The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

“Esau Hates Jacob”? Redefining the Protocols for Counteracting Antisemitism

With all of the recent hoopla surrounding manifestations of antisemitism, one area is yet under-studied: the counteraction of antisemitism. There has not been a comprehensive analysis of the various methods of counteraction internationally. At bottom, the question is whether the classic formulation of antisemitism—“Eisav sonei et Ya`akov,” “Esau hates Jacob,” suggesting an eternality of antisemitism throughout history—is reversible. The issue of counteraction is made more difficult precisely because antisemitism is not a Jewish problem but a non-Jewish problem; there is nothing Jews can do about antisemitism other than counter its manifestations. The paper demonstrates that prevention is rarely efficacious.

This paper (1) sets a historical context for understanding the counteraction of antisemitism; (2) reviews the author’s research into the various methods of counteraction—effected by Jewish groups and governmental—currently used; and (3) develops a construct within social science and public affairs for effective counteraction of antisemitism.

The historical section of the paper is a brief review of the of the Jewish world moving from the “quietism” of many centuries to that of the “activism” of recent decades.

The counteraction of antisemitism can be categorized under five rubrics: countering discrete acts of antisemitism; (2) legal remedies, such as (in the USA) hate-crimes legislation; (3) prejudice-reduction programs; (4) enhancing constitutional protections; and (5) broad societal change. (A sixth arena, surveying non-Jewish attitudes toward Jews and other quantitative research, is discussed briefly. This area informs the other five.) My research shows that, notwithstanding some marginal successes, most of these approaches are deeply flawed. Each is explored in detail in the paper.

Finally, the paper recommends to Jewish organizations what ought be done, and what ought not be done.