What is Anti-Semitism Really?

One of the most frustrating things for a Jew to hear is for someone to say, “well, I’m a Semite (Arab or Muslim, when many of the later aren’t even Semites), therefore I can’t be anti-Semitic.” Or “Jews aren’t the only Semites; Palestinians are Semites too, so you’re actually the anti-Semite.”

There are two main problems with this line of thinking:

The first problem is that this fundamentally redefines what anti-Semitism means and has always meant.

##Anti-Semitism does not, and never has meant hatred of Semites. It has always, only meant hatred of Jews.

From Wikipedia:

the term was in fact coined in Germany in 1873 as a scientific-sounding term for Judenhass (“Jew-hatred”)

It wasn’t enough to simply make do with the traditional anti-Judaism that Christian Europe had been peddling for millennia. The modern, racially pure German Aryan needed a scientific, race-based term for their hatred of the Hebrew people. Anti-Semitism fit this need perfectly.

However, since most people don’t know that anti-Semitism has always been used to refer solely to Jew-hatred, many Jew-haters are able to confuse them. After all, if you didn’t know this, it would make perfect sense that anti-Semitism would refer to all Semites and not just Jews.


The anti-Semites who hide behind claims of literalism, of course don’t accept the same reasoning when it doesn’t fit their worldview. If we are going to go by words’ strict literal definitions, then the term Islamophobia does no refer to “Hatred of Muslims,” but rather “Hatred of those who submit themselves to God’s will.” If this is the definition, than any religious person could assert they can’t be Islamophobic since they submit themselves to the will of God.

Even if one were to accept that Islamophobia only refers to hatred of Muslims, the Jews of Medina were considered by Muhammad to be part of the Umma, and prayed alongside other Muslims (at least at first). Since Muhammad himself considered Jews to be Muslims, then we can’t be Islamophobic either, right?

Try using these arguments with an anti-Semite in order to see their head explode. It is quite satisfying.

###Who can be an anti-Semite?

Of course anyone reading this can tell that we made the last two arguments purely for illustrative purposes. We would never use these as actual justifications for Islamophobia because, one, Islamophobia shouldn’t be defended, and two, they are intellectually dishonest. And that’s the whole point: anyone redefining anti-Semitism to prove they aren’t an anti-Semite is at best being dishonest and at worst is an anti-Semite themselves.

###Anyone can be an anti-Semite

The second problem with the opening statement is that anyone can be an anti-Semite, even Jews. The idea that someone cannot hold a certain point of view because of their ethnicity is itself a racist idea. Just as during slavery in America and Apartheid in South Africa there were Blacks who were led to believe that they were in fact inferior, and therefore held racist views against their own people, there are also today Jews who are themselves anti-Semites.

The most prominent anti-Semitic Jew today is probably Gilad Atzmon. He believes in classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories like the idea that the Jews are trying to control the world from behind the scenes, believes burning synagogues is an appropriate protest of Israel’s actions, condemns Jews for killing Jesus, and thinks there should be a real debate about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion just to name a few.

Prof. Robert Wistrich, head of the Hebrew University’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, in discussing self-hating Jews, says, “Self-hatred can be the Jewish version of anti-Semitism… Their self-hatred is an internalization of dominant stereotypes. This hatred is expressed in different ways – there are Jews who deny their Jewishness, who’ll conceal their identity and change their name. There’s a classic response, which was very common until recently, and that’s conversion – mainly to Christianity. In quite a few cases, the converts excel in their hatred toward Judaism and even lead anti-Jewish campaigns. It happened in the past and exists in modern times too.”

Jewish Voice for Palestine

Today, however, Jewish anti-Semites need not conceal their identity when converting to the world’s fastest growing religion. That is because this religion is not Christianity or Islam, but rather the religion of anti-Zionism. In this religion, anti-Semitic Jews are given pride of place because their actions help blue-and-whitewash away accusations of anti-Semitism. Having “Jewish” organizations like J Street and Jewish Voice for Palestine is essential for anti-Zionist groups like CodePink and Students for Genocide in Palestine because they provide the proverbial “Jewish Friend” they can point to in order to say they aren’t anti-Semitic, just anti-Zionist.

Students for Genocide in Palestine

It doesn’t matter that Jews are involved in these groups because Jews can be anti-Semites and hate Jews themselves. It doesn’t matter that Arabs are also a Semitic people because anti-Semitism refers specifically and only to Jews. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or was lied to by an anti-Semite trying to cover their tracks.

###The Oldest Hatred

So why don’t we just use the term Judeophobia like we say Islamophobia or Homophobia? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?

It would solve the problem until someone says, “well, I don’t fear Jews, I hate them, so I’m not a Judeophobe,” or the more likely, “I don’t hate Jews, just Zionists.”

Running from anti-Semites and ceding them ground is never the answer. By abandoning the historically rooted term of “anti-Semitism,” we would be party to an attempt to re-write history and erase the suffering of our people. Anti-Semitism has been called “the Oldest Hatred” because it has existed for as long as the Jewish people have. By redefining the term, anti-Semites are not only depriving us of our history, but they are attempting to appropriate it for their own purposes.

###Anti-Semitism at the UN (who’d’ve thought?)

We saw this earlier this year at the first UN Conference on anti-Semitism (anyone else shocked that there wasn’t one of these ever before??). There, the Saudi ambassador, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, speaking on behalf of the Islamic countries, began his speech by condemning “all discrimination, including [that] based on religion or religious beliefs,” which of course is all well and good, except this conference was convened to discuss a very specific hatred based on religion or religious beliefs. His concluding statements made it clear why he broadened his earlier “condemnation.” He said, “colonization and occupation fuels anti-Semitism… occupation is an act of anti-Semitism. It threatens human rights and humankind.” It didn’t matter that just a few minutes prior to this, Secretary-General Ban made it clear that “grievances about Israeli actions must never be used as an excuse to attack Jews.” According to anti-Semites, Israel/Jews are the root cause of anti-Semitism and in fact, anti-Semitism is actually a threat to non-Jews.

Abdallah Yahyah Mouallimi

This perverted logic should be shunned and condemned, but in today’s world, it gets a forum at the United Nations.

The Saudis and their Jew-hating brothers need to redefine anti-Semitism to include discrimination against themselves because otherwise they would be the worst offenders. They also need to say that Israel causes anti-Semitism - as classic anti-Semites always blame Jews themselves for anti-Semitism - because then its destruction is part of the solution.

But instead of calling out this rank anti-Semitism - at the first UN Conference on anti-Semitism, no less! - the Saudis and other state purveyors of anti-Semitism are welcomed and allowed to speak as though they are part of the solution, not the part of the problem.

When such blatant anti-Semitism is welcome at the UN, is it any wonder that anti-Semitism is rising around the world?