While traditional anti-Semitism remains prevalent among extremist fringe groups and populations where xenophobic attitudes persist, a “new” anti-Semitism manifests itself in opposition to Zionism and to the existence or policies of the state of Israel.
Traditional anti-Semitism, with its historic linkage to Nazism and fascism, tends to be overt and is considered unacceptable and illegitimate by much of the mainstream in Western Europe, North America, and beyond. Its hallmarks include:
- drawing on the age-old blood libel that depicts Jews as bloodthirsty murderers and cannibals
- perpetuating the timeless conspiracy theory of undue and unseen Jewish influence politically or economically
- denying the reality and scope of the Nazi Holocaust
- branding Jews as "Christ-killers"
- accusing Jews of usury
- depicting Jews as uniformly dishonest, treacherous, and evil
By contrast, "new anti-Semitism" is characterized by anti-Zionist and anti-Israel criticism that is anti-Semitic in its effect — whether or not in its intent — and is more subtle and thus frequently escapes condemnation.
According to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), anti-Zionist and anti-Israel criticism -- regardless of the motive -- become anti-Semitic when they entail:
- denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination;
- applying double standards to the state of Israel;
- using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis;
- drawing comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and that of the Nazis; or
- holding Jews collectively responsible for actions by the state of Israel.
In his classic 1969 article, “The Socialism of Fools—The Left, the Jews and Israel,” Seymour Martin Lipset wrote: "There is a dangerous confluence between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, though the two concepts are not always identical. Anti-Zionism is often used to conceal hatred of Jews." He then enumerated the following criteria for distinguishing between anti-Semitism and "legitimate criticism of Israel":
- "Consider the source. Is the speaker someone with a history of anti-Jewish attitudes?"
- "Critics who habitually single out Israel for condemnation while ignoring far worse actions by other countries (especially other Middle Eastern countries) are anti-Semitic."
- "Likening Israel to Nazi Germany, or to traditional anti-Jewish stereotypical behavior is another sure sign of Jew-baiting."
- "Attacks on the merits of Israel's existence rather than individual government policies are anti-Semitic."
In a similar vein, a 2008 State Department report says:
"New forms of anti-Semitism often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism. However, the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that—whether intentionally or unintentionally—has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character. This new anti-Semitism is common throughout the Middle East and in Muslim communities in Europe, but it is not confined to these populations.... [T]he collective effect of unremitting criticism of Israel, coupled with a failure to pay attention to regimes that are demonstrably guilty of grave violations, has the effect of reinforcing the notion that the Jewish state is one of the sources, if not the greatest source, of abuse of the rights of others, and thus intentionally or not encourages anti-Semitism."
Adapted from "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism: A Report Provided to the United States Congress," by The U.S. Department of State (2008).