Anti-Semitism and Orientalism

There are three historical phases of Anti-Semitism in the broader sense of the term. These are Anti-Judaism (Roman, Christian and Muslim), Anti-Semitism (in the narrow racializing sense) and Anti-Zionism which is currently the most widespread form of Anti-Semitism and contains a far vaster universe of lies than Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism (in the narrow sense).

What is the relationship between Anti-Semitism and Orientalism? Anti-Semitism in the narrow sense is a fusion of Anti-Judaism and colonial racism whereby pseudo-scientific racist rationalizations were found to justify existing millennia of Anti-Judaism. Of course, Orientalism is older than Anti-Semitism in the narrow sense but Islamophobia and Homophobia are themselves derivations of both Anti-Judaism and of Anti-Semitism (in the narrow sense). Anti-Jewish prejudice first mutuated from Anti-Judaism into Anti-Semitism in the narrow sense and then mutated from that into Anti-Zionism. For Anti-Semitism in the narrow sense were Jews intrinsic Orientals and thus reduced to Middle Eastern intruders in the ostensibly “White” Christian Europe. For Anti-Zionism are Jews intrinsic Occidentals who are thus reduced to European intruders in the ostensibly “Brown” Middle East. 

This ignores the genetic fact that Ashkenazim like Mizrahim and Sephardim are not only closely genetically related to each other but are all of Levantine ancestry although there was naturally certainly genetic admixture from converts during the Diaspora period. Both Anti-Semitism in the narrow sense and Anti-Zionism accuse Jews of being imperialists which is peculiar considering that Jews prior to 1948 were stateless and even now possess a miniscule state in their indigenous homeland. Also, over 60% of Israel Jews are at least in part descended from the Jewish Diaspora in Islamdom.

Anti-Semitism in the narrow sense pseudo-scientifically racialized Jews into “Orientals” while Anti-Zionism pseudo-scientifically racialize Jews into “Occidentals”. What Zionists need to do is reappropriate the critique of Orientalism for no people has suffered more from Orientalism than the Jews in suffering the worst genocide in human history on clearly Orientalist grounds. The critique of Orientalism reproduces Anti-Semitism in rather than recognizing Israeli Jews as returning Levantines (Jews are no less Levantines than Romanies are South Asians) reproduces the logic of Orientalist Anti-Semitism of racializing, demonizing, stigmatizing and silencing the Jews while epistemologically privileging gentile imperialism. It is indeed highly peculiar that the Holocaust, the worst of all Orientalist crimes in world history is completely ignored in critiques of Orientalism. 

What is entirely missing from “anti-imperialist” discourses is the question of non-Western imperialism and non-Western neo-imperialism. It is highly peculiar that ostensibly “anti-imperialist” critiques are so understanding of Islamist neo-imperialism to the point of deeming all opposition to the totalitarian Anti-Semitic ideology of Islamism to be “Orientalist” and “Islamophobic”. The same is true of Arabist imperialism and its ambitions to subjugate non-Arab peoples of the MENA region. What we see is that anti-racism has been hijacked by apologists for Anti-Semitism (in the broader sense of the term) and that anti-imperialism has been hijacked by apologists for Arabist and Islamist imperialism. It is highly peculiar that critics of imperialism in critical theory and elsewhere are completely silent about the challenges posed by Iranian, Chinese and Russian resurgent imperialism and are typically stuck in racist occidentalism.

Furthermore, we see a totalitarian alliance in critical theory, in academia generally and in Western politics between Communists and Islamists akin to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Hatred of Israeli Jews is the great common denominator that brings together Communists and Islamists despite these two totalitarian ideologies having little in common. Both Communists and Islamists are neo-imperialists, yet are so in the name of “anti-imperialism” just as their Anti-Semitism (in the broader sense of the term) is articulated in the name of anti-racism.

What is the above text? It is Jewish critical theory and I have merely scratched the surface of the malaise of contemporary Anti-Semitism (in the broader sense of the term) in critical theory, academia generally, journalism and politics.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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