Racial antisemitism

Racial antisemitism

Racial antisemitism is the belief that antisemitism, hatred or prejudice toward Jews, is justified and justifiable on racial and not religious grounds. It is asserted that Jews are a distinct racial or ethnic group, which is inferior and works against the racial or ethnic group of the person holding or espousing those beliefs.

It is often difficult in specific situations to identify racial antisemitism. It is often that an utterance or policy is simply antisemitic, but with racist undertones; or racism directed at Jews. Today it is very rare that a person is antisemitic solely on racist grounds.

The underlaying assumption in antisemitism based on racial grounds is that there in fact exists a Jewish race. The proponents point to the perceived "distinctive" physical appearance of Eastern-European Ashkenazi Jews. In fact, there is no scientific evidence for the proposition that Jews constitute a "race", and even among Ashkenazi Jews, physical appearance varies greatly.

The particular problem with racial antisemitism is that the discrimination or hostility directed at Jews is based on ancestry and not beliefs or practices. Therefore, a certain Christian who may not even know of his or her Jewish background, may still be treated as a Jew and discriminated against (or worse) accordingly, as it was in the time of Nazi Germany and The Holocaust.

According to William Nichols, religious antisemitism may be distinguished from modern antisemitism based on racial or ethnic grounds. "The dividing line was the possibility of effective conversion . . . a Jew ceased to be a Jew upon baptism." However, with racial antisemitism, "Now the assimilated Jew was still a Jew, even after baptism ... . From the Enlightenment onward, it is no longer possible to draw clear lines of distinction between religious and racial forms of hostility towards Jews... Once Jews have been emancipated and secular thinking makes its appearance, without leaving behind the old Christian hostility towards Jews, the new term antisemitism becomes almost unavoidable, even before explicitly racist doctrines appear." [Nichols, William: "Christian Antisemitism, A History of Hate" (1993) p. 314.]

In the context of the Industrial Revolution, following the emancipation of the Jews and the "Haskalah" (the Jewish Enlightenment), Jews rapidly urbanized and experienced a period of greater social mobility. With the decreasing role of religion in public life tempering religious antisemitism, a combination of growing nationalism, the rise of eugenics, and resentment at the socio-economic success of the Jews soon led to the newer, and often more virulent, racist antisemitism.

Pre-19th century

Racial antisemitism existed alongside religious antisemitism since the Middle Ages, if not earlier.

In Spain even before the Edict of Expulsion of 1492, Spanish Jews who converted to Catholicism ("conversos" in Spanish), and their descendants, were called New Christians. They were frequently accused of lapsing to their former religious practices ("Crypto-Jews"). To isolate "conversos", the Spanish nobility developed an ideology of "cleanliness of blood". The "conversos" were called "New Christians" to indicate their inferior status in society. That ideology was a form of racism, as in the past there were no grades of Christianity and a convert had equal standing. Cleanliness of blood was an issue of ancestry, not of personal religion. The first statute of purity of blood appeared in Toledo in 1449 [http://pachami.com/Inquisicion/LimpiezaSangre.html Estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre] , Pablo A. Chami.] , where an anti-"converso" riot lead to "conversos" being banned from most official positions. Initially these statutes were condemned by the monarchy and the Church. However, the New Christians came to be hounded and persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition after 1478 and the Portuguese Inquisition after 1536.

It has been said that much of the discrimination against the New Christians in Spain and Portugal was because they were the only educated class outside of the nobility at the time. Laws against them were meant to preserve aristocratic monopoly over lucrative Crown positions and contracts. Large portions, maybe majorities, of the embryonic middle classes such as merchants and professionals, were composed of "New Christians", which supported the power of the king against the high nobility. It is claimed that the antagonism between the educated and merchant "New Christians" and the aristocratic and landed "Old Christians" was a class struggle. Marriages between nobles and ("Old Christian") peasants were considered even more demeaning to an aristocratic lineage than marriages with "New Christians", and were consequently much rarer. Fact|date=February 2007

In Portugal, the legal distinction between "New" and "Old" Christians continued until the issue of a legal decree by the Marquis of Pombal in 1772.

Nationalism and antisemitism

Racial antisemitism was preceded, especially in Germany, by antisemitism arising from Romantic nationalism. As racial theories developed, especially from the mid nineteenth-century onwards, these nationalist ideas were subsumed within them. But their origins were quite distinct from racialism. On the one hand they derived from an exclusivist interpretation of the 'Volk' ideas of Johann Gottfried Herder. This led to antisemitic writing and journalism in the second quarter of the 19th century of which Richard Wagner's "Das Judentum in der Musik" ("Jewry in Music") is perhaps the most notorious example. On the other hand, radical socialists such as Karl Marx (himself of Jewish descent) identified Jews as being both victims and enforced perpetrators of the Capitalist system - e.g. in his article "On the Jewish Question". From sources such as these, and encouraged by the broad acceptance of racial theories as the century continued, antisemitism entered the vocabularies and policies of both the right and the left in political thought.

The rise of racial antisemitism

Modern European antisemitism has its origin in 19th century theories—now mostly considered as pseudo-scientific—that said that the Semitic peoples, including the Jews, are entirely different from the Aryan, or Indo-European, populations, and that they can never be amalgamated with them. In this view, Jews are not opposed on account of their religion, but on account of their supposed hereditary or genetic racial characteristics: greed, a special aptitude for money-making, aversion to hard work, clannishness and obtrusiveness, lack of social tact, low cunning, and especially lack of patriotism. Later, Nazi propaganda also dwelt on supposed physical differences, such as the shape of the "Jewish nose." [cite web|url=http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/story3.htm|title=How to Tell a Jew] [cite web|url=http://www1.yadvashem.org/education/lessonplan/english/antisemitism/antisemitism.htm|title=Education - Lesson Plan: Antisemitism] [cite web|url=http://www1.yadvashem.org/Odot/prog/image_into.asp?id=2614&lang=EN&type_id=2&addr=/IMAGE_TYPE/2614.jpg|title=Antisemitic Caricature: 'The Jewish Nose is Wide at the End and Looks like the Number Six '] [cite web|url=http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/522_jews_and_their_noses.htm|title= Jews and their noses]

While enlightened European intellectual society of that period viewed prejudice against people on account of their religion to be declassé and a sign of ignorance, because of this supposed 'scientific' connection to genetics they felt fully justified in prejudice based on nationality or 'race'. In order to differentiate between the two practices, the term antisemitism was developed to refer to this 'acceptable' bias against Jews as a nationality, as distinct from the 'undesirable' prejudice against Judaism as a religion. Concurrently with this usage, some authors in Germany began to use the term 'Palestinians' when referring to Jews as a people, rather than as a religious group. Similar custom is still displayed in the use in academic circles of the term "Hebrew" in preference to the term "Jewish".

Actually, it is questionable whether Jews looked significantly different from the general population in which they lived. This was especially true in places like Germany, France and Austria where the Jewish population tended to be more secular (or at least less Orthodox) than that of Eastern Europe, and did not wear clothing (such as a yarmulke) that would particularly distinguish their appearance from the non-Jewish population. Many anthropologists of the time such as Franz Boas tried to use complex physical measurements like the cephalic index and visual surveys of hair/eye color and skin tone of Jewish vs. non-Jewish European populations to prove that the notion of a separate "Jewish race" was a myth. The 19th and early 20th century view of race should be distinguished from the efforts of modern population genetics to trace the ancestry of various Jewish groups, see Y-chromosomal Aaron.

The advent of racial antisemitism was also linked to the growing sense of nationalism in many countries. The nationalist context viewed Jews as a separate and often "alien" nation within the countries in which Jews resided, a prejudice exploited by the elites of many governments.

Elites and the use of antisemitism

Many analysts of modern antisemitism have pointed out that its essence is scapegoating: features of modernity felt by some group to be undesirable (e.g. materialism, the power of money, economic fluctuations, war, secularism, socialism, Communism, movements for racial equality, social welfare policies, etc.) are believed to be caused by the machinations of a conspiratorial people whose full loyalties are not to the national group. Traditionalists anguished at the supposedly decadent or defective nature of the modern world have sometimes been inclined to embrace such views. Some are of the opinion that many of the conservative members of the WASP establishment of the United States as well as other comparable Western elites (e.g. the British Foreign Office) have harbored such attitudes, and in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, some antisemites have imagined world Communism to be a Jewish conspiracy.Thernstrom, Stephan, ed. "Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups", Belknap Press, 1980, p. 590. ISBN 0-674-37512-2] (see Judeo-Bolshevism)

The modern form of antisemitism is identified in the 1911 edition of the "Encyclopædia Britannica" as a conspiracy theory serving the self-understanding of the European aristocracy, whose social power waned with the rise of bourgeois society. The Jews of Europe, then recently emancipated, were relatively literate, entrepreneurial and unentangled in aristocratic patronage systems, and were therefore disproportionately represented in the ascendant bourgeois class. As the aristocracy (and its hangers-on) lost out to this new center of power in society, they found their scapegoat - exemplified in the work of Arthur de Gobineau. That the Jews were singled out to embody the 'problem' was, by this theory, no more than a symptom of the nobility's own prejudices concerning the importance of breeding (on which its own legitimacy was founded).

Dreyfus affair

The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal which divided France for many years during the late 19th century. It centered on the 1894 treason conviction of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army. Dreyfus was, in fact, innocent: the conviction rested on false documents, and when high-ranking officers realized this they attempted to cover up the mistakes. The writer Émile Zola exposed the affair to the general public in the literary newspaper "L'Aurore" (The Dawn) in a famous open letter to the Président de la République Félix Faure, titled "J'accuse !" (I Accuse!) on January 13, 1898.

The Dreyfus Affair split France between the "Dreyfusards" (those supporting Alfred Dreyfus) and the "Antidreyfusards" (those against him). The quarrel was especially violent since it involved many issues then highly controversial in a heated political climate.

Dreyfus was pardoned in 1899, readmitted into the army, and made a knight in the Legion of Honour.


Pogroms were a form of race riots, most commonly in Russia and Eastern Europe, aimed specifically at Jews and often government sponsored. Pogroms became endemic during a large-scale wave of anti-Jewish riots that swept southern Russia in 1881, after Jews were wrongly blamed for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. In the 1881 outbreak, thousands of Jewish homes were destroyed, many families reduced to extremes of poverty; women sexually assaulted, and large numbers of men, women, and children killed or injured in 166 Russian towns. The new tzar, Alexander III, blamed the Jews for the riots and issued a series of harsh restrictions on Jews. Large numbers of pogroms continued until 1884, with at least tacit inactivity by the authorities. An even bloodier wave of pogroms broke out in 1903-1906, leaving an estimated 2,000 Jews dead, and many more wounded. A wave of 887 pogroms in Russia and Ukraine occurred during the Russian Civil War, in which between 70,000 to 250,000 civilian Jews were killed by riots led by various sides.

During the early to mid-1900s, pogroms also occurred in Poland, Argentina, and throughout the Arab world. Extremely deadly pogroms also occurred during World War II, including the Romanian Iaşi pogrom in which 14,000 Jews were killed, and the Jedwabne massacre in Poland which killed between 380 and 1,600 Jews. The last mass pogrom in Europe was the post-war Kielce pogrom of 1946.

Antisemitic legislation

Anti-semitism was officially adopted by the German Conservative Party at the Tivoli Congress in 1892, on the instigation of Dr. Klasing but in the teeth of opposition led by the moderate Werner von Blumenthal.

Official antisemitic legislation was enacted in various countries, especially in Imperial Russia in the 19th century and in Nazi Germany and its Central European allies in the 1930s. These laws were passed against Jews as a group, regardless of their religious affiliation - in some cases, such as Nazi Germany, having a Jewish grandparent was enough to qualify someone as Jewish.

In Germany, for example, the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 prevented marriage between any Jew and non-Jew, and made it that all Jews, even quarter- and half-Jews, were no longer citizens of their own country (their official title became "subject of the state"). This meant that they had no basic citizens' rights, e.g., to vote. In 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively preventing them having any influence in education, politics, higher education and industry. On 15 November of 1938, Jewish children were banned from going to normal schools. By April 1939, nearly all Jewish companies had either collapsed under financial pressure and declining profits, or had been persuaded to sell out to the Nazi government. This further reduced their rights as human beings; they were in many ways officially separated from the German populace. Similar laws existed in Bulgaria- The Law for protection of the nation , Hungary, Romania, and Austria.

Even when antisemitism was not an official state policy, governments in the early to middle parts of the 20th century often adopted more subtle measures aimed at Jews. For example, the Evian Conference of 1938 delegates from thirty-two countries neither condemned Hitler's treatment of the Jews nor allowed more Jewish refugees to flee to the West.

The Holocaust and Holocaust denial

Racial antisemitism reached its most horrific manifestation in the Holocaust during World War II, in which about 6 million European Jews, 1.5 million of them children, were systematically murdered.

Holocaust deniers often claim that "the Jews" or "Zionist conspiracy" are responsible for the exaggeration or wholesale fabrication of the events of the Holocaust. Critics of such revisionism point to an overwhelming amount of physical and historical evidence that supports the mainstream historical view of the Holocaust. Almost all academics agree that there is no evidence for any such conspiracy.

Antisemitic conspiracy theories

The rise of views of the Jews as a malevolent "race" generated antisemitic conspiracy theories that the Jews, as a group, were plotting to control or otherwise influence the world. From the early infamous Russian literary hoax, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," published by the Tsar's secret police, a key element of anti-Semitic thought has been that Jews influence or control the world.

The Jewish community of East End London has often been accused of the notorious Jack The Ripper crimes, with many of the contemparary and current suspects being of jewish background. These accusations were furthered by chalked graffiti upon a wall at one of the murder scenes, reading "The Juwes [sic] are the men that will not be blamed for nothing".

In a recent incarnation, extremist groups, such as Neo-Nazi parties and Islamist groups, claim that the aim of Zionism is global domination; they call this the "Zionist conspiracy" and use it to support antisemitism. This position is associated with fascism and Nazism, though it is becoming a tendency within parts of the left as wellFact|date=November 2007, and termed New antisemitism.

ee also

* Jews and Judaism
** Jewish history
* Other articles on antisemitism:
** History of antisemitism
** Christianity and antisemitism
** Christian opposition to antisemitism
** Anti-globalization and antisemitism
** Arabs and antisemitism
** Islam and antisemitism
** New antisemitism
** Persecution of Jews
* Related topics:
** "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a 1900s hoax
** Anti-Zionism
** Judeophobia
** Self-hating Jew
*** "The Operated Jew" (1893 book)
** Racism
* Topics related to religious antisemitism:
** Anti-Judaism
** Spanish Inquisition
** Blood libel
*** Beilis trial in Russia, 1913
** Host desecration
** Edgardo Mortara
* Antisemitic laws, policies, and government actions
** Pogroms in Russia
** May Laws in Russia
** Polish 1968 political crisis
** Dreyfus Affair in France
** Farhud in Iraq
** General Order № 11 (1862) of Ulysses S. Grant
** Historical revisionism (negationism)
* Nazi Germany and the The Holocaust
** Racial policy of Nazi Germany
** Holocaust denial
* Antisemitic websites
** Jew Watch
** Radio Islam
** Institute for Historical Review
* Organizations fighting antisemitism
** Simon Wiesenthal Center
** Anti-Defamation League
** Jewish Defense League



* Bodansky, Yossef. "Islamic Anti-Semitism as a Political Instrument". Freeman Center For Strategic Studies, 1999.
* Carr, Steven Alan. "Hollywood and anti-Semitism: A cultural history up to World War II". Cambridge University Press, 2001.
* Chanes, Jerome A. "". ABC-CLIO, 2004.
* Cohn, Norman. "Warrant for Genocide". Eyre & Spottiswoode 1967; Serif, 1996.
* Ehrenreich, Eric. "The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution". Indiana University Press, 2007.
* Freudmann, Lillian C. "Antisemitism in the New Testament". University Press of America, 1994.
* Hilberg, Raul. "The Destruction of the European Jews". Holmes & Meier, 1985. 3 volumes.
* Lipstadt, Deborah. "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory". Penguin, 1994.
* McKain, Mark. "". Greenhaven Press, 2005.
* Prager, Dennis, Telushkin, Joseph. "Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism". Touchstone (reprint), 1985.
* Selzer, Michael (ed). "Kike!": A Documentary History of Anti-Semitism in America". New York, 1972.
* Steinweis, Alan E. "Studying the Jew: Scholarly Antisemitism in Nazi Germany". Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-674-02205-X.

Further reading

* [http://www.aish.com/seminars/whythejews/ "Why the Jews? A perspective on causes of anti-Semitism"]
* [http://www.antisemitism.org.il/ Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism] (with up to date calendar of anti-semitism today)
* [http://har2.huji.ac.il:83/ALEPH/ENG/SAS/BAS/BAS/START Annotated bibliography of anti-Semitism] hosted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA)
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/antisem.html "Anti-Semitism and responses"]
* [http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/ The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary anti-Semitism and Racism] hosted by the Tel Aviv University - (includes an annual report)
* [http://www.shma.com/nov02/pierre.htm "Jews, the End of the Vertical Alliance, and Contemporary Antisemitism"]
* [http://www.masada2000.org/Who-Us.html "An Israeli point of view on antisemitism", by Steve Plaut]
* [http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=11906035_1 "The Anti-Semitic Disease] - an analysis of Anti-Semitism" by Paul Johnson in "Commentary"
* [http://www.coe.int/t/E/human_rights/ecri/1-ECRI/2-Country-by-country_approach/ Council of Europe, ECRI Country-by-Country Reports]
* [http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/J/ "State University of New York at Buffalo, The Jedwabne Tragedy"]
* [http://www.cyberroad.com/poland/jews_today.html "Jews in Poland today"]
* [http://www.adl.org/main_Anti_Semitism_International/Default.htm "Anti-Defamation League's report on International Anti-Semitism"]
* [http://memri.org/ The Middle East Media Research Institute] - documents antisemitism in Middle-Eastern media.
* [http://www.zionism-israel.com/his/judeophobia.htm Judeophobia: A short course on the history of anti-Semitism] at [http://www.zionism-israel.com] Zionism and Israel Information Center.
* [http://www.pinteleyid.com If Not Together, How?] : Research by April Rosenblum to develop a working definition of antisemitism, and related teaching tools about antisemitism, for activists.
* [http://www.vintagepostcards.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=ethnjua Vintage Postcards with an Anti-Jewish theme]
* [http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/antisemitism/ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Special Focus: Antisemitism]
* [http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/HistoryJewishPersecution.htm 2,000 Year Timeline of Jewish Persecution]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ANTISEMITISM — ANTISEMITISM, a term coined in 1879, from the Greek ἁντί = anti, and Σημ = Semite by the German agitator wilhelm marr to designate the then current anti Jewish campaigns in Europe. Antisemitism soon came into general use as a term denoting all… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Antisemitism — Part of a series on Discrimination General forms …   Wikipedia

  • Racial policy of Nazi Germany — Eva Justin of the Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit measuring the skull of a Romani woman. The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented by Nazi Germany, asserting the superiority of the Aryan …   Wikipedia

  • Racial segregation — Segregationist redirects here. For the short story by Isaac Asimov, see Segregationist (short story). Part of a series of articles on Racial segregation …   Wikipedia

  • Antisemitism in the Soviet Union — Antisemitism Part of Jewish history …   Wikipedia

  • Antisemitism in the Arab world — Antisemitism in the Arab world, in the modern meaning of the term, is believed to have developed since the 19th century. Jews, like other minority groups within the Muslim world, were subject to various of restriction and discrimination long… …   Wikipedia

  • Antisemitism around the world — This is a list of countries where antisemitic sentiment has been experienced. This list is organized by country.AfricaAlgeriaAlmost all Jews in Algeria left upon independence in 1962. Algeria s 140,000 Jews had French citizenship since 1870… …   Wikipedia

  • Antisemitism in Europe — The first years of the twenty first century have seen an upsurge of antisemitism Fact|date=July 2008. Several authors argue that this is antisemitism of a new type, which they call new antisemitism.In 2004 the UK Parliament set up an all… …   Wikipedia

  • Antisemitism in early Christianity — The relationship between Christianity and antisemitism has a long history. Anti Jewish sentiments have been expressed by many Christians over the last 2,000 years, but many other Christians, increasingly in recent years, have condemned these… …   Wikipedia

  • Racial Volunteer Force — The Racial Volunteer Force is a splinter group of Combat 18 formed in the United Kingdom in 2002 by Mark Atkinson and John Hill due to their frustration with the leadership of Will Browning. Although maintaining a distinct identity the group… …   Wikipedia