Prejudice and discrimination against Jews has its own special name: anti-Semitism. This term was invented in the 19th Century by European Jew haters who believed that Jews were a race apart from and inferior to Europeans from other backgrounds, and who wanted to give a scientific-sounding name to their hatred of Jews.
There is a lot of confusion around the term “Semitic,” which historically has referred to a language group that includes Arabic, Amharic, Hebrew, and Tigrinya. “Semite” was a term that described a person that spoke one of these languages. Notwithstanding the traditional meaning of the word “Semite,” anti-Semitism refers specifically to hatred of Jews.
Some who express prejudice or hatred toward the Jewish people claim that they cannot be anti-Semites because they, too, areSemites. This argument is a semantic one. Arguing that such prejudice is not possible is a distraction from the problem of anti-Semitism, and detracts from the dialogue about ways to end hatred of all kinds.
Today, anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religious beliefs or their group membership (ethnicity), as well as the erroneous belief that Jews are a “race.” At times, anti-Semitism takes the form of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist beliefs and actions. The wordIsrael has been and is still used to refer to different things. Israel is another name for the Jewish people. Israel also refers to the land located at the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, Israel can refer to the modern country.
Zionism is a political movement, based on traditional Jewish religious principles, that states that the land of Israel is the national homeland of the Jews, much like Ireland is the national homeland of the Irish and Italy is the national homeland of the Italians.
Anti-Zionism is an extreme form of being anti-Israel, which essentially states that the modern country of Israel should not exist, that the Jews are not entitled to a national homeland. As a modern sovereign country, Israel has policies that can be and are questioned and challenged, not the least byIsraeli citizens themselves, much as many Americans challenge some policies of the U.S. government. However, when anti-Israel attitudes and actions are based on double standards (that is, holding Israel to different standards than those applied to other countries), then being anti-Israel is often just anti-Semitism in disguise.
It is important that all countries be held to consistent standards with regard to international practices and human rights. Unfortunately Israel is sometimes held to a standard that is unrea- sonable, and in such instances we need to question whether or not this is due in part to anti- Semitism.
Natan Sharansky, Israel’s former minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs, applies a test in such cases that he calls the “3D Test”: Demonization, Double standards, and Delegitimization:
1. Is the Jewish state being demonized for its action?
2. Are the problems of the world or the Middle East being blamed on Israel?
3. Is there a double standardwhen criticizing Israel in relation to other countries?
4. Are Israeli faults exaggerated and far worse human right violations in other places ignored?
5. Istherean attempt to delegitimizethe Jewish state?
6. Are the Jewish people alone in not having the right of sovereignty?
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