The following article is by Azmi Bishara who is an Israeli Arab and an MK (member of the Knesset - i.e. an Israeli member of Parliment). It is published in Al-Hayat ("Life") which is one of the leading daily pan-Arab newspapers. Bold emphasis is from us. While this article is clearly from an anti-Zionist perspective, it makes an important point about antisemitism and we feel it is worth sharing.
What's New In Anti-Semitism?
By Azmi Bishara
November 20, 2003
Anti-Semitism was not born with Israel and its propaganda; it is much older. This origin of the concept of anti-Semitismus dates back to the 1870s in Germany, when it was first used to describe the ideological hostility toward Jews in Europe. Some historians even attribute it specifically to a writer who founded a league to limit the impact of Jews in 1871, as he considered that they infiltrated society to corrupt and undermine it by sowing the seeds of its deterioration. Basically, the concept of "anti-Semitism" occurred in a specific context hostile to Jews.
It is meaningless to ignore the idiom's context and say that racism against Arabs is a form of anti-Semitism because they are Semitic people. For racism against Arabs does not need to be a form of anti-Semitism for it to be refused. Anti-Semitism is not the only recognized kind of racism. Anti-Semitism was attributed to the European hostility for religious, racial, national and social reasons.
Anti-Semitism is a historical social phenomenon that cannot be denied. It was the most dangerous and horrible form of racism in Europe. The civilization Bush and his supporters like to claim they belong to, i.e. the Judeo-Christian tradition, considered to be the mother of liberal democracy, is also the origin of anti-Semitism and the holocaust place.
Certain Zionist historians try to attribute anti-Semitism to the Middle Ages in Greece and Rome; they consider that any reticence to a foreign culture or religion, including Judaism, is a form of anti-Semitism. Hostility toward Jews was not due to the fact that they are Jews but because they are strangers representing a strange culture. The Judaism religious culture itself includes alibis mentioned in the Torah to exterminate "infidel" peoples.
Anti-Semitism is a specific kind of hostility toward the other that is different proper to the relation between the Christian Europe and its Jewish citizens. Some historians claim that it goes back to the beginning of the Crusades, and the discrimination against them prevailed during the Middle Ages in the form of ostracism and exclusion.
A historian might insist that the religious hostility toward Jews was the introduction to anti-Semitism that became racial, national or social, all the more that the social anti-Semitism exploited the social demagogy that impoverish the middle classes in the interests of the value of the bourgeoisie.
Although anti-Semitism is a modern phenomenon different from the religious hostility, yet, one cannot separate the non-religious aspects of the anti-Semitism from the religious theological tradition in the Middle Ages. In this culture, Jews are those who refuse the fact that the New Testament completes the Old one. Jewish religious trends considered Christianity a false messianic, a direct denial and an absolute opposition to Judaism for it came to end the historical Jewish mission.
It is necessary to note that France, which is currently accused of anti-Semitism, was the first country to grant Jews legal equality in 1791. However, the Jewish enlightenment itself created the modern anti-Semitism because it called for the deterioration of the prevailing values, traditions and social hierarchy. No doubt that the modern anti-Semitism brought the most horrible forms of racism, with the Jews' mass extermination and the Nazi holocaust.
Neither the Islamic culture nor the other Eastern cultures bore hatred toward the Jews as much as anti-Semitism did. Although Eastern cultures are not innocent of the many massacres their history witnessed, they did not create the anti-Semitism. Israel's attempt to encompass the Islamic culture as part of anti-Semitism is a political effort aimed at playing the role of the victim in the actual conflict with the Arabs.
But we should also mention that the modern Arab policies were affected with the European political thought and hence, with some anti-Semitism ideas albeit they did not adopt them. When Zionism used the holocaust to justify the Naqba, some people thought that the retaliation should be to ignore or minimize it. In the 1967 defeat, there was a need to justify it so they aid that the opponent was a real international devil.
Mixing the Jews with the Zionists is what Israel wants in order to justify why it is not differentiating between criticizing Zionism and anti-Semitism. Criticizing oneself is not contradictory to these truths: 1- anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon that led to the Nazi holocaust. 2- The widest spread form of racism in the Western countries is the hostility to Arabs and Muslims and not anti-Semitism. 3- Not all who are anti-Semitic are anti-Israel for some of them deal with it and consider it as a model of a militarily cultured nation. 4- The Western political and ideological traditions that opposed anti-Semitism and called for equality are today criticizing Israel and its occupation. The Israeli propaganda is hostile to many trends that refuse the anti-Semitism.
Hence, Israel chooses the people it wants to punish for anti-Semitism according to its interests, and it accuses others of anti-Semitism while it has no proof at all they are.
Many organizations in the world were established to account those who are anti-Semitic. Ever since the majority of the organized Jewish Diasporas in the world were united in solidarity with Israel, there is a trend to transform every criticism against Israel into a form of anti-Semitism.
This is one of the reasons why the Palestinian issue is complicated. Israel complains about the international concern with the Palestinian issue. The truth is that the international concern with the Palestinian issue should be seized by Palestinians through a liberation and democratic speech even though anti-Semitism. In fact, any solidarity step toward the Palestinians should be accompanied with compensation to Israel or else, it would be accused of anti-Semitism.
The Palestinian issue was born from the international concern ever since the Balfour promise. Without it, there wouldn't be a Palestinian cause or it would have been settled a long time ago just like any other colonial cause. However, the Palestinian cause was born specifically when other people took their independence and was even more aggravated when other issues wee settled. Hence, the Palestinian people are not to be envied for the international concern.
It is no longer possible to separate these two issues and set away the international concern. We only hope we can. The pivotal question is how to deal with it in a way that refuses anti-Semitism as a source to prove the justice of the Palestinian cause and refuses as well Israel's attempt to use anti-Semitism to silence any voice raised against Israel and its practices and refuses to liberate it from racism.
The important point raised here is that antisemitism IS anti-Jewish. It is not anti-Arab. There is Islamophobia (against Muslims) and there is Orientalism (against Arabs)... neither of their are antisemitism, but nor are they any more acceptable than antisemitism. Those wanting to campaign against Israeli policy may in a democracy do so, but they should be wary of antisemitism and avoid using it.
Where we differ from the author is that we have only ever heard antisemites say that Jews always accuse them of antisemitism. It is usually said RIGHT before an antisemitic remark is made. Then they say "see, I told you so" as soon as someone complains. Or worse, people don't want to fall into this trap, so they are now afraid to comment and antisemitism becomes acceptable public behaviour.
The author likewise comments that "there is a trend to transform every criticism against Israel into a form of anti-Semitism", unfortunatly perhaps he is based in Israel. The comments we hear in the UK critisism Israel usually take the form of "Israel is a Nazi state" or "You Jews are attacking Palestinians" - both of these ARE antisemitism according to the EU definition of Antisemitism (see http://www.zionismontheweb.org/boards/viewtopic.php?t=240).
In the UK at least it is very rare hold a conversation about Israel where the critisisms are expressed in a valid way (critisisms of Government policy, rather than a denial of Israel's right to exist, accusations holding Jews world wide responsible for Israel's actions, allusions to a world Jewish conspiracy etc). This forum luckily does have some discussion that critisised Israeli policy without being antisemitic. We also have some examples of antisemitism though. For example see this thread: http://www.zionismontheweb.org/boards/viewtopic.php?t=536
This article is posted here as part of a discussion on why the argument "I'm a semite so I can't be antisemitic" is rubbish.
The U.N. discovers the cause of anti-Semitism: Jews By ANNE BAYEFSKY, Opinion Journal, November 18, 2004
Working definition of Antisemitism EU definition, agreed 2004
Aren't Arabs Semites too? Analysis of the propoganda that Arabs are semites too and hence can't be antisemitic
What's New In Anti-Semitism? By Azmi Bishara (Arab-Israeli MK), Dar Al-Hayat, November 20, 2003
Bauer on UN antisemitism From lecture notes on Antisemitism
We'll be happy to add a link to our directory for any site on Israel, Zionism, the Middle East, or Judaism that links to us. You can add your site and if you have a link to us we'll aprove it. You can aslo e-mail us at for an additional link on our links page.