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The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism

July 7, 2016 | By: Robert Wistrich

How does today’s anti-Zionist sentiment compare to historical anti-Semitism? In this 2013 article from Commentary, Robert Wistrich compared the similarities and differences between the two. In both today’s vilification of Israel and traditional anti-Semitism, the Jews are seen as a menace to peace and order. Throughout time, the ideological hatred of the Jewish people has proven flexible in accommodating contemporary views: Anti-Semitism of the nineteenth century portrayed the Jews as too Eastern, fitting with the day’s fixation on race; today’s variant sees the Jews as too Western in order to exploit current narratives of post-colonial oppression.

In the current moment, anti-Semitism is most dangerous in the Muslim world, which has adopted and repurposed the worst of Nazi ideology and European anti-Semitism. The left’s preoccupation with Israel and the sins of the Jews encourages this sinister sentiment.

On the left, “anti-Zionist” anti-Semitism has often been complicit in encouraging the most dangerous and toxic fantasies of the Islamists. The Palestinian cause, obsessively focused as it is on the criminalization and demonization of Israel, has provided the crucial pretext. A culture of mindless hatred has absorbed the most sinister motifs in the history of anti-Semitism. It has steadily taken over the Palestinian narrative and continues to undermine whatever remains of critical judgment in large sections of the Western intelligentsia. As anti-Judaism gave way to anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism now enjoys the cover of anti-Zionism. From right to left, West to East and back again, Jew-hatred evolves and adapts in eerie symbiosis with a perpetually changing world.

Read the whole essay in Commentary.

More about: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism  • Zionism