From Anti-Semitism to Anti-Zionism

By Dr. Asher Eder

Co-Founder Islam-Israel Fellowship


  The question of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism seems to be very timely, this the more so as there is much confusion about it, in general and due to the claim of the Arabs that they cannot be blamed for anti-Semitism as they themselves are Semites.

  Well, the term Anti-Semitism is relatively new, dating back to the middle of the 19th century. When scientists discovered different language groups and related cultures - e.g. the Indo-Germanic one with its sub-groups - they also found out a common origin of "Semitic" languages, as e.g. Assurian; Canaanite; Arabic; and Hebrew. Consequently they spoke of the Jewish people as a Semitic race – a term which is incorrect from the biological point of view, and is as absurd as if someone would speak of a "Catholic race," or a "Moslem race."

  The people of Israel developed from Jewish as well as from non-Jewish mothers (e.g. Joseph had his two sons Ephraim and Menashe from an Egyptian mother; Judah begot children from a Canaanite lady. Similar Jacob’s other sons who may have married daughters of “souls made by Abraham and Sarah” (converts, in modern language). Then, there is the “’erev rav” = mixed multitude which left Egypt together with Israel. Moreover, Israel absorbed many proselytes throughout history – including Ruth the Moabite lady; or the numerous peoples mentioned in Est. 8:17. All of them joined Jacob/Israel’s family but that does not forge them into a race from the biological point of view. A visitor in Israel will not detect common racial characteristics of its people: Israel is the people of the Divine Covenant, based upon the “twelve tribes” which derived from Jacob.

   The term "Semitic" traces back to one of Noah's three sons, called Shem, from whom the "Semites" came forth. The Hebrew word "shem" (pronounced Sem, in English), means "name," and is often referred to as the "Name of the Lord," or "Name of Names". Christians know that from the Lord’s Prayer “Hallowed be thy name (=shem)”; and Arabs know it from the common blessing “Bism’Allah”.

   From Noah's son Shem derive indeed also the Arab tribes, as well as Assur, while the Canaanites according to the genealogy of the Bible (Gen. chap. 10) derive from Ham, another son of Noah. The Torah (Pentateuach) restricts then the term Shem to the people of Israel: the Cohanim (priests), when pronouncing the Divine blessing upon the people of Israel, do instantly "put the Name (shem) of the Lord upon them" (Numb.6:24-27).

   Eventually, "all peoples will know that you (=Israel) are called by my Name = S(h)em" (Deut. 28:10), and will become known as the "People of the [Divine] Name”: Semites. That is, the term "Semites," coined as a racial designation in the middle of the 19th Century, happens yet to hit the mark - except that Arabs may be Semitic by biological origin but not by Divine call, i.e. the Divine Covenant. Consequently, anti-Semites are against that Divine call of Israel, but they are not against other peoples of the Semitic language group. (Nazism made an exception by degrading everyone who was not "Arian," according to their fashion).

   The Book of Genesis (chap. 10 & 11) shows Nimrod as the prototype of anti-Semitism: His name, literally translated, means "Let us revolt"; and in building Babel, he devised "Let us make a name [=shem] unto ourselves, and build a tower with its top in the heavens." His revolt was directed against Noah's son, S(h)em and his descendant, ‘Ever, the Father of the Hebrews, ordained by Noah as the priestly tribe for the mankind after the Flood. He ordained: “Blessed be the God of Shem” (Gen. 9:26). Opposing that dictum, Nimrod aspired to establish Bab-El (liter. a direct Gate to God), without the God of Shem, and without Semites and Hebrews; and take the Name of God, S(h)em, upon themselves, in disregard of God's revelations and instructions which were given for the welfare of all mankind.

   Interestingly enough, the Book of Genesis in its record of the coming into existence of the 70 nations after the Flood, does not mention Nimrod neither as father nor as founder of one of them. This may indicate that his enterprise is not confined to one people or nation. In comparison, Egypt is Egypt, Assur is Assur, Greece is Greece, Canaan is Canaan, etc. While each of them may exert a certain cultural influence on other peoples or nations, it remains always itself. This is apparently not the case with Nimrod: he seems to be an archetypal figure whose traits can be adopted by any nation, people, or culture.

   Were, then, Pharaoh; Assurbanipal; or Nebukadnezzar anti-Semites? In case they were merely conquerors and slaveholders for the sake of conquests and slaves’ work, we can hardly count them as anti-Semites (except we would call anything anti-Divine as anti-S(h)em = anti- Semitic, but doing so we would deprive that term of its specific meaning). In case they were motivated also by hostility against the Divine principles Israel stands for, they would certainly have to be counted as anti-Semites. In comparison, figures like Haman or Antiochus Epiphanes were definitely anti-Semites. From that point of view, the majority of the Christian Churches are plainly anti-Semitic, at least by their self-styled theologies of superseding the “Israel of the flesh.” This theological high-mindedness translated often into blatant Jew-hatred (e.g. Crusaders, Inquisition, pogroms, theatre games). -  On the other hand, Jews who joined the ranks of the Church(es) were highly welcomed, and can even be nominated Cardinals.

   Likewise, modern Islam with its frantic hatred of Israel (in which they depict her as the “embodiment of the cosmic evil”) is plainly anti-Semitic. The call of the Mufti Amin el-Husseini (in 1943 from Radio Berlin!) to “Kill the Jews wherever you find them – this is pleasing to Allah,” is widely followed by killing Israelis and Jews all over the world, by blowing up synagogues, buses, etc.   

  All this, in plain contradiction not only to the so-called "Old Testament" but to the so-called New Testament, and in the case of Islam, to the Koran as well. Here, we should bear in mind that the Greek word "anti" means basically "instead of" (cf. The Concise Oxford Dictionary. It gives as an example the medieval episode of the anti-Pope who was not against Papacy but rivaled the ordained Pope).

  The Church rivals Israel by claiming that she is the "New Israel of the Spirit" superseding the "old Israel of the flesh”, as said. This claim of hers found its legal expressions in the "Codex Justinianus," with the Inquisition, the Crusades, the various pogroms, and now the "even-handedness" in the Arab/Israel Conflict as subsequent aftermath. While “Nostra Aetate” of the Catholic Church, and similar declarations by some Protestant Churches, can be seen as a remarkable change, their theological views of salvation remain unchanged.

   Seen from that ankle, the Arab/Muslim hostility against independent Israel is candid anti-Semitism not less than that of the medieval Church. While Islam’s expectation to convert eventually all Jews to its established religion could be rated as anti-Semitic as it would void Israel’s specific call, the present hostility is even more fierce and more gruesome than that of the medieval Church. Heeding the battle cry shouted by Mufti Amin el-Husseini (mentioned above), the "The Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research" (September 1968 at Cairo's Al Azhar University) had Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra, a member of the Academy, charging: "Jihad is not confined to the summing of troops… there should arise a group of people reinforced with faith, well equipped with means and methods. And then, let them out to the usurpers [=Israel], harassing them with incessant attacks until the land they had seized turns to be for them an abode of everlasting torments, instead of being the country they had intended to be flowing with milk and honey." In the final "Resolutions and Recommendations issued at the end of the first session," the Conference urges (p.924): "Against them [=Israel] make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of God and your enemies, and others besides them ye may not know, but whom God does know." (Quotations from pp 103 and 924 of the Proceedings of that Fourth Conference, published and distributed by the "General Organization for Government Printing Offices", 1970, Cairo). The various "Jihad"-groups –-  Islamic Jihad, Hamas, el-Qaida, etc. -– are merely putting those calls into practice.

   Is the UNO anti-Semitic? On the 29th of November, 1947, its majority voted for the establishment of the State of Israel, alongside an Arab state. Then, in 1975, it passed its ill-famed resolution equating Zionism with racism (rescinded several years later), followed by numerous one-sided anti-Israel resolutions. As the Arab and Moslem countries muster the biggest bloc of nations, and as numerous other nations depend on Arab oil, a majority voting against Israel is assured from the start.  Longstanding anti-Semitism of some Christian countries as well as of former communist/atheistic countries may well play its role, too. Indeed, how can the coming into existence of the State of Israel be explained without referring to the vilified "Old Testament"? The problem is aggravated by the fact that the existence of the People of Israel is dealt with in schools at best within the frame of anti-Semitic religions, never as a subject of history. In Christian education, the existence of "ancient Israel" ends with the last book of the Bible (Prophet Malachi, in most translations), and Islam prides itself to be a-historic. Consequently, Arab propaganda depicting the Jewish return to the ancient homeland as an invasion similar to that of nazi-Germany into Russia, falls upon hearts ready to absorb that ruse...  

  Here, we should have a look also at Communism / Bolshevism which pretended to improve the world situation under the motto “Proletarians unite”. Yet, by its very proclamation of materialistic Atheism it was plainly anti-Semitic and consequently also anti-Zionist (and likewise anti-Christian and anti-Muslim), but it did not preach nor practice hatred against Jewish, Christian, or Muslim citizens – quite in contrast to nazi-Germany which preached and practiced anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred to the extreme, with the Holocaust surpassing all other anti-Semitic / anti-Jewish hostilities.

    Summing up, we should discern here between “pagan anti-Semitism” and “theological anti-Semitism”: Both of them are simply different branches sprouting from the same tree, namely, the unwillingness to incorporate Israel’s call and existence into their respective world views. Well known representatives of the former are

*Antiochus Epiphanes (mentioned above);

*Imperial Rome – which could tolerate Jews in the Diaspora but not Israel living independently in Judea and Jerusalem;

*Nazism which thrived on Christian anti-Semitism but reduced it to “scientific” racism;

*communism/bolshevism which pursued atheistic materialism.

“Theological” anti-Semitism is represented by those Churches which claim superseding Israel; and by conventional Islam in-as-much as it aspires –similar to the former- converting all Jews to its prevalent creed. Newfangled Jihad [Hamas; etc] thrives on it, is in fact an obsessive expression thereof.

   The “new” anti-Semitism of Europe we see now thriving, is in fact a blend of its longstanding anti-Semitic “Christian” brand and of a neo-pagan liberalism not much different from that of Antiochus Epiphanes, or of the Roman Empire. There, Jewish individuals and small communities may be tolerated, even officially be protected against violent outbursts – but when it comes to the quests of Jerusalem and of Israel in her ancient homeland, the latter gets pressed to give way to the pagan ideas and ideals of peace.

   So, what about Jewish anti-Zionists? Doesn’t their stance vindicate the before-mentioned anti-Zionism of which brand whatsoever? While that may seem so at first glance, in its core it does not. Ultra-orthodox Jewish anti-Zionists expect the restoration of Zion, however to be brought about by the appearance of the Messiah, not by the hands of ordinary men. However, the latter base upon Prophet Ezekiel’s famous vision of the revival of the “dry dead bones” [i.e. Israel in the Diaspora]: only after their return to the ancient homeland of Israel will they be renewed also in the Spirit Divine (cf. Ezek. chpt, 36;37): the (re)building of the physical body is a pre-condition for the latter.

   Summing up, we can conclude that all the different brands of anti-Semitism come under Nimrod’s motto to make a name unto one’s self – consequently however each of his followers with his own “tower with its top in heavens” and the aspiration to get all peoples along therewith; or else try to subdue rivals – attempts which necessarily lead to confusion; vying; violence, and eventual collapse.

  Anti-Semitism often entails Jew-hatred, as is now especially the case with the Jihad fanatics. In contrast, the Catholic Church, after Vatican II, remains anti-Semitic (in the above sense of that term) but has dropped Jew-hatred, even condemns “racial Antisemitism”, and claims sympathy for the Jews as their “elder brother” (Esau?), hoping, of course, that the latter would find the way into her bosom.

  On the other side of the spectrum, there might be Jew-haters who are not anti-Semitic. Maybe they hate Jews because of indoctrination, or because of a bad experience with a Jew, or simply because Jews don't mingle with them but remain a "suspicious" outsider group with different dress and customs, etc, but in all these rejections of theirs they do not object Israel's specific call (which they usually don't even know). Some of that anti-Jewishness can be compared to the "natural" -  and despicable - animosities which exist e.g. between "whites" and "blacks," between British and French, Japanese and Chinese, Huttis and Tutzis, etc. (It would be interesting to learn whether such anti-Jewishness exists in societies which were not exposed to “Christian” or Moslem theologies, as e.g. the Chinese or Japanese peoples). In any case it had been one of the tasks of the Churches, and of the Islamic establishment as well, to stem such “natural animosities”, and establish brotherhood and peace based upon the respective scriptures -Epistles; and Koran- which are in line with Noah’s dictum mentioned above1).

  The above shows that anti-Semitism is not a matter of races but of attitudes – and in the latter also Semitic peoples can be anti-Semites and/or anti-Zionists.

  We human beings cannot see what's in the heart of another one, and consequently often mix up anti-Semitism with Jew-hatred (although they go hand in hand more often than not). But wherever possible, we should discern, and draw the conclusions.


1) See my articles:   “Parable of the Olive Tree” (in Epistle to the Romans, chpt 11)

                                  “Peace is possible between Ishmael and Israel according to Tanakh and Koran”

                                 Dr. Asher Eder                

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