Home > International, Ponderings > What is Anti-Semitism, Anyways?

What is Anti-Semitism, Anyways?

August 22, 2006

The Blogosphere has been on fire lately, with various bloggers accusing others of Anti-Semitism and those bloggers then responding that they are not. But what is Anti-Semitism? Many bloggers have been throwing the term around with defining it, and as a former member of a debate team, the first thing one does in a debate is define their terms. So how do we define Anti-Semitism then?

According to Wikipedia, anti-Semitism
can be defined as “…hostility toward or prejudice against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group…” and then identifies three types:

  1. Religious Anti-Semitism: This form of Anti-Semitism is against the Jewish religion itself. People who practice Judaism are persecuted for doing so. Often, persecution under this form stop if the person in question stops practing Judaism
  2. Racial Anti-Semitism: Based on the idea that Jews are a different, inferior, race within humanity. This idea is a “genetic”/eugenic argument. But since I believe that there is only one race within humanity – human, I will use the traditional method of determining who is Jewish and say that this form of Anti-Semitism is the persecution of a person whose mother (and I’ll add “or father”) is Jewish, but the fact is, it is very hard and arbitrary to place Jews into a genetic group.
  3. New Anti-Semitism: This is a new and fuzzy form of Anti-Semitism, and not really that well defined. It is generally the veiled denoucation of Jewish symbols, the over support of Palestinians to the detriment of Israelis, and generally the dislike of Israel based on the fact that it is seen as a collective of Jews. This form of Anti-Semitism is generally thought of as the merging of traditional Anti-Semitism of the right, Anti-Semitism coming from some Muslims within the Middle East region, Anti-Americanism, and the concerns of the Left in regards to the treatment of Israel’s neighbours by Israel. I’ll get deeper into this later.

I’d say that people know what Religious and Racial Anti-Semitism and generally are not Anti-Semitic in this way (but there are exceptions). It is safe to say that the debate regarding Anti-Semitism is based in New Anti-Semitism.

But before I get deeper into what is Anti-Semitism, let’s have a look first at what Anti-Zionism is and to do that I’ll look at what Zionism is. Zionism is a nationalist political movement that believes that Jews should have a nation-state that is “the homeland”. Jews from all over the world then move to the homeland nation-state. Anti-Zionism then, can be defined as opposition to Israel as a “Jewish State”. But this could go in two ways: 1) The opposition to having Israel as a state with only a “Jewish Nationality”, thereby visualizing Israel as a multi-national state that includes both “Jewish” and “Palestinian” nationalities; and 2) complete removal of Israel off the map. Therefore the first method of thought regarding Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitic, while the second one most definitely is.

So what is this New Anti-Semitism. Above, I was trying to come up with a “neutral” definition, but it was really hard to (and I think I failed at it) because the various definitions for it are definitely not neutral.

The theory is that New Anti-Semitism is supposed to be a blend of traditional right-wing (as in fascist, not conservative) Anti-Semitics determined to destroy Israel, and left-wingers who are concerned about Israel’s policies.

One definition of New Anti-Semitism states that opposition to the policies of the government of Israel’s policies and Anti-Zionism constitutes Anti-Semitism. For the first part, that opposition to the policies of the government of Israel is Anti-Semitic, I think that this definitition serves to stifle debate and limits free speech to those opposing Israel’s policies. I mean, this definition means that the opposition political parties in the governing body of Israel, the Knesset, are Anti-Semitic, which is clearly silly. For the second part, that Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitic, I’d say it depends on what view of Anti-Zionism one holds.

Another definition of New Anti-Semitism, proposed by Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal Minister of Justice is that New Anti-Semitism “…involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations.” Cotler ensures to state that New Anti-Semitism is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Anti-Semitism. This definition sounds fine to me, the problem with it being that it is sort of hard to determine what would constitute New Anti-Semitism under Cotler’s definition. As well, an interesting thing to do with Colter’s definition is to place “Jewish” with a nationality, say “Spanish, or Japanese”.

How does the Left get involved in New Anti-Semitism? Well, how it is supposed to work is that people on the Left are concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, especially in regards to the State of Israel’s actions. As they learn more about the Palestinians, these people are supposed to, in theory, see Israelis become more and more evil and the Palestinians as good. This theorically evolves into a wish to see gains for Palestinians at the expense of Isrealis.

So enough babbling! What is Anti-Semitism?

Anti-Semitism is:

  1. Persecution of a person praticing the Jewish religion.
  2. Persecution of a person based on “Jewish Genetics”, “Jewish Lineage”, or “Jewish Race”.
  3. The opinion that Israel as a state should cease to exist.
  4. The hatred of the Israeli state based on the idea that Israel is a collective of Jews.
  5. A desire to see the Palestinians (and others) gain at the expense of Isrealis, especially by the use of violence.
  6. The hatred of the Israeli (“Jewish”) people based on the actions of the State of Israel.

Anti-Semitism is not:

  1. Opposition to the policies of the State of Israel.
  2. Being a Anti-Zionist that uses the “Mulitnational Israel” line of thought.

So I don’t know if I really got anywhere by trying to define Anti-Semitism, but what I’m trying to say is that one should try to define it before they use it against somebody.

Feel free to discuss.

Update (8/22/2006, 3:28): Unfortunately, Bloggers are still throwing the term Anti-Semitism around like hotcakes. Gosh, how disappointing.

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Categories: International, Ponderings
  1. Baron bleu-obscur
    August 25, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Hello Northern BC Dipper,

    Very interesting post, especially for me these days : Steve Janke, from the blog ANGRY IN THE WHITE NORTH, dishonestly insinuated that I am anti-Semitic because of my participation to the International cartoon contest on the Holocaust in Iran.

    I don’t know Steve Janke, I’ve never made any comment on him and on his blog before and I don’t know what to do with this.

    All the story on my blog, if you are interested…

  2. Robert McClelland
    January 19, 2007 at 3:38 am

    I don’t throw these labels around lightly and my post was just to teach Cherniak a lesson–when he went after Thomas Hubert–about how easy it is to label someone an anti-semite.

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