Volume 96, Issue 56
Thursday, January 9, 2003

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The origins of anti-Semitism are clear

Re: "Anti-Semitism? Please Define," Dec. 4

To the Editor:

Tom Podsiadlo challenged me to define the term "anti-Semitism" prior to any discussion of the recent rise in anti-Semitism.

The word "anti-Semitism" dates back to the late 19th century. It was coined by Wilhelm Marr, a German writer and Jew-hater himself, to categorize and legitimize the pogroms (massacres) against Jews that were sweeping Europe at the time. In the last couple of years, since the start of the Palestinian Intifada, some people who are critical of Israel have been dubbed anti-Semites. Is this label justifiable?

Let me make something clear: not everyone who is critical of Israel is an anti-Semite. However, there are those who hide behind the guise of Israel bashing and ultimately use it, whether by intent or effect, to incite hatred towards Jews.

In theory, Jews are a race, Judaism a religion and Israel a democratic state. Yet, if these distinctions are so clear, as Mr. Podsiadlo implies in his challenge, then why has the anti-Israel sentiment that the world has so openly embraced led to the firebombing of synagogues in Europe, Israel supporters at Concordia being attacked while called "dirty Jews," Jews being blamed for 9/11 by the Saudi Arabian government and the United Nations conference on racism in Durban ironically turning into a hatemongering forum against not just Zionism but Judaism too?

Israel can be criticized. But using ignorant terms like "genocide" and "apartheid-like" to describe its policies only serves to incite hatred towards both Jews and Israelis, a single entity to most people. Israel does not systematically kill or limit any ethnicity or race. Israel is a democratic country that grants equal rights to all its citizens, including Arabs, and is fighting a defensive war against Palestinian terrorists that threaten its people.

Mr. Podsiadlo, I leave you with this. You think Palestinians are the eternal victims? Jews have been expelled from Europe in the Middle Ages, been accused of putting Christian blood in Matzah and sent to death camps by Hitler. Maybe Izzy Asper wouldn't have to make allusions to the Holocaust if the world's temperament towards Jews today didn't remind him of pre-war Germany.

Paul Rakowski
President Jewish Students' Union



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