A Broken Language, a Crippled
Debate, and the Gift of Art

Definitions of Anti-Semitism

1) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (unabridged)
Anti-Semitism 1: hostility toward Jews as a religious or racial minority group often accompanied by social, political or economic discrimination. 2: opposition to Zionism. 3: sympathy with the opponents of the state of Israel.

2) Cambridge International Dictionary of English
Anti-Semitism is the strong dislike or cruel and unfair treatment of Jewish people.

3) Encyclopedia Juaica (Keter Publishers, 1966)
Anti-Semitism, a term coined in 1879, Greek anti, plus Semite, by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to designate the then current anti-Jewish campaigns in Europe. “Anti-Semitism” soon came into general use as a term denoting all forms of hostility manifested towards Jews throughout history. It is often qualified by an adjective noting the specific cause, nature or rationale of a manifestation of anti-Jewish passion or action, i.e., “economic,” “social,” “radical” anti-Semitism, etc.

4) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition
Anti-Semitism is hostility toward or prejudice against Jews or Judaism.

5) Rawson’s Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk (1995)
Anti-Semitic. Anti-Jewish. The euphemism was sanctioned by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, e.g., “One-third of Mr. Begin’s prepared text was devoted to what he termed anti-Semitic remarks in the Egyptian press, although Arabs, too, are Semites” (New York Times, 1/24/78). “Anti-Semitic” is preferred to “anti-Jewish” because “Jew” is a loaded word.

6) The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia (1994)
Anti-Semitism, prejudice against Jews. Before the 19th century anti-Semitism was largely religious, based on the belief that Jews were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion. It was expressed in the later Middle Ages by sporadic persecutions and expulsions (e.g., the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492), economic restrictions, (e.g., the restriction of Jews to unpopular or taboo occupations), and personal restrictions. After the Jews’ emancipation during the Enlightenment, religious and economic anti-Semitism was slowly replaced in the 19th century by racial prejudice, stemming from the idea of the Jews as a distinct race. The cultural isolation of Orthodox Jews, rising nationalism, pseudoscientific theories of Aryan racial superiority, and spurious charges of Jewish domination encouraged anti-Semitism. These beliefs, incorporated into Adolph Hitler’s National Socialism, contributed to the extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust of World War II. Since the 1980’s anti-Semitic nationalists have become more influential in Russia, Germany and other European countries. In the U.S. anti-Semitism persists among the some extreme right-wing groups and in the practice of excluding Jews from certain clubs, schools and housing.

7) Wikipedia (a free, “open content” online encyclopedia)
Anti-Semitism is hatred directed against Jews. It typically takes the form of:
- Hostility toward Jews in a degree that greatly exceeds any legitimate grievances or resulting from no legitimate cause whatsoever; or
- Disdain for supposed physical or moral features of Jews.

8) Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
Anti-Semitism is theory, action or practice directed against the Jews.

9) Encarta World English Dictionary (1999)
Anti-Semitism is policies, views or actions that harm or discriminate against Jewish people.

10) Encyclopedia.com
A form of prejudice against Jews, ranging from antipathy to violent hatred. Before the 19th century, anti-Semitism was largely religious and was expressed in the later Middle Ages by sporadic persecutions and expulsions notably from Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella and in severe economic and personal restrictions. However, since Jews were generally restricted to the pursuit of occupations that were taboo, such as money-lending, the sentiment was also economic in nature.

11) The Jewish Virtual Library, www.jewishvirtual.org
Anti-Semitism - Literally means opposed to Semites (which would include Arabic and other Semitic peoples as well), but is usually applied specifically to opposition to Jews (anti-Judaism).

12) When Hate Groups Come to Town: A Handbook for Effective Community Responses (1992)
Anti-Semitism - Dislike, hatred, prejudice, discrimination or persecution directed against people of Jewish descent or of the Jewish faith.

13) Anti-Semite and Jew by Jean Paul Sartre (1920)
Anti-Semitism is the attributing of all or part of one’s own misfortunes, and those of one’s country, to the presence of Jewish elements in the community, and proposing to remedy this state of affairs by depriving the Jews of certain of their rights; by keeping them out of certain economic or social activities, by expelling them from the country, by exterminating them etc.

14) Anti-Semitism: Causes and Effects Of A Prejudice by Paul E. Grosser (1979)
Anti-Semitism is attitudes and actions against Jews based on the belief that they are uniquely inferior, evil, or deserving of condemnation by their very nature, or by historical or supernatural dictates.

15) The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Anti-Semitism is prejudice or discrimination against Jews or Judaism. Although the term “anti-Semitism” is most-commonly used to describe anti-Judaism, the term “Semite” actually refers to all people believed to be descendants of Shem, son of Noah, which now consists mainly of both Jews and Arabs and has historically included other groups such as the Akkadians of ancient Babylonia.

16) TNT Teacher’s Guide
Anti-Semitism is a form of religious bigotry. It is prejudice or discrimination against Jews, based on negative ideas about Jews’ religious beliefs and practices and/or negative group stereotypes. Anti-Semitism can also be motivated by racism. During the Holocaust, the Nazis murdered six million Jews because they did not want to “contaminate” the “purity” of what they called “the Aryan race.”

17) Random House Encyclopedia (1977)
Anti-Semitism, prejudice against Jews. Since ancient times, Jews were persecuted for religious reasons. They refused to worship idols or emperors. Almost from the beginning of the Christian era they were accused of being Christ’s crucifiers. Denied access to other professions, Jews of the Middle Ages turned to money-lending and other professions looked upon with contempt, thus inadvertently adding economic prejudice. The growing nationalism of the nineteenth century further isolated the Jews who now became looked upon as racially separate or inferior. Tyrants such as Tsar Alexander II of Russia and Adolph Hitler in the 20th century drew upon all these separate currents of anti-Semitism to strengthen their own positions. After World War II anti-Zionism among the Arabs and Soviet Union added a new, political dimension to anti-Semitism.

18) Encyclopedia of Catholicism (HarperCollins, 1989)
Anti-Semitism, although the word “Semite” refers to Arabs as well as Jews, is a term that has come to mean opposition to Jews specifically. It can take any form from discrimination to the systematic arrest and extermination associated with the Nazis during World War II.

Theories about why anti-Semitism has persisted include the Jewish claim to exclusivity as God’s chosen people and Jewish dedication to the Law, which isolated them from the society and culture in which they lived.

In the first century the relationship between Judaism and Christianity broke down with the destruction of the Temple and the expulsion of the Christian community from the synagogue. Jewish Christianity became numerically insignificant while the number of gentile Christians increased. Throughout the centuries, the relationship of the Church towards anti-Semitism has been both positive and negative. Two faiths, both of which lay claim to the exclusive election by the one true God, may find themselves unavoidably in conflict. After Constantine’s conversion in 312 and the subsequent links between the Church and state, the Jews were regarded as anti-Christian and, therefore, a threat.

19) The New Catholic Encyclopedia (Catholic University of America, 1967)
Anti-Semitism, a term first used in 1879 by W. Marr, a German racist, to designate antipathy to Jews on racial, pseudoscientific, and often political grounds. Since then, however, it has become idiomatic and signifies anti-Jewish attitudes or activities of all kinds and eras. It is a misnomer, because it confuses the Semitic with the modern Judaic categories, which, if comparable at all, contrast as much as they coincide. In modern scholarship the term Semitic refers to a family of languages more than to a race of men, and the theory of pure Aryan and Semitic races existent in the present has been repudiated. It is recognized also that the Jews do not constitute a race; from the earliest times they have commingled with other peoples. The complex phenomenon of anti-Semitism derives its energies from many areas of human experience—theological, social, political, and psychological. But it is primarily a historical development in which these energies have been combined anew in each succeeding era to produce differing anti-Semitic reactions fairly continuously from the 3rd century B.C. to the present. The Church, though its relations with Judaism have at times appeared ambiguous, has always condemned every form of hatred and injustice. Its part in the history of anti-Semitism must be carefully distinguished among the several factors that make up the complex etiology of anti-Semitism.

20) The New Encyclopedia of Judaism (2002)
Anti-Semitism, a term coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, an anti-Jewish propagandist in Germany to describe hatred of the Jews. The term is a misnomer, since it is used with reference to Jews only rather than to all Semites (including Arabs). Quotations by Latin and Greek writers show that anti-Semitism dates back at least to classical times. The Jews were accused, among other things, of laziness because they rested on the seventh day. As have anti-Semites throughout history, those of ancient times often condemned the Jews and Judaism on the basis of false charges, hearsay, and distorted information. Anti-Semitism was fueled to an extent by the fact that whereas the other nations were willing to acknowledge foreign gods in addition to their own, Judaism’s staunch monotheism totally rejected the worship of other gods. Moreover, the Jewish code — especially the Dietary Laws — restricted the Jews from engaging in full social discourse with Gentiles. With the advent of Christianity, which regarded itself as the “new Israel,” anti-Semitism entered a pernicious phase that lasted until modern times. Now a Jew’s very life was in danger simply because he was a Jew. Christian leaders charged “the Jews” with responsibility for the death of Jesus, claimed that the Jews had been rejected by God, and insisted that the “old Law” of Judaism had given way to the “new covenant” of Christianity. Jews would, therefore, remain permanently subservient until they chose to accept Christianity as a Divine imperative.

21) Grolier Encyclopedia Americana (2001)
Anti-Semitism is prejudice and discrimination against, or persecution of, the Jewish people. Although most Arabs and Ethiopians are classified as Semites, “anti-Semitism” applies only to Jews. The term itself was first used by the German writer Wilhelm Marr in 1879 in a diatribe against the supposed dominance of the Jews of Germany. Anti-Semitism may be said to have begun in the Diaspora, when the Jews were force to leave their homeland. Wherever they settled, they were a minority people who clung to their religion and way of life. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered them alien and exclusive for refusing to assimilate. As Christianity emerged, most Jews rejected the new faith. In the 4th century the church charged them with deicide (crucifixion of Christ) and urged legislation to segregate and humiliate them. In Islamic countries, Jews were tolerated but restricted to certain quarters, forced to wear identifying clothing and required to pay special taxes. For the most part, however, antipathy towards Jews was mainly on religious grounds. The campaigns of hatred, mass expulsions, pogroms, and extermination were later developments.

22) Simon Wiesenthal Center, Museum of Tolerance Multi-Media Learning Center
Anti-Semitism: Originally based on religious hatred, modern anti-Semitism has come to mean any hatred or opposition to the Jews. It has been used to blame Jews for economic, religious and political problems. Stressing “racial” ideas, Nazi Germany had no place for Jews and its anti-Semitic ideology led to the “Final Solution,

23) The Hutchinson Encyclopedia, twelfth edition (Helicon Publishing, 2001)
Anti-Semitism: prejudice or discrimination against, and persecution of, the Jews as an ethnic group. Historically, this has been practiced for almost 2,000 years by European Christians. Anti-Semitism was a tenet of Nazi Germany and in the Holocaust (1933-1945) about six million Jews died in concentration camps and in local extermination pogroms such as the siege of the Warsaw ghetto. In Eastern Europe, as well as in Islamic nations, anti-Semitism exists and is promulgated by neo-fascist groups. It is a form of racism.


See also: Definitions of Zionism

© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.


Please send us your questions and comments (English only please!)