Skip to main content
Select Source:







Is anti-Semitism a new name for an ancient, uninterrupted phenomenon? It is a recent name, no doubtits 1878 coinage being attributed to Swiss radical Wilhelm Marr. Yet, new names have become one of the curious features of problems that either refer to a long and obstinate history (e.g., the hatred of the Jews through the centuries) or indicate sites of resistance, the refusal to confront diverse and changing phenomena. Understandably, different interests seeking to isolate and refute or, alternatively, contextualize anti-Semitism necessarily run the risk of sacralizing or banalizing it. Thus, inseparable from the study and elusive comprehension of such an object (or objects), the politics of anti-Semitism have involved most manifestly the definition of the word Semite (along with its companion, Aryan, a term that was invented in German Protestant theological circles circa 1771 and quickly spread to England, France, and their respective empires) and most covertly the very representation of the West vis-à-vis its others.


Scholars and ideologues differ in invoking, for different periods and regions of the world, terms such as Jew-hatred, anti-Judaism, Judeophobia, more recently including even anti-Zionism. Is there, then, one history of anti-Semitism through the ages (Almog 1988)? Should one not attend instead to the distinct histories of relations between Jews and the populations among whom they have lived? A further claim has been made that some forms of anti-Semitism have thrived, in fact, in the complete absence of Jews. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, for example, famously asserted that anti-Semitism is essentially independent of the Jews, that it rather makes the Jew (cest lantisémite qui fait le Juif) (1948, p. 84). Indeed, it now seems as if anti-Semitism has become a unified and universal, indeed global, phenomenon, one that has spread and radiated from its historical center in early Christian theology (borrowing from earlier Greek and Latin writers) and in western Europe to all corners of the planet. When considering the genocidal paroxysm that hostility to Jews reached in Europe (and, incidentally, only there), the temptation has increased to read all prior hostility toward Jews as prefiguring the horrors of the Holocaust (Bernstein 1994).


Clearly, anti-Semitism demands explanationand refutationand many compelling cases have been made in this direction. Some have sought to testify to anti-Semitisms quasi-eternal nature (Netanyahu 2001; Bein 1990) or account for its specific persistence (the recurrence of Christian theological prejudice). Others have explored vectors of change (the well-known, modern shift from religion to race described by Léon Poliakov; the teleological understanding of Daniel Goldhagen) and tried to account for historical distinctiveness (Amos Funkenstein on the changing and proximate nature of the Jewish-Christian dispute; Gavin Langmuirs criterion of socially significant chimerical hostility [1990, p. 341]; Jeremy Cohens description of the medieval transformation of the Jews from theological witness to demonic figures) and geographical or cultural difference (Poliakov, again, as well as Mark Cohen). At times, Jewish thinkers themselves have gone so far as to consider Jewish antisocial behavior as a major source of anti-Jewish hostility (Bernard Lazare; Israel Yuval on Jewish collective suicide in the eleventh century).

Other reasons, equally contentious, have been proposed: materialist reasons, for example, and chief among them, socioeconomic ones (Jews and money, as the old topos goes, but see also Abram Léons notion of the Jews as a people-class), and political reasons (Karl Marx, but also Hannah Arendts theory of the modern state and the role of political anti-Semitism in it) and psychological reasons as well (Sigmund Freud on sibling rivalry and castration, and Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno on mimesis). Historians of science have shown the importance of new categories of thought and classification, including those operative in Jewish self-perception (Gilman 1986; Hart 2000). There are those who have sought to locate anti-Jewish hostility within the larger frame of attitudes toward outsiders (Mayer 1982) or as one among numerous features of a persecuting society (Moore 1987). A recurring dispute continues to separate those who wish to distinguish exclusionary practices on the basis of their (real or fantasmatic) targets and those who uphold the strategic usefulness of conducting a unified fied analysis of (and struggle against) all agents of exclusionary practices. Should all racisms be studied and fought as the different guises of one essence or should differences be acknowledged and exposed?


Hannah Arendt (1958) insisted on the numerous elements and structures that relate attitudes toward the Jews with issues of state formation, modern racism, imperialism, and colonialism. After Arendt, however, the most significant breakthrough in the study of anti-Semitism was made by Edward W. Said (1978). Arguing that the history of Orientalism (and prominent among them western views of Islam) is the history of anti-Semitism, Said has enabled a novel understanding of the emergence of the category of Semites as the most obvious manifestation of an enduring theologico-political problem. This problem, which antedates modernity, is at the heart of the Wests own constitution as a historical subject. Relating theological premises to political endeavors, and religion to race, Said demonstrates the necessity of understanding the distributive and dynamic distinctions between Jews and Arabs, between Judaism and Islam, strategically associating and dissociating the two from within the standpoint of Western Christendom and, later, of European colonialism (Anidjar 2003). This dynamic approach also means taking the measure of the late eighteenth-century invention of Semites as the unity of race and religion, of Jew and Arab (Olender 1992; Hess 2002). From this novel perspective, it becomes possible to better understand the spread of European anti-Semitism to the Arab world (described, for example, by Bernard Lewis and Geneviève Dermenjian), as well as phenomena like Zionism in its different figures, at once emancipatory and potential manifestations of covert self-hatred (Gilman 1986).

The intricate connections that tie modern anti-Semitism to Zionism may further explain the continued contaminations we witness today between the two (Wistrich 1990; Finkelstein 2005). The Zionist negation of exile also participated in the project to reinscribe and undo the unity of the Semites and recast it from within as either a separation of Jews from Arabs (anti-Semitism from Orientalism) or as a binational perspectiveadvocated by Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem, Arendt, and other members of Brit Shalom, a Jewish group founded in 1925 dedicated to promoting coexistenceseeking to invent and promote collective rights for both Jews and Arabs (Raz-Krakotzkin 2001). The debate over the persistence of anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism can therefore be better understood as the enduring effort to maintain Jews and Arabs as separate and opposed, indeed as objects of different, unrelated, exclusionary practices. Reframed as the unity of a theologico-political complex that manages both hostility to Jews and hostility to Arabs, anti-Judaism and the war on Islam, anti-Semitism and Orientalism, are revealed as indissociable: one and the same in their very difference.

SEE ALSO Jewish Diaspora; Jews


Almog, Shmuel, ed. 1988. Antisemitism Through the Ages. Trans. Nathan H. Reisner. Oxford and New York: Pergamon.

Anidjar, Gil. 2003. The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Arendt, Hannah. 1958. The Origins of Totalitarianism. 2nd ed. New York: Meridian.

Bein, Alex. 1990. The Jewish Question: Biography of a World Problem. Translated by Harry Zohn. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Bernstein, Michael-André. 1994. Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Cohen, Jeremy. 1982. The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Cohen, Jeremy. 1999. Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Cohen, Mark R. 1994. Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Dermenjian, Geneviève. 1983. Juifs et Européens dAlgérie: Lantisémitisme oranais, 1892-1905. Jerusalem: Institut Ben-Zvi.

Finkelstein, Norman G. 2005. Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Freud, Sigmund. 1967. Moses and Monotheism. Trans. Katherine Jones. New York: Vintage.

Funkenstein, Amos. 1993. Perceptions of Jewish History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gilman, Sander L. 1986. Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Goldhagen, Daniel. 1996. Hitlers Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Knopf.

Hart, Mitchell B. 2000. Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Hess, Jonathan M. 2002. Germans, Jews, and the Claims of Modernity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Katz, Jacob. 1980. From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700-1933. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Langmuir, Gavin I. 1990. Toward a Definition of Antisemitism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lazare, Bernard. 1995. Antisemitism: Its History and Causes. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Léon, Abram. 1970. The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation. New York: Pathfinder.

Lewis, Bernard. 1986. Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice. New York: Norton.

Mayer, Hans. 1982. Outsiders: A Study in Life and Letters. Trans. Dennis M. Sweet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Moore, R. I. 1987. The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950-1250. Oxford: Blackwell.

Netanyahu, Benzion. 2001. The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain. 2nd ed. New York: New York Review of Books.

Olender, Maurice. 1992. Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Poliakov, Léon. 1965. The History of Anti-Semitism. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Vanguard.

Raz-Krakotzkin, Amnon. 2001. Binationalism and Jewish Identity: Hannah Arendt and the Question of Palestine. In Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem, ed. Steven E. Aschheim, 165-180. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Said, Edward W. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1948. Anti-Semite and Jew. Trans. George J. Becker. New York: Schocken.

Wistrich, Robert S., ed. 1990. Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism in the Contemporary World. New York: New York University Press.

Gil Anidjar

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Anti-Semitism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Anti-Semitism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . (December 17, 2017).

"Anti-Semitism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



ANTI-SEMITISM and the fight against it have played a small but significant role in American history. During the colonial period, the most serious incident of anti-Semitism occurred not in a British colony, but in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (later New York), where in 1654 Governor Peter Stuyvesant attempted to bar Jews from the city. In the British colonies, Jews generally faced no worse treatment than did Catholics or other Christian minorities. The main obstacles they faced were religious requirements for holding political office.

In the colonial and early confederation period, every one of the thirteen colonies except for New York required all office holders to take a Christian oath. Some went even further—in South Carolina, belief in Protestant Christianity was a voting requirement. But by 1877, the last Christian voting requirement had been eliminated, and the United States offered many attractive incentives to Jewish immigration.

The Early Twentieth Century

By the early twentieth century, the United States had become the immigration destination of choice for Jews from all over the world. Yet vestiges of anti-Semitism remained. In order to combat these, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) was formed in 1906. Their goal was to protect Jewish civil rights, not only in the United States, but also internationally. A few years later, in 1913, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith was formed. This organization focused on combating negative media stereo-types of Jews and economic discrimination.

The strength of these Jewish defense groups demonstrated that although the United States had problems with anti-Semitism, these problems could be redressed by organization within the political system. These opportunities helped the United States remain the main destination for Jewish immigrants until the second decade of the twentieth century. Palestine was then only a distant second.

Between the 1910s and 1930s, the Jewish population of Palestine tripled to nearly 30 percent. This population explosion was directly connected to anti-Semitism and nativism in America. In 1921, the U.S. Congress clamped down on immigration from Eastern Europe, where a majority of European Jews lived. After the United States was closed off, more Jewish immigrants moved to Palestine than any other country. This would eventually have a profound impact on anti-Semitism in America. In the meantime, however, domestic American anti-Semitism was growing more visible.

During the 1920s, automaker Henry Ford, an early financial supporter of Hitler, was quite effective in promulgating anti-Semitic material, both at home and abroad. His anti-Semitic articles in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, were mainly for domestic consumption. But his anti-Semitic book, The International Jew (1922), found a wide readership not only in the United States, but in Germany as well. (Hitler kept Ford's book at his office, with a portrait of Ford above his desk.) Ford also disseminated an older anti-Semitic work, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This notorious and fraudulent work claimed to expose a secret Jewish conspiracy to rule the world.

In the 1930s, one of the places where people were most concerned with this mythical Jewish conspiracy was in Germany. The Nazi campaign against the Jews was an international development with links to American anti-Semitism. After Kristallnacht, many German Jews tried desperately to emigrate to the United States. They were kept away because of U.S. immigration quotas that the government refused to relax. The ostensible reason was fear of Nazi infiltrators hidden in a sudden flood of Jewish refugees. A more covert reason was the anti-Semitism of upper-level state department officials such as Breckenridge Long.

During this period, as fascism became a strong minority movement in America, anti-Semitism became more common. One of the most visible far-right anti-Semites was Charles Coughlin, the popular "radio priest" who referred to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal as "The Jew Deal."

Although his administration was characterized by some of its enemies as "philo-Semitic," one aspect of Roosevelt's military policy during World War II (1939–1945) has since been labeled anti-Semitic: U.S. complicity in the joint allied decision not to bomb the railways leading into major concentration camps such as Auschwitz, even when the Allies had clear proof of the Holocaust.

After the Holocaust

It was postwar knowledge of the Holocaust, more than anything else, that made anti-Semitism socially and morally unacceptable in almost all parts of postwar America. This new sentiment was given concrete expression by a major Hollywood film of 1947, Gentleman's Agreement. A scathing indictment of anti-Semitism, it not only did well at the box office, but was given the Oscar that year for best picture.

Then, one year later, in 1948, the Jews in Palestine declared that they were an independent nation. Within fifteen minutes of their declaration, President Harry S. Truman made the United States the first nation to recognize the existence of Israel. From that moment on, the United States became the key supporter of Israel in the Middle East.

The international importance of Israel to America's interests in the Middle East, combined with the moral opprobrium attached to the Holocaust, made American Jewish defense groups such as the AJC even more ambitious in their aims. Essentially, they went from defensive strategies to offensive operations. More specifically, leaders of Jewish defense groups in the 1940s developed an ideology centered upon what they called a new "unitary theory of prejudice." This was the then-radical idea that prejudice itself, no matter what group it was directed at, was a major social problem. This allowed Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League to move beyond strictly Jewish issues to work with other minority groups, especially African Americans in the civil rights movement.

Their efforts came to a triumphal climax of sorts with the 1950 publication of the book The Authoritarian Personality, by Theodor Adorno and others. This widely read and tremendously influential work successfully attempted to present prejudice—prejudice against any minority—as a personality disorder.

Ironically enough, at the start of the new millennium one of the few American groups that still noticeably exhibited anti-Semitism was one that had previously been helped tremendously by the Jewish campaign against prejudice: African Americans. Certain African American leaders, notably the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, revitalized old myths about a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. In the process, these leaders not only reopened old wounds, but created new and bitter antagonisms between American minority groups that had once worked together as allies.


Dinnerstein, Leonard. Anti-Semitism in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Gurock, Jeffrey S., ed. Anti-Semitism in America. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Jaher, Frederic Cople. A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness: The Origins and Rise of Anti-Semitism in America. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Kaufman, Jonathan. Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times between Blacks and Jews in America. New York: Touchstone, 1995.

Svonkin, Stuart. Jews against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.


See alsoCivil Rights Movement ; Fascism, American ; Jews ; Jewish Defense League ; Zionism .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Anti-Semitism." Dictionary of American History. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Anti-Semitism." Dictionary of American History. . (December 17, 2017).

"Anti-Semitism." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



Hatred of Jews, expressing itself in racist prejudice, discrimination, and sometimes violence.

The term antisemitism (also anti-Semitism), first coined by German pamphleteer Wilhelm Marr in 1879, denotes a modern form of Jew-hatred based on emerging theories of racial superiority and inferiority. Mistakenly appropriating terminology from linguistics (i.e., the "Semitic" language grouping), the term has become commonly understood to mean hatred of Jewish people, whether defined as a religious or as a racial group, and not hatred of "Semites."

Although the term antisemitism is relatively modern, the roots of Jew-hatred lie in folklore and popular prejudices dating back to antiquity. Perhaps the most serious contributions to antisemitism can be found in early Christian religious teachings. The first Christians blamed the Jews not only for rejecting Jesus Christ as the savior and messiah, but alsoand more ominouslyfor killing him. Although not as widespread as it once was, the charge of deicide has persisted in some quarters in spite of the fact that Christ was crucified not by the Jews but by the Roman rulers of the Holy Land. Many, but not all, Catholics have accepted the 1965 Vatican ruling (Nostra Aetate) that the Jews neither then nor now should be blamed for Jesus' death.

A second Christian anti-Jewish motif introduced in medieval times was the "ritual murder" accusation, according to which Jews would supposedly kidnap an innocent Christian child so as to obtain drops of blood to bake unleavened bread (matza). This infamous "blood libel" has incited hatred and fear of Jews for centuries and has resurfaced in recent times even in Islamic societies, enjoying a resurgence thanks to racist Internet Web sites.

Apart from deep-seated theological rationalizations for despising Jews, situational factors such as political or economic rivalries and jealousies often help to account for overt expressions of antisemitism. Because of the Christian church's prohibition on usury, Jewswho were forced to live in ghettos and forbidden to own land in medieval Europebecame money-lenders who ended up wielding unexpected power over Christian borrowers, causing resentment and jealousy, and creating the long-enduring stereotype of all Jews being wealthy and greedy.

Many antisemites also believe in the existence of a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world, directed by a secret council of which all Jews are agents. This myth, which first appeared toward the end of the eighteenth century, is fueled by the frequently re-published hoax entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (also The Jewish Peril ). Despite the fact that the Protocols were shown in the 1920s to be a forgery (actually, a plagiarized version of a French anti-Freemason pamphlet), many antisemites continue to regard this text as an authentic document "proving" the evil intentions of the Jews. The Protocols and most other modern expressions of antisemitism were imported into the Middle East through European powers that came to dominate the region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The ritual murder accusation was raised against Jews in Damascus (1840) and has resurfaced periodically ever since.

Anti-Jewish motifs were also present in early Islamic teachings, some originating in the tensions that existed between Muhammad and the Jewish tribes of Arabia. Early Muslims accused the Jews of having broken their covenant with God and of having corrupted the divine teachings. Along with positive references to Christians and Jews as the "people of the book," the Qurʾan also contains a number of verses warning believers of the "wretchedness and baseness" of the Jews (Sura 2:61) and accusing the Jews of having "schemed" against Jesus (Sura 3:54). Despite such theological warrants and despite their status as dhimmis (minorities), Jews living under Islamic rule were never subjected to the same level of hateful and demonic stereotyping characteristic of Christian antisemitism.

Antisemitism has played a role in, and has been fueled by, the protracted ArabZionist and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Early Zionist thinkers saw the creation of an independent Jewish nation-state in the Middle East as a response to European antisemitism in the sense that this would normalize the Jewish people as having their own country instead of being strangers everywhere. On the other hand, some Middle Easterners and Muslims have come to regard the establishment of the state of Israel, and the corresponding defeat of the Arabs and the Palestinians, as being connected to a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. In 2002 and 2003, major Egyptian and Lebanese television networks screened several historical-fiction series based on this theme as well as on the blood libel story.

The Palestinians' struggle to maintain the Arab character of their country against Jewish immigration, settlement, and political control has on occasion expressed itself in antisemitic terms. For example, Palestinian leaders Musa Kazim al-Husayni (addressing Winston Churchill in 1921) and Muhammad Amin al-Husayni (testifying before the Peel Commission in 1937) invoked the spectre of a world Jewish conspiracy when arguing their case against Zionism during the period of British mandatory rule over Palestine. Since the late 1940s, this view has been strengthened by the widespread perception throughout much of the Arab-Islamic world that Israel and U.S. Jews have wielded undue influence over the making of U.S. foreign policy.

The true extent and depth of antisemitism in the modern Middle East remain a matter of contemporary controversy. There is a tendency among some commentators to equate criticism of Israel's policies or military actions against the Palestinians with antisemitic intentions or beliefs, and this has the effect of inhibiting open discussion and debate. The unresolved ArabIsraeli and IsraeliPalestinian conflicts have elicited extreme antisemitic statements from some quarters, such as the resolutions of the Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research (Cairo 1969) or Syrian president Bashshar al-Asad's welcome address to the pope (Damascus 2001), both of which attacked world Jewry as an ominous force in the course of expressing their support for Palestinian rights. While some intellectuals and leaders are careful to distinguish between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, escalations of violence involving Israel, the Arabs, and the Palestinians are often accompanied by hostile press and public comment not only directed against Israel as a belligerent country but also fanning antisemitism through the demonization of its leaders and Jews in general as sinister and evil.

see also asad, bashshar al-; damascus affair (1840); dhimma; husayni, muhammad amin al-; husayni, musa kazim al-; jews in the middle east; protocols of the elders of zion.


Carroll, James. Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, a History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Cohen, Mark R. Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites: An Enquiry into Conflict and Prejudice. New York: Norton, 1986.

Wistrich, Robert S. Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred. New York: Pantheon, 1991.

Neil Caplan

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Antisemitism." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Antisemitism." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . (December 17, 2017).

"Antisemitism." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


anti-Semitism (ăn´tē-sĕm´ĬtĬz´əm, ăn´tī–), form of prejudice against Jews, ranging from antipathy to violent hatred. Before the 19th cent., anti-Semitism was largely religious and was expressed in the later Middle Ages by sporadic persecutions and expulsions—notably the expulsion from Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella—and in severe economic and personal restrictions (see ghetto). However, since Jews were generally restricted to the pursuit of occupations that were taboo, such as moneylending, the sentiment was also economic in nature.

The Enlightenment to the Holocaust

After the emancipation of the Jews, brought about by the Enlightenment of the 18th cent. and by the French Revolution, religious and economic resentments were gradually replaced by feelings of prejudice stemming from the notion of the Jews as a distinct race. This development was due not only to the rising nationalism of the 19th cent., but also to the conscious preservation, especially among Orthodox Jews, of cultural and religious barriers that isolated the Jewish minorities from other citizens. It has also been charged that in the years between the fall of Napoleon and the rise of Hitler the Roman Catholic Church, which sometimes subscribed to the idea of Jewish racial identity and sometimes denied it, not only failed to condemn European anti-Semitism, but actually contributed to it. Jewish reaction to the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in its many forms found political expression in Zionism.

The unpopularity of the Jews was exploited by demagogues, such as Édouard Drumont in France, to stir the masses against an existing government, and by reactionary governments, as in Russia, to find an outlet for popular discontent. The millions of Russian and Polish Jews who, after the assassination (1881) of Alexander II, fled the pogroms and found refuge in other countries contributed to the popular feeling that Jews were aliens and intruders. In addition, a spurious document, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," purporting to outline a Jewish plan for world domination, emerged in Russia early in the 20th cent. and was subsequently circulated throughout the world. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Jews were accused of plotting to dominate the world by their international financial power or by a Bolshevik revolution.

Pseudoscientific racial theories of so-called Aryan superiority emerged in the 19th cent. with the writings of Joseph Arthur Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain and found their climax in those of Alfred Rosenberg. These theories were incorporated in the official doctrine of German National Socialism by Adolf Hitler. Hitler's persecution of the Jews during World War II was unparalleled in history. It is estimated that between 5 and 6 million European Jews were exterminated between 1939 and 1945 in the Holocaust (see also concentration camp).

Since the Holocaust

The end of persecution did not mean the end of anti-Semitism, as the sporadic attacks on synagogues in many countries since the end of World War II indicate. In the USSR and Eastern European countries, where anti-Semitism was officially outlawed, it continued to reappear in new forms. From the late 1940s until Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, anti-Semitic persecution took the form of deportations, jailings, and the suppression of Jewish publications and cultural institutions. Although anti-Semitism in these countries receded during the 1950s, it reappeared in the 1960s and 70s, when synagogues were periodically closed, particularly in the upsurge of anti-Semitism that followed the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. With Gorbachev's glasnost and the breakup of the Soviet Union, however, increasing numbers of Jews have emigrated. International anti-Semitism has been so accepted that the United Nations did not condemn it as racism until 1999.

The existence of anti-Semitism has complicated internal Israeli politics as well as political opposition in other countries to Israeli policies. Arab and Islamic anti-Semitism has increased because of resentment over Israel's existence and its treatment of Arab Palestinians. Right-wing nationalistic movements, which are generally anti-Semitic, became vocal in the republics of the former Soviet Union, in Germany, and other European countries in the 1990s. In the United States, anti-Semitism has never been an instrument of national policy, but in certain communities and regions it resulted in the exclusion of Jews from membership in certain private clubs, schools, and housing.


See J.-P. Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew (tr. 1948, repr. 1960); J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction (1980); H. A. Oberman, The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Age of Renaissance and Reformation (1984); D. A. Gerber, ed., Anti-Semitism in America (1986); M. Zimmerman, Wilhelm Marr: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism (1986); P. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria (1988); L. Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America (1994); F. C. Jaher, A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness: The Origins and Rise of Anti-Semitism in America (1994); J. Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History (2000); D. I. Kertzer, The Popes against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism (2001).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"anti-Semitism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"anti-Semitism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"anti-Semitism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


25. Anti-Semitism (See also Bigotry, Genocide.)

  1. Agobard (799840) Lyonnais archbishop, father of medieval anti-Jewish racism. [Fr. Hist.: Wigoder, 15]
  2. Anti-Defamation League Bnai Brith organization which fights anti-Semitism. [Am. Hist.: Wigoder, 33]
  3. Armleder medieval bands; ravaged Alsatian Jewish communities. [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 41]
  4. Ashkenazi, Simcha and Jacob discover the tenuousness of their position when anti-Semitism spreads in Poland. [Yiddish Lit.: Brothers Ashkenazi ]
  5. Babi Yar Russian site of WWII German massacre of the Jews. [Russ. Hist.: Wigoder, 56]
  6. Bernheim Petition 1933 petition exposed Nazi treatment of Jews. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 83]
  7. Black Death pogroms plague blamed on Jews who were later murdered. [Jew. Hist.: Bishop, 382]
  8. Black Hundreds early 20th-century armed squads ravaged Jews. [Russ. Hist.: Wigoder, 92]
  9. blood libel trials of Jews who allegedly murdered non-Jews for Passover blood. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 95]
  10. Bok, Yakov victim of Russian anti-Semitism; falsely accused of murder. [Am. Lit.: The Fixer ]
  11. Final Solution Nazi plan to exterminate Jewish race. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 10371061]
  12. Frank, Anne (19291945) young Dutch girl found and killed by Nazis after years in hiding. [Dutch Lit.: Diary of Anne Frank ]
  13. Gentlemans Agreement indictment of anti-Semiticism. [Am. Lit.: Gentlemans Agreement ]
  14. Haman convinces king to issue decree for Jewish extermination. [O.T.: Esther 3:111]
  15. Hep Hep riots Jewish pogroms Germany (1819). [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 251]
  16. Hitler, Adolf (18891945) Nazi dictator of Germany; eclipsed all predecessors hatred for Jews. [World Hist.: Hitler ]
  17. Jacobowsky and the Colonel anti-Semitic Polish colonel refuses to recognize his rescuer because he is Jewish. [Ger. Lit.: Jacobowsky and the Colonel ]
  18. Kishinev Moldavian city; scene of pogroms and WWII genocide. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 344]
  19. Kristallnacht destruction of Jews property anticipated later atrocities (November 910, 1938). [Ger. Hist.: Hitler, 689694]
  20. Mein Kampf Adolf Hitlers autobiography, including his theories on treatment of the Jews. [Ger. Hist.: Mein Kampf ]
  21. Nuremberg Laws stripped Jews of citizenship and civil rights (1935). [Ger. Hist.: Wigoder, 458]
  22. Protocols of the Elders of Zion forged tract revealing Jewish conspiracy to control world. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 170]
  23. swastika symbol of German anti-Semitism since 1918; became emblem of Nazi party. [Ger. Hist.: Colliers, XVIII, 78]
  24. Torquemada, Tomás de (14201498) head of Spanish Inquisition; instrumental in expelling Jews from Spain (1492). [Span. Hist.: Wigoder, 600]
  25. Untermenschen subhumans; Nazi conception of Jews and Slays. [Ger. Hist.: Shirer, 1223]
  26. Volkischer Beobachter Nazi party organ featuring Jew-baiting articles. [Ger. Hist.: Shirer, 7578]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Anti-Semitism." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Anti-Semitism." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . (December 17, 2017).

"Anti-Semitism." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


Anti-semitism. Hostility against the Jewish people. The term was first used by Wilhelm Marr in Germany) in 1879, but prejudice against the Jews appeared in ancient times. With the triumph of Christianity, Jews were increasingly persecuted, marginalized, and deprived of civil rights. In 1215, the 4th Lateran Council decreed special clothing for Jews, thereby increasing their isolation. They were accused of desecrating the Christian host, of poisoning wells, and of killing Christian children.

Although Jews fared somewhat better in Islamic lands, they did not achieve full civil rights in Christian Europe until the 19th cent. Anti-Semitic feelings did not disappear then, however, as is illustrated by the Dreyfus case in France in 1894, the pronouncements of Richard Wagner in Germany, the circulation of such spurious works as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the huge numbers of Jews who emigrated to the United States to escape the pogroms of E. Europe, culminating in the Holocaust. The foundation of the state of Israel was believed by Zionists to be the only solution to anti-Semitism, but as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Muslim anti-Semitism is today even more virulent than its Christian counterpart.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Anti-semitism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Anti-semitism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . (December 17, 2017).

"Anti-semitism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


an·ti-Sem·i·tism • n. hostility to or prejudice against Jews. DERIVATIVES: an·ti-Sem·ite n. an·ti-Se·mit·ic adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"anti-Semitism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"anti-Semitism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (December 17, 2017).

"anti-Semitism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



This entry includes two subentries:

Islamic Anti-Semitism

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Anti-Semitism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Anti-Semitism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . (December 17, 2017).

"Anti-Semitism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from