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What are the causes of anti-Semitism?

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Answered 2012-10-16 22:16:12

Answer 1

This is an important question. Why is there so much antisemitism (hatred or prejudice against Jewish people) in the world now, and why has there been in the past?

Here are some opinions from various contributors

1. We don't know.

2. They have set themselves apart. Jews have been remarkably good at maintaining communities within communities. They have maintained their ethnic and religious identity over many generations instead of becoming part of the cultures in which they live. Groups that set themselves apart always attract prejudice. For example, Italian and Irish immigrants were hated for various reasons by many native-born Americans in the 19th century. As they assimilated into the mainstream American culture they did not face the same prejudice (if for no other reason, just because they can't easily be identified as different). Minority groups that do not or cannot assimilate tend to attract prejudice.

3. They have been very successful. Their cultural values encourage education and material success, and so many of them become wealthy and powerful. This naturally attracts the envy of people who are less successful. Instead of respecting other people for their success, many of us find it easier to think that they had some unfair advantage, or there is a conspiracy, etc. (However, at various times and in various places, such as Eastern Europe in the period c.1800-1945 they were despised because of their poverty!)

4. Not everyone hates Jews, although they certainly have their problems with others in this world. I have Jewish friends and have worked for several Jewish bosses, and they were absolutely wonderful to me. You don't have to believe in another's religion (I'm Protestant) but I always love to see some of the ceremonies of different religions if I am invited and consider it an honor.

5. For a long time the Jews were excluded.

It says above, "They have set themselves apart". This needs comment. In Europe, where antisemitism started, the Jews were for several centuries excluded from ordinary society, shunned and in many countries they were forced to live in small, designated areas of towns called ghettos. They were also banned from most occupations. Of particular significance until a little after 1800 was the fact that they were banned from agriculture, which was by far the most important sector of the economy before the rise of industry. Moreover, they weren't just excluded from mainstream society, they were demonized. All kinds of absurd conspiracy theories were invented about the Jews. They were set apart.

6. Conflict in the Middle East

More recently, conflict between Israel and other countries in the Middle East has led to the rise of anti-Jewish feeling in that region and further afield.

7. Misunderstanding, prejudice and jealousy

The same reasons why some people hate other nationalities, other sex orientations, other religions, etc, etc.

8. Antisemitism is self-perpetuating

It has become a kind of tradition. In particular, conspiracy theories about Jews are often seen as interesting and spicy (even if they are not believed), while conspiracy theories about most other groups are just seen as downright boring and get very little attention.

Answer 2

Joy Hakim, the author of the History of US, suggests some possible beginnings of anti-Semitism, which are:

  1. Jews held onto their culture and refused to convert to Christianity
  2. Some Christians that believed that anyone that was not Christian (infidels) should be converted or die
  3. Many Jews had a high economic status, and many people became jealous of their success
  4. The Theory of Evolution was used against Jews (by Hitler and the Nazis) to attempt to prove that Jews were inferior to the Aryan race.


Answer 2 merrily mixes possible reasons from a wide range of periods. As for 'high economic status', often in many places Jews were despised for their poverty - for example, in Tsarist Russia.

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Answered 2014-12-03 18:23:36

There are a number of such reasons.

1) Anti-Semitism: There are six major reasons that people and countries harbor Anti-Semitic views and often these exist in contradictions (i.e. one group will hate them for one side of this reason and another group at a different place and time will hate them for the exact opposite reason): (1) Perceptions of Jewish Economic Power, (2) Perceptions of Jewish Ethnocentrism/Chosen-ness, (3) Religious motivations for Jew-hatred (both in Christianity and Islam), (4) Otherness, (5) Genetic/Racial Inferiority, and (6) Perceptions of Disloyalty. It is worth noting that the seventh most common reason, Ease of Scapegoating, only makes sense if at least one of the other six is in play, otherwise we could simply scapegoat the unicyclists for the world's ills.

1A) Jewish Economic Power: The common Anti-Semitic canard here is that Jews control the banks. Of course, this is not true as most banks are not chaired or owned or controlled by Jews; many banks operate independently or are controlled by Non-Jews. For example the Big Four US Banks are all run by Non-Jews: Jaime Dimon (JP Morgan Chase), Chad Holliday (Bank of America), Michael O'Neill (Citigroup), and John Stumpf (Wells Fargo). The reverse of this is that the Jews of 17th-19th century Poland and Russia were dirt poor, had no influence and yet they were hated, often explicitly because they were poor and therefore "contaminating" the country with their "poor-disease".

1B) Jewish Chosen-ness: The common Anti-Semitic canard here is that Jews believe themselves to be a superior ethnicity in the vein of the übermensch or "White Pride". This is contrary to the Jewish understanding is that the Jewish people were charged with a distinct mission/task that the rest of the world was not assigned and this is to elevate the spiritual character of the world. The Anti-Semites then argue that because Jews believe themselves superior to Non-Jews that Jews take advantage of Non-Jews and feel no remorse for it. The reverse of this is that in Western Europe in the late 19th Century, Jews, by and large, chose to assimilate and disregard their chosen-ness. The response is that Anti-Semites argued that the Jews were now going "undercover" and attempting to "infiltrate" European society. Additionally, when Christians or Muslims claim that they are the chosen elect-of-God, the chosen-ness issue does not seem to effect them.

1C) Religious Anti-Semitism: While Christianity and Islam are not inherently Anti-Semitism, their doctrines are easily to meld to an Anti-Semitic world vision and historically have been melded in such ways. Christianity's main thrust of Anti-Semitism comes from the crucifixion of Jesus, i.e. deicide. Christians also focused on the passages of the Old Testament which argue that Jews were in contravention to Divine Edicts and passages in the New Testament where Jesus condemns the actions of the Pharisees.

Islam has several Anti-Semitic thrusts. In addition to the Christ-killing (which is not deicide in Islam since Jesus is not God in Islamic theology and because Jesus eluded the attempt to crucify him), Muslims have made the argument that Jews are the killers of the Prophets plural, even though Jesus was the only one of the 35 prophets in the Qur'an who Jews attempted to kill (per Islamic teachings). Additionally, Muhammad and the early Muslims had negative political and military relationships with Arabian Jews which led to Anti-Semitism having a greater prominence in the early Islamic tradition.

1D) Otherness: The common Anti-Semitic canard here is that Jews are somehow different from other people and are, therefore, incapable of properly assimilating into the dominant culture. The argument went that their culture and beliefs were too odd for civil society and the Jews needed to be removed due to this customs incongruence. The reverse of this was that when Napoleon and other rulers emancipated the Jews (let them come out of the ghettos and interact as normal citizens). Anti-Semites responded that the Jews were now poisoning modern European society by direct interactions with it. In the Islamic World, since Jewish Emancipation came hand-in-hand with Imperialism, the Jews who assimilated were deemed to be imperialist infiltrators.

1E) Racial Inferiority: The common Anti-Semitic canard here is that Jews are somehow genetically inferior or lesser than other humans.. Composer Richard Wagner, a noted Anti-Semite argued that Jews have no souls and were incapable of producing or enjoying "true music". Hitler argued that they were deficient emotionally as well as mentally. In the European context, this racism was directed at Jews, arguing that as Semites (Middle Eastern people) they were not as well-developed as Whites. Interestingly, we see the reverse in Arab and African-American communities who practice this form of Anti-Semitism by arguing that Jews are a European offshoot of Khazaria and not as racially developed as Semites or Africans.

1F) Disloyalty:
The common Anti-Semitic canard here is that Jews harbor more loyalty to each other (or, since 1948 to Israel) than to their fellow countrymen. Military defeats have been framed on Jews, such as the Trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus following France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. The evidence, however, is to the contrary. In nearly every case where Jews have been permitted to join the militaries of their host countries, they have enlisted in excess of their percentage. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews were more loyal to the sovereign, especially since the sovereign would protect the Jews from rabid Anti-Semitic hordes of peasants.

2) Facelessness: Most people around the world, and especially in the Islamic World, have never met a Jew and only see Jews through the media portrayals of Israeli military actions or Jewish politicians in Western countries. As a result, "the Jews" are a people upon whom any claim of impropriety can be laid without a counterfactual relationship to see a Jew's humanity.

3) Israel's International Legal Violations: Israel has engaged in a number of policies in violation of international law, such as the unification of Jerusalem, the settlements in the West Bank, the annexation of the Golan Heights, etc.. Israel is not reticent for performing such acts and claims that it violates those laws because they are prejudicial to its rights and interests. If other countries did the same, (Iran is a great example), they are sternly reprimanded by the international community and forced to toe the line. The argument is often that because the Jews have control of international politics, that they are able to commit these violations with impunity while other countries cannot.

4) Anti-Colonialism: While Arab Nationalism was an anti-colonial movement, the general principles of the anti-colonialism led to a rejection of States based on European values in non-European locations with a large number of non-European (ethnically speaking) inhabitants. This sentiment was felt most strongly towards (South) Rhodesia, South Africa, and what would become Israel. Anti-colonialists believe that Asians and Africans had the right to Self-Determination pursuant to their cultures. However, Rhodesian and South African institutions could and did eventually convert to being African nations (in the true sense of the term) because their racist infrastructure could be reformed. Zionism is by default a government by the Jews and would cease to be Zionist if the Jews were taken out of the leadership position. Thus Zionism catches the ire of anti-colonialists.

5) Palestinian Indigenous Rights: The indigenous Palestinians and their descendants are aggrieved that people from abroad would come to the land that their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had lived on and worked for as long as they could remember and buy that land from the Ottomans without consulting them. Moreover, these people had a particular agenda to establish a state on the land they called their own. Understandably, the Palestinians, and those who support them, are opposed to the Zionist project and the Jews who realized it for these emotional and political considerations. Additionally, the Israeli Military Occupation of the West Bank Territories and the Blockade of Gaza represents a true legal and humanitarian crisis for Supporters of an Independent Palestine and the Palestinian People. To many in the world community, the Palestinians must have the right to go back to their homes (although it is doubtful that the Arabs would have permitted that right to the Jews should the Arabs have been victorious in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-9).

6) Arab Nationalism: Arab Nationalism as a movement crystallized in the 1930s and came to the political fore in the 1960s. Arab Nationalism is a movement that seeks to create an Arab State or multiple Arab States based on common cultural and historical markers. This movement began to make a tether between Arab cultural identity and Islamic religious identity. This was especially keen in places with large non-Muslim communities because those communities typically worked closely with the European colonizers seen to be repressing the Arab identity. Zionism, which is a movement based on a European cultural identity and a Jewish religious identity was antithetical to the Arab Nationalist movement ideologically and claims territory that Arab Nationalists also claim putting them at odds politically.

7) Islamism: Islamism, the political philosophy that Shari'a or Islamic Religious Law should be the grounds upon which a state is ruled (as opposed to Islam, which is the religion), want to create a government that falls within their stringent and puritanical view of Islamic moral standards. In the Islamist conception, only Muslims should be in power in the State and any non-Muslim minorities should have a secondary role if they should have one at all, whereas Jews are too "uppity" in having created a state where they are in the dominant position. Second, Israel is situated in territory which used to be governed by Muslims for nearly 1300 years (with a century-long break under the Crusader States). As a result, Israel is considered a usurpation of historical Islamic authority whereas European countries (for example) never had Islamic authority before. Islamists have talked about reintroducing the jizya tax, a symbol of humiliation for Non-Muslims in both the Gaza Strip and in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). At present, since no Jews live in either area, the primarily target of these laws would be Christians, but they do intend to subject the Jews to at least the jizya, if not outright execution and genocide, if they had the chance.

8) Anti-Nationalism:
In today's world, as things like globalization, cultural diffusion, and mixed ethnicities in major districts become more prominent, the Jewish support for the Zionist model of a Nation-State dedicated to one race or religion seems anachronistic. Germany, founded on the same model, now has the issue of integrating Turks (and their children) into the German state, but since Germans always lived in Germany and constituted a majority there, as opposed to being a reorganized Diaspora, nobody suggests that Germans should "return" to a more cosmopolitan type of existence. This is, however, oftentimes suggested by Anti-Nationalists and Post-Nationalists concerning the Jews and their State.

Conversely, Nationalists, especially in Europe, accuse the Jews of undermining their aims by helping with the integration of foreign and immigrant populations in their native countries. In the case of Europe, they usually trumpet out one or two Leftist ministers who happen to also be Jews as "proof" of the claim that Jews are undermining their countries.

9) Non-Jewish Holy Sites: Since the Holy Land does not only have Jewish Holy Sites, but also has Christian and Muslim Holy Sites, there is opposition in these communities to Jews having a physical monopoly and control of these holy sites. Particularly, many Muslims cannot visit Israel to see the Dome of the Rock or al-Aqsa Mosque since their countries of citizenship do not recognize Israel. Rather than blaming their own governments, it is far easier to blame the "insurrectionist Jews" who "stole the land" from Muslims and now "prevent" their coming to see it.

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