adopted in the Christian world starting in the 12th c. This is the basis for the Nazi's yellow star. In the Book of Esther, Haman seeks to kill all the Jews of Persia.

During the Enlightenment of the 17th-18th c., religious hatred falls out of favor as bigoted and out-of-date. However, since hatred of Jews and Judaism continues to exist, it becomes necessary for the haters to find new methods and new justifications so that Jew hatred will remain socially acceptable. By drawing on and perverting certain Enlightenment ideas and developments, Racial Antisemitism is born.

Martin Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies, which becomes the basis for much of non-Catholic antisemitism. Luther wrote that Jews are a "base, whoring people"; "their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth"; they "wallow in [devil's feces] like swine"; the synagogue was "an evil slut" and "[w]e are at fault in not slaying them". 7

Racial Antisemitism, hatred of Jews as a race and depiction as social menace;

often, although not exclusively, this is separate from hatred of Judaism as religion. (In fact, Jews are not a race. They are a people, like any other people, with shared values, history, religion and culture. Jews can be found within every racial and ethnic group, and on every continent, in the world.) Examples of Racial



The sincerity of Jews who undergo forced conversions is not trusted, so religious and other leaders promote pseudoscience that defines Jews as a unique "race," as opposed to a "people" or "nation," in order to claim that all Jews are innately evil and untrustworthy. This enables the ancient and medieval hatred, and the oppression and marginalization of the Jewish people to continue. o A prime example of the connection between antisemitism and antiJudaism: Jews' religious beliefs cannot be trusted - even if they do convert - because of the supposed inherent racial characteristics of Jews themselves.

The Dreyfus Affair in France, the most infamous of many examples of Jews being falsely accused of dual loyalty, which resulted in wide-spread acts of hatred against Jews in general. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fraud published by Czar Nicholas's Secret Police in 1903, that purports to show a Jewish plot for world domination. o In the U.S., the Protocols were spread by Henry Ford ("Jewish manipulators of the public mind") and Father Charles Coughlin ("When we get through with the Jews in America, they'll think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing"), among others. o Starting in 1921, Protocols has repeatedly been exposed as a hoax employing both forgery and plagiarism, its "plot" having been stolen from an 1864 French play that has nothing to do with Jews. The book has caused untold suffering, and yet it continues to be published throughout the world. There is even a Kindle edition. o According to the Nuremberg Laws on Citizenship and Race (1935): "A Jew is an individual who is descended from at least three grandparents who were, racially, full Jews... A Jew is also an individual who is descended from two full-Jewish grandparents if he was a member of the Jewish religious community when this law was issued." 8

Nazi ideology uses eugenics, stereotypes, and spurious racial and physical criteria to demonstrate Jewish inferiority and menace:

o Under Nazi and similar ideologies, conversion to Christianity, changing one's religion, does not end antisemitism nor does it shield Jews from genocide.


Following the revelations of the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes, racial theories used to justify antisemitism were discredited and become taboo in Western society. Overt antisemitism is frowned upon, especially in America's increasingly diverse and pluralistic society. Catholic and other Christian denominations also acknowledge responsibility for, and repudiate, their past doctrines and acts of antisemitism. As in the past, though, actual hatred of Jews and Judaism still exists. Academic disciplines and political forums are now utilized and perverted to create new avenues of antisemitic expression. tactics that had been in use for centuries beforehand.

Social-Political Antisemitism, including Anti-Zionism, often uses rhetoric and

Jews continue to be accused of being "in control" of Hollywood, the news media, the banking system, etc., reusing the ancient depiction of Jews as the "hidden menace" prevalent during Medieval times, and as used by Henry Ford, Father Coughlin and Nazi propaganda. In 1975, the United Nation's passes a resolution, later rescinded, equating Zionism with racism. o As Abba Eban, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations remarked: Through "the denial of the equal rights of the Jewish people to its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations the discriminatory principle [of antisemitism] has been transferred from the realm of individual rights to the realm of collective identity." 9 (emphasis added) o As in the past, Jews are accused of being both capitalists and Communists.

Admissions quotas and exclusions from clubs, schools, professions, housing, etc., are used now that post-war society is in effect open to Jews.

Holocaust denial, which often recycles the notion of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, including the accusation that Hitler was a pawn of the Rothschild family, becomes rampant in the U.S., Europe and later in Arab and Muslim worlds. o Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijab hosts the "International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust," in 2006, a deliberate attempt to cloak antisemitism, and anti-Zionism, in scholarly language. 10


Anti-Zionism, the newest and least-understood form of antisemitism is a clear

Zionism is the movement of national liberation for the Jewish people, seeking self-determination in a sovereign Jewish nation within their ancient homeland.

outgrowth and replication of those forms that have come before. To begin with, we need an accurate definition of Zionism:

The rise of hate groups such as Christian Identity, Aryan Nations, National Front, and other neo-Nazi ideologies, both in the United States and Europe, along with conspiracy theories claiming Jews or Israel perpetrated the September 11 attacks.

Anti-Zionism is not the same as legitimate criticism of the state of Israel. Criticism of Israel is not necessarily antisemitic; however, it can be antisemitic. Anti-Zionists may claim that any criticism of Israel is acceptable and thus cannot be antisemitic, which is patently fallacious. The point at which criticism of Israel does become antisemitic is the point at which the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise or the state of Israel is questioned, because it is at that point that the legitimacy of Jewish Peoplehood is questioned. 11

Zionism is a non-partisan belief unrelated to specific policies or programs of the Israeli government, or to the religious and political ideals of individual Jews. While the movement for Jews to return to their ancestral land begins in earnest the 19th century, well before the Holocaust, the Jewish people have continually sought to return to Jerusalem and their ancient homeland of Israel since their expulsion by the Romans in 70 CE. That yearning is part of every prayer service, as well as the Passover seder and other religious rituals. Zionism is, in many respects, an integral component of Judaism itself.

Israel's establishment and continued survival has given rise to ever-more virulent anti-Zionism that utilizes many of the characteristics and tropes of the historical antisemitism noted above, as well as to more subtle and apparently well-meaning forms. The use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery in anti-Israel protests; appropriating historical events of Jewish suffering, such as comparing refugee camps to Auschwitz; the spread of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Arab and other Muslim states, including as a TV series in Egypt.

A direct correlation between the Middle East conflict and attacks on Jews: the more extreme the violence in the Middle East is, the more vehement


are verbal and physical attacks on Jews throughout the world. 12

Rhetoric from government leaders seeking to blame unrest within a nations own borders on a Jewish plot and the Zionist enemy. The Kairos Palestine and Kairos USA documents, which speciously promote disproportionate parallels between contemporary Israeli policies and those of the Jewish people's historical murderous oppressors, while also implicitly challenging Jewish religious identity. 13 o Kairos recycles the ancient charge of deicide against the Jewish people, by depicting all Palestinians as contemporary versions of Christ and the Jews State as their oppressor.

o All Jews, even those who are not Israeli citizens, are subject to acts of hatred and violence directed against them because of Israel's actions. The support of all Israel's policies and actions by all Jewsregardless of religious observanceis thus taken for granted by the antisemite and the anti-Zionist.

Legitimate criticism of Israel can be distinguished from antisemitic anti-Zionism using Nathan Sharansky's "3D" test: Demonization, Double-standards and Delegitimization. 14

The BDS movement, which similarly holds Israel disproportionately responsible for the Middle East conflict, and seeks to destroy the Jewish state through economic means just as Nazi Germany and other governments used boycotts to destroy Jewish civilization in Europe.


Holding Israel solely or disproportionately responsible for the Middle East conflict, and for all individual issues related to it; e.g., condemning the security barrier without acknowledging the suicide bombings that caused the barrier to be built. Palestinian suffering is depicted as entirely Israel's fault and even as part of a nefarious plan. No acknowledgment of any responsibility on the part of Arab and Palestinian leaderships for the conflict. Assuming all Israelis and Jews have the same attitudes and support all the policies and actions of the Israeli government, and thus are either legitimate "military" targets or not entitled to reside in the country of their choice.

o Anti-Zionists often seek to inoculate themselves against charges of antisemitism by explaining that some Jews agree with them, a variation on the "some of my best friends are Jews" defense, ignoring that Jews too can be antisemitic.


Double Standards
Judging Israel by harsher standards than other nations are judged by; for instance, Syria or Iran and other countries with questionable domestic and international behavior and treatment of their citizenry.

Criticizing Israeli society without casting similar critiques on some neighboring Arab countries, where, for example, Jews and Christians are forbidden to worship, and women and minorities are marginalized or oppressed. Condemning any act of national self-defense on Israel's part, no matter how legitimate, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the suffering of Israeli victims of terrorism, or the one million Jewish refugees who fled from Arab nations even before Israel's independence.


Refusing to grant Israel comparable status as other nations; claiming that Israel has no right to exist, and thus the Jewish people have no right to selfdetermination, a claim and attack no other nation or people is subjected to.

Focusing exclusively on the treatment of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank, while ignoring the often-worse plight of Palestinians living in refugee camps in neighboring Arab nations.

Using any fault, policy or action on the part of a given Israeli government as justification for the entire nation of Israel to not exist, and the entire Jewish people to be deprived of their historic homeland.

Seeking to destroy or eliminate the nation of Israel through pseudo-legal or political means.

Legitimate criticism of the State of Israel, as is true for any nation, is both acceptable and appropriate. (Indeed, the people most critical of the Israeli government are

Promoting the false claim that Israel was created solely out of European guilt over the Holocaust, ignoring its history as the ancient Jewish homeland, the prevalence of Zionism prior to the 20th century, and the indigenous population of Jews and their descendants that has lived in the Holy Land for three thousand years.

o This is the equivalent of seeking the dissolution of the entire United States due to the policies of a single Presidential Administration, or of demanding that all current U.S. citizens in California, Arizona and Texas return their land and property to Mexico.


often Israeli citizens). However:

Only when criticism of Israel is similar in nature and method to criticism leveled against other countries, and only when it rejects demonization, double-standards, and delegitimization can it reasonably claim to not be antisemitic.

One form of antisemitism denies access of Jews to goods and services because they are Jewish. Another form of antisemitism denies the right of the Jewish people to exist as a people because they are Jewish. Anti-Zionists attempt to distinguish between the two, claiming the first is antisemitism, but the second is not. To the anti-Zionist, a Jew can exist as an individual as long as the Jews do not exist as a people. 16 [emphasis added]

Anti-Zionism is antisemitic when it says or implies the Jewish State of Israel should no longer exist, and that of all the peoples on the globe, only the Jews are forbidden the right to self-determination in a land of their own, a land that is their historic homeland and in which they have had a presence for three thousand years. 15

o As a test of the parallels between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, in the paragraph above, substitute the words "Jews" for "Israel" and "people" for "countries". If one statement rings true, then so must the other. Anything else is an antisemitic double standard.

While accusations of antisemitism are sometimes made without justification, or are misused to stifle legitimate debate, antisemitism of all the types detailed above still exists; all such forms of hatred must be vigilantly combated. We can look to antisemitism as a canary in the coal mine of civilization, a measurement of how we treat all peoples and nations: History has shown that wherever anti-Semitism has gone unchecked, the persecution of others has been present or not far behind. Defeating anti-Semitism must be a cause of great importance not only for Jews, but for all people who value humanity and justice. U.S. Department of State Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism Report March 13, 2008 17


1 2 3

Encyclopedia Judaica, 1972. Anti-Defamation League. "Antisemitism,"

"The uniqueness of anti-Semitism lies in the fact that no other people in the world have ever been charged simultaneously with alienation from society and with cosmopolitanism, with being capitalistic exploiters and also revolutionary communist advocators. The Jews were accused of having an imperious mentality, at the same time they're a people of the book. They're accused of being militant aggressors, at the same time as being cowardly pacifists. With being a Chosen people, and also having an inferior human nature. With both arrogance and timidity. With both extreme individualism and community adherence. With being guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus and at the same time held to account for the invention of Christianity." A speech about the irrationality of anti-Semitism by professor Michael Curtis, of Rutgers University, 1987, quoted in Why Do People Hate the Jews?,, accessed on 17 May 2011. Kenneth S. Stern, "Antisemitism Today: How It Is the Same, How It Is Different, and How to Fight It," American Jewish Committee, 2006. Bernard Lewis "The New Anti-Semitism." The American Scholar, Volume 75 No. 1 Winter 2006 pp. 25-36

5 6

"Working Definition of Anti-Semitism," European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) 2005, renamed European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA),, accessed on 4 January 2010 Cited in Robert Michael, Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

7 8

Article 5, First Supplementary Decree of November 14, 1935, The Nuremberg Laws on Citizenship and Race, September 15, 1935;, accessed on 4 January 2010 Abba Eban, "Zionism and the U.N.," New York Times, November 3, 1975, p. 35 Anne Barnard, "Conference in Iran on Holocaust begins", Boston Globe, December 12, 2006.

10 11

Jerome A. Chanes, "'America is Different!' Myths and Realities in the Study of Antisemitism in the United States," in Not Your Father's Antisemitism: Hatred of the Jews in the 21st Century, edited by Michael Berenbaum, Paragon House, 2008. Michael Berenbaum, "French Antisemitism," Congress Bi-Monthly - August 2002

12 13

Adam Gregerman, "Theology Fail in Christian Statement on Israel, Judaism, Palestine," Religion Dispatches,, 9 July 2012 Manfred Gerstenfeld, "Anti-Israelism and Antisemitism: Common Characteristics and Motifs," in Not Your Father's Antisemitism. Kenneth Stern, "Antisemitism Today"


15 16

David Matas, Combating Antisemitism, a paper based on discussions at the Jacob Blaustein Institute Seminar on Human Rights Methodology and Antisemitism, Vienna, Austria, June 17-18, 2003, p. 15


"Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism Report," Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, U.S. Department of State, 2008;, accessed on 30 Dec 2009.