Religion Wiki

This wiki's URL has been migrated to the primary domain.Read more here


Religion Wiki
File:Aldershot Cemetery.jpg

Community Security Trust.
Nov. 2004: The Aldershot Cemetery.

Anti-Semitism (or antisemitism) is discrimination, hatred, or criticism of Jews, Jewish culture, or the state of Israel. As a word it is first recorded in the English language in 1882,[1] but as an idea and argument of hatred examples exist from much earlier times.

Origins of Anti-Semitism

The first Christians were Jews, including Jesus Christ. The story of Jesus was remembered and retold in the synagogues. Splits appeared very soon after the death of Jesus between the Pharisees and the Revisionist Jews. The Gospel of John was written quite soon after he and other revisionist Jews were barred from the synagogue by the Orthodox party. The references to Jews in the Gospel according to St John does not refer to Jews as a whole, but to the Pharisees. However, this was not well understood by later readers, and once the early generations of Jews had died out John's gospel was often used to justify acts of anti-Semitism.

Blood Libel

One of the oldest instances of anti-Semitic claims was made in the first century AD by Apion who claimed Jews sacrificed Greeks in their temple in a ritual known as a "blood libel".

The "Blood libel" myth reappeared in England in 1144, after William of Norwich was found murdered. William was called a martyr and created a second wave of anti-semitism, this time in Europe. It was mostly popularized with the story of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln, and was even present in the Canterbury Tales. This continued on for many centuries until modern times. This "blood libel" accusation has survived the centuries and is today seen in Muslim anti-Semitic propaganda.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, Catholics blamed Jews for the death of Jesus Christ. This fueled Christian antipathy against Jews in most of Europe. This also led to rumors that Jews "desecrated the host" (tortured communion bread as per the Catholic doctrine of transubstination, and that they "poisoned the wells", leading to the Black Death. Professing Jews were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, and from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1496. (Those who converted to Christianity could remain.) Many went to Holland. Napoleon removed most of the restrictions that kept Jews in ghettoes in Germany.


New nationalism

Anti-semitism was transformed in the 19th century from a matter of religion to a matter of language and culture. Each "nation" rediscovered its historic languahe and culture and tried to establish a national homeland. In most cases Jews were excluded or distrusted, and were not treated as part of the cultural center but as part of the periphery. Anti-Semitic references were common in the popular literature of both the 19th and early 20th centuries. It became more "scientific", and often connected with psuedo-scientific racial theories.


In Germany, leading 19th-century anti-Semites include composer Richard Wagner and his son-in-law writer Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

Historians have long debated whether or not the Anti-Semitism of imperial Germany directly prepared the ideological climate for Nazism. One way of testing the thesis of direct continuity is to examine how Judeophobes proposed to solve the "Jewish problem" in the Second Reich, 1870-1914. At that time, most anti-Semites stopped short of calling for the exclusion of Jews from German society, and in fact many advocated full integration. A handful of exclusionists, believing in the preordained struggle with the Jews and being pessimistic about getting them to leave Germany, did, however, plant the seeds of genocide.[2]


Leftist scholars examining the connection between socialism and anti-Semitism before 1914 generally have assumed that capitalist exploitation of the workers was responsible for the "Jewish question," and that the labor movement was largely immune to anti-Semitism. At a deeper level, factors such as retarded economic development in Central and Eastern Europe, Christian cultural traditions, the fragility of political liberalism outside Western Europe, the intensity of national conflicts, and the quality of leadership and class consciousness among the proletariat led to anti-Semitism in Germany, Russia, France, and Britain before 1914.


The national government of the Austro-Hungarian Empire deliberately protected Jews from violent Anti-Semitism. However, popular antipathy toward Jews was more deeply rooted and stubborn in Austria than in most European countries. Reasons included slow development of a secular, pluralist society based on individual rights and open career opportunities; survival of corporatist ideas of economic organization; replacement of the multinational ideal of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by political division and ethnic antagonism; and the conspicuous role of individual Jews in finance capitalism, mass media, arts, and radical politics.

Karl Lueger, the popular mayor of Vienna (1897-1910) and routinely used high powered Anti-Semitic rhetoric. It caught the attention of one young resident, Adolf Hitler. But there was no action takes against Jews, who played a major role in Vienna’s cultural and business life. Lueger operated within a strong national government that tolerated Jews. The Habsburg dynasty did not allow significant ant-jewish actions in its domains. The inviolate character of the Rechtsstaat and of a political culture based on law still existed. Mass violence within this political system was rare, and economic life was not yet caught up in the disastrous economic cycles of the post-1918 era. All these structural factors were serious barriers to the translation of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Vienna from words into deeds during the Habsburg era. In the 1930s, however, Vienna became increasingly hostile and many Jews fled before the Nazis marched in and took over in 1938.

Anti-Semitism was an integral part of the political platform of the Austrian Socialist Left before 1914. Given the depths of anti-Jewish feelings among the Austrian masses, the Socialists endeavored to woo the working class from right-wing political parties through employing the latter's anti-Semitic arguments concerning Jewish control of the Austrian economy. This approach was even utilized by such Socialists of Jewish background as Victor Adler. Once Lueger's anti-Semitic party gained control of the Vienna municipal government in 1897, the Socialist press attacked him and his associates for their alleged lack of fidelity to their anti-Semitic principles through covert dealings with the Jewish upper class.


Alone among the major European nations, Russia in the 19th century did not emancipate its Jewish subjects. Popular anti-Semitism (which had an anticapitalist bias) proceeded from, and flourished with the support of, anti-Jewish laws and official policies that tried either to forcibly integrate Jews into or to segregate them from the rest of Russian society - especially rural society. Pogroms –systematic slaughters of thousands of Jews in certain areas--happened in clusters, as in 1881-82 and 1905-06, and were related to severe political crises involving the issue of Jewish emancipation. Anti-Semitism increased during World War I with the need for scapegoats, but after the February Revolution of 1917 was no longer sustained by discriminatory legislation.


Anti-Semitism played a far smaller role in Italy than in other European countries. One possible explanation is the high degree of assimilation achieved by the Italian Jewish community. However, assimilation elsewhere in Europe was not a bar to anti-Semitism. A more plausible reason is the lateness of industrialization, which meant that the lower middle classes did not fall victim to the economic and social anxieties experienced by the petite bourgeoisie of Germany and France. Other factors are the extremely small numbers of Italian Jews, the ethnically homogeneous nature of the Italian population, which meant that the Italians did not suffer from the paranoid insecurity of Germans who were confronted by large minorities within their borders, and Italy's long history of not succumbing to xenophobia and its weak race consciousness.


Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was a Jewish officer in the French Army falsely accused of spying in the 1890s. The Dreyfuss Affair became a central issue in French politics, with critics like Émile Zola --who creed "J'accuse"--insisting it was a miscarriage of justice brought by a conspiracy of Catholic army officers. Dreyfuss was proven innocent and released in 1899.


Anti-Semitism was the core belief of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, helping them gain power in Germany in 1933 and leading to their murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust of World War II.

In the 1920s Henry Ford's newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, reprinted the false The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ford publicly apologized to jews.

American aviator Charles Lindbergh disparaged Jews at a critical debate over intervention in the war in Europe in 1940. He led the "America First" movement opposed to war. He suggested the drive to war was orchestrated by Jews and would hurt the U.S.

Post 1945

Following World War II there was a steady decline of anti-Semitism, and a virtual disappearance of discrimination against Jews, in North America and Western Europe. Despite an apparent resurgence in Russia and Eastern Europe after the collapse of communism and occasional outbreaks elsewhere, anti-Semitism outside the Middle East by the early 1990's was only one - and a relatively minor - type of the xenophobia found in multiethnic, multicultural societies.

Anti-Semitism was in total disrepute after the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945. After 1945 Anti-Semitism was not significantly greater in Germany than in Britain or France. For some years after 1945 the overwhelming majority of Jews in Germany were refugees and displaced persons from the East. Most of them emigrated to Palestine, Israel, North and South America, or Australia, leaving behind small numbers who would not or could not leave. Some German Jews had "assimilated" and were criticized by Eastern Jews as being too lax in their religious observance, but all Jews faced problems arising from questions of reparations and remembrances of the Holocaust. West Germany admitted its guilt and made large scale financial reparations to Israel. East Germany, however, denied everything, opposed Israel and promoted anti-Semitism.

United States

see American Jews

Republican President Richard Nixon hurt his reputation after recordings of informal conversations laden with racial slurs and invective known as the Watergate Tapes were made public. These informal comments about Jewish control of the media and calling Robert Vesco "a cheap kike" among other comments suggested to Nixon critics that his views were informed by a mistrust of Jewish culture.[3] Nixon defenders note his support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War and his many Jewish friends and associates such as Henry Kissinger, Herb Stein and others.[4]

In 1984 Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson uttered anti-Semitic slurs to reporter for the Washington Post when discussing the state of African-American and Jewish relations, which had been a key New Deal Coalition for half a century. Jackson is reported to have referred to Jews as "Hymies", and to New York City as "Hymietown". Jackson apologized, but it was never forgotten.[5] Mayor Ed Koch even said that any Jews who vote for Jackson in 1988 were "crazy".

Modern anti-Semitism

During the Gulf War of 1991 anti-Semites alleged the United States was being used to fight Israel's wars.[6]

The U.S. State Department Report on Global Anti-Semitism in 2005 said this about the current state of anti-Semitism worldwide:

Beginning in 2000, verbal attacks directed against Jews increased while incidents of vandalism... surged. Physical assaults including beatings, stabbings and other violence against Jews in Europe increased markedly, in a number of cases resulting in serious injury and even death. Also troubling is a bias that spills over into anti-Semitism in some of the left-of-center press and among some intellectuals.
The United States is frequently included as a target of such attacks, which often assert that U.S. foreign policy is made in Israel or that Jews control the media and financial markets in the United States and the rest of the world. ...Similarly, allegations that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks were widely disseminated, especially in the Muslim world.[7]

In the United States, Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings was recently ostracized for public criticism of the Bush Administration [8] considered to be anti-Semitic.[9] On March 3, 2003 Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) said, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this".[10] Moran has since made further anti-semitic comments.[11][12] Some supporters of the anti-Iraq War movement have been accused of anti-Semitism, including a group known as ANSWER-Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, one of the first organizations formed to protest the policies of the Bush administration after 9/11.[13][14]

Liberal activist Cindy Sheehan, though she found popular support among leftists and the mainstream media, was condemned for her outspoken anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.[15] Sheehan traveled to Venezuela [16] to appear with Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez to denounce U.S. foreign policy which she blames as responsible for the death of her son.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has recently come under much criticism for his writings and comments that have been viewed as anti-semitic. In his book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid", Carter endorsed Islamic terrorism against Israel as a tactic to achieve political ends. The sentiment was widely criticized by people across the political spectrum. In early 2007, it was revealed that Carter once complained there were "too many Jews" on the U.S. government's Holocaust Memorial Council. The council's former executive director, Monroe Freedman, also revealed that a noted Holocaust scholar who was a Presbyterian Christian was rejected from the council's board by Carter because the scholar's name "sounded too Jewish." [17]

While the contempory American left's hatred for Jews and Jewish traditions has been documented, others who were on the right have been ostracized by conservative commentators. William F. Buckley, Jr., founder and publisher of the National Review said of Reform Party presidential candidate and former Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan, "I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination amounted to anti-Semitism…" refering to comments Buchanan made regarding the U.S. involvement in the first Gulf War which lead to military action against Saddam Hussein and Iraq.[18]

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain increased by 34 percent in 2006.[19]

Swastikas have been carved into several cornfields in the United States. A 130-foot-square swastika was carved into a field in July 1998. A bigger 600-by-600 foot version of the Nazi symbol was found in a nearby cornfield almost a year later. In September 2007, a giant swastika covering several acres was discovered.[20]

Anti-Semitism and the Left

Anti-semitism has been growing rapidly at a phenomenal rate in Liberal countries, especially European countries.

It has also been growing amongst liberals in the United States of America, The Institute for Jewish & Community Research, did a study of who is anti-semitic, and found that people who identify as being Democrat are consistenly more likely to believe any anti-semitic belief than a Republican. The data from the survey also revealed a connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. This is important since liberals are more likely to be anti-Zionist than conservatives. The study found that the young, who are more likely to be liberal, are also more likely to be Anti-semites than people over age 35. The study found that more than 75% of Democrats hold at least one anti-semitic belief. According to the study 20% of Democrats believe Jews care only about themselves[21]

Recently, liberal atheist Richard Dawkins came under criticism for saying that the Religious Jews monopolize control over the American government.

See also

  • Wandering Jew
  • Blood Libel
  • Jules Isaac
  • Liberal Christianity#Liberal Christianity's Anti-semitism
  • Theory of Fundamentalist anti-Semitism
  • Suicide bomber: a personal account

Further reading

  • Arendt, Hannah. Antisemitism, (1968)
  • Bellah, Robert N., and Frederick E. Greenspahn eds. Uncivil Religion: Interreligious Hostility in America (Part I: Jewish-Christian Tensions pp. 1–37), (1987)
  • Beller, Steven. Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction‎ (2007) 132pp excerpt and text search
  • Bering, Dietz. The Stigma of Names: Antisemitism in German Daily Life, 1812-1933. (1992). 345 pp.
  • Bishop, Claire Huchet. How Catholics Look at Jews: Inquiries into Italian, Spanish, and French Teaching Materials, (1974)
  • Chanes, Jerome A. Antisemitism: a reference handbook‎ (2004) 347 pages; excerpt and text search
  • Flannery, Edward. The anguish of the Jews: twenty-three centuries of antisemitism‎ (2004) 369 pages excerpt and text search
  • Gager, John G. The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, (1983)
  • Holmes, Colin. Antisemitism in British Society, 1876-1939 (1979)
  • Laquer, Walter. The changing face of antisemitism: from ancient times to the present day‎ (2006) 228 pages excerpt and text search
  • Levy, Richard, ed. Antisemitism: a historical encyclopedia of prejudice and persecution (2005) 828 pages; a major scholarly resource excerpt and text search
  • Levy, Richard S., ed. Antisemitism in the modern world: an anthology of texts‎ (1990) 270 pages, primary sources

Holocaust and Nazis

  • Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. (2000). 864 pp. Stress on antisemitism; excerpt and text search
  • Dawidowicz, Lucy. The War against the Jews, 1933-45, (1977).
  • Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 (1998)
  • Friedlander, Saul. The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (2007), the standard history excerpt and text search
  • Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust (2002)excerpt and text search
  • Gutman, Israel, ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, 4 vol (1989)
  • Landau, Ronnie. The Nazi Holocaust (2002)
  • Niewyk, Donald, and Francis Nicosia. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. (2000) online edition
  • Wachsmann, Nikolaus. "Looking into the Abyss: Historians and the Nazi Concentration Camps," European History Quarterly, 4 2006; vol. 36: pp. 247 – 278. fulltext in Sage; historiography
  • Wistrich, Robert S. Hitler and the Holocaust. 2001. 295 pp.


  2. Donald L. Niewyk, "Solving The 'Jewish Problem': Continuity and Change in German Antisemitism, 1871-1945." Leo Baeck Institute. Year Book 1990 35: 335-370.
  5. Jesse and the Jews, Michael W. Hirschorn, The Harvard Crimson, March 05, 1984.
  6. Zog ate my brains, Chip Berlet, New Internationalist, October 2004.
  7. Report on Global Anti-Semitism, U.S. Department of State Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on International Relations, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 5, 2005.
  8. Bush's failed Mideast policy is creating more terrorism, U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings, Charleston Post and Courier, 6 May 2004.
  9. Anti-Semitism: USA, ADL Urges Senator Hollings to Disavow Statements on Jews and the Iraq War, ADL Press Release, New York, 14 May 2004.
  10. Are Jews Behind the War on Iraq? A Case of Classical Anti-Semitism.
  11. Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War, Dana Milbank, Washington Post, June 17, 2005.
  13. "The 'Answer' Question Poses Difficult Choices for Liberals" by Gal Beckerman, The Forward, September 30, 2005.
  14. Authoritarianism and Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement?. Tikkun, May/June 2003. Link is to page on the Internet Archive, archived Oct 19, 2004.
  15. Why Cindy Sheehan is Right!, David Duke, 8/14/2005.
  16. Report on Global Anti-Semitism U. S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 5, 2005.
  18. In search of anti-semitism, William F. Buckley, Jr., National Review, Dec 30, 1991.
  19. Increase in Anti-Semitic Violence Troubles Jews in Britain by Donald Snyder, Fox News, July 20, 2007
  20. Police helicopter finds swastika cut into a Mercer County cornfield The Star-Ledger, September 25, 2007

External links