YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
- Anti-Semitism is hatred of or bigotry toward Jews. A Semite is someone who speaks a Semitic language, which includes Arabic, Amharic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Semite used to refer to the ethnic groups within the Levant and Arab Peninsula during ancient (pre-Arab) times, but that use is obsolete.
- The term “anti-Semitism” was coined by anti-Semites in order to give pseudoscientific weight to their claims that Jews — “Semitic people” — were inferior to “Aryan people.” In the late 1800s, the term was used to refer to the opposition to Jewish people. At the time, anti-Semitism was viewed positively because hatred against Jews was so widespread.
- The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), of which the United States is a member, adopted a non-legally binding “working definition” of anti-Semitism on May 26, 2016. The U.S. State Department uses this working definition and has encouraged other governments and international organizations to use it as well.
- IHRA’s working definition is: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
- The IHRA recommends using the spelling “antisemitism” rather than “anti-Semitism” to dispel the idea that there is an entity ‘Semitism’ which ‘anti-Semitism’ opposes.
- Antisemitism should be read as a unified term so that the meaning of the generic term for modern Jew-hatred is clear. At a time of increased violence and rhetoric aimed towards Jews, it is critical that there is clarity and no room for confusion or obfuscation when dealing with the subject.
- For the purposes of this Israel Answers website, however, we use the more common spelling with a hyphen: anti-Semitism.
- Throughout Jewish history, rulers of different regions and countries would persecute Jews for having a different religion, as was the custom at the time. This refusal to worship idols was seen as stubborn and was resented.
- The earliest recording of attempted Jewish genocide is in the Book of Esther, which takes place when all Jews lived were expelled from what is now Israel and lived under Babylonian rule. The King Ahasuerus is convinced by an antisemitic adviser, Haman, to kill every Jew in his kingdom, which was every Jew in the world at that time. The Jews are saved by the King’s new wife, Esther, who reveals that she herself is Jewish and the King orders Haman to be killed on the gallows he had prepared for Jews.
- Many American Christians are familiar with the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, which tells the story of Jewish resistance to anti-Semitism in Israel. Some of the earliest government persecution of Jews occurred under the Ancient Greek empire, when Jews began to be restricted from religious practice and certain legal rights. The story of Hanukkah chronicles the resistance of Jewish Maccabees who rebelled against Assyrian Greek conquerors that sought to stop Jews from practicing Judaism.
- Anti-Semitism has existed in most places where Jews have lived throughout history, but the severity of anti-Semitism varies drastically from time to time and place to place.
- Anti-Semitism can be both religious and/or ethnic discrimination. Judaism is an ethno-religion and Jews are considered members of the Tribe of Israel (descended from the 12 sons that Jacob had with his wives, Leah and Rachel, and his concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah).
- Jews who trace their ancestry back to different countries often look different, but they are all equally Jewish and members of the same nation. In this sense, conversion to Judaism can also be thought of as a tribal initiation process.
- Anti-Zionism is the belief that Jews should not have a country in their historic homeland of Israel. It is anti-Semitic because it denies Jews the right to self-determination, which is an integral human right, included in the United Nations Article I.
- Natan Sharanksy, an Israeli politician and human rights activist who spent 9 years in a USSR gulag for being a Zionist, developed the 3D test to determine when discussion of Israel is anti-Semitic. If any of the following are true, criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic:
- delegitimization of Israel
- demonization of Israel
- subjecting Israel to double standards
- The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism also includes examples of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.
- “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 anti-Semitism (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.”
- BDS is short for “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” and refers to a campaign to punish the Jewish state for existing. Much of political force powering the BDS movement comes from the Arab League boycott, which was formed in 1945 to instruct Arabs not to do any business with Jews, with the explicit goal of preventing Jews from forming a country in their historic homeland. When Israel was founded in 1948, the Arab boycott became a boycott of the modern State of Israel.
- The BDS National Committee (BNC) was established in 2007 in Ramallah as the Palestinian coordinating body for the international campaign. The BDS movement seeks the destruction of the State of Israel and opposes any peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. BDS activists paint Israel as an “Apartheid State” that employs “Nazi-like” policies against the Palestinian people. They boycott corporations operating in Israel, stores selling Israeli products, entertainers who plan performances in Israel, and Israeli academic institutions.
- To date, 28 states in the U.S. have adopted laws designed to discourage boycotts against Israel. Members of Congress have also introduced bipartisan legislation opposing the BDS movement.
- Some forms of anti-Semitism are illegal in some countries, but in other countries and places, there are laws against anti-Semitism.
- For example, Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany and much of Europe, but it is legal to deny the Holocaust in the United States under First Amendment protections.
- In the United States, the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act provides protections for victims of "a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person."
- Pogroms is a Russian word meaning “to demolish violently” and was coined to refer to attacks on Jewish villages. They often included sacking and burning Jewish homes, businesses, and places of worship; stealing or destroying Jews’ possessions; beating up Jewish men and sexually assaulting Jewish women; and murder.
- While the term originally referred to this phenomenon in the Russian empire, it is now used to refer to genocidal incidents against Jews across history and in other parts of the world.
- Some examples of pogroms include:
- the Odessa pogrom of 1821
- a series of pogroms across Ukraine and southern Russia in 1881-84
- Kristallnacht, or the “night of broken glass,” perpetrated by the Nazis in 1938
- Iasi pogrom, which marked the turning point of the Nazi-allied Romanian government pursing the genocide of Jews in 1941
- The Farhud, when mob violence against Baghdadi Jews broke out in 1941
- 1947 pogroms, when Jews in countries including Syria and Yemen were murdered following the UN vote to confirm partition of Israel between Jews and Muslims
- Blood libel is an anti-Semitic lie that Jews murder non-Jewish children as part of Jewish ritual. It was initially used to divide the Jewish and Christian communities, emerging in the 12th century as the claim that Jews used Christian blood to make matzo (unleavened bread used during the Passover holiday). It then spread across Europe and the Arab world as an anti-Semitic trope.
- This propaganda has no basis in Jewish practice. Jews follow the 10 commandments, which includes “thou shalt not murder” as the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:12). Jews also do not consume the blood of any animal (or eat any humans), as Jewish dietary law (Kosher laws) forbid consumption of blood. (Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 17:10-14.)
- Some anti-Zionists perpetuate this anti-Semitic trope by falsely claiming that Israelis kill Palestinian children to steal their organs.
- Holocaust denial is any attempt to diminish or deny the established facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jews. This is a form of anti-Semitism because it perpetuates the belief that Jews are dishonest and manipulative. It perpetuates this anti-Semitic trope because Holocaust deniers say that Jews invented or exaggerate the Holocaust as a plot to advance “Jewish interests.”
- Some common Holocaust denials include: minimizing the number of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust (it was 6 million); claiming that the Holocaust only included Jews murdered at Death Camps; denying the existence of Nazi facilities that used gas chambers to systematically murder Jews; denying that Jews were murdered by Nazis at Concentration Camps, where Jews were made to work and live in uninhabitable conditions that were intentionally set up so that Jews would die, or murdered because Nazis and Nazi collaborators shot them.
- The government of Iran currently engages in Holocaust denial as part of its campaign to destroy the modern State of Israel.
- Anti-Semitism often functions like a conspiracy theory, in that anti-Semites claims that Jews secretly hold a great amount of power and use it for nefarious purposes. Anti-Semites often believe that Jews hold outsized political power, financial wealth, and/or media influence. They frequently claim that Jews have used this power to establish the State of Israel and often demonize Zionist supporters of Israel.
- Hatred and violence directed toward any group, including Jews, is immoral. We must love our neighbors as ourselves.
- Anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem. All forms of persecution are direct threats to Western values of freedom and equality.
- In many countries, Jews and Christians are both minority groups that suffer from laws and cultures that demonize other religious groups.