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Roots of anti-Semitism
The roots of religious anti-Semitism
Disagreement with the religion of Judaism does not in itself constitute anti-Semitism. Christians, Hindus, and atheists, for example, are not considered anti-Semitic simply because they disagree with the teachings of Judaism. However, theological anti-Semitism is not merely a rejection of Judaism: it is a set of theological teachings which condemn the Jews as a people or tradition, and which use hate speech to attack Jewish beliefs. Theological anti-Semitism is referred to by some scholars as anti-Judaism to distinguish it from other forms of anti-Semitism.
Judaism as an ethnic religion
Judaism is distinct in a more fundamental way; historically it has been an ethnic religion, or as some prefer to describe it, an evolving religious civilization. Unlike Christianity, and only accidentally similar to Islam, Judaism has a strong ethnic component.
Although people from any background to are allowed to convert to Judaism, Jews do not aggressively seek followers except among ethnic Jews, with ethnicity being passed from the mother to the child. Conversion to Judaism differs from conversion to Christianity, in that the latter primarily concerns identification with a particular set of beliefs, while legal conversion to Judaism is treated as a quasi-adoption, in which one chooses to adopt not only Jewish beliefs, but Jewish ethnicity.
Opposition from Christianity
Main article: Christianity and anti-Semitism
Judaic tradition extends back to at least one thousand years BCE and is the founding basis of Christianity. Christianity holds some Judaic traditions and texts as sacred, but it differs in other respects.
Except in its modernized forms, Christian theology has been committed to the view found in the New Testament, part of the Christian Bible, that from the beginning of the world, God has revealed only one way to salvation, and has found fault with all other ways: this was revealed, Christian believe, through the Jewish prophets, until finally all of God's teachings were revealed in Jesus. Therefore, Christianity has been understood to teach that all people must be directed toward Jesus in order to be reconciled with God, "the Jew first, and also the Gentiles". Thus, the New Testament declares that the Jews are in no better position than the Gentiles, if they do not believe that Jesus was the messiah. This teaching is sometimes called supersessionism, or replacement theology, because it says that with the coming of Jesus, a new covenant rendered obsolete and superseded Judaism, which supersessionists describe as a "shadow" of Jesus, who is the "substance".
In modern times, especially since the Holocaust, supersessionism has been linked to anti-Semitism of both the ethnic and theological kind. The linking of anti-Semitism with the doctrine that Jesus is the only way to salvation has become widespread, especially within Protestantism, but also among the bishops of the Roman Catholic church since the Second Vatican Council. Consequently, to seek the conversion of any people, especially of the Jews, is regarded as a form of religious imperialism.
The charge of theological anti-Semitism has been levelled against more traditional forms of Christianity too. Until 1965, for instance, the Catholic Church had as part of the Good Friday prayers that "the wicked Jews", as a people, were responsible for the death of Jesus. Some Christian preachers, particularly in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, also taught that religious Jews chose to follow a faith that they knew to be false out of bitterness, jealousy, and the desire to offend God. This way of describing the Jews was repudiated by the Second Vatican Council.
In the Middle Ages, many Christians believed that some or all Jews possessed magical powers; depending on the culture, people believed that Jews gained these powers from making a deal with the devil. These beliefs extended to other non-Christian religions, such as various pagan religions. The Inquisition was one consequence of these beliefs, which were often accompanied by beliefs that non-Christian religious practice entailed devil worship or Satanic rituals such as drinking the blood of Christian children in mockery of the Christian Eucharist. This latter belief is known as the blood libel. Superstitious fear of Jews persists in some parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, where references to the blood libel can be found in literature and on television. 
The roots of socio-economic anti-Semitism
There was a widespread belief in the Middle Ages that Jews took jobs and money from Christians. One explanation for the growth of this sentiment points to the medieval Christian prohibition on usury, then defined as the practice of lending money at interest. Because there was a demand for it, non-Christians practised it. Furthermore, widespread restrictions on what positions could be held by Jews closed off many alternatives, leaving banking as one of the few areas open to them.
This connection became established as a social stereotype, leading to unjustified resentment, feelings which may have been fanned by the cynical efforts of debtors to escape their debts. Shylock, the moneylender in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, is an example of such a stereotype, and the attitudes toward that character in the play suggest the prevalence of socio-economic anti-Semitism in medieval and Renaissance Europe. The name Shylock became a slang term for an extortionate moneylender.
During the 19th and early 20th century, especially in Eastern Europe, many of the early industrial entrepreneurs were Jews. They helped local economies enter European trade routes, but the local populations were often unhappy at having to work for what they saw as foreigners enriched using national resources.
More commonly, there is prejudice against Jews when they are in positions of power and prestige, though it remains unclear whether their positions are the cause of the anti-Semitism or simply triggers for its expression.
Karl Marx's "On the Jewish Question"
Because Karl Marx was a Jew, some anti-Semites promote the idea that communism was part of a Jewish conspiracy. An atheist as an adult, Marx was raised as a Lutheran, his father converting when Marx was a child in order to escape anti-Semitism.
Marx himself has been accused of being an anti-Semite, though most critical scholars today tend to reject this argument. In "On the Jewish Question," he wrote: "What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money."; and continues, "[t]he social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism."  These passages are often cited by those who accuse Marx of anti-Semitism, but these attempts may distort Marx's work by lifting quotes out of context. For example, a line often omitted by such proponents within the passage cited above, is that Marx was addressing "not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew."
Marx linked what he saw as the overrepresentative (as an ethnic group) role played by Jews in finance and banking not to any inherent Jewish trait, but rather, to an acculturation brought about by hundreds of years of medieval laws, which placed restrictions on the type of labor Jews were permitted to engage in. He expresses a tone of near-sarcastic admiration for Jews who succeeded under capitalism, despite (and arguably, because of) the hindrances they endured by anti-Semitic laws (especially economic ones), and attitudes.
With a measure of irony, Marx goes on to link the emancipation of Jews to an emancipation from capitalism. Still, his focus was not on the Jewish religion, but rather on the (worldly) Jews' particular economic legacy and its material manifestations as directly related to a division of labor imposed on Jews since medieval times; that is, as a direct product of capitalist and precapitalist development.
Many Zionist socialist Jews agreed with Marx on this point and, expanding on his ideas, viewed the emancipation and retention of the identity of Jews (positively) as inexorably tied to a reversal of their economic history. These Zionist socialists, particularly associated with, but not confined to, the Kibbutz movement, went on to define and practise physical (and especially agrarian) labor, which for centuries had been denied to Jews, as a necessary form of 'purification' from their past economic legacy, which, like Marx, they viewed negatively. While most of these Zionist socialist Jews were pronouncedly secular (even anti-clerical), unlike Marx they retained a strong sense of their identity as Jews.
The roots of ethnic anti-Semitism
Ethnic anti-Semitism is a form of racism mixed with religious persecution. Ethnic anti-Semites believe erroneously that the Jews are a distinct race, and may also believe that Jews are inherently inferior to people of other races, though this is often combined with the contradictory view that Jews are, in fact, in control, or seek to take control, of the world.
In fact, Jews constitute an evolving religious civilization that started out as a nation in exile. Most historians, as well as most Jews, consider Jews to be an ethnic group with the religion of Judaism at its core.
One of the core beliefs of Nazism was the superiority of the Aryan race and the inferiority of the so-called semitic races, principally the Jews. The consequence of these ideas was the Holocaust; and anti-Semitic sentiment continued long after the fall of the Third Reich.
The roots of political anti-Semitism
Anti-Zionism has been a tool for communists in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the former Soviet Union. It was used instead of anti-Semitism, that was not politically acceptable and was officially forbidden. It is a common phenomenon in the Middle East, where no distinction is drawn between the terms "Zionist", "Zionist enemy", and "Jew". This confluence of terms is held by many to be anti-Semitic.
Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories
Extremist groups, such as Neo-Nazi parties and Islamist groups, claim that the aim of Zionism is global domination; they call this the Zionist conspiracy and use it to support anti-Semitism. This position is associated with fascism and Nazism, though increasingly it is a feature of the left too.
In addition, Holocaust deniers, who call themselves Holocaust revisionists, often claim that this "Zionist conspiracy" is responsible for the exaggeration or fabrication of the events of the Holocaust. There is no reliable evidence for any such conspiracy, whereas there is an overwhelming amount of historical evidence to support the mainstream scholarly view of the Holocaust.
- Depiction of a child being killed by Jews to obtain blood for baking Passover matzas, Syrian television production, broadcast by Hezbollah's Al Manar satellite channel, November 18, 2003 (warning: immediate download, violent scene)
- "On the Jewish Question" by Karl Marx, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, February 1844
- Carmichael, Joel. The Satanizing of the Jews: Origin and Development of Mystical Anti-Semitism, 1992.
- Shamir, Illana and Shlomo Shavit (General Editors), Encyclopedia of Jewish History: Events and Eras of the Jewish People, Massada Publishers, Israel, 1986. ISBN 0816012202
FootnotesShamir, Illana and Shlomo Shavit (General Editors), Encyclopedia of Jewish History: Events and Eras of the Jewish People, p. 118, pp. 210-216
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