Antisemitism

Entry in the Encyclopaedia of Zionism and Israel (ed. Patai), excerpts

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In the age of growing nationalism, Jews were declared to be an alien, hostile people, incapable of assimilation. Their economic activities were especially attacked by anti-Semites, who tended to regard all Jews as potential Rothschilds. Capitalists and conservatives charged Jews with radicalism, while Socialists often denounced them as exploiters. Politicians found in anti-Semitic propaganda a convenient method of marshalling discontent. There arose specifically anti-Semitic parties, such as Karl Lueger's Christian Socialist Party in Vienna, whose successes so impressed the young Adolf Hitler.

The impact of the new anti-Semitism on the emancipated Jew was enormous. To those Jews who believed in the rationalism of the Enlightenment, the anti-Semitic agitation appeared to be a terrible throwback to the Dark Ages. Jews were accused of every possible crime, and the sober mustering of evidence to disprove these accusations made no impression. Incredibly, the blood libel and pogrom, symbols of medieval fanaticism, made their reappearance in civilized Europe. As a result, many Jews were forced to admit that their sanguine hopes had been unrealistic and that new solutions would have to be sought. To be sure, Jewish reactions to 19th century anti-Semitism were varied. Some clung even more strongly to assimilation; others went so far as to convert. Some looked to socialism to end anti-Semitism forever; still others, shaken by their confrontation with anti-Semitism, turned to political Zionism as their own solution to the Jewish question.

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Anti-Semitism not only influenced many Jews to become Zionists but also had an effect on the development of Zionist ideology. Such aspects of the Zionist philosophy as the 'negation of the Exile' (Sh'lilat haGola), the contempt for the ghetto Jew, the dislike of the Yiddish language, and the attacks on Jewish economic activities in the Diaspora owed something to anti-Semitic propaganda. Consciously, or unconsciously, some Zionists tended to accept certain features of the Jewish stereotype as presented in anti-Semitic literature.

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In a sense, anti-Semitism constituted one aspect of the foreign relations of the Jewish people. As such, it seems safe to conclude that as long as Jews continue to exist, anti-Semitism will never entirely disappear. It will undoubtedly continue to play a role in Jewish history in general and in the history of Israel and the Zionist movement in particular.