Religious/Anti-Jewish Antisemitism (Anti-Judaism)
Modern antisemitism possesses a long prehistory of Christian hostility towards Jews on religious grounds. This precursor of modern antisemitism in Europe continues to provide a pool of images and stereotypes that originated within anti-Jewish Christian myths and have since been incorporated into other forms of antisemitism.1 In this way, modern antisemitism has its roots in Christian anti-Judaism. Numerous motifs of modern antisemitism betray their Christian, anti-Jewish history, although the form of modern antisemitism and its reflexive relationship to the social context have fundamentally changed.2
In his religio-psychological study Moses and Monotheism (1939),3 the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) undertook the first attempt to examine the psychosocial motives of religious antisemitism.4 Freud emphasises, above all, that the abstract legal character of the Jewish religion and its refusal to accord humans the ability to be divine are the central motives for the anti-Jewish orientation of Christianity. According to Freud, in the Christian myths, the rejection of the Jewish religion is connected with aggressive fears of Jewry, distorting the self-image of the Jews as a chosen people into a myth of world domination and control. In this respect, one can also see the arbitrariness of antisemitic projections as the motive for the emergence of anti-Jewish, religious antisemitism lies in Christianity's problems of self-reflection and legitimacy. Judaism, according to Freud, offered itself for anti-Jewish resentment merely because of its religious architecture.
The European dimension of the premodern history of modern antisemitism is, above all, characterised by the parallel existence of antisemitic stereotypes. Transfers and transnational connections were considerably less important before the emergence of nation states because structures of communication were still primarily organised at the regional level and were only beginning to gain a national dimension thanks to the gradual establishment of unified national languages. This meant that also in regard to antisemitism, Europe did not yet have much of an integrating function.5
Most antisemitic stereotypes and images emerged in the Christian context, and many of them were disseminated locally. This is true, for example, of the omnipresent myth of an "international Jewish conspiracy", which originated in the 13th century and has continued to exert an influence up into the present.6 The existence of this myth during the high and late Middle Ages shows that, on the level of religious and intellectual exchange, the foundation for the transnational dissemination of antisemitic resentment, which was to occur later on, had already been laid and that these resentments were incorporated into Christian tracts, decrees and chronicles regardless of the secular polities in which these writings originated. Alongside demonisation, the central antisemitic myths included the blood libel, accusations of desecrating the host, the association with epidemic diseases such as the Black Death and charges of witchcraft and heresy.7 Christianity was therefore an early motor for the extensive dissemination of antisemitic stereotypes long before these were conceived in national or transnational dimensions. The myth of a Jewish conspiracy remained available for everybody and was reified into a semantic given.8
Modern antisemitism traditionally incorporated religious antisemitism, whose anti-Jewish orientation was arbitrary but by no means accidental, and, as a result, cannot deny its Christian heritage.9 Here, the endostructural codification of antisemitic codes reveals the genetic simultaneities of pre-modern and modern antisemitism. One can agree with Sigmund Freud that antisemitism and hate of Jews had its theological roots in Christianity and that this lives on unconsciously in the form of Christian myths and metaphors in the fantasies of modern antisemitism.10 Antisemites chose "the Jews" as an object for their projections because of the differences between Christianity and Judaism.11From its genesis as religious anti-Judaism to its völkisch/racist form, antisemitism has been an attempt (whose pathological nature is evident in its – at times, genocidal – barbarism) at a "crooked cure" ("Schiefheilung"– Sigmund Freud) for a narcissistic slight – a cure that expresses itself in antisemitic fantasies and rumours about the Jews,12 and not a serious examination of the Jewish religion or history.
The central reasons for the transformation of Christian religious motifs of anti-Judaism into modern antisemitism are to be found in the social context of modernity. Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) describes in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) a century-long process of transformation whereby antisemitism became increasingly detached from the real religious and social conflicts between Jews and non-Jews until it finally uncoupled itself from these completely in the ideology of National Socialism. The connection between religious and anti-Jewish ideas, on the one hand, and the pseudo-scientific theories of race that emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries, on the other, produced a curious lack of personal experience, which led to the belief that only antisemites could decide who was to be regarded as Jewish and who not. This created the origins of antisemitic aggression – the idée de Juif, to quote Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980): "the image and the idea of the Jewish as formulated by the antisemite."13 Antisemitism became a point of social polarisation in the context of, on the one hand, the nation-building processes spurred on by European modernisation and, on the other, resistance to Jewish emancipation and the social and legal equality of Jews. In this way, antisemitism became a cultural code,14 i.e. a phenomenon that divided political cultures within national communities and, within this process of segmentation, at the same time created internal homogeneity.15
Here, modern antisemitism merged not only with the ethnonationalism and social-Darwinist racism that developed in the English-, French- and German-speaking spheres, but also with antimodern and anti-Enlightenment movements in general. This is evident, for example, in the nationalist, antisemitic agitation of the student fraternities in the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, the growing influence of antisemitic parties – especially in Central Europe, the affair surrounding Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935) in France, the antisemitic echoes in the anticapitalist writings of early socialism and anarchism, the link between national identity and antisemitism in the thought of romantic idealist philosophy, and the persecution and pogroms of late-tsarist Russia. The antisemitic worldview included not only the religious metaphors and myths of the past, but also ethnonationalist characterisations in which identifying attributes were ascribed to Jews that increasingly had little to do with the actual lives and customs of Jews.16 In the course of this, the nationalist and antisemitic frames of reference became more restricted at the transnational level, while the ideological formation of antisemitism became more closely concentrated so that one could increasingly talk of an antisemitic view of the world characterised precisely by the contradictions of its concepts:17 within this antisemitic worldview, Jews become the symbol of the abstract as such. This makes it possible to comprehend the highly contradictory content of antisemitic resentment: Jews were accused of abstraction and thus modernity, which could equally include socialism, liberalism, capitalism, Enlightenment, urbanity, mobility or intellectualism.18
Only the concrete and, in the political realm, the national did not have a place in the antisemitic fantasy because they represented the antipole to the differentiation, first described by Sartre, between general and concrete thought and commodity forms and the resulting dichotomy between sophistication and down-to-earthness in the antisemitic view of the world.19 Therefore, one must assume that the value form of modern society and the resulting differentiation between use and exchange values, on the one hand, and commodity fetishisation, on the other, brought about the intertwinement within antisemitism of these economic spheres with a concrete view of the world in which the abstract was associated in a dichotomic manner with Jews.20
Within the context of the injection of nationalism and racism into European antisemitism, from the beginning of the 20th century, an antisemitic community developed as a social movement that increasingly broke down national barriers and, as a political movement, crossed state borders; in its activity, it opposed the nation state and the bourgeois republican order21 and sought to bring the fantasy of a homogeneous people, or a "pure race", into line with Europe's political boundaries.22 In this process, the social forms of expressing antisemitism in day-to-day life in Europe became homogenised, so that one can speak of the beginnings of a transnational, European antisemitism.
At the centre of this was the Third Reich and National Socialism as a völkisch-antisemitic movement, whose primary political goal was the discrimination against, persecution and, finally, extermination of European Jews. In particular, the German minorities in the states bordering the Third Reich participated in antisemitic agitation and in destabilising nationalist politics, while the collaboration of other nations and their active participation in the Shoah also showed that the antisemitic policy of extermination played an integrative, albeit barbaric, role in the Europeanisation of antisemitism. The European content of antisemitism in the 1930s and 1940s was accompanied by the massive intensification of antisemitic policies in both Western and Eastern Europe, for example in France, Hungary, Slovakia, Rumania and Croatia, where – alongside daily discrimination – antisemitic measures were introduced at the political and legal levels.23
At the turn of the 20th century, and above all in the first third of the 20th century, antisemitism became a mass social event expressed in the form of demonstrations, marches and other collective rituals. As a consequence, more social groups adopted an antisemitic worldview, and the impact of the antisemitic mass meetings further contributed to the increasing momentum of antisemitism.24 This allowed antisemites to learn of and experience the extent and spread of their ideas. The process of creating a mass antisemitic community, therefore, also helped bring about the stabilisation of the cultural code.
Through the bellicose and expansionist policies of National Socialism, antisemitism became, in practice, a European transnational movement which left little shelter for Jews. The military defeat of National Socialism by the Allies challenged this view of the world. However, as empirical studies of the period show, it did not alter the self-image of those who held these views and thus perceived these developments as an imposition: antisemitism transformed from being social "common sense" to a position the public expression of which was taboo.25 A communicative detour via which antisemitic resentment could, in part, be communicated, above all in the 1950s and 1960s, was certain forms of Western European anticommunism, which used various images borrowed from the repertoire of antisemitic myths that were now used to characterise Bolsheviks as cunning, criminal, conspiratorial, devious or grasping.26
At the same time, in the early postwar decades, the dominant form of articulating antisemitism became secondary antisemitism, albeit initially only in Germany and Austria. A product of the desire for exculpation from the National Socialist past, this secondary antisemitism emerged not despite but because of Auschwitz27 as part of the politics of memory that holds the Jews responsible for the Shoah and defines the Holocaust as a negative disruption in the national memory. The need for a national identity and a normality that draws a line under the past places the responsibility for an identity disturbed by the Holocaust not on the mass murder of the European Jews by National Socialist Germany but rather on the victims of the Nazis who, according to this view, cannot come to terms with their fate.
Because antisemitism had been forced to justify itself in the wake of the German genocide of European Jews, social self-exculpation required that Jews receive the (ascribed) role of perpetrator, not victim. An important element of this variation of antisemitism is that while the form of articulation is secondary, the content remains antisemitic: even though the prejudices regarding "the Jews"– that Jews are powerful, influential and greedy – do not in this case share the goal of extermination present in National Socialist antisemitism, they do exhibit the madness of false projections and the desire for ethnic segregation.
Secondary antisemitism was (and is) present in all political spectrums, but is articulated in different ways: on the one hand, among neo-Nazis and the far right, a revisionist version dominates that denies, plays down or relativises the Shoah and glorifies, glosses over or smooths out the barbarism of National Socialism; on the other, the far left, within the context of the student and peace movements of the 1960s and the 1970s, supported nationalist movements which they believed to be marginalised and oppressed, above all the Palestinians.28 Finally, the antisemitic defensiveness of the political centre articulated itself primarily through the rejection of moral and political responsibility for the Shoah, but also with regard to financial reparations to the Israeli state. Besides Germany and Austria, antisemitic defensiveness has become important in other European states and is currently developing a new dynamic within the context of the contemporary examination of National Socialism from the viewpoint of collaboration, as is evident, for example, in the Polish debate on Jedwabne and, by extension, on the Polish participation in the Shoah.29
The pro-Palestinian, antisemitic character of the anti-imperialist movement in Europe, which reached its zenith with the left-wing terrorism of the 1970s, is evidence of the fact that a connection between antisemitic defensiveness, anti-Zionist/anti-Israeli antisemitism and Arab/Islamist antisemitism already existed in the early postwar decades. Throughout the continent, the rhetoric of the anti-imperialist movement in Europe was antisemitic. Moreover, the practical collaboration in the paramilitary training of West European terrorists in Arab countries or other forms of political and logistical cooperation with the Palestine Liberation Organisation/Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO/PFLP) and the terrorists of the Rote Armee Fraction/RAF and the Revolutionäre Zellen/RZ (Germany), Euskadi Ta Askatasuna/ETA (Spain), the Irish Republican Army/IRA (Great Britain) and the Brigate Rosse/BR (Italy) demonstrate the bridges between the spectrums, whose violent apex was the assassination of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972 and the hijackings of Entebbe in 1976 and Mogadishu in 1977.
In this way, the oft-observed "new" global antisemitism has its origins in the European pro-Palestinian alliance of the far left, meaning its prehistory dates back to the 1970s.30 In addition, the development of antisemitic defensiveness in the context of the axiomatic hostility to Israel of the ant-imperialist and anarchistic spectrum demonstrates a further variant of the attempt to organise a crossborder organisation of Europe-wide antisemitism, which this time, however, – after the National Socialist attempt – emanated from the far left.
Alongside the reorientation towards an anti-Zionist or anti-Israeli form of antisemitism within Western Europe's radical and terrorist left, anti-Zionist/anti-Israeli antisemitism was also very important in Eastern Europe. The development of East European antisemitism exhibits several components that diverge from the developments in Western Europe. A form of antisemitism which was directed against Israel and relativised or negated the historical guilt acquired an integrative function, especially in the socialist and anarchist spectrum of Western and Eastern Europe. The developmental dynamics in Eastern Europe contain very specific aspects which are important in regard to the transnational development of antisemitism in Europe.31
This is because the anti-Jewish prehistory of modern antisemitism has considerable significance for Eastern Europe due to the social and political dominance of Christianity in the East European states. In contrast to Western Europe, the formation of East European antisemitic stereotypes during the transition from Christian anti-Judaism to modern antisemitism was shaped by the image which antisemites developed of the traditional so-called Ostjude ("Eastern Jew").32 In the antisemitic rhetoric, this anti-Jewish cliché was even attached to those Jewish lifestyles that explicitly did not correspond to it, above all those of assimilated Jews. At the same time, the experience – characteristic for all of Eastern Europe – of social and economic crisis during industrialization, but in particular the agricultural and rural structure of large parts of the area, indicates how anti-Jewish resentment was interwoven with antisemitic stereotypes regarding the economy to concoct an image of Jewish dominance in international politics. While in Western Europe the processes of nationalisation – with few exceptions – were already complete, the socio-economic crises in Eastern Europe coincided with the nationalisation of society and the homogenisation of state identities. This created – with the exception of Czechoslovakia, which had a democratic structure and was less tolerant of antisemitism – a significant potential for ethnicisation, but at the same time also produced dichotomic ascriptions during times of crisis, which – due to the already established Christian anti-Jewish stereotypes – crystallised into a modern antisemitism.
The Russian Revolution and the national struggles against the spread of socialist influence in Eastern Europe in the interwar period laid the foundations for the merging of anti-Bolshevik and antisemitic stereotypes exemplified by the calumny of the "Judeo commune" that emerged in the Second Polish Republic.33 This created the basis for the integration of the anticommunist and anticapitalist aspects of antisemitism in Eastern Europe: Jews were not only made responsible in anticapitalist currents for social destitution and economic crises, but also – among antisocialists – for socialist egalitarianism – and, as a result, for the Soviet Union's attempt to spread its influence to the other East European nations, which after the end of the Second World War became even more relevant. In this way, antisemitic resentment in Eastern Europe was a retrograde rebellion against modernity in two regards: against both liberalism and socialism, i.e. against both the promise of freedom and the promise of equality.
In the national identities of numerous East European states, the antisemitic template of anticommunism and anticapitalism thus infused – in a contradictory manner – antisemitism into the national foundation myths. This function of antisemitism in the context of the construction of national identities indicates the essential difficulty of dealing with antisemitism in Eastern Europe: it is not merely an important component of political culture, but also part of the legitimating nationalist concept and thus imprinted upon the national self-image, perhaps most clearly in Hungary and Poland.34
During the Soviet era, East European antisemitism hid under the cloak of anti-Zionism and anticosmopolitanism. Soviet domestic and foreign policy of the immediate postwar years had extremely negative consequences for Jews in Eastern Europe. Socialist anti-Zionism and the hostility towards Israel connected to it were decisive in this regard:
Shortly after the war, the traditional and modern components of antisemitism were reinforced, and partially displaced, by new ideological-political strains. These evolved through the perversion of the two central factors in contemporary Jewish history, which were expected – naively in retrospect – to sound the death knell of antisemitism: the Holocaust and the subsequent establishing of the State of Israel. The perversion was first orchestrated by loosely organized extremist forces of the Right and then adopted – and exploited at various levels of intensity – by extremist forces of the Left, including the current and former communist states. Although guided by different ideological perspectives and conflicting political interests, these extremist forces embraced the new strains in contemporary antisemitism – anti-Zionism and its corollary opposition to Israel, and the distortion, denigration, or outright denial of the Holocaust – with equal zeal. While the drive to distort and actually deny the Holocaust was begun by the Right, the campaign against Zionism and Israel was initiated by the Left during the late 1940s. In the course of time, the two strains were fused with the more traditional religious and racial forms of antisemitism and used in various combinations by both extremes in accordance with their particular ideological and political needs.35
The Soviet Union initially supported the foundation of the Israeli state. However, the Soviet position soon changed as a result of the British withdrawal from the Middle East. To achieve its long-term goal of dominating the region and expelling the Western states from the Middle East, the Soviet Union now supported the Arab states, whereby the Soviet shift to anti-Zionist antisemitism took place in the context of Soviet anticosmopolitanism, which at first was directed against Yugoslavia.
Thus, within the framework of Stalinism, a general change took place in the East European politics of memory, in particular regarding the Holocaust of European Jews. The Shoah became taboo and disappeared "in the Orwellian memory hole of history".36 While the socialist states by no means denied the mass murder – indeed, they made political use of it – the antisemitic direction of Nazi policies was almost completely suppressed. National Socialism mutated into "fascism", the antisemitic war of extermination was regarded as an imperialist war of conquest and the socialists, not the Jews, were portrayed as the main victims of National Socialism. This understanding of history, which prevailed throughout the Soviet Union's sphere of influence, led to the fact that the Eastern Bloc's anti-Israeli politics were politically and morally detached from the instrumentalisation of the history of the Second World War which, for political purposes, was regarded as being separate. To put it another way: one could employ antisemitic arguments against Israel and East European Jews without seeing oneself as a continuation of National Socialism simply because antisemitism was not acknowledged as a genuine core element of National Socialism. This is most obvious in the numerous antisemitic campaigns conducted by the Stalin regime, for example the Czechoslovakia Slánský trial of 1952, the Merker trial of 1955 in the GDR and the antisemitic press campaigns in Poland in the context of the student movement of 1967/1968.
In this way, it was possible to continue the anticapitalist struggle of the 19th century, which in many parts of Eastern Europe had already been pursued as an anti-Jewish struggle, in the Soviet period without causing ideological friction. The targets were now, as in the past, "modernity" and "capitalism"; in most East European states, however, these were both understood in an antisemitic way in the 19th and 20th centuries. From the beginning, the socialist movements – which were based not only upon the economic but above all the political and socio-cultural foundations of absolutism – renounced that political aspect which bourgeois society in Western Europe had wrested from absolutism with great effort: individual freedom. By not granting individuals the chance of freely determining their own fate, the political cultures of Eastern Europe were, however, unable to emancipate themselves from myths. Instead, popular belief and national myths were cultivated; secular faith (in socialism) replaced religious faith. The bondage of absolutism was replaced immediately by the bondage of socialism and religiously loaded anti-Judaism became the emotional cement of political cultures. From here, there is a direct link to the seemingly morally integral form of modern antisemitism, which directed hate of Jews against their collective form – against Israel.
The antisemitism articulated since the East European transformation of 1989/1990, which today is probably most influential in the political scenes of Russia, Hungary and Poland, thus falls on the fertile ground of undemocratic political cultures in which anti-Enlightenment myths, antiparticipatory concepts of politics and demagogic ideas opposed to social integration again dominate the political agenda. The anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli antisemitism that was largely shaped by the Soviet Union continues to exert its influence into the present. While empirical studies have shown that this type of antisemitism exists in all European states,37 the major impulses come, again and again, from the left, as demonstrated, for example, by the anti-Israeli boycott campaign initiated by left-wingers in British lecturers' trade unions and by the far left's support – throughout Europe – of Jews critical of Israel.
Outlook: Arab/Islamic Antisemitism
The belief that Arab/Islamic antisemitism in Europe is the most recent variation of antisemitism shows that this type of antisemitism has been inaccurately perceived: for, while the transnational media's coverage of Arab and Islamic antisemitism in the European context has only existed for a few years, the phenomenon itself is much older. Thus, scholars have spoken of the recycling of old myths38 when discussing Islamic antisemitism. Not only the ideological and political cooperation between the European far left and Arab Islamists in the 1960s and 1970s, but also the alliance between National Socialism and leading Islamic groups around the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1930s39 show that Islamic antisemitism in Europe has traditional elements that existed long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the USA and their counterparts in Madrid (2004) and London (2005).40
There is heated discussion surrounding the question of whether a genuine connection exists between Islam as a religion and anti-Jewish or antisemitic views. On the empirical, comparative level, it is clear that in recent years there has been a rapid growth in antisemitic agitation and campaigns in Europe that have a Muslim background and are perpetrated by Islamic groups.41 Islamic antisemitism is driven by groups that are organised and operate in a decentralised manner and whose members are linked to one another mainly via the internet; it is, therefore, primarily a phenomenon of young men. Relevant to the discussion is the fact that Islamic antisemitism tries to defend itself against any form of criticism, above all by referring to its supposed legitimacy on account of the conflict in the Near East, but also by accusing critics and opponents of radical Islam of "Islamophobia".42
Just like the other two forms of transnational antisemitism in Europe, Islamic antisemitism, which in the international context is currently the most influential form of antisemitism, contains a potential for violence and the murder of Jews: for, after National Socialism and left-wing terrorism, Islamic antisemitism is the third large movement in Europe whose programme is supranational and, at the same time, pursues a exterminatory dimension directed at Israel.
Besides the devastating Islamic terrorist attacks on London and Madrid, which incorporated an antisemitic dimension in the terrorists' attempts at justifying themselves, there have recently been numerous acts of violence against Jews in Europe.43