Antisemitism across Time, Space and Medium

Antisemitism is a long-standing and ubiquitous form of prejudice and, thus, any historical overview must be selective. One could write volumes on the history of antisemitism in Germany, France, Poland, Hungary and the many other countries in which Jews have resided. There are now a plethora of insightful studies of antisemitism in distinct geographical contexts, the majority of which have been conducted within the Western world – antisemitism research has focused on many countries in the West (e.g. Dinnerstein, 1994; Jaher, 1994; Vincze, 2013; Wistrich, 1991; Wittenberg, 2013). More recently, scholars of antisemitism have examined novel contexts, such as the Middle East (Jaspal, 2013a; Litvak, 2006; Shahvar, 2009), Latin America (Liwerant, 2011; Milkewitz, 2011; Schvindlerman, 2011) and even Japan, a country with no significant Jewish population (Goodman and Miyazawa, 2000). Distinct communities within nation-states have also been examined in order to understand the spread of antisemitism – such as Muslim minorities in Europe (Jikeli and Allouche-Benayoun, 2013), African Americans (King and Weiner, 2007), and the Muslim minority in India (Kumaraswamy, 2010). Many studies have examined distinct “phases” of antisemitism, such as the pre-Christian era, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment period, the early twentieth century, and the so-called “new antisemitism”. It is also acknowledged that antisemitism may be manifested in a range of distinct media, all of which contribute to crystallising antisemitic representations among members of society

– scholars have analysed inter alia public opinion (Baum, 2009a; King and Weiner, 2007), media representations (Jaspal, 2013c; Klein, 2009), art and visual representations (Amishai-Maisels, 1999; Kotek, 2009; Vinzce, 2013) religious sources (Lazarus-Yafeh, 1999) and others.

These studies exhibit the ubiquity and persistence of antisemitism across time, space and medium. They have made important strides in elucidating the nature, form and timing of antisemitic outbursts in particular contexts, and have provided
vital insights into the continuities and discontinuities of antisemitism. Jaspal (2013b) has employed this term to capture the regularities of antisemitism across time, space and medium (i.e. how particular myths and social representations have persisted, albeit modified in accordance with context) and the divergences of emerging antisemitism from previous mythical manifestations (i.e. how particular representations have ceased to exist under novel conditions in favour of others). The analysis of the continuities and discontinuities of antisemitism is eminently important because it enables us to predict how, when and under which social and psychological circumstances particular manifestations of antisemitism can emerge, persist, change and disappear over time. Moreover, it acknowledges that, while in some temporal and cultural contexts, antipathy towards Jews may have focused upon either religion or “race”, antisemitism has maintained some consistency in aim and focus. What is striking in the literature on antisemitism is the incredible consistency in the basic patterns manifested in antisemitic prejudice (Wistrich, 1991; Lindemann and Levy, 2010b; Perry and Schweitzer, 2008). Longstanding, age-old myths appear to have been re-construed, re-cycled and adapted to suit specific temporal, geographical, cultural, political, religious and ideological contexts so that they can provide an appropriate heuristic lens, serving important sociological and psychological functions (see Chapter 4 on the theoretical approach employed in this book). Although the “methods” of antisemitism may vary in accordance with time, space and medium, the basic tenet of Jewishness as something negative, inferior and evil has clearly persisted, as exemplified by the use of “Jew” as a slur in many languages (Jikeli, 2010) This section focuses upon the vicissitudes of antisemitism from pre-Christian antiquity to the present day, in both Western Christian civilisation and the Islamic world.

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