The Impact of the Arab/Islamic Discourse on Antisemitism on the International Perceptions of Islamophobia and Racism
Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism and the Dayan Center Tel Aviv University Tel Aviv, Israel
The heated public debate which erupted in the wake of the one-day conference on "The Concept of the Muslim Enemy - The Concept of the Jewish Enemy," held in December 2008 by Berlin's Center for Research on Antisemitism, brought to the fore the controversial issue of the equation between Islamophobia and Antisemitism. The equation is false, giving legitimacy to a bogus term and ignoring the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe and particularly in the Arab/Muslim world, which poses a threat to the Jewish communities as well as to the existence of Israel, it had been claimed.
Whereas the term "antisemitism" is an old term, "Islamophobia" is a relatively new one, although Christian-European fear of Islam existed since its inception. The term denoting "hostility toward Islam and Muslims that tends to dehumanize an entire faith, portraying it as fundamentally alien and attributing to it an inherent, essential set of negative traits," was coined in the West in the 1990s in view of the growing Muslim communities that seemed to resist integration and to suffer from discrimination. But, only after 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks and events, such as the riots in France and the Danish cartoon affair, it assumed its full meaning.
This paper intends to explore the relationship between the two terms as seen from the Arab/Muslim point of view. It will throw light on the Arab/Muslim discourse on antisemitism and examine major UN and EU resolutions for combating racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism, to establish that this discourse had a strong impact on shaping the term "Islamophobia" and filling it with content, while attempting to deflate "antisemitism" from its meaning and narrow the definition of racism.