Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism: ideology, a movement against Semites, Jews, usually eminating from political or economic sources. It was coined in the late 19th century and indicates anti-Jewish views and activities. Today it covers prejudices against Jews from ancient pre-Christian times up to modern political prosecutions. The nature of anti-Semitic rhetoric has changed from one period to another.

From reviews on the history of human society and civilisation, it is known that Jews were always reduced to inferior positions everywhere and their rights limited by various decrees, legal regulations, persecutions, and expulsions. The origins of hatred towards Jews can be traced back to ancient times as a result of ignorance about the Jewish culture and traditions, but above all due to economic competition and money lending.

Christian anti-Judaism

We were confronted with Christian Anti-Judaism as early as the rise of Christianity, which specifically resulted from hatred and resistance due to the crucifixion of Christ. This hatred was continuously involved in religious ceremonies and doctrines, being incorporated within the social structure throughout the Middle Ages, thus pushing Jews towards the margins of society.

Medieval Christian theorists considered Jews to be the biggest sinners because they denied the teachings of Jesus. They were proclaimed Jesus’s murderers which resulted in their exclusion from mainstream public life.

They were compared to the devil and by the beginning of the Crusades religious intolerance had become even more intensified. Holy Faith had to be cleansed of unbelievers, ‘heretics’, and this was performed by occasional massacres and pogroms. At the same time Jews were wrongly accused of ritual murders (it was believed that they murdered Christian children for their blood, because the Jews believed it had special power and used it during sacrificial rites), thefts, and of buying and desecrating holy communion wafers. During contagious epidemics, they were even accused of causing the ‘black death’ by poisoning wells and springs because they wanted to eradicate all that was Christian.

Rise of anti-Semitism

In contrast to the medieval Christian Anti-Judaism when religious intolerance allowed Jews immunity if they converted to Christianity, anti-Semitism on the other hand, was based on the racist concept of a ‘Semite’ verses an Indo-European ‘Aryan’, the Aryan having been placed at the top of the human civilisation scale by Ernest Renan and Christin Lassen. They had already popularised this idea across Europe in the middle of the 19th century. Renan defended the idea that Semites lacked creativity and a sense of discipline, that they did not have any mythology, epics, science, philosophy, novels, visual arts; namely, for him Semites were an inferior combination of human nature.

A Jew remains a Jew, even if he or she embraces Christianity, and so the modern anti-Semitism of the 19th century condemned Jews as an ethnic group and as a race.

Due to their capital and mastery of money transactions, Jews in some places were the only ones who were able to adapt to the rapid industrial development, and represented severe competition. Emancipation was of crucial importance for the development of modern anti-Semitism, enabling a strong penetration of Jews into Christian societies and herewith a perceived threat from Jewish competition. Therefore, the emancipation laws were followed by an aggressive wave of anti-Semitism, which was launched in Germany in the seventies of the 19th century and then rapidly spread to the neighbouring Austria, Hungary, France, Russia, and also to the Slovenian territory.

Wilhelm Marr, a German journalist coined the word ‘antisemitism’ to describe unconventional hatred against Jews, which he himself defended and announced it together with his adherents. He did not object Jews because of his religious beliefs, but for social, economic, political, and ‘racial’ reasons.

The 19th century society had, at least formally, abandoned those prejudices based on religion and Jews were now seen as an intruding social class, the presence of whom polluted the home nation. Using this stereotype, the opponents of Jews having equality, wanted to re-establish those social boundaries that were applicable during the pre-emancipation era, and thus nullify the achievements of emancipation. Economic dominance remained one of the main objections to the Jews before World War II; the newspapers wrote about this, criticising the dominant influence of Jews within the world economy and, herewith, in politics. Such reporting needs to be considered within the context of the offensive German anti-Semitism, which was systematically upgraded and spread by the Nazis after Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. During the Nazis’ reign Jews suffered the worst forms of persecution referred to as the policy of the ‘final solution of the Jewish question’. The Holocaust was the tragic climax of this policy, representing the worst form of human rights violation to date, and the most extensive genocide in human history.


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