The oldest hatred: anti-Semitism on the rise

Disturbing: Dozens of graves at a 200-year-old Jewish cemetery in Denmark were vandalised this month.

Is anti-Semitism different from other forms of hate? The British Labour Party and the American Right have both been hit by allegations of Jew-hatred. It has a unique and terrible history.

It has given rise to countless lies. It has been used to justify pogroms and the greatest crime in history — the Holocaust. Now, there appears to be a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

In the US recently, a swastika and the word “Trump” were spray-painted on the steps of the famous law school at Yale University. A group of alt-Right and “dissident Right” activists have joined forces with neo-Nazis and others on the far-Right fringes to attack, both online and in person, Conservatives who they feel aren’t true Conservatives.

And in Britain, the Chief Rabbi has said that Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism allegations in the Labour Party makes him “unfit for high office”, while warning that the “very soul of our nation is at stake” in next month’s general election.

In an unprecedented intervention into politics, which he describes as “amongst the most painful moments” of his career, Ephraim Mirvis says that “a new poison” has taken hold in Labour “sanctioned from the very top”.

Anti-Semitism has a very deep and particular history. Jews have been described as racially inferior or rootless and driven out of countries around the world. For centuries, Christians and Muslims spread myths, such as the blood libel. Criticisms of global liberalism and capitalism have characterised Jews as privileged members of an “elite”.

Much of the most virulent anti-Semitism today is among Israel’s opponents in the Middle East. Some argue Western activists who boycott Israel are complicit in this. Many conspiracy theories are linked to allegations of global Jewish influence.

But there is also growing concern about other forms of hate crime. Violent hate crimes and threats have reached their highest levels in the USA in 16 years, with a surge in attacks against Latinos and transgender people in 2018, according to new FBI data.

Again in the USA, there were a total of 485 reports of anti-Latino crimes last year, a 14% increase from 2017, and 168 crimes targeting trans and gender-nonconforming people, marking a 41% increase. Reported attacks against Sikhs also tripled, from 20 incidents in 2017 to 60 in 2018, according to the FBI statistics. Attacks against people with disabilities also surged by 37% to 159 incidents last year.

So, should we treat anti-Semitism differently to other forms of hatred?

Tackling the problem

Absolutely, say some. This is a timeless hate against a tiny global minority, largely based on genetics — an immutable characteristic. The lies behind it are still taught across vast swaths of the planet. Jews have hardly ever been truly welcome anywhere. It is no coincidence that the only historical attempt to exterminate a whole people at once was directed at them.

Be careful, others respond. Hate is hate: we must not give people cover for poisonous bile towards other groups. Someone who attacks a mosque is as evil as someone who attacks a synagogue. Jews have a unique history, but collective demonisation of the “other” can and has led to terrible consequences for others too.

You Decide

  1. Does the rise of anti-Semitism worry you?
  2. Should we treat anti-Semitism differently to other forms of hatred?


  1. Summarise this article in your own words, using no more than five sentences.
  2. Work in groups of four. Create your own video or presentation to explain the history of anti-Semitism and the lessons we should learn from it today to show to your class.

Some People Say...

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

James Baldwin (1924-1987), US writer and activist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that anti-semitism is gaining strength. Anti-Semitism is rising sharply across Europe, experts have said, as France reported a 74% increase in the number of offences against Jews last year, and Germany said the number of violent antisemitic attacks had surged by more than 60%.
What do we not know?
What exactly lies behind the rise in hate crimes, so how we should deal with it.

Word Watch

Organised massacres of Jews have taken place in many parts of the world and under many political systems.
Blood libel
The lie that Jews used children’s blood in Passover festivals.
The Jewish state was founded in 1948, after the Holocaust.
The pro-Palestine boycott, divestment and sanctions movement says it is protesting against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Critics say it pays too much attention to Israel and excuses the intolerance of its opponents.
Conspiracy theories
For example, some allege that Jews orchestrated 9/11 or were given notice of it. Some extremists say that the Jews invented the Holocaust to justify their continued global domination; others say that the Jews helped to commit it.

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