Is antisemitism a cultural thing?

In a new essay on antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the former chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks argues that traditional anti-semitism – which was driven by the Church – morphed into a populist phenomenon in the mid-19th century and found roots in cultural activities.

Watch the video below.

share this

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
  • This is a quote from Amazon’s promotion of Deborah Lipstadt’s excellent new book on Jew Hatered “Antisemitim: Here and Now

    The award-winning author of The Eichmann Trial and Denial: Holocaust History on Trial gives us a penetrating and provocative analysis of the hate that will not die, focusing on its current, virulent incarnations on both the political right and left: from white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, to mainstream enablers of antisemitism such as Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, to a gay pride march in Chicago that expelled a group of women for carrying a Star of David banner.

    Over the last decade there has been a noticeable uptick in antisemitic rhetoric and incidents by left-wing groups targeting Jewish students and Jewish organizations on American college campuses. And the reemergence of the white nationalist movement in America, complete with Nazi slogans and imagery, has been reminiscent of the horrific fascist displays of the 1930s. Throughout Europe, Jews have been attacked by terrorists, and some have been murdered.

    Where is all this hatred coming from? Is there any significant difference between left-wing and right-wing antisemitism? What role has the anti-Zionist movement played? And what can be done to combat the latest manifestations of an ancient hatred? In a series of letters to an imagined college student and imagined colleague, both of whom are perplexed by this resurgence, acclaimed historian Deborah Lipstadt gives us her own superbly reasoned, brilliantly argued, and certain to be controversial responses to these troubling questions.

    • In no way has Donald Trump enabled antisemitism. Do you only read NY Slimes and WaPo? Good grief! This is supposedly a music site so political nous isn’t a prerequisite.

    • Donald Trump is not an ‘enabler of antisemitism.’ Comments like this remind me of that sad history of a lie being repeated on and on and on until it is no longer recognized as a lie.

      By the way, President Trump has three Jewish grandchildren.

      • Trump is an enabler and active supporter of hatred and division among people.
        So antisemitism, as hatred toward certain people, is included. You can’t have your cake AND eat it too.

        • Er…no. Trump, while having questionable views about black people in America, can not be reasonably accused of anti-semitic views.

          • Trump is happy to accuse Soros of funding “migrant caravans”, thus killing two birds with one stone.

  • My understanding of what he is saying is that whether anti-semitism that existed throughout history, today reappears disguised as anti-Zionism (the idea that Jews should have a home in what is now Israel). There is much truth in this, that hidden antisemitism may lie underneath much of the criticisms against Israel. The actual situation is more complex than this however, and too controversial a topic for me to make more comments about it. It is much easier ,for example,for Turkish- Greek dispute over Cyprus to be resolved than Israeli- Palestinian issue.

    • But the two concepts, Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism, really are separate concepts. One problem is that hostility to the Jewish state from (the descendants of) those people who formally lived in Palestine (and those who support their argument) is driving the later to an enormous extent. And this attitude has spread to the rest of the arab world, which is largely sympathetic to their grievance.

      However, the kind of casual anti-semitism which was widespread in western Europe in the 19th and early 20th century has largely disappeared. At least in “polite society”.

  • I would like to definitively state for the record that being opposed to the Israeli government is NOT the same as being opposed to the Israeli people (i.e.: Jews).
    Why can’t people understand this?
    I am personally anti- Israeli government; I am definitely pro- Israeli people.

    • I thinks that’s fine according to Rabbi Sacks’ video here, he’s saying you can criticize Israel’s government and policies all you want, that’s not anti-semitism, but if you’re anti-zionist or advocate the destruction of Israel the Jewish state, then you’re an enemy of the Jews and Judaism and the word for that is Anti-Semite.

        • I used to know some MPs whose argument on the matter was that Israel had every right to exist — but not in borders of its own choosing. I have always agreed with that.

          • I’m not sure the phrase “borders of its own choosing” is entirely appropriate here. Israel’s primary goal has never been one of territory acquisition. Otherwise, why did they return the Sinai to Egypt? Israel was not in the process of acquiring more territory in 1967 when it was attacked simultaneously by several of its Arab neighbors bent on its complete destruction. Retaining territory captured in war (perhaps especially if you didn’t start the war?) is not exactly unheard of. However, the return of that territory could show good faith towards your former (?) enemies, especially if some of those enemies were not still calling for your destruction.

      • Then Sack’s is wrong. Jews exist outside Israel, and always have existed outside Israel (and I hope those who want to remain outside Israel are allowed to continue to do so).

        To give two European examples: one can be opposed to the creation of an independent Scotland, and an independent Catalonia without being anti-Scottish or anti-Catalan. Similarly, despite some people’s claims, a British person can oppose Brexit with being anti-British or “a self-hating Briton”.

        Of course, someone who is anti-Semitic will oppose the existence of Israel, but that does not logically mean someone who is an Anti-Zionist is also Anti-Semitic. In any case, Israeli citizens are not required to be Jewish (and many of them are not Jewish).

  • The trouble with the video is that it glosses over too much history of Palestine/Israel that doesn’t support its view. There is a 2000 year-old history of other people on that land as well which for the last 1300 years has been predominantly Islamic. Anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Israelism are very serious problems, but they should not be conflated with the root causes of the Israel/Palestine conflict–the problem that both sides have legitimate claims to the land, that these claims must be justly resolved, and that they must learn to live together.

    And lest there be any concern, I fully support Israel’s right to exist.

    • Actually, the area has not been predominantly Islamic for the last 1300 years. Although Moslem armies over-ran the area, they made little effort to convert people to Islam. While politically part of a Moslem state, the people largely remained Christian (with significant Jewish and Moslem minorities).
      The crusader states who ruled for around 100 years, however, viewed them as the “wrong kind of Christians” and discriminated against them. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, the Moslems still only barely formed the largest religious community. Placed in context, the changes in the religious composition of the non-Israeli population over the last 100 years really is striking.

      Given the claims of the two sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are directly opposed to each other, they can not both be legitimate. Believing the legitimacy of one necessarily means denying the legitimacy of the other: they can not both be given justice. Any settlement requires that at least one of them will be disappointed that their claims to justice have been denied.

  • That may all be true, but that does not mean that criticism of Israeli politics must then automatically be disguised antisemitism.

    Also, the question of the Palestinians is not helped by this video, while it does touch the heart of the existential subject of Israel.

    The connection of ethnicity with a nation state is an outdated form of society building. Secularisation as developed in Europe has created the idea of a two-layered society, where under an ‘umbrella’ of universal civilisational values, different cultures can live peacefully together.

    If Israel would want to be a Western-style society, it would have to disconnect its right of existence from ethnic considerations, which would then no longer be a necessary justification.

  • Well put! I wonder though, why it is that religion, even more than political ideology, has been at the root of such misery throughout human history? It has been the great divider, the motivator for the most terrible acts when one might have thought its effect should have been exactly the opposite. This surely is one of the most profound riddles.

    • You’re absolutely right there has been plenty of evil committed by believers in God and various religions, but the widespread cruelties and the sheer number of innocents murdered by SECULAR regimes — specifically Nazi, Fascist and Communist regimes — dwarfs and is much, much, much greater than the evil done in the name of religion. To quote Dostoevsky, “Without God – all is permitted.”

      • That’s wrong. You are mistaking correlation for causation.
        Modern times have seen exponential population growths and technological advances since the industrial revolution. That includes how people are systematically murdered by entities in control of such resources.

        Religion is not the relevant question in this. Except that it is one potentially strong poison – yet not the only one – for destroying people’s sanity and empathetic minds.

          • That’s just an opinion. You don’t even know how many people ever lived before the 20th century, nor do you know how many were killed, for whatever ideological reason, including religion.

            Expressed as a percentage, not as absolute numbers, there were probably never safer times to live than in the – increasingly secular – 20th century. (As pointless as such statistics are, if you personally are on the wrong side in this.)

            Would you rather live in the oh so peaceful and god fearing middle ages?

      • A few points:

        First, Hitler made many references the Nazis carrying out a mission that reflected the will of God. And SS officers wore belts with buckles that bore the inscription “Gott mit uns”.

        Second, the personality cults created by leaders like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. were constructed for the express purpose of appearing God-like to their followers. Supporters of these autocrats came to believe that they literally possessed superhuman abilities.

    • The joke is on us! Because we are the chosen people. Oh God almighty choose someone else for a change

  • Present day anti-Semitism is doubled by the uncontrolled flow and penetration of Islamists and Islam into historically Judeo-Christian societies of Europe and America. We are witnessing a Third Major Islamic Conquest of the World. This must be stopped before we all see total and complete Islamisation of the whole World!

    Thus, people like Ilhan Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib should be kicked out of the American Government and the same should be done in all relevant European countries if we are to save the Western Civilization based on Judeo-Christian values.
    I agree 100% with Rabbi Lord Johnathan Sacks wholeheartedly.

  • Good grief, at 1:30 and 1:33 in, the old man looks suspiciously like that by now notorious anti-semite, Jeremy Corbyn. A coincidence sureley…or maybe not?

  • If people can take a piece of land and claim it’s theirs because they were once there thousands of years ago, maybe Italy should claim entire Europe since at some point it was part of the Roman Empire.

  • Each of us has a right to our opinions….even of others no matter who distorted, and who can change this anyway. It should be noted that there is difference between feelings and acting out those feelings by murder. I would like to use this opportunity to share a letter of mine that was recently published in response to an editorial in the New York Times which is leader in the journalism of anti-Semitism/Zionism, because there is no difference.

    Helene Kamioner
    Bronx, New YorkMay 1
    Times Pick
    As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I experienced its effects throughout my life in a very intense and painful way. While I did not actually “live it” I was raised in the midst of a bewildering nightmare of its aftermath. Both of my parents were the only survivors of very large immediate families. My father was the youngest, and only surviving member of 9 siblings all married with children who were murdered by anti-Semites, and my mother lost 6 sisters, also married with children. Needless to say this terrible, terrible loss of family had its effects, especially around the holidays when there were no grandparents, or aunts or uncles with which to celebrate holidays or any other festive occasion. The only reason my family was murdered by anti-Semites is because they were Jews. There is no other answer, and this to me is a very weak reason to take the life of man, woman or child. And yet, anti-Semites have demonstrated that it’s ok to kill Jews, for no other reason than our belief. Instead of the hypocritical verbiage and empty apologies espoused in these pages, I would like to see some affirmative action for Jews. Stand up and tell the world Jewish blood is not cheap and it’s not ok to kill Jews like me. And that is the power of good journalism. Not the horrific, hateful cartoons that send the message of it being acceptable to kill me and other Jews like me. Enough is enough.

    188 Recommended

  • The video makes some points to ponder (and some which I would perhaps want to check, if it was a concern of mine).

    But it skips a crucial point, which does not explain Jeremy Corbyn — who should know better — or the language many make to distinguish their feelings: that there is a difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. On the whole, I think the video addresses this well as a nonsense.

    But it fails, as do so many, to differentiate between that and opposition to the current government of Israel, which is as subject to criticism as any government. Netanyahu and his posse have been in far too long and their often thuggish tendencies have alienated a lot of people who in no way question Israel’s right to exist. It has no more right to exist without political criticism than any other nation on earth. Like I daresay many here I have a lot of criticism of the current British government, but it in no way makes me anti-British.

  • It’s bollocks, because the debate starts with a fallacy. It equates Anti-Zionism to being against the existence of the state of Israel. But that’s just wrong.
    Anti-Zionism, well, it is really not that difficult that it is somehow made by many, is exactly what it says it is. It is opposed to the idea of Zionism. Which in a nutshell is the transgression from Judaism into a secular ideology and identity politics.
    Israel as a state is to a large part a consequence and phenomenon of the Zionistic ideology. But opposing the idea of Zionism doesn’t mean to negate the right of the state of Israel to exist as it is today. That’s simply a false and intellectually dishonest argument.

    Much like opposing the cruelties of the way the US was created, namely genocide of most of the native population, doesn’t mean one is denying the right of the US as a nation state to exist.

    • Zionism is the belief that Jews should live in a Jewish state in Palestine. And that European Jews should leave Europe and reside in that state. This view was very controversial in the 19th and early 20th century, even amongst European Jews. Anti-Zionism meant opposing the creation of the Jewish state of Israel. For what it is worth, I think Jewish people who want to remain in Europe should be allowed to do so; and that support for Israel should not be equated with Jewishness.

    • Yes — and Israel has hit about 220 targets in the Gaza Strip and threatened further “massive” strikes.

      Too many apologists of Israel have an annoying way of not including the full story.

      And that story is often defined by relative strength of the opposing parties, and the relative strength of the actions they take. Reprisals exponentially greater than the original attack…

      • Another Hamas apologist, if you fire 430 rockets at the Israelies what do you think realistically they are going to do, sit back and say “well I hope none of those rockets manage to kill any of our people”, so you might want to check out the full story of how this conflict kicked off again. And you think targeting 220 targets is way too much after the relatively “few rockets” were fired at the Israelis………..a mere 430 rockets. What world are you living in?

        • Nonsense. Nobody is defending the rockets, just noting that the story does not end there — and never does. Israel has considerably more military capacity than the Palestinian territories, and never hesitates to use it forcefully — and often disproportionately — in response to attacks.

          One is all too aware that Israel lives under constant threat and frequent application of cruel and arbitrary murder — suicide bombings are not an Israeli trait. And that they are entitled to respond. But they all too often take the tack that the powerful have always taken against the weaker — as I said above.

          And one of the reasons that thinking people detest the Netanyahu government is its bloody-minded refusal to see the position of anyone else, let alone to attempt a return to a peace process. He does not want peace.

          • Please define “disproportionate”, and it is a well known fact that millions of dollars in aid that has been pumped into Gaza has been spent on buying weapons and hence the state of the economy in that region. But Hamas are quite happy to sacrifice its own people for the PR value of showing alleged death and destruction by the Israelis. And I point out again ” a mere 430 rockets”, how many bleeding rockets do they have to fire before Israel responds, and please be specific with your number and a following rationale.

          • White House Fact Sheet:

            Under the new MOU with Israel, the Obama Administration has made the largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history:

            The total value of the new MOU, which covers FY2019- FY2028, is $38 billion ($3.8 billion per year). It will succeed the current $30 billion MOU signed in 2007, which will expire at the end of FY2018.


        • We are living in a world, in which about ten times more Palestinians than Israelis have died in a conflict that only knows losers apparently, but some lose more than others.
          It is just sad. Where is the human perspective in all this?

          • Where is the human perspective to all of this you ask……….you might like to start by having a look at the Hamas charter which states no negotiation with Israel, Israel has no right to exist and that all Jews should be hunted down and killed. That might just give you some human perspective if what the Israelis constantly face………but then “lefties” don’t like uncomfortable truths!

          • Ellingtonia. Being right won’t stop the rockets being fired from Hamas controlled areas.

  • After many generations, the inhabitants of both areas suffer while not being responsible for the problem. The only possible common sense solution would require sacrifices on both sides so nobody wants to face them: creating an entirely new, secular nation including all territories, reparation measures for the Palestinians, and everybody living in a multicultural western-style society under the same rule of law. Only if Palestinians would be integrated within such society, there would be a serious chance that the circle of violence would fizzle-out.

    • Sacks is right.

      But, although I yield to no-one in my admiration for the Jewish people and the state of Israel, if you come from a Christian background you can sometimes become confused ( I have been to Jerusalem)

      About 30 years ago I was walking back down Park Avenue to the Waldorf Astoria. The avenue is spacious and the area bourgeois and sedate, in fact, it is somewhat dull. Imagine my surprise at seeing several hundred orthodox Jewish men with banners and placards (this is not an area where you would expect to find hundreds of followers of the Lubavitcher Rabbi, as I found them to be)

      I was intrigued and listened to the speaker. I do not speak Yiddish, but my German is good , the speaker was articulate and I could understand maybe half of what was said. This was a denunciation of the then Israeli government and culminated in the exclamation that they were “Nazis” The young man next to me thumped the ground with his banner-pole, looked at me and said “Nazis!”

      So I went to the hotel confused, and am still confused today.

      How could a pious Jew call the government of Israel Nazi? What did I miss? What terms would you use to describe his language? Please enlighten me.

      • It seems to have been a simple case of hysteria – demanding attention. Accusing the Israeli government of ‘nazism’ is the deepest insult imaginable, as the term is used everywhere where people are very angry about some government action. And it is a bad thing because the meaning of the term as a moral agent is watered-down. In protest rallies people wind themselves and their comrades up all the time and in the group think reason is given to the wind.

  • Ever since GOD told Abram to leave Ur of the Chaldes. There have been those who hate. Either because Abram was prosperous,or beloved by GOD! Isblis,satan,the devil,what ever you call the accuser. Wants to wipe out the chosen. Those who do not believe in GOD, surely follow the devil.

    • God is the biggest hater, killer, and divider of people himself.

      Because man created God. After his own image…

  • There Jewish state in Far East part of Russia since 1934, official language Yiddish. Never disputed right to exist. Jews that lived there never experience anti-Semitism. No criticism expressed to this state. If it happend-should be called anti-Birobijani? Anti-semite’re not the one who don’t like Jews but the one the Jews don’t like.

    • This is, frankly, nonsense. Before the revolution, Russia was “institutionally anti-Semitic”. After the revolution, these views did not magically disappear. Jews were moved to this “model state” as a means of controlling them. Other communities were moved for similar reasons.

      • The Jewish atonomy region is celebrating 85 year of existing. A lot of Jews came from outside USSR-from Argentina, USA, Europe, Palestine. It was “model agrarian state”-develop interest in Jewish culture to grow -big mistake. Jews of USSR didn’t jump on such idea and didn’t come to build their state in too remote from their more civilized region. Other minority got their states where they lived

        • There was Jewish collective farms in Crimea before WWII and successful. But many Jews were killed by German Nazis in the region and the farm wasn’t rebuild after war

  • >