What does anti semitism mean? We hear the word phrase thrown about often in life, particularly in the world of Hollywood.
To truly find an understanding we need to take a look at the definition of anti-semitism and then we need to look at the history behind it. Anti semitism is a prevalent form of racially charged hatred that is prevalent in the world today. As with all prejudices, only awareness can bring about its end. As we move further and further along in a post-racial world, or as close to one as there has ever been, the vocal few that identify as an anti Semite truly hold back the rest of our progress.
What Is Anti-Semitism
Helen Fein, a professor at the City University of New York, would define anti-semitism in this way: Anti semitism is a “persisting latent structure of hostile beliefs toward Jews as a collective.” Fein goes on to explain that those who are anti-semitic in nature will also identify the Jewish people by their cultural “myth, ideology, imagery and folklore.” What Fein is getting at, basically, is that the blanket definition of anti semitism is to completely understand the Jews by listening to anti semitic propaganda and stories crafted by a culture of intolerance. It is understandable that many people would craft a view based on their experiences, but it does not excuse the non-factual nature of these prejudiced viewss. In order to get to the root of the word and to encapsulate our understanding comfortably, we will need to go to the history books to reflect.
Separating Identity From Faith
Being that anti-semitism is rooted in the intolerance of the Jewish people, it is worth understanding the differences between the Jewish person and the person who happens to follow Judaism. We will discuss the people before discussing the religion.
According to traditional Jewish folklore, Jewish ancestry can be followed all the way back to the major patriarchs of the bible. Some of these great men include Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those men are where tradition dictates that the Jewish people originate from. Looking past their ancestry, science shows that the genetics of the Jewish people can be traced Worldwide back to the Middle East where their descendants share a resemblance to the people of the Fertile Crescent.
Judaism comes from the Hebrew word ‘Judah’. Judaism is not only a religion but it is also a way of life and a philosophy by which to learn and push your limits. Considered a ‘monotheistic religion’, the Torah is the foundation of those who choose to follow the path. While it is hard for outsiders to integrate into Judaism, and is often discouraged, those that manage to make it through are typically accepted as if they have always been there. This acceptance of modern converts has made Judaism a haven for many people who are looking for answers. A recent survey placed 42% of practicing Jews in North America, while the rest were mostly concentrated in Israel. This shows just how diverse and wide spread the faith really is.
Now that we know the difference between Judaism and being Jewish we can go on to learn about the prevalence of anti semitism in the world. Anti semitism is a social, cultural, and religiously antiquated practice that hurts people for no good reason. Let’s discover why people still insist on practicing this hatred.
The Beginning of Anti Semitism
Tracing the hatred of something back to its roots is a practice in impracticality and impossibility. It is beyond difficult to figure out just when a hatred or judgmental attitude turned itself into a systematic act of loathing and disdain. As far as we can tell, anti semitism has been a sweeping black mark on the pages of history and we can date it back to the Bible.
Christianity is one of the most common religious faiths in the world and it is also a creator of anti semitism. The Jewish people are held in low regard by many, but not all, Christians for their supposed involvement in the rejection and eventual crucification of Jesus Christ. In fact, by the 11th century many Jews were loathed and cried out as ‘Christ Killers’ and ‘Demons’. What many anti-semites don’t seem to realize is that Roman soldiers were the ones who allegedly crucified Christ, not the Jewish people themselves.
So right off of the bat we can see that the Jewish people have become targets of the majority. The insistence of the Jews to pursue their own faith and beliefs has systematically set them apart. This hatred reached a crescendo in World War II when the anti-semitism definition was basically rewritten by Adolf Hitler and his people.
Anti Semitism and World War II
When World War I came to an end Germany was left in the unenviable position of needing a leader to pull them out of their mess. Adolf Hitler seized the opportunity and soon rose to power. With Hitler came the rise of Nazism and the most widespread genocidal application of systematic hatred was implemented. In his book, ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler detailed all of the reasons why the Jewish people were not truly people. He demonized the Jewish people and proclaimed them the primary instigators of Marxism and Capitalism.
In 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were passed and they prevented Jews and non Jews from marrying one another. At this point, in the late 1930’s, antisemitic propaganda was being vented in full swing by the Nazi party. On November 9th, 1938 the anti semitism of Nazi Germany boiled over when the Nazi party sanctioned the murder of Jews and the destruction of their religious places of worship and personal property. This moment, pioneered by Goebbels, is seen as the tipping point for a coutnry that would soon become home to the most heinous crimes of war to ever be recorded. For the following seven years millions of Jewish people were systematically captured, enslaved and eventually killed for their beliefs. Scholars estimate that a third of the Jewish people were killed during this period.
Anti Semitism in Modern America
While anti semitism has never taken up the fury and destruction that it did during World War II, the radical hatred for the Jewish people still exists to this very day. Called the ‘new Antisemitism’, North America suffers from a unique blend of anti semitic values. A 2008 report made by the US State Department came to the conclusion that anti semitism was rising all around the world in the current generation and those generations that have passed. In this increase of ‘modern antisemitism’ the repot found a blend of people that denied the Holocaust as well as believed the Jewish people to be ‘running the world’ behind the scenes. These bizarre beliefs come mostly from conservative and right wing conspiracy minded folks. This political idea logy often times identifies strongly with Christian values. While many Christians resist the temptation to strike out against the Jewish people, they are still one of the most common sources of anti semitism in the United States.
In North America, and the U.S. in particular, the Jewish people suffer mostly from awful stereotypes that are bantered around by fringe groups. Common anti semitic stereotypes include:
- Calling all Jewish people greedy.
- Calling all Jewish people rich.
- Believing that the Jewish people run the entertainment business.
- Believing that Judaism is a religion of violence.
- Believing that all Jews have big knows and unflattering faces.
- Believing that Jews had a hand in the Atlantic slave trade.
Anti Semitism vs. Anti Zionism
There are two forms of beliefs that relate to the Jewish people. On one hand you have the close minded person that is anti semitic and on the other you have the person who is anti Zionism. While you may never have heard of anti Zionism before, it is worth understanding the differences between the two.
- The Anti Semite
- This person simply hates the Jews because they are Jews and nothing that they do could make any difference. Their reasons for discriminating against the Jewish people could be because they are rich, or poor, or because they are not in line with the other persons faith. There are many reasons for an anti Semite to have their beliefs and none of them hold any water. In short, they are bigots and lack common decency.
- The Anti Zionist
- Changing things up we can look at the anti Zionist. This person is commonly mistaken for an anti semite though they really share little in common. A person who is anti Zionism will believe strongly that the Jewish people are doing something wrong. They will believe passionately that their policies are mistaken, or damaging, but they will hold no ill will toward the Jewish people because of their race or faith.
So looking at anti semitism and anti Zionism we can see that they are two sort of similar ideologies. The truth is that the line separating the two belief systems is very fine and people can easily fall one way or the other. Anti Zionism is not, in and of itself, a terrible thing as it is just another way that people believe. Anti Zionism can be abused and is often a term of deflection to keep some anti Semites under cover.
Combating Anti Semitism
The simplest way to combat any prejudice is by speaking out against it. Many people are far too comfortable in their day to day lives, with their every day relationships, to really speak out against uncomfortable situations. So if you ever find yourself in a place to actively deter someone from making anti semitic remarks or any sort of hateful remarks as pertaining to someones race, religion, or belief system–speak up! The only way to shut down an anti semitic person is to combat the conversation.
A trip on the internet will typically reveal a vocal minority of people who seem to make it their job to make anti semitic remarks. You will commonly find them commenting on posts about conspiracy theories, Hollywood and the government. A common conspiracy theory is that there is some sort of ‘Zionist agenda’ in cahoots with current U.S. President Barack Obama. You will also find information about the Illuminati and all sorts of other silly things. Resist the urge to feed what we consider ‘trolls‘ and let them talk until they run out of words to say. The easiest way to put out a fire is to deprive it of oxygen. So in order to put out a trolls raging fire, simply ignore them.
Anti semitism is a very serious plight in the world today and its history is dated all the way back as far as we can remember. Anti semitism, much like any other form of racism, shouldn’t be allowed to exist in our world today. It will take everyone’s collective effort in order to stamp it out.