From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Antisemitism (alternatively spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism, also known as judeophobia) is prejudice and hostility toward Jews as a group. The prejudice is usually characterized by a combination of religious, racial and ethnic biases. While the term's etymology might suggest that antisemitism is directed against all Semitic peoples, since its creation it has been used exclusively to refer to hostility towards Jews.
Antisemitism may be manifested in many ways, ranging from individual expressions of hatred and discrimination against individual Jews to organized violent attacks by mobs or even state police or military attacks on entire Jewish communities. Extreme instances of persecution include the German Crusade of 1096, the expulsion from England in 1290, the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion from Spain in 1492, the expulsion from Portugal in 1497, various pogroms, and the most infamous, the Holocaust under Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany.
Examples of antipathy to Jews and Judaism during ancient times are abundant. Statements exhibiting prejudice towards Jews and their religion can be found in the works of many pagan Greek and Roman writers. There are examples of Hellenistic rulers desecrating the Temple and banning Jewish religious practices, such as circumcision, Shabbat observance, study of Jewish religious books, etc. Examples may also be found in anti-Jewish riots in Alexandria in the 3rd century BCE. Philo of Alexandria described an attack on Jews in Alexandria in 38 CE in which thousands of Jews died.
The Jewish diaspora on the Nile island Elephantine, which was founded by mercenaries, experienced the destruction of its temple in 410 BCE.
Relationships between the Jewish people and the occupying Roman Empire were at first antagonistic and resulted in several rebellions. According to Suetonius, the emperor Tiberius expelled from Rome, Jews who had gone to live there. The 18th century English historian Edward Gibbon identified a more tolerant period beginning in about 160 CE.
James Carroll asserted, "Jews accounted for 10% of the total population of the Roman Empire. By that ratio, if other factors such as pogroms and conversions had not intervened, there would be 200 million Jews in the world today, instead of something like 13 million."
Persecutions in the Middle Ages
From the 9th century CE, the medieval Islamic world classified Jews (and Christians) as dhimmi, and were allowed to practice their religion more freely than they could do in medieval Christian Europe. Under Islamic rule, there was a Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain that lasted until at least the 11th century, when several Muslim pogroms against Jews took place in the Iberian Peninsula; those that occurred in Córdoba in 1011 and in Granada in 1066. The Almohads, who had taken control of the Almoravids' Maghribi and Andalusian territories by 1147, were far more fundamentalist in outlook, and they treated the dhimmis harshly. Faced with the choice of either death or conversion, many Jews and Christians emigrated. Some, such as the family of Maimonides, fled east to more tolerant Muslim lands, while some others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms, where Jews were increasingly forced to convert to Christianity from the 13th century.
During the Middle Ages in Europe there was persecution against Jews in many places, with blood libels, expulsions, forced conversions and massacres. A main justification of prejudice against Jews in Europe was religious. The persecution hit its first peak during the Crusades. In the First Crusade (1096) flourishing communities on the Rhine and the Danube were destroyed; see German Crusade, 1096. In the Second Crusade (1147) the Jews in Germany were subject to several massacres. The Jews were also subjected to attacks by the Shepherds' Crusades of 1251 and 1320. The Crusades were followed by expulsions, including in, 1290, the banishing of all English Jews; in 1396, 100,000 Jews were expelled from France; and, in 1421 thousands were expelled from Austria. Many of the expelled Jews fled to Poland.
As the Black Death epidemics devastated Europe in the mid-14th century, annihilating more than half of the population, Jews were used as scapegoats. Rumors spread that they caused the disease by deliberately poisoning wells. Hundreds of Jewish communities were destroyed by violence. Although Pope Clement VI tried to protect them by the July 6, 1348, papal bull and an additional bull in 1348, several months later, 900 Jews were burnt alive in Strasbourg, where the plague hadn't yet affected the city.
During the mid-to-late 17th century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was devastated by several conflicts, in which the Commonwealth lost over a third of its population (over 3 million people), and Jewish losses were counted in hundreds of thousands. First, the Chmielnicki Uprising when Bohdan Khmelnytsky's Cossacks massacred tens of thousands of Jews in the eastern and southern areas he controlled (today's Ukraine). The precise number of dead may never be known, but the decrease of the Jewish population during that period is estimated at 100,000 to 200,000, which also includes emigration, deaths from diseases and jasyr (captivity in the Ottoman Empire).
In 1744, Frederick II of Prussia limited the number of Jews allowed to live in Breslau to only ten so-called "protected" Jewish families and encouraged a similar practice in other Prussian cities. In 1750 he issued the Revidiertes General Privilegium und Reglement vor die Judenschaft: the "protected" Jews had an alternative to "either abstain from marriage or leave Berlin" (quoting Simon Dubnow). In the same year, Archduchess of Austria Maria Theresa ordered Jews out of Bohemia but soon reversed her position, on the condition that Jews pay for their readmission every ten years. This extortion was known as malke-geld (queen's money). In 1752 she introduced the law limiting each Jewish family to one son. In 1782, Joseph II abolished most of these persecution practices in his Toleranzpatent, on the condition that Yiddish and Hebrew were eliminated from public records and that judicial autonomy was annulled. Moses Mendelssohn wrote that "Such a tolerance... is even more dangerous play in tolerance than open persecution."
In 1772, the empress of Russia Catherine II forced the Jews of the Pale of Settlement to stay in their shtetls and forbade them from returning to the towns that they occupied before the partition of Poland.
Historian Martin Gilbert writes that it was in the 19th century that the position of Jews worsened in Muslim countries. Benny Morris writes that one symbol of Jewish degradation was the phenomenon of stone-throwing at Jews by Muslim children. Morris quotes a 19th century traveler: "I have seen a little fellow of six years old, with a troop of fat toddlers of only three and four, teaching [them] to throw stones at a Jew, and one little urchin would, with the greatest coolness, waddle up to the man and literally spit upon his Jewish gaberdine. To all this the Jew is obliged to submit; it would be more than his life was worth to offer to strike a Mahommedan."
In 1850 the German composer Richard Wagner published Das Judenthum in der Musik ("Jewishness in Music") under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. The essay began as an attack on Jewish composers, particularly Wagner's contemporaries (and rivals) Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer, but expanded to accuse Jews of being a harmful and alien element in German culture. Anti-Semitism can also be found in many of the Grimms' Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, published from 1812 to 1857. It is mainly characterized by Jews being the villain of a story, such as in “The Good Bargain (Der gute Handel)” and “The Jew Among Thorns (Der Jude im Dorn).”
The Dreyfus Affair highlights anti-semitism during the 19th Century. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery captain in the French army, was accused in 1894 of passing secrets to the Germans. As a result of these charges, Dreyfus was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil's Island. The actual spy Marie Charles Esterhazy was acquitted. The event caused great uproar among the French and everyone chose a side regarding whether Dreyfus was actually guilty or not. Émile Zola accused the army of polluting the French Justice system. However, general consensus held that Dreyfus was guilty: eighty percent of the press in France condemned Dreyfus. This attitude among the majority of the French population reveals the underlying anti-semitism of the time period.
Adolf Stoecker (1835–1909), the Lutheran court chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm I, founded in 1878 an antisemitic, antiliberal political party called The Christian Social Party (Germany). However, this party did not attract as many votes as the Nazi party, which flourished in part because of The Great Depression which hit Germany especially hard during the early 1930s.
In the first half of the 20th century, in the USA, Jews were discriminated against in employment, access to residential and resort areas, membership in clubs and organizations, and in tightened quotas on Jewish enrollment and teaching positions in colleges and universities. The Leo Frank lynching by a mob of prominent citizens in Marietta, Georgia in 1915 turned the spotlight on antisemitism in the United States. The case was also used to build support for the renewal of the Ku Klux Klan which had been inactive since 1870.
In the beginning of 20th century, the Beilis Trial in Russia represented incidents of blood libel in Europe. Allegations of Jews killing Christians were used as justification for killing of Jews by Christians.
Antisemitism in America reached its peak during the interwar period. The pioneer automobile manufacturer Henry Ford propagated antisemitic ideas in his newspaper The Dearborn Independent. The radio speeches of Father Coughlin in the late 1930s attacked Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and promoted the notion of a Jewish financial conspiracy. Such views were also shared by some prominent politicians; Louis T. McFadden, Chairman of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency, blamed Jews for president Roosevelt's decision to abandon the gold standard, and claimed that "in the United States today, the Gentiles have the slips of paper while the Jews have the lawful money."
In the 1940s the aviator Charles Lindbergh and many prominent Americans led The America First Committee in opposing any involvement in the war against Fascism. During his July 1936 visit he wrote letters saying that there was “more intelligent leadership in Germany than is generally recognized.”
The German American Bund held parades in New York City during the late 1930s where Nazi uniforms were worn and flags featuring swastikas were raised alongside American flags. The U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was very active in denying the Bund's ability to operate. With the start of U.S. involvement in World War II most of the Bund's members were placed in internment camps, and some were deported at the end of the war.
Sometimes, during race riots, as in Detroit in 1943, Jewish businesses were targeted for looting and burning.
In Germany the National Socialist regime of Adolf Hitler, who came to power on 30 January 1933, instituted repressive legislation denying the Jews basic civil rights and instituted a pogrom on the night of 9–10 November 1938, dubbed Kristallnacht, in which Jews were killed, their property destroyed and their synagogues torched. Anti-Semitic laws, agitation and propaganda were extended to Nazi occupied Europe, in the wake of conquest, often building on local anti-semitic traditions. In the east Jews were forced into ghettos in Warsaw, Krakow, Lvov, Lublin and Radom. After the invasion of Russia in 1941 a campaign of mass murder, conducted by the Einsatzgruppen, culminated, between 1942 to 1945, in systematic genocide: the Holocaust. Eleven million Jews were targeted for extermination by the Nazis, and some six million were eventually killed. This is seen by many as the culmination of generations of antisemitism in Europe.
Antisemitism was commonly used as an instrument for personal conflicts in Soviet Russia, starting from conflict between Stalin and Trotsky and continuing through numerous conspiracy theories spread by official propaganda. Antisemitism in the USSR reached new heights after 1948 during the campaign against the "rootless cosmopolitan" (euphemism for "Jew") in which numerous Yiddish-writing poets, writers, painters and sculptors were killed or arrested. This culminated in the so-called Doctors' Plot. Similar anti-Jewish propaganda in Poland resulted in the flight of the Polish Jewish survivors out of the country.
After the war, the Kielce pogrom and "March 1968 events" in communist Poland represented further incidents of antisemitism in Europe. The common theme behind the anti-Jewish violence in postwar Poland were blood libel rumours.
The cult of Simon of Trent was disbanded in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, and the shrine erected to him was dismantled. He was removed from the calendar, and his future veneration was forbidden, though a handful of extremists still promote the narrative as a fact.
- Jewish history
- Timeline of antisemitism
- Timeline of Jewish history
- History of ancient Israel and Judah
- History of antisemitism in the United States
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- History of Palestine
- History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
- History of the Jews in Poland
- Arab-Israeli conflict
- Righteous Among the Nations
- Antisemitism (resources)
- From Swastika to Jim Crow
- Scepter of Judah