Antisemitism is the name given to the form of racism practiced against the Jewish people. Though the literal interpretation of antisemitism would appear to denote hostility to all Semitic peoples, this is an erroneous belief. The term was originally coined in Germany in 1879 to describe the European anti-Jewish campaigns of that era, and it soon came to define the persecution of or discrimination against Jews throughout the world. Therefore, Arabs who claim that they cannot be antisemites because they themselves are "Semites" are merely attempting to obfuscate the issue, and thereby sanitize their own racist attitudes. This attempt to absolve themselves from the charge of racism is particularly blatant as severe antisemitism exists in many Arab countries today.
Despite the relatively modern roots of the term antisemitism, hatred of the Jewish people is an age-old phenomenon. Antisemitism has taken different forms and used various motifs throughout history. In modern times, it has been promoted by extreme nationalistic and even racist ideologies. Antisemitism reached its peak in the Holocaust. Over six million Jews (one third of the world's Jewish population) were brutally and systematically murdered during World War II.
Modern antisemitism in Europe, after being repressed for decades following the Holocaust, has erupted with renewed fury in recent years in a new form: "anti-Zionism," or hatred of the State of Israel. This despite the fact that Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people - an expression of their legitimate aspiration to self-determination and national independence. The Zionist movement was founded to provide an ancient people with a sovereign state of its own, in its ancestral homeland. Israel is the modern political embodiment of this age-old dream.
The goal of anti-Zionism is to undermine the legitimacy of Israel, thereby denying the Jewish people their place in the community of nations. Denigration of Zionism is therefore an attack on Israel's basic right to exist as a nation equal to all other nations, in violation of one of the fundamental principles of international law.
Just as antisemitism denies Jews their rights as individuals in society, anti-Zionism attacks the Jewish people as a nation, on the international level. Similar to the use of "the Jew" as a scapegoat for many a society's problems, Israel has been singled out for disproportionate and one-sided condemnation in the international arena.
Anti-Zionism is often manifested as attacks on Israel in the United Nations and other international forums. Over the years, many an event of the international community has been exploited as an opportunity to condemn Israel - no matter what the subject matter, no matter how tenuous the tie to the conflict in the Middle East.
Moreover, it is no coincidence that the censure of Israel in international forums and the media often has been accompanied by a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents in many parts of the world.
While legitimate criticism of Israel is considered part and parcel of the democratic process, criticism that crosses the boundary into illegitimate - by demonization, the use of double standards or the delegitimization of Israel - should be considered an expression of the "new antisemitism." Both the traditional forms of antisemitism, as well as its new version (in which Israel is treated as the Jew of the international community) should be vigorously condemned.
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