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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsIn order to better understand contemporary antisemitism, let’s begin this lesson by examining several incidents and occurrences, asking ourselves if these should or should not be defined as antisemitic. It is through this examination that we will be able to assess whether we are capable, after this long journey we have taken together, of identifying antisemitism today, as well as bettering our understanding of its complexity. It's easier to understand antisemitism - what it means and how it should be best explained - if we have some concrete examples. One can give a host of examples of antisemitic activities and expressions. The question is, as we've said, whether every expression or activity that seems to us antisemitic is really such a one?

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 secondsWe all remember what happened with the Marmara, with the Marmara flotilla. Ok, the Marmara was on its way to the Gaza strip. It was not known before but suspected to be armed and not just on humanitarian cause. And the Israeli navy caught it and took hold of it, caught it etc. Ok, the reactions were worldwide enormous for years.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 secondsIf the reaction is: I or my organization or my country objects to the way the Marmara was taken hold of and the fact that people were killed on its deck on that certain day on that certain case, this is fair criticism. I object. There are many Israeli citizens that object as well. But if you say, and it was said, especially in Turkish newspapers, it was said

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsthe following: "the murderous Israeli soldiers, who were brought up and educated on the Bible, in which their vengeful God teaches them to be cruel and vengeful etc etc -you can go on - this is antisemitism. This is not fair criticism. This is depicting characteristics that our generations hold. This is definitely antisemitic.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 secondsLet me give you another example: Ilan Halimi. He was a man who was tortured and killed in France. The torture was so bad, that much of his body was disfigured. Here again there was question whether the victim was chosen for antisemitic reasons, even when it became clear that he was selected because he was Jewish. Some people argue that the perpetrators, a group known as the Barbarians, had selected Halimi because they thought that Jews were more able to provide ransom.

Skip to 3 minutes and 14 secondsIn other words, the idea was: maybe it's not antisemitic, maybe it was just based on some sort of economic motivation. Nevertheless, it was clear that the victim was chosen because he was a Jew and because of hatred of Jews. And if the motivation had been purely economic, this doesn’t explain the extent of the torture that he experienced. And there are some other cases where antisemitism has been raised but it's not clear that what we're really talking about is antisemitic. There was a Jew murdered in Uruguay, in Montevideo last year. Because it was a Jew, at first it was considered an antisemitic act.

Skip to 3 minutes and 57 secondsBut then it was made known that the person had problems and a conflict with the person who killed him; and it was a person known in the community with a debate around him. It was again a criminal act on a personal and perhaps economic basis. But we again did not include it. It is not automatic that a killing of a Jew is antisemitic, or can happen on another background. There was a great deal of controversy over various comments that then secretary of state John Kerry made late in the Obama administration. For example, Kerry, who does have some Jewish ancestry, commented that some of Israel's policies were unsustainable in light of efforts to boycott it.

Skip to 4 minutes and 56 secondsNow these comments could be described as 'unwise', perhaps 'undiplomatic'. One can question whether they were appropriated in a friend. But if we assume that Kerry was being candid, when he said that he wasn’t supporting the boycott movement, then it's not clear that simply to argue that Israel's conduct is unsustainable is necessarily antisemitic. Again it could be correct. It could be incorrect. It could be wise or unwise, but simply to criticize Israel's policies, is not antisemitic per se.

Case studies: what is and what isn't Antisemitism?

Prof. Kenneth L. Marcus, Prof. Dina Porat

In order to better understand contemporary antisemitism, let’s begin this lesson by examine several incidents and occurrences, asking ourselves if these should or should not be defined as antisemitic. It is through this examination that we will be able to assess whether we are capable, after this long journey we have taken together, of identifying antisemitism today, as well as bettering our understanding of its complexity.


References

  • Julius, Anthony, Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

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

  • Laqueur, Walter, The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

  • Lewis, Bernard, “The New Anti-Semitism,” The American Scholar, vol. 75, no. 1 (Winter 2006), pp. 25 - 36.

  • Lindemann, Albert and Richard S. Levy, eds., Antisemitism: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

  • Marcus, L. Kenneth, The Definition of Anti-Semitism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

  • Stauber, Roni, Aviva Halamish, Esther Webman, eds., Holocaust and Antisemitism - Research and Public Discourse: Essays Presented in Honor of Dina Porat (Jeruslaem and Tel-Aviv: Yad Vashem and Tel-Aviv University, 2015).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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