Antisemitism: The Definitions

“An antisemite is one who hates Jews more than absolutely necessary”.

In many cultures antisemitism is a given. This is exemplified by the above statement, believed to have originated in Hungary.

The fact of antisemitism may be a constant. Its form, however, morphs and adapts from age to age and culture to culture.

By most accounts, the term anti-Semitism was first coined by German journalist Wilhelm Marr in 1879 as a functional equivalent to Judenhass – Jew hatred. While the term is modern, the hatred itself dates back more than 3000 years.

The spelling antisemitism is to be preferred to anti-Semitism for at least two reasons:

1. there is no such thing as Semitism, except in linguistics.

2. to dull the impact of those who engage in the etymological fallacy by insisting that Arabs cannot be anti-Semites because they too are Semites

Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group is the definition provided by Merriam-Webster.

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition begins as follows:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

The non-binding definition is significantly strengthened by an accompanying set of examples considered to form part of the definition.

Antisemitism has proven to be remarkable in its persistence, pervasion, and versatility. It will reinvent itself as the need arises.

Sources: International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

Angela Davis

As an activist, scholar, and professor, Angela Davis rose to prominence in the 1960s for her work in the black civil rights movement, especially in the Black Panther Party and the black communist group Che-Lumumba Club. Davis’s activism was driven by her background. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1944, grew up in an area exposed to anti-black bombings during the 1950s, and attended a segregated elementary school.

Davis was fired from her teaching post at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1970 for her links to communism, but won her job back. That same year, she was implicated in the supply of guns to a black prisoner who died trying to escape. She was released from prison in 1972, and continues to lecture on women’s rights, race, and criminal justice.

Key works
1974 Angela Davis: An Autobiography
1983 Women, Race, & Class
1989 Women, Culture, & Politics

Sources: The Feminism Book (DK)

Margaret Sanger

Birth control activist Margaret Sanger was born in New York in 1879, the sixth of 11 children in an Irish Catholic family. Her mother’s death at the age of 49, after 18 pregnancies, had a profound influence on Sanger. She qualified as an obstetrics nurse, which confirmed her views on the impact multiple pregnancies had on women, especially the poor. Involved in radical politics, she joined the New York Socialist Party.

In 1916, Sanger opened a short-lived birth control clinic, and in 1921, she established the American Birth Control League. She went on to organize the first World Population Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and in 1953 became president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Sanger died of heart failure in Tucson, Arizona, in 1966.

Key works:
1914 Family Limitation
1916 What Every Girl Should Know
1931 My Fight for Birth Control

International Women’s Day Origins

Celebrated annually on March 8, International Women’s Day is traced back to the US in 1907, when more than 15,000 female textile workers marched through New York City, demanding better working conditions and voting rights. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared a National Women’s Day, celebrated until 1913 on the last Sunday of February.

In 1910, about 100 women from 17 countries attended the Second International Conference of Women in Copenhagen, Denmark, at which Clara Zetkin proposed the establishment of International Women’s Day, on which women would highlight women’s issues. The following year, more than one million women and men attended International Women’s Day rallies worldwide. In Russia in 1917, women marked the day with a four-day strike for “peace and bread” that was a key event in the lead up to Russia’s October Revolution that year.

Sources: The Feminism Book (DK)

Martha White

Before there was Rosa Parks there was Martha White, who was thrown off a public bus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for sitting in the “whites only” section. This was in 1953, 2½ years before Rosa Parks was arrested for the same “crime”. White’s defenestration didn’t move the country the way that Parks’s did, but she was brave nonetheless. White died on Saturday at 99.

Above a picture of her and her friends.

Clémence-Auguste Royer

On this date in 1830, Clémence-Auguste Royer was born in Nantes, France. Her parents were Catholic royalists, and Royer’s early education took place in a convent school. Royer became a republican following the Revolution of 1848, and began to question other common views at that time. Royer obtained a teaching certificate and taught at girls schools in Wales, where she mastered English, and in France. She read widely on science in these school libraries. In 1855, as a result of her inquiries, she rejected Catholicism thoroughly, and devoted herself to science. She began to offer lectures on science and logic for women in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1858. Royer translated Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species into French in 1863. She famously wrote a preface to the work which used Darwin’s mechanism for evolution as part of an anti-religious argument which Darwin himself did not make — by this time, the book was in its third English edition and contained several strong references to a creator. Royer had been an evolutionist before reading Darwin, having been strongly influenced by the writings of Jean Baptiste LaMarck. French scientists, especially atheists and anthropologists, were strongly influenced by evolution and natural selection as framed by Royer, who also discussed the implications of evolutionary theory for human beings and society in her introduction (it would be almost ten years before Darwin himself grappled with these issues in The Descent of Man). Royer continued as Darwin’s official French translator until the third French edition of Origin was published in 1870.

Royer, despite not being a research scientist, remained a popular interpreter of science as well as a philosopher of science throughout her life. As a woman, she was denied access to many learned societies, as well as university teaching positions. It has been argued by Jennifer Michael Hecht, among others, that Royer opened doors to women within the freethinking movement. Royer was a feminist who argued passionately for the rights of women, married and unmarried, to child custody, property, education and equality with men. In 1866, she had a son by her lover and life partner, Pascal Duprat, a married man, which sharpened her concern about the major legal obstacles then present to unwed mothers and their children. She published many books and articles throughout her life, and considered the pinnacle to be 1900’s Natura rerum, her theory of nature. In 1900, Royer was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor for her contributions as “a woman of letters and a scientific writer.” D. 1902

“Yes, I believe in revelation, but a permanent revelation of man to himself and by himself, a rational revelation that is nothing but the result of the progress of science and of the contemporary conscience, a revelation that is always only partial and relative and that is effectuated by the acquisition of new truths and even more by the elimination of ancient errors. We must also attest that the progress of truth gives us as much to forget as to learn, and we learn to negate and to doubt as often as to affirm.”
~ Clémence Royer, preface to Charles Darwin, L’origine des espèces, in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The End of the Soul

Communities of Hate

The attack on the US Capitol and our democracy remind us of the ever-present dangers of hatred and propaganda. Join USHMM for a discussion about how, 75 years after the Holocaust, white supremacist and other hate groups continue to exploit racism, conspiracy theories, and antisemitic lies.

Speakers:

Arie Kruglanski, Holocaust Survivor, Terrorism Expert, and Psychology Professor, University of Maryland

Patricia Heberer Rice, Senior Historian, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Moderator:
Edna Friedberg, Historian, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum