Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What is Anti-Semitism? (part of "The First Word War")

Question_Mark_Orb_175WRITTEN BY Anait Brutian

What is Anti-Semitism? Before attempting to answer the question, we must first define the word “Anti-Semite.” A dictionary definition describes Anti-Semitism as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anti-semite). Also known as Judeophobia, the term is used to describe “prejudice against or hostility towards Jews, often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture or religion” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism). The adjective “anti-Semitic” is used to describe a person “who discriminates against or who is hostile toward or prejudiced against Jews” (Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000, Updated in 2009), or “having or showing a strong dislike of Jewish people, or treating them in a cruel and unfair way” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?dict=CALD&key=93608). The noun “anti-Semite” is used to describe “an anti-Semitic person” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?dict=CALD&key=93608).

The Jewish Encyclopedia describes the term as “a modern word expressing antagonism to the political and social equality of Jews,” assigning its origins to the “ethnological theory that the Jews, as Semites, are entirely different from the Aryan, or Indo-European populations and can never be amalgamated with them” (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=A&artid=1603#4621#ixzz0b8jl7YQ3). According to Jewish Encyclopedia, the word “Anti-Semitism” does not imply opposition on account of religion but “on account of … racial characteristics,” such as “greed, a special aptitude for money-making, aversion to hard work, clannishness and obtrusiveness, lack of social tact, and especially of patriotism” (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=A&artid=1603#4621#ixzz0b8jl7YQ3). Outlining the history of the term, the Jewish Encyclopedia ascertains that the word was first printed in 1880 (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=A&artid=1603#4621#ixzz0b8uZ0yFX) but acknowledges the difficulty of tracing its first use. What appeared to have been employed in a philological sense in Franz Bopp’s (1791-1867) “Comparative Grammar,” later acquired a meaning imbued with ethnic characteristics (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=A&artid=1603#4621#ixzz0b91hsaWJ). Christian Lassen (1800-76) was the first to draw a “picture of the Semites” as distinct from the Aryans. Ernest Renan (1823-92) came up with a theory of “inferiority of the Semites” – "The two words, which have served until now as a symbol for the progress of the human mind toward truth, science, and philosophy, were foreign to them." Renan credits the Aryans with all the “great military, political, and intellectual movements in the world's history,” while the Semites are credited with “the religious movements.” “The Semites have never had any comprehension of civilization in the sense in which we understand the word; they were at no time public-spirited. Intolerance was the natural consequence of their monotheism, which, if not imported from the Semitic world, would have remained foreign to the Aryans, who were impressed with the variety of the universe. The Jewish people, while not progressive, claimed that the future was theirs; and this illogical position accounts for the hatred which eighteen centuries were unable to mitigate” (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=A&artid=1603#4621#ixzz0b9AA28Uz). Renan’s influence can be felt in an article published by Hellwald in 1872: "The Jews are not merely a different religious community, but – and this is to us the most important factor – ethnically an altogether different race. The European feels instinctively that the Jew is a stranger who immigrated from Asia. The so-called prejudice is a natural sentiment. Civilization will overcome the antipathy against the Israelite who merely professes another religion, but never that against the racially different Jew. The Jew is cosmopolitan, and possesses a certain astuteness which makes him the master of the honest Aryan. In Eastern Europe the Jew is the cancer slowly eating into the flesh of the other nations. Exploitation of the people is his only aim. Selfishness and lack of personal courage are his chief characteristics; self-sacrifice and patriotism are altogether foreign to him" (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=A&artid=1603#4621#ixzz0b9HQtXQv).

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the founder of modern Zionism, had experienced anti-Semitism first hand – he had seen the Parisian mob demanding the death of Dreyfus in 1895, and had heard the cheers of the middle-class Viennese that greeted the election victory of anti-Semitic Karl Lueger the same year (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html). But Herzl failed to recognize the huge Gentile support for Dreyfus: the intellectuals of France with Emile Zola at the forefront, rallied behind Dreyfus, the right wing of the French society, the army, the clergy were discredited, and anti-Semitism was defeated. Instead of seizing the moment and mobilizing support for Dreyfus, Herzl, the most famous journalist in Vienna, used it as an opportunity to further the idea that “anti-Semitism could not be Beaten” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html) and the World Zionist Organization did not combat it. The very first entry of Herzl’s “new Zionist Diary” contains the following statement: “In Paris … I achieved a freer attitude toward anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to 'combat' anti-Semitism” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html). Karl Lueger's success in Vienna was used to develop a “pragmatic strategy of non-resistance to anti-Semitism coupled with emigration of a portion of the Jews to a Jewish state-in-the-making” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html). While the Habsburg Emperor refused to confirm Karl Lueger in office – 8 per cent of the generals, considered the most loyal supporters of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Jews – Herzl favoured the confirmation. On November 3, 1895 he met the Prime Minister Count Casimir Badeni and told him to “accommodate Lueger” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html).

A similar logic underlined the cooperation between Zionists and the new Nazi regime in mid-1930s. The ideological similarities between the two – “the contempt for liberalism,” the racism and the strong belief that “Germany could never be the homeland of its Jews” – convinced the Zionists to solicit the patronage and support of Adolf Hitler repeatedly after 1933 (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html). Two months after Hitler’s rise to power on January 30, 1933, Baron Leopold Itz Edler von Mildenstein of the SS and Kurt Tuchler, an executive of the ZVfD visited Palestine on the condition that upon his return the Baron would write a pro-Zionist article for the Nazi press (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html). Rabbi Joachim Prinz’ comments of 1937 describe the “Zionist mood in the first months of 1933” and allude to a memorandum sent to the Nazi Party by the ZVfD on June 21, 1933: “Everyone in Germany knew that only the Zionists could responsibly represent the Jews in dealings with the Nazi government. We all felt sure that one day the government would arrange a round table conference with the Jews, at which – after the riots and atrocities of the revolution had passed – the new status of German Jewry could be considered. The government announced very solemnly that there was no country in the world which tried to solve the Jewish problem as seriously as did Germany. Solution of the Jewish question? It was our Zionist dream! We never denied the existence of the Jewish question! Dissimilation? It was our own appeal!” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html).

The memorandum, unknown until 1962, was printed in German in Israel. It reveals the similarities between the Nazi and Zionist ideologies and the extent of collaboration between the two parties: “May we therefore be permitted to present our views, which, in our opinion, make possible a solution in keeping with the principles of the new German State of National Awakening and which at the same time might signify for Jews a new ordering of the conditions of their existence … An answer to the Jewish question truly satisfying to the national state can be brought about only with the collaboration of the Jewish movement that aims at a social, cultural, and moral renewal of Jewry… a rebirth of national life, such as is occurring in German life through adhesion to Christian and national values … On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race, we wish so to fit our community into the total structure so that for us too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible… Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we do not wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we, too, are against mixed marriage and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group … The national distancing which the state desires would thus be brought about easily as the result of an organic development … For its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration even of a government fundamentally hostile to Jews, because in dealing with the Jewish question no sentimentalities are involved but a real problem whose solution interests all peoples, and at the present moment especially the German people … Our observations, presented herewith, rest on the conviction that, in solving the Jewish problem according to its own lights, the German Government will have full understanding for a candid and clear Jewish posture that harmonizes with the interests of the state.” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html).

Speaking in the name of “self-conscious Jewry,” the Zionists acknowledged sharing the Nazi ideal of the “foundation of the new state” that had established the “principle of race.” The “principle of race” was at the heart of anti-Semitism. Yet, this fact did not discourage collaboration. Quite the contrary, the Zionists not only encouraged it – “we, too, are against mixed marriage and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group” – but offered their cooperation – “We believe in the possibility of an honest relationship of loyalty between a group-conscious Jewry and the German state …” – and full support to a “government fundamentally hostile to Jews” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html). The memorandum, “a treason to the Jews of Germany,” emphasized the level of collaboration between the Zionists and the Nazis, all in the name of a Jewish state. As for Hitler’s overt anti-Semitism, expressed in Mein Kampf, the Zionists had inherited Herzl’s conviction “that anti-Semitism could not be fought” (http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/zad/zad1.html). Besides, given their support for the Nazi “principle of race,” one can ascertain that the Zionist ideologies were not different from those of the Nazis. However, in recent years, dating from the 1967 Six-Day War, the term “anti-Semite” is used to discredit critics of the policies of the Zionist state (Gates, 124) and “to misdirect and intimidate” (Gates, xvi) those who seek the truth. These charges must vehemently be denied and people who believe in the validity of the charges must be given the chance to understand how they, unwillingly as it seems, have become reluctant participants and victims of a Zionist “Nationalistic Religious Orgy” (http://www.inthesetimes.com/main/print/4755/), a brainwash and propaganda apparatus that hides the truth from the population. Thus non-Jews who disagree with the agenda of Colonial Zionism are branded “anti-Semitic,” and dissenting Jews that deviate from the pro-Zionist “party-line” are smeared pejoratively as self-hating Jews (Gates, 124). Fuelling charges of anti-Semitism against anyone opposing Tel Aviv’s “land grab,” deemed lawful by the Jewish fundamentalists (Gates, 127), has become a strategic method of suppressing the opposition to Israel’s new colonialism. The aggressive strategy of “discredit[ing], isolat[ing], ostraciz[ing] or marginaliz[ing] anyone critical of Tel Aviv’s expansionist policies” (Gates, 127) proves to be an “effective” method of censorship – the fear of a smear campaign keeps many quiet – undermining a fundamental right to Free Speech.

The policy of silencing the critics follows a well-know pattern: the attacker usually starts with mentioning the “right to free speech” while attempting to hush the critic (Gates, 127). Norman Finkelstein’s 2005 book Beyond Chutzpah – The Misuse of Anti-Semitism caused Zionists “to hit the panic button” (Gates, 127). A Harvard-Zionist Professor Alan Dershowitz, whose book Chutzpah was the center of an extended critique by Norman Finkelstein, in a typical Zionist manner, attempted to halt the publication of Finkelstein’s “controversial book on Israel” (Gates, 253). At the age of 55, after teaching for six years at Chicago’s DePaul University, Finkelstein was denied tenure. His application had been approved at the departmental and college level but the Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts and Sciences opposed it. Finkelstein accused Dershowitz of meddling in the tenure proceedings, and Dershowitz admitted sending a letter to the DePaul Faculty members, lobbying against Finkelstein’s tenure (Chomsky on Dershowitz' "jihad" against Finkelstein Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ENawcSliA&feature=related). At the end of the day, the University succumbed to the pressure exercised by Jewish organizations and Alan Dershowitz. To use Noam Chomsky’s words, Dershowitz had declared a “jihad against Finkelstein (Chomsky on Dershowitz' "jihad" against Finkelstein Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBclWDYuoxI&feature=related) that despite the latter’s outstanding scholarly credentials, cost him a tenure.

Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid published by Simon & Schuster on November 14, 2006, met with a barrage of criticism (see Carter’s defence of the book and the ideas contained therein in President Jimmy Carter Pounds Israelhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDKw0f95k7Q&feature=related). Abraham Foxman of ADL charged Carter, a supporter of the State of Israel and the sponsor of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace process, with anti-Semitism and Martin Peretz of the New Republic wrote: “[Carter] will go down in history as a Jew-hater” (Gates, 127). Similarly, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), an AIPAC media watchdog, bought full-page ads in The New York Times inciting readers to complain to the publisher about the new Carter book (Gates, 127). After the publication of the book, Alan Dershowitz made the following comment: “Jimmy Carter has literally become such an anti-Israel bigot that there’s a kind of special place in Hell reserved for somebody like that” (Alan Dershowitz Blasts President Jimmy Carter on Shalom TV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FscSs-_IL0&feature=related).

Judge Richard Goldstone, an internationally respected jurist that headed the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was assaulted by various leaders of the Jewish community and labelled an anti-Semite (http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/20091002111513371) despite his impeccable credentials. He served as chair of the commission that investigated the crimes of the security forces during the apartheid regime in South Africa. He was the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (http://www.journal-online.co.uk/article/6006-gazas-goldstone-on-the-backseat). He is a member of the governing board of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/21/war-crimes-white-wash) and a life-long supporter of Israel (http://www.journal-online.co.uk/article/6006-gazas-goldstone-on-the-backseat). The accusation is not only inconsistent with his heritage but also with the fact that he was a member of the International Panel, established in 1997 to investigate the Activities of Nazism in Argentina (CEANA) (http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/20091002111513371). Nevertheless, in the eyes of those who choose to turn a blind eye to the inhuman treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, Goldstone is a traitor that qualifies for the label “self-hating Jew,” if not for the warn-out version: “anti-Semite.”

Noam Chomsky, a renowned American linguist, philosopher, author, political activist and a key left-wing intellectual has been criticized for his views on Israeli policies. Dismissing Israel’s claims of self-defence (Noam Chomsky on the Israel-Palestine Conflict http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vpw-h6WY8As&feature=related), Chomsky explained: “They [Israel] are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they’re crushing … You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying somebody else’s land. That’s not defense! Call it what you like. IT’S NOT DEFENCE! ” (Noam Chomsky on Israel's Policy of 'Self-Defense' – Palestine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7SVaJLuNSo&feature=related).

In an interview on October 21, 2004 Amy Goodman of Democracy Now asked: “What do you say to those who call you anti-Semitic?” Noam Chomsky’s answer was as clear and logical as ever: “Depends who they are. If they're people like … [me] with a nice Jewish education … I’d tell them to read the Bible, where the concept is invented. It was used by King Ahab, the epitome of evil in the Bible that calls … prophet Elijah – Elijah was what we would nowadays call a dissident intellectual, like most of the prophets were, giving geo-political analysis, calling for moral behaviour. He calls for Elijah, he says ‘why you are a hater of Israel’? What does that mean? You are criticizing me. I'm the king. I'm Israel. And therefore you're a hater of Israel. And that's what the concept means” (http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20041021.htm). Chomsky’s logic is based upon the principle of employing identical standards of evaluation when dealing with similar situations. Using the strategy of smearing the critics of a country’s policies would amount to charging Berlusconi’s critics with anti-Italianism, Bush’s critics with anti-Americanism, etc. “If you identify the country, the people, the culture with the rulers, accept the totalitarian doctrine, then … it's anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli policy, and anti-American to criticize the American policy, and it was anti-Soviet when the dissidents criticized Russian policy. You have to accept deeply totalitarian assumptions not to laugh at this” (http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20041021.htm). Chomsky’s critic Alan Dershowitz sees things differently. Chomsky jokingly suggests that he, similar to Norman Finkelstein, probably is on Dershowitz’ “Hit List.” The comment has a tinge of irony but there is truth in it – for years, Chomsky admits, Dershowitz had produced “outlandish lies about him (Chomsky on Dershowitz' "jihad" against Finkelstein Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBclWDYuoxI&feature=related).

Chomsky is right in his analysis of King Ahab’s equation of his rule with Israel; the story comes to us from 1Kings 18:17. Elijah defies Ahab’s, thus also the State’s authority, but he does it in the name of God: “[36] O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I HAVE DONE ALL THESE THINGS AT YOUR BIDDING” (1Kings 18:36). And just like any other terrorist extremist, Elijah kills in the name of God: “[40] Elijah said to them [the Israelites], ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; DO NOT LET ONE OF THEM ESCAPE’. Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and KILLED THEM THERE” (1Kings 18:40).

All prophets of the Old Testament speak in the name of God, and the threats they utter stand as messages from God. Thus Hosea threatens Israel with exile: “[17] Because they have not listened to him, my God will reject them; they shall become wanderers among the nations” (Hosea 9:17). Jeremiah prophecies loss of land, property and servitude imposed as punishment: “[1] The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen; with a diamond point it is engraved on the tablet of their hearts … [3] … Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your sin throughout all your territory. [4] By your own act you shall lose the heritage that I gave you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever” (Jeremiah 17:1-4). Amos predicts disaster in the form of whole-sale massacre: “[1] Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel: [2] Fallen, no more to rise, is maiden Israel; forsaken on her land, with no one to raise her up. [3] For thus says the Lord God: The city that marched out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which marched out a hundred shall have ten left” (Amos 5:1-3).

The words of Amos, a pre-exilic prophet from the time of King Jeroboam II (788-747 BCE), a period of territorial expansion and prosperity, ring true today. The wealthy in Amos reached prosperity through manipulation of debt and credit that gave rise to gross inequities between the ruling elite and the poor (NRSV, 1302 HB). “[7] Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground!” (Amos 5:7). Small farmers lost their land and personal property and in many cases even their personal liberty (NRSV, 1302 HB), while the rich got richer: “[4] Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; [5] who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; [6] who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! [7] Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away” (Amos 6:4-7). Amos’ denouncement of the decadent opulence of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and his call to Justice is similar to the denouncement delivered by the modern critics of Israeli policies. Predictably, the reaction towards such criticisms essentially has remained the same: [10] They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth” (Amos 5:10).

The message delivered by the prophets in the name of God is ominous. There is war: “your sons, and daughters shall fall by the sword” (Amos 7: 17), “The sword is given to be polished … to be placed in the slayer’s hand … for… it is against all Israel’s princes; they are thrown to the sword, together with my people” (Ezekiel 20:11-12), destruction: “I will deliver up the city and all that is in it” (Amos 6:8), moral degradation: “Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city” (Amos 7:17), famine: “I will send a famine on the land” (Amos 8:11), exile: “Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land” (Amos 7: 17), “I will scatter them before the enemy” (Jeremiah 18:17), “And though they go into captivity in front of their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes on them for harm and not for good” (Amos 9:4). But the promises of misfortune in Deuteronomy are graver than those of the prophets: “The Lord will send upon you disaster, panic, and frustration in everything you attempt to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly …” (Deuteronomy 28:20). Pestilence, consumption, fever, inflammation, ulcers, scurvy, itch, mildew, madness, confusion of mind, blindness, blight, barrenness of womb and of land, drought, hunger, thirst, siege of towns, military defeat before enemies, exile, servitude, continual abuse, robbery, nakedness, lack of everything are the punishments designed for Israel (Deuteronomy 28:15-52). A gruesome description of cannibalism is part of the threats: “[53] In the desperate straits to which the enemy siege reduces you, you will eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your own sons and daughters whom the Lord your God has given you. [54] Even the most refined and gentle of men among you will begrudge food to his own brother, to the wife whom he embraces, and to the last of his remaining children, [55] giving to none of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because nothing else remains to him, in the desperate straits to which the enemy siege will reduce you in all your towns. [56] She who is the most refined and gentle among you, so gentle and refined that she does not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground, will begrudge food to the husband whom she embraces, to her own son, and to her own daughter, [57] begrudging even the afterbirth that comes out from between her thighs, and the children that she bears, because she is eating them in secret for lack of anything else, in the desperate straits to which the enemy siege will reduce you in your towns” (Deuteronomy 28: 53-57). Cannibalism resulting from siege is God’s ultimate weapon and as such it is also referred to in Leviticus 26:29, 2Kings 6:28-32, Jeremiah 19: 9, Lamentations 4:10, Ezekiel 5:10. In all instances God proudly displays this punishment delighting in its abhorrent nature: “[9] AND I WILL MAKE THEM EAT THE FLESH OF THEIR SONS AND THE FLESH OF THEIR DAUGHTERS, AND ALL SHALL EAT THE FLESH OF THEIR NEIGHBOURS in the siege, and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them” (Jeremiah 19:9).

Reading these threats makes one wonder: is the God of the Hebrew Bible an anti-Semite? Or more properly, are the priests and scribes of the Second Temple – the writers of these texts – anti-Semitic? While because of the cultural-historical distance between the Second Temple Judaism and our own time these questions can be debated endlessly, we can affirm that the modern critics of Israeli policies are NOT anti-Semitic. Therefore, the charges of anti-Semitism must be rejected and exposed for what they are: “an attempt to deflect criticism from the actions of … Israeli government by declaring criticism of Israel out of bounds and invoking Europe's last great taboo – the fear of being declared an anti-Semite” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/feb/17/1). The equation "anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism" that has become the “new orthodoxy” has produced new ways of associating anti-Israel or anti-Zionist rhetoric with anti-Semitism (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1020490.html). The study of serious anti-Semitism, presently “hijacked and debased by people lacking any serious expertise in the subject” (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1020490.html), should, in reality, include the analysis of the dealing of the Zionists, who collaborated with the Nazi regime and were guilty of anti-Semitism by association. Next, it should deal with the Zionist State that ignores the guilt of the founders of Zionism, and is as guilty of anti-Semitism as the founders themselves.


Gates, Jeff. Guilt by Association: How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War. Santa Barbara: State Street Publications, 2008.

The new Oxford Annotated Bible. Augmented Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.