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  • Writer's pictureIan Ségal

Making Sense of Anti-Semitism — Resurgence or War?

Updated: Feb 28

Shivering Under the Cold Chill of Malevolence

By Ian Ségal

30 December 2019

With several thousand years of sustaining tradition and culture, a people that trace their roots to the beginning of time have endured the extreme prejudices of human aggression, never being able to substantially augment their numbers, but have projected a voice across the globe that has echoed with long-lasting resonance. Who are these people? They are the Jews—a race that has not only left their mark across landscapes of academia, art, science, and more but have exercised their greatest strength in harboring the cadence of peace through the dynamics of their heritage. However, for a people to have significantly influenced the world for the betterment of mankind, they have unjustifiably been the target of incessant hostility devised and delivered by governments and organizations down to small collectives and individuals acting alone. And although history has seen waves and dips in this malice, it has remained as an enduring constant in the lives of Jews throughout the world—a shadow that never tires from casting its reminder that rancor will remain as long as Jews exist in the global community.

The wide array of enmity that has been disseminated throughout societies in America and abroad knows no borders, is impervious to time and has invited new combatants to join its rage of obscurity beneath the banner of anti-Semitism. The boldness of this rage has been conveniently labeled under a thinly-veiled attempt to hide its true mission statement—that being anti-Judaism or simply Jewish defiance. Then why use the word Semitism and masquerade under a cloak of ambiguity? Accurately described, Semitic people are categorized as those who communicate within a family of languages that include but are not limited to Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic among others—specifically written and read from right to left. And yet, the use of the label anti-Semitic seems to carry the typecast that singles out Jews alone, leaving Arabs and Persians out of the mix. With this said, even the xenophobic description is neither accurate nor honest.

Not honest. A rudimentary approach to racism is to gather the totality of a culture and bury them inside a collective tomb. And many throughout the annals of history have tried to do just that—from the ancient Romans, Greeks, Persians of Babylon, and Assyrians to the modern-day Russian pogroms and butchers of Nazi Germany inside one of the most darkened years of civilization, the Holocaust. Each of these persecutions carried the common objective of massacring every Jewish man, woman, and child living and breathing on this earth. Never forget became the rallying cry that has resonated from the lips of genocide survivors to the ears of generations born thereafter. But, with an unparalleled attempt at exterminating an entire race of people, the Nazis have been publicly blasphemed as demonic with no place in society. However, there are those who have risen with a call to arms that calumniates the Holocaust suffered by the Jews. And denial is only the first step in paving the way for a resurgence of racism against the Jewish communities of the world, with the gradual transition of spewing poisonous words to brandishing blades that hanker for blood. But, it was not until the latter part of the 19th century that the term anti-Semitism was unsheathed from its scabbard of hatred.

In 1879, a German journalist by the name of Wilhelm Marr was the first to publicize the label of anti-Semitism which gave steadfast classification to brutalities that have plagued the Jewish people for thousands of years. And yet further back, without this classification, during the evolution of Christianity two-thousand years ago through the centuries of Medieval Europe, most anti-Semitic practices found their roots and cultivated their malignance across a continent. Fundamental rights that many today take for granted—such as citizenships, civil liberties, and religious freedom—were denied to Jews with punishments that were often carried out at the end of a hangman’s knot. Medieval Europe began ostracizing Jewish communities—sequestering them into the confinement of enclosed districts called ghettos—as one would corral cattle or other livestock for slaughter. The seeds were planted hundreds of years before the Holocaust by harvesting practices passed down from conquerors of ancient times. Anti-Semitism was sowed by tiling fields across the European purlieus of past centuries with the blood of Jewish people. The Holocaust, the most devastating crime of extermination against Jews, triggered world concerns in its aftermath and became the impetus for the birth of a nation. And so it came to be, the creation of Israel in 1948 inside its biblical homeland—a safe haven for Jews throughout the world. But, the latter part of the 20th and current 21st centuries have witnessed a resurgence of anti-Semitism. And as this hatred bends all of its repugnance upon the Jewish homeland and its people, Israel maintains its resilience in the face of evil by providing not only a beacon of hope but a creed for safeguarding an entire nation, culture, and identity—the Israelites.

While the return of anti-Semitism seems to have been more rampant in recent years, it was not sudden. Following the dawning of Israel—a Jewish nation in the Middle East—the Israelis, made up of Holocaust survivors and other Jews who emigrated to the newly established country found themselves on the frontline of new belligerence. Since 1948, unbridled efforts from a coalition of Arab states fought determinedly, and with extreme prejudice, to drive every Jew from the land and into the sea. And every skirmish, battle, and war evoked by these Arab nations resulted in countless lives lost along with a fledgling State of Israel that gradually expanded its borders—the consequences of failed attempts at destroying Israel in wars that the Jewish state never wanted. This ensued with the creation of a climate of anti-Judaism in those Arab nations, compelling thousands of Jews across the Middle East and North Africa to migrate to the haven of the newly created Jewish homeland—a modern-day exodus.

A concerted effort of renegade Arab militia—such as the P.L.O.—extended the talons of their efforts of clashing with Israel directly to attacking all Jews and their supporters throughout the world—a reign of terror that would unleash unchecked violence to sway public opinion against Israel. Still masquerading under the cloak of anti-Semitism, the Arab nations who worked to orchestrate the annihilation of the Jewish state had propagated fear throughout the world by terrorizing global communities—demonstrated through shootings, bombings, hijackings, and more. Ultimately, that war would be brought to the shores of the United States on September 11, 2001. Anti-Semitism would become equated with resistance against all things Jewish—from Israel to culture, religion, and tradition. In a world rank with fear, groups, large and small, began partnering with their anxieties identifying the root cause of their trepidations as being the existence of Jews—the dogma of anti-Semitism became revitalized. The perfect storm had set its course upon a people who committed no crime but were guilty of being a different race—and so a scapegoat of the past was soon reborn in the present.

With the second decade of the 21st century coming to a close, the rise of anti-Semitism was reignited with an exponential increase of violence against Jewish people throughout Europe and the United States. In 2019, France reported an escalation of 74% in offenses against Jews while Germany had seen a record increase of over 60% in violence perpetrated against their Jewish communities (Henley, 2019). Widespread sentiments among Jewish people have expressed heightened concern for survival in the wake of a strikingly noticeable rise in hate speech, vehement attacks, and the polarization of international politics. An avalanche of anti-Semitic activity has spread like a blizzard throughout America and the European Union, leaving the world shivering under the cold chill of malevolence.

In a survey conducted by CNN in early 2019, it was discovered that over 20% of people polled in half a dozen countries were under the impression that Jewish people have excessive leverage regarding financial and political influence for their sole benefit (Henley, 2019). But, more alarming, over 34% of the same people surveyed admitted they knew nothing about the Holocaust while a third felt that Jews distorted the facts of the genocide to improve their rank within the global community. Cultural forensics indicate that the fingerprints of such incongruities have been nurtured by the steeled prattle of social media, invoking digital rumors that proclaim conspiracy theories drawing attention to a Zionist plot to wrangle the world. As is the nature of viral messaging across the digital highway of the Internet, this propaganda has collapsed the pillars of reason with a new order of fanatical disinformation weaponized against the Jewish people.

Nevertheless, with all the efforts of trying to wrap minds around the quandary of the current surge of anti-Semitism—especially its rippling effect across the United States—no one has been able to determine the ideology behind recent incidents. With more questions than answers, Jewish community leaders have been scrambling to decipher the root cause of the upsurge, but most are left with few theories in the absence of concrete explanations. From swastikas dripping in red paint desecrating synagogues across America—a symbolism of bloodletting—to the murders of a police officer and three innocent bystanders (two of which were Jews) in a Jersey City kosher grocery store in broad daylight, the final winter of the decade brought with it the frost of anti-Semitic violence. In the last days of December 2019, America had witnessed five people stabbed in a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, a threat to lay carnage to the world headquarters of Chabad, and dozens of incidences of assaults on Jews in metropolitan cities—along with unimpeded hate speech, racism against Jews was nothing less than incendiary. Anti-Jewish malfeasance has carried the underlying tone of quintessential callousness against all Jewish communities everywhere. The perpetrators share no uniformity among themselves other than their mutual desire to drive bloodshed to the doorsteps of each and every Jewish neighborhood, town, and city—rural, suburban, and urban.

While operating under the guise of anonymity, anti-Jewish crimes have been recorded as significantly higher with the close of the decade. An upturn in violent incidences committed against religious Jewish communities has been seen in New York City and its suburbs across northern New Jersey and Monsey, New York. With digital harassment promulgated across social media to violent altercations in Jewish neighborhoods, there is no sign of abating. With the growing number of acts of brutality from scuffles to stabbings, there are elevated concerns that this will unleash a level of terror that will resoundingly challenge authority in a manner that has not been seen in a hundred years. Some historians have even posited that a second coming of Kristallnacht will enter the night of America, breaking the glass of the next decade with scores of Jews murdered in their homes, shops, and places of worship.

If the global community has learned anything from the echoed cries of never again bellowed from voices of generations entombed in history, then they have also learned that complacency not only encourages atrocity but enables its insidious character. This resurgence of anti-Semitism is more than an uptick in violence against Jews throughout the world—it’s a war placing survival into the ante of life where the casino is driven by depraved dealers of infliction dispensing racism from a darkened deck of cards—the antithesis of humanity.


Henley, J. (2019, February 15). Antisemitism rising sharply across Europe, latest figures show. Retrieved December 29, 2019, from antisemitism-rising-sharply-across-europe-latest-figures-show.

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