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Age-old lie: An illustration of the blood libel published in "Westdeutscher Beobachter", a Nazi newspaper founded in 1925
 
Anti-Semitism might be defined as the generality of historic forms taken by Jew-hatred throughout recorded history. They include the beliefs, the passions and anti-Jewish behavior leading to both physical and symbolic violence against Jews over the centuries. The word is German in origin, coined in 1879, by an anti-clerical German radical Wilhelm Marr, who wished to mark himself off from rivals like court preacher Adolf Stoecker who had invoked a more traditional Jew-hatred rooted in Lutheran Christian theology. Anti-Semitism was from the outset aimed at Jews rather than "Semites", despite the new terminology. Édouard Drumont's best-selling La France Juive (1886) was, for example, full of admiration for the Arab rebels who had risen against French colonial rule in Algeria in 1871. But he exuded hatred against the unscrupulous Jewish "Semites" who were allegedly conquering France by stealthy immigration from the East and whom he blamed for the insurrection in Algeria.

The term "anti-Semitism" was undoubtedly a misnomer. It was never really a combat against "Semites" or "Semitism" at all. But its modern perpetrators did not wish to be branded as old-fashioned Jew-baiters in the relatively liberal Europe of the 1870s. In that positivist era the newly minted coinage of "anti-Semite" sounded more enlightened. Race terminology at that time seemed more respectable and "scientific", especially to academic contemporaries. As French Orientalist scholars like Ernest Renan pointed out, the word "Semite" had a philological and linguistic meaning. But Renan himself contributed in the 1850s to the confusion of language and race, secularising well-known topoi from the history of Christian antiSemitism. Indeed, racial anti-Semitism could be described as a secularised 19th-century version of "anti-Judaism"-the modern mutation of a social and ideological pathology which could not have existed without its Christian predecessors.

Racist anti-Semitism culminated in the Shoah and has never fully recovered from the stigma attached to the Hitlerian genocide. Nevertheless, it still survives among neo-Nazis, white supremacist and skinhead groups; on extremist websites around the world; and in far-right movements in many European countries like Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Austria, Italy, Belgium, France, Germany and Poland. It is part of a more generalised racism and xenophobia that is growing in Europe as the economic crisis deepens, as resentment towards minorities in Europe increases, along with fear of Islam, and a broad popular opposition to further immigration-especially from the less developed Third World. It is significant, however, that while Jews are still perceived as ideological enemies in many of the more hardcore fascist or ultra-nationalist movements, when radical-Right organisations seek to play a significant role in electoral politics, they usually try to downplay their endemic anti-Semitism or else mask it as "anti-Zionism". Hungary is an exception in the sheer brazenness shown by the Jobbik party (the third largest in the country with 47 parliamentary seats) which is blatantly anti-Semitic and violently anti-Zionist as well as being fanatically anti-Roma. In Hungary, the tradition of pre-Shoah organic nationalism and anti-Semitic racism on the German model lives on. This is also true to a certain extent in Greece, with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and in the Ukraine, with the rise of Svoboda (Freedom) and now the so-called Pravye Sektor (Right Sector)-a fact cynically exploited by Russia in its recent annexation of the Crimea.
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Mitchell Halberstadt
December 8th, 2014
7:12 AM
"Much more common-especially in the West-is the assault on Jewish nationalism.... This cardinal principle of Zionism has become a kind of red rag to many... as the living antithesis of their own disintegrating vision of a world without borders, nations, religions or ethnic conflicts. The current dramas being played out in Ukraine or the Arab Middle East are a powerful reminder of just how utopian this worldview has proven to be." What then? Are we supposed to gloat (along with the author) over that ostensible "disintegration"?

James K
June 18th, 2014
11:06 AM
Except in places where they can pump money out of the ground, the Muslim world is a huge failure, and this is chiefly because of its corruption. There is no better example than Egypt, where a successful business would not only have to pay bribes, but would eventually be approached by a member of the Mubarak family with an offer of "partnership". These practices limit economic growth, and destroy the possibility of investment and wealth creation. Egyptian society needs to blame somebody for these failings, but is incapable of looking in the mirror. So it blames the Jews.

mightymark
June 3rd, 2014
4:06 PM
I think part of the problem is not so much Jew hatred as cowardice in the face of an Islamism the West finds frightening and doesn't understand. There are two responses to this. One seems to be being as "nice as possible" to Islam This would include the overdone references to its progressiveness" e.g in TV documentaries that don't question either its tendency towards hegemony and imperialism or the failure of its civilisation to follow up on its undoubted innovativeness during the middle ages. The other is to go wholly over the top in trying to get "on side" what it perceives as being the "muslim" case in any dispute. This explains for example so called Blair Derangement Syndrome where people fall over themselves in rhetoric to condemn the former PM's foreign policy - and also attacks on Israel. It is only little less reprehensible than overt Jew hatred as it involves cowardice that seeks to displace feared attacks oneself onto someone else. It is of course also utterly deluded.

hegel`s advocate
May 30th, 2014
3:05 AM
Julie Burchill`s comment about Israel is worth remembering. She said her only criticism of Israel is that it could do with being a little bit bigger. Brilliant.

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