Is Antisemitism the Same as Racism?

By Louis Lacroix

A recurring theme in the lectures so far this semester is antisemitism and how it evolved through time and particularly the 20th century. This week in particular, it focused on antisemitism in Indonesia after some waves of Jewish immigration in the 1920s and the Holocaust memory in Europe that brings today a trauma of outsiders and the ongoing bad perceptions of Jews. Racism is considered to be the profound hatred and denigration of a group of humans defined by skin color and/or culture by another one or various. We could think of white Americans having racial issues with black Americans or from a more radical perspective the genocide in Rwanda of Tutsis by Hutus. Antisemitism would be a more precise definition of racism, specifically applied to Judaism believers, but one big difference that can set them apart from a normal case of racism would be the globalisation of their defamation and bad reputation. Everywhere their communities seem to go outside of Israel, they’ve had to deal with racism of some kind. Particularly in Europe, a culture of hatred towards Jews was brewed and it almost became a consensus on the continent that Jewish populations are bad, even between bitter rivals like France and Germany. When this hatred culminates in the worst genocide in History orchestrated by one of the worst regime of all time and a sentiment of racism toward that people still persist, it becomes truly concerning. In my perspective, antisemitism is in its own category that transcend racism, because it is a culture that is temporally and globally discriminated against, which seems to have no end and no logic reasons behind it in these modern times.

2 Replies to “Is Antisemitism the Same as Racism?”

  1. I agree Louis: antisemitism really is in its own category. In fact, would bet that antisemitism has been present in Europe for far longer than racism – which I think began only with European colonization of Asia, Africa and America. What do you think of the fact that a “global elite” conspiracy theory might be code for “Global Jewish” conspiracy for many European people?

  2. Hi Louis,

    I agree with you that antisemitism, while often functioning in ways similar to racism, is ultimately its own category of hate. However, I have a slightly different perspective on why they are different. Antisemitic hate certainly has a global character to it. However, considering how the history of colonialism has exported white supremacist ideas across the globe I think it is unfair to say that this is the defining quality of antisemitism because it implies that it is not also the experiences of POC. One thing that I think is particularly striking and could help us understand why antisemitism and racism are different is the recurrent barbarian/civilized/hypercivilized construct. Throughout the course, we have seen the racist trope of the ‘unruly, uncultured migrant’ who is ‘incompatible’ with western cultures and ‘threatens’ it with their “barbarian-ness”. Meanwhile, these readings in particular highlight how antisemitism usually associates Jewish peoples with “hyper-civilized” qualities that therefore make them “dangerous” to western civilization, who are, in a kind of Goldy Locks way ‘just the right amount of civilized’. For example, in all these globalist conspiracies, we see the idea that Jewish people “control” the world through civil institutions like law, health, etc. While I don’t believe that there is a single answer to what defines antisemitism compared to racism and vice versa, I think that looking at how the respective discourses manifest on a global scale can be quite illuminating.

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