Localized Motivations for Antisemitism within the Ummah
South Asia Analysis Group Paper #5907
7 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 7, 2015
Antisemitism marked with an irrational prejudice against Jews and Israel is on the rise over the past decade after declining for much of the post WW-II era. This trend is particularly acute in Muslim-majority countries where surveys show the percentage of population with positive views of Jews languishing in the single digits. Deconstructing the provenance of this neo-antisemitism is essential if we are to effectively combat it. While scholars have extensively analyzed antisemitism over the ages across myriad dimensions, we point out that non-theological and localized motivations explain much of the renewed expression of antisemitism across the Muslim ummah. By 'localized', we denote motivations that are isolated both along the space (viz. specific to group or country) and time (viz. specific to the past few decades) dimensions.
Since the pre-Christian era, antisemitism has been a scourge on human civilization. Its continuation into the modern era in-spite of the monstrosities inflicted on Jews during WWII represents a collective failure on our part to eradicate irrational hatred from society's midst. In the post-war era, we mercifully do not see any large-scale self-identification with the "antisemite" tag. Antisemitism, though, continues to survive and has indeed adapted itself to the changing political discourse of the times. The most prominent example of such adaptation is the couching of Jew-hatred under the anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist categories since the 1967 Yom Kippur war.
Our principal concern in this paper is with the surge of antisemitic incidents across the Islamic world in the past decade. A tragic example was proffered a few weeks back when MEMRI TV released footage showing Yemeni Zaidi worshippers repeatedly chanting "Death to Israel" just moments before they are blown to smithereens by their sectarian rivals from the Salafi-inspired Islamic State. Monumental literature already exists analyzing the provenance and persistence such irrational Jew-hatred across social, religious, economic, racial and political dimensions. In this paper, we do not deny or contradict any of these theoretical frameworks. Instead, we provide a complementary argument that the recent rise in antisemitism is well-explained by political, non-theological reasons that are specific to the local elite across different countries, who in turn are motivated by peculiar circumstances of the times they find themselves in. And, it is by a clear elucidation of these temporal reasons that we hope to address the issue of antisemitism effectively.
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