Having lived in South Texas since the 7th grade, antisemitism was not something I encountered in my social environment while growing up. That marked the heyday of All in the Family; at least as far as Jews are concerned Archie’s prejudice didn’t go beyond ethnic/religious snobbery and not-always-negative stereotypes (good with money, holiday dedicated to eating young kippers). The signature antisemitism of that decade revolved around Palestinian terrorism. The Holocaust was a subject of history lessons, and the miniseries that aired weeks before my high school graduation.

I didn’t find antisemitism in my adult social circles, either, only in news stories and news commentary – the since-forgotten politician or two whose membership in a country club not allowing Jews drew controversy, the Crown Heights riots, Jewish conspiracy tropes, more Middle Eastern terrorism, sporadic David Duke sightings, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, the alt-right subculture, and so on. I get the impression that a lot of folks treat antisemitism as a single phenomenon and not several. The following is probably not an exhaustive list. 

Christian religious. Medieval Christendom charged that Jews bore collective guilt over the death of Christ, an attitude that now appears to be virtually extinct. The concept stems from human tribalist tendencies and not the Bible; aversion to notions of class identity is only one reason most biblical Christians (and conservatives in general) don’t scapegoat Jews for the Crucifixion. First is acceptance that the Bible clearly blames all of us for making it necessary. Second is the attitude that people can disagree on what all is required for reconciliation with God but find a lot of common ground over reconciling with each other.

Islamic. Antisemitism of this type has two stakes in the matter not shared by others: Islam’s direct history with the Jews as recorded by the Koran and Hadiths, and the fact that Zionist claims revolve around land that were not only among the first Muslim conquests outside the Arabian peninsula, but also central to many of the Crusades.

Secular. In his Cultures trilogy Thomas Sowell wrote of a phenomenon encountered in various societies throughout history: an immigrant community (e.g. Chinese in Malaysia) enters a particular trade, is disproportionately successful at it, and paranoid locals attribute the success to some sort of cheating. This is a significant driver of antisemitism in the US, especially that found within the lower economic ranks. Secular antisemitism sometimes revolves around something other than economic outcomes, like influence in media or political lobbying power. 

Sometimes that which religion inspires outgrows religious influence over time. Medieval Europe created artificial barriers prohibiting Jews from certain trades, driving them to others – including moneylending, which Gentiles avoided due to perceptions about usury. Hence the Jewish banking conspiracy theories, which persist to this day as the religious underpinnings of Christendom’s antisemitism waned.

Racial. The obvious example of antisemitism stemming from racial identity movements is Nazism. I’m not sure if all modern forms of Aryanism are neo-Nazi, but some of it embraces a broader definition of “Aryan” than the Third Reich did, and none broad enough to include the Jews. Similarly, white separatism treats Jews as racially distinct from whites. One group that does not is Nation of Islam; its theology claims that the white race, of which the Jews are an offshoot, was created artificially by a figure named Yakub, identified with the Biblical Jacob. 

Progressive. This differs from the secular variety in one key aspect: it portrays the West as co-conspirator, not as victim. It embraces the leftist anti-Zionism addressed in my post on Edward Said and intentionally associates Zionists with Jews. While there may be some anti-Zionists who are not intentionally hostile toward Jews, the current campus unrest reveals that much of it is. 

ADL argues that anti-Zionism breeds antisemitism, even if unintentionally (emphasis added):

Anti-Zionism…in the rejection of the status of the Jewish people as a nation and the denial of the Jewish right to self-determination…is antisemitic, in intent or effect, as it invokes anti-Jewish tropes; is used to disenfranchise, demonize, disparage, or punish all Jews and/or those who feel a connection to Israel; exploits Jewish trauma by invoking the Holocaust in order to position Jews as akin to Nazis; or renders Jews less worthy of nationhood and self-determination than other peoples.

One has to wonder what kind of person believes that Arabs deserve self-determination but Jews don’t.

The various forms of antisemitism aren’t mutually exclusive. The secular prejudices are common among the other types. Some modern Muslim leaders appropriated the blood libels of medieval Europe. Racial identity is a key factor in anti-Westernism and anti-Zionism. 

One group I haven’t mentioned is Communists. The Soviets were particularly notorious for pogroms against Jews, mainly under Stalin. In many countries Jews built strong communities – surviving as a distinct culture for thousands of years can’t be done otherwise. At the very least this would put them at odds with those sorts who want all civilian life to revolve around the state.

20 thoughts on “Antisemitism”

  1. I agree that economic success feeds, or did feed, anti-Semitism especially among blacks. Small shops in black neighborhoods were owned by Jews in many big cities. I think this was a significant factor. My first experience with anti-Semitism was with my own family’s nursemaid. She was a very kind woman and lived with us until my sister and I were nearly adults. She was unhappy with Jews and I think this was largely economic in origin. Interestingly enough, Jews in California have been largely replaced by Asians owning small stores and who are hated by blacks now.

  2. Much..not all..present-day anti-Semitism differs from the traditional forms in that the previous complaint about Jews was that they were too *different* from the overall society; whereas the modern version is that Jews *exemplify* those things about the society that the anti-Semite doesn’t like. ‘Whiteness’ is thought of more as a cluster of behaviors than of skin colors, as in this set of ‘race guidelines’ from the Smithsonian:

    …and Jews seem to exemplify many of these attributes: “objective, rational, linear thinking”, “hard work”, etc.

  3. Historically, anti-Semitism has been linked to hostility toward moneylending. Today, there seems to be very high ‘fear of finance’, far beyond the rational critique that the finance industry has grown too large as a % of the economy. I’ve seen people seriously arguing that banks don’t really need to be repaid for loans because they can just ‘create money’…and I’m sure that there are quite a few people who think Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan is Jewish, along with Brian Moynihan of Bank of America.

  4. I had always thought that in 19th century America, anti-Semitism, or plain old Old World Jew-Hate was something of which American intellectuals had heard, but didn’t quite grasp. It just didn’t fire Americans with the degree of white-hot hate that it had in … oh, say Imperial Russia, or Spain of the Inquisition.
    I remember the first time in my personal life that Jew-hate first came up; a student in my 6th grade class called another pupil, who was a friend of mine, a dirty Jew. That student wound up in the principal’s office so fast that he probably had whiplash. For myself, I was totally baffled. So my friend goes to another church for worship … and this matters?
    Later on, like many another of my post-WWI baby boomer generation, we were marinated in how bad-bad-bad and dangerous Jew-Hate was, and how brave and honorable it was for various Righteous Gentiles to have stood against it.
    The current round of Jew-Hate is horrifying and baffling to me.

  5. SGT. Mom:

    One aggravating factor compared to the Baby Boomers is that we Baby Boomers had parents, many of whom personally witnessed the evil that people can do to each other. Both in the Pacific Theater and in the ETO. My own father, though he never talked about it and I only found out when I was chasing his military career for a family history, was part of the liberation of the last concentration camp held by the Nazis [Gunskirchen satellite camp of Mauthausen]. This, I am sure, affected how he viewed life. We had an entire generation exposed to the reality of evil, and that influenced the culture.

    We are several generations from that culture, and no one in any of our institutions really believes that bad things happen or that there are any consequences for what you do or choose not to do.

    Sadly for those here now and those who follow . . . there will be consequences.

    Subotai Bahadur

  6. One of the ironies of this age is that a lot folks who groove on the Burning Man festival support the BDS movement, which singles out the only nation in that region where such an event could legally take place. They’ve been led to assume that any conflict with the West and the non-West is the West’s fault.

  7. One evening back in about ’79 I was taking what might as well have been a back road because of the scarcity of buildings and people, with a backpack stuffed with textbooks and an “I need to scrape up cash for the barber” hairdo. A car from behind slowed down to a crawl, and one of about five college-age guys in the sedan leaned out to yell “Dirty Jew!” at me. Luckily they merely laughed and drove off–I was afraid I was about to get attacked.

    Frat boys or locals? I’ve no idea, nor of the second time I was yelled at (different epithet that time, neither accurate Perhaps I looked like an easy target for cowardly malice.)

    Since they’d no idea who I was, I don’t think they were quite serious, but what kind of malicious cry came to their minds says something about them. As I said, in ’79.

  8. I was surprised at the amount of anti-Semitism I encountered in South America. My first encounter was as a houseguest in Peru. A retired professor, the uncle of my friend, who claimed that Che Guevara had visited him during his “motorcycle diaries” tour of the continent, made some gratuitous anti-Semitic remark in my presence.

    During my time in Argentina, I soon saw why Nazis considered it a compatible country. I worked as a drilling services engineer on YPF rigs. Some made it a big deal, shall we say, that a wellsite geologist was Jewish. In a conversation off the rig with a YPF professional of the Jewish faith, he told me that when he was in the US attending a conference, he mentioned to a fellow conferee that he was Jewish. He told me that he found out that being Jewish was no big deal in the US, but that it was a big deal in Argentina.

    I heard enough anecdotes to conclude that the military then ruling Argentina had a stronger tinge of anti-Semitism than the civilians. I had already seen enough anti-Semitism among the civilians, so my above conclusion doesn’t let civilians off the hook.

    The biggest shock for me was being invited to two homes in Bolivia and Argentina which featured prominent portraits of Adolf Hitler in their living rooms. At one home, I was told that his “crazy grandpa” had put the portrait up. At another home, as the homeowner had invited me in, the portrait’s existence couldn’t be blamed on a “crazy grandpa.” I don’t remember the surnames of the people, if I ever learned them, so I have no idea if there were people German origin living there.

  9. Sgt Mom:

    I quite empathize with your experience, though I guess I had a more secular version of it insofar as beyond a certain point I was no churchgoer of any kind.

    If I’d ever heard one kid call another a Dirty Jew I’d have been similarly thunderstruck by it’s incongruity with anything I knew. Though I couldn’t have put it quite that way at the time.

    My childhood was more like the contrast between the relative absence of Jewish people in my own life and world [no family or neighbours were jewish; though not exactly a community absent from Toronto or Canada, it was after all small] and the high cultural profile of Jewish life, identity and issues. Movies, TV, literature, from the US and also of Canadian origin, was of disproportionately Jewish production in terms of writers, actors, directors, likely for the same historical reasons in both countries. Music, too, more so in Canada than perhaps in the US. Then again, classical music everywhere and often as not also Jazz. In Canada, iconic persons in the arts included super high profile Montreal Jews like Mordecai Richler [writer] and Leonard Cohen [writer but also musician], whose work seemed to incarnate urban, middle class, Jewish sensibilities from a northern perspective. Their influence on a couple of generations of Canadians was huge. It has faded with time, but lingers. So I didn’t meet any Jewish people in my very diverse school [everything else from Bangladeshi to Chilean, and even one aboriginal girl], but Jewish culture was high profile and positively regarded whether Canadian or American.

    Plus, as I think was the case for some parts of the US, Jewish cultural tropes including self-regarding and self-critical humour, were omnipresent in movies and TV. I genuinely don’t understand how anyone in the US could claim not to have heard of Hanukkah, an allegedly common complaint, after the 1970s. All this stuff is on TV all the time. A part of the cultural mix available to all far beyond 2-3% of the population, so much so it is hard to credit anyone being not at least generally aware of it. Heck, by the 1990s one could watch shows like Seinfeld, Mad About You and Friends, all or mainly about highly assimilated and assimilating, quintessentially American and quintessentially Jewish American characters. Three of the six Friends, for example, both of the Buchmans and most of their friends, and all the Seinfeld regulars.

    20 years of movies, especially comedy and romantic drama, with heavily or lightly Jewish tropes if not necessarily always explicitly Jewish characters [Mel Brooks, Rodney Dangerfield, Billy Crystal, for the comedy side] shaped the youth of my generation. The entire sensibility of Millennials and Zoomers, even most of Gen X, has been shaped by this style of relating to life and the world- self-deprecating, but also critical of others and everything about society, occasionally joyful, often bitter, sarcastic, ironic, and cutting but also deeply funny. And there has been decades of writing on the phenomenon, so it’s hardly me identifying this reality for the first time.

    Plus, like you, we were very carefully and explicitly taught about the unique and exceptional evils of hating Jews, even as against the general desire we not hate anyone else, either.

    It is stunning that after all that there should still be Jew-hatred.

    The Muslim/Palestinian angle seemed to throw everything into chaos again starting on campuses in the 1980s, and give it all new ground all over again, though until recently I can’t imagine all that many people cared about the Palestinians.

    Though I guess I don’t also partake of the [quintessentially American in some ways, and good ways] claim to actually not understand old world hatreds. The entire world operates on them even if they vary in target and intensity by time, and the basic experience has not actually been alien to the new world either, though I appreciate that the precise nature and perhaps durations of many have not been all like in the old world. I don’t literally find them incomprehensible, just not mine.

  10. I think David Foster hits a big nail on the head with a key underlying difference between older antisemitisms whether religious, racial, or social/class, and whether strong [genocidal] or trivial [get your own country club]- it used to be, ‘we have a society and we don’t want you in it, or not too much, still less changing or reshaping it, because we like it the way it is’. Now it’s ‘we hate society and you are too exemplary of it, too integrated with it, too important in and to it, to claim minority exemption from our enmity’.

  11. Antisemitism it would seems lies dormant in Muslim and Western civilization, much like Ebola in the rainforests of Congo, only waiting for the right set of circumstances to emerge

    The Czech write Milan Kundera wrote that Jews were indispensable to tying together the polyglot mish mash known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire because as a transnational people, they were everywhere they belonged nowhere. However the other side of that bet was that belonging nowhere they were vulnerable everywhere as the permanent outsider; the fact that they were relegated to professions such as money lending left them exposed to both persecution and plunder.

    Like many of you I saw very little antisemitism in my backwoods town, yes there were a few jokes based on stereotypes but it was done on the sly, any open antisemitism was strictly forbidden. Yes it did exist in some form as do all bigotries , the discriminatory practices in places like Harvard or the prejudices of people like Joe Kennedy. However what George Washington did with his 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island welcoming Jews as fully part of America was to place antisemitism as anti-American. Anybody trying to reenact the Dreyfus Affair here would be on the wrong side of the Father of Our Country.

    It also helped that in the 20th Century the worst antisemites, the Nazis, were the Century’s greatest losers. This perception was reinforced by popular culture in the Blues Brothers, to this day I still laugh at the thought of “Illinois Nazis”

    The problem we face together is the confluence of two events. We see a critical mass of Muslims now wielding political power commensurate with their numbers as would any other ethnic group. The problem, as any honest European would attest, is that there is a substantial difference between say a person Cuban-American and someone who believes the Koran, with its dictates regarding Jews and society as the literal word of God. Negative portrayals of Jews as say Christ Killers could be excised from Christian dogma, not so with Islam

    The crisis of antisemitism is one of cultural “diversity” that we have imported and continue to import into our midst through immigration. Perhaps, unlike Europe, Muslims can be fully integrated into the American community by moderating their “old country” and religious attitudes but the European experience gives us pause. The other part of the antisemitic trigger is of course the post-modern nihilism of the younger generations who see this as a continuation of the Summer of George Floyd, another cause to fight oppression with Jews as simply another face of white supremacy.

    Perhaps there are enough firebreaks left in our culture that this new outbreak of antisemitism, triggered by the Muslim/Postmodern alliance, will like Ebola quickly burn itself out. Maybe the spectacle of those university presidents self-immolating over their inability to condemn antisemitism will constitute the end of this but I don’t think we live in those times….

  12. Then again, there ARE technicalities.

    Hamas is undeniably a genocidal movement, whose very charter and all its pronouncements proclaim their commitment to the genocide of Jews, at least that roughly half of all Jews who live in Israel and are Israelis, if not indeed all Jews everywhere. On that score, at least half-Nazis.

    On the other hand, they lack the ability to actually carry out the genocide they so clearly wish to carry out. [The last time the Palestinians and their Arab backers had the capability was in 1948. Maybe with Iran’s help they will get it again, and that is job one to prevent that.]

    Further, every individual massacre of people, however revolting, and even if carried out by genocidaires, is not itself a genocide in microcosm. I’m getting tired of the abuse of the term in every other context, so I must accept to criticize it here, too. To be genocide, I need the will to exterminate a people [present], a credible plan to that end [beyond Hamas’ abilities at present] and a credible attempt to do it [ditto]. What happened October 7th was a world-class despicable series of murder, mass murder, rape, and torture and can and should be called out as such. At no point was it capable of wiping out the Israeli or Jewish people. If the Germans had just done one or a hundred such things in WW2, they would be no less guilty of war crimes but they went many steps beyond, with a credible plan and actual attempt to kill everyone, fully implemented and well under way. The Turks in WW1 used more primitive means against the Armenians, but otherwise the same- large scale, fully motivated, implemented, plausible plan.

    Sabra and Chatila were also not “genocides” of Palestinians, for the same reasons.

    A prolonged series of many and large scale such events can be the components of a genocide, they are not individually genocide.

    The Israelis, by contrast, would be fully capable of wiping out the Palestinians- they have the means and organization and the territorial position to do it. They just have no wish to nor have claimed a mandate to do so. Nothing they have done qualifies as genocide. Blockades are not genocide, unless Britain has been guilty of it against France and Germany many times over. Airstrikes are not genocide, certainly not in the modern, targeted fashion now in use. Even the massive urban massacres and firestorms we all conducted against Germany and Japan were not genocide by intent, means, or outcome. Not remotely. So Israel could do a lot more than it has done without approaching that charge.

    Or to sum up, the undeniably genocidal Hamas conducted a revolting and contemptible but obviously far sub-genocidal massacre on October 7th, and the not at all genocidal Israel has responded with routine military operations that have obviously unavoidable civilian casualties, well short of what we the Allies were content to tolerate in WW2.

    The only people who want genocide in this conflict are Hamas. No genocide has actually occurred.

    One of my personal heroes from WW2 remains Arthur Harris. Allegedly when stopped for reckless driving at night by a constable, who admonished him he might have killed someone, Harris replied, “Young man, I kill thousands every night.”

    I might condemn him for the reckless driving, but I endorse his attitude toward his mission and deny he was genocidal, or even a war criminal. May his statue stand in London forevermore.

  13. with nuclear weapons probably but you have the Samson Option problem, maybe that was the intent of Al Aqsa Flood, a ridiculous misdirection, when they follow up the premise with a genocidal slogan, Hamas used to refer to Khaybar, the crushing of the last Jewish settlement
    in Arabia, but not enough Westerners know this,

  14. Re: Claims of genocide

    While Palestinians claiming genocide is just trying to manipulate the info space, the media rebroadcasting that claim is criminal

    The media has more or less officially given up the concept of objectivity. Yes they always have been biased, but now they have defined objectivity clearly as being dependent not on “just the facts” or the use of reason and logic, but rather on being trustworthy through the inclusion of diverse “voices” The report by the ASU Cronkite School of Journalism provides a nice survey of this new attitude which is basically DEI uber alles.

    So with genocide, it’s not the media outlet’s job to evaluate whether a claim of genocide meets an objective opinion, but rather to report the claim. When I attended the large pro-Palestinian protest in DC a few months ago, just about every sign had something to do with the “genocide” against the Palestinians in Gaza. The media doesn’t have to verify that the claim of genocide is true, they “merely” validate that the protesters are making the claim.

    Do enough claims and validation and what happens?

    Take a look at what has happened with Palestinian casualty claims over the past few months. In October the New York Times parroted a lie worthy of Goebbels and Baghdad Bob, that the Israelis bombed a hospital killing hundreds of civilians. Of course what had transpired was a misfired Palestinian rocket landing in a parking lot causing substantially less damage. The NY Times apologized, not for the error of reporting Hamas propaganda but for reporting that the claim came from a Haas-controlled Ministry of Health. Since then the media outlets have continued to parrot ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims of civilian causalities under the pretext that they are correctly attributing them to the source.

    They know what they are doing. Repeat a lie enough times, inject a claim into the ecosystem, and after a week or two it becomes accepted fact. At first it something along the lines of “5,000 civilians have been killed according to Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health”, then after a week or two of repeating the claim it is shortened to “5,000 civilian dead” and then shortly after that it just becomes when is Biden going to stop Israel from committing genocide.

    What do you want to call it? Media-washing? There is nothing innocent about this, but merely information warfare in which the media is complicit. Consider it a preview of coming attraction for next year’s elections. Then again to many in the media if you fail to call someone by their incorrect pronoun you are committing genocide

    RO put it best, if Israel wanted to settle all family business they could do so over the course of a holiday weekend.

  15. Yes Shatila was vengeance for Damour which was for Kantera (sic) the chief militia leader, Elias Hobeika defected to the Syrians, who do a Shatila every other week

  16. an immigrant community (e.g. Chinese in Malaysia) … is disproportionately successful…
    The relevant phrase is “market-dominant minority”. Examples include:
    Chinese throughout Southeast Asia.
    East Indians in East Africa and South Africa.

    Though the resented minority is not always “dominant”, sometimes merely annoying competition. Have you ever read Mark Twain’s essay “Concerning the Jews”? (If not, you should.) Twain considered anti-semitism not religious bigotry but a “Chinese cheap-labor crusade” – referring to the political agitation in 1800s California against Chinese immigrants who competed with the white working class.

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