Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Introduction

Summary

Q: Which is preferable – the antisemite or the philosemite?

A: The antisemite. At least he isn't lying.

Is there such a thing as philosemitism? The concept is often met with skepticism, as this characteristically terse Jewish joke exemplifies. The term is certainly an awkward one, and it has an awkward history. Coined in Germany in 1880 as the antonym to another neologism – antisemitism – the word “philosemitism” was invented by avowed antisemites as a sneering term of denunciation for their opponents. Almost all late nineteenth-century opponents of antisemitism strenuously sought to defend themselves from the charge of philosemitism, insisting instead that they regarded the Jews neutrally and were untainted by prejudice either for or against them. This normalization of attitudes toward Jews has remained the aim of almost all liberal engagements in the field of Jewish–non-Jewish relations, both by Jews and by non-Jews, and from this dominant perspective philosemitism is almost always regarded as deeply suspicious, sharing with antisemitism a trafficking in distorted, exaggerated, and exceptionalist views of Jews and Judaism. Taking these distortions as the essential hallmark of antisemitism, it has seemed reasonable to many to regard philosemitism as a counterfeit benevolence, and philosemites, as Daniel Goldhagen has described them, as “antisemites in sheep's clothing.”

Yet this negative assessment of philosemitism is itself one-sided and prejudicial. Since the period of antiquity favorable characterizations of the Jewish people have recurrently formed a quiet counterpoint to the more familiar hostile stereotypes.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Kinzig, Wolfram, “Philosemitismus Teil I: Zur Geschichte des Begriffs,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 105 (1994): 208–28
Fischer, Lars, The Socialist Response to Antisemitism in Imperial Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Zimmermann, Moshe, Wilhelm Marr: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987)
Goldhagen, Daniel, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York: Vintage, 1997)
Levy, Richard and Lindemann, Albert, Antisemitism – a History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010)
Langmuir, Gavin, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990)
Rappaport, Salomon, Jew and Gentile: The Philosemitic Aspect (New York: Philosophical Library, 1980)
Edelstein, Alan, An Unacknowledged Harmony: Philo-Semitism and the Survival of European Jewry (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1982)
Rubinstein, William D. and Rubinstein, Hilary, Philosemitism: Admiration and Support for Jews in the English-Speaking World, 1840–1939 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999)
Kinzig, Wolfram, “Philosemitismus Teil I” and “Philosemitismus Teil II: Zur historiographischen Verwendung des Begriffs,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 105 (1994): 360–83
Bunzl, Matti, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Hatreds Old and New in Europe (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm, 2007)
Stern, Frank, The Whitewashing of the Yellow Badge: Antisemitism and Philosemitism in Postwar Germany (London: Heinemann, 1991)
Cheyette, Bryan, Constructions of “the Jew” in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations 1875–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)
Schoeps, Hans Joachim, Philosemitismus im Barock (Tübingen: Mohr, 1952)
Benbassa, Esther and Rodrigue, Aron, Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th–20th Centuries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000)
Cohen, Marc, Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995)
Gager, John, The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983)
Assmann, Jan, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997)
Momigliano, Arnaldo, The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990)
Boyarin, Daniel, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)
Cohen, Jeremy, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999)
Coudert, Allison P. and Shoulson, Jeffrey, eds., Hebraica Veritas? Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)
Coudert, Allison P., The Impact of the Kabbalah in the Seventeenth Century: The Life and Thought of Francis Mercury von Helmont (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999)
Sutcliffe, Adam, Judaism and Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Muslow, Martin and Popkin, Richard H., Secret Conversions to Judaism in Early Modern Europe (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2004)
Schechter, Ronald, Obstinate Hebrews: Representations of Jews in France, 1715–1815 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003)
Popkin, , Secret Conversions, 183–232; Eitan Bar-Yosef, The Holy Land in English Culture 1799–1917 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)
Scult, Mel, Millennial Expectations and Jewish Liberties (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978)
Robertson, Ritchie, “‘Dies hohe Lied der Duldung’? The Ambiguities of Toleration in Lessing's Die Juden and Nathan der Weise,” Modern Language Review 93 (1998): 105–20
Goetschel, Willi, Spinoza's Modernity: Mendelssohn, Lessing and Heine (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004)
Rose, Gillian, Judaism and Modernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993)
Mittelman, Willard, “Nietzsche's Attitudes toward the Jews,” Journal of the History of Ideas 49 (1988): 301–17
Santaniello, Weaver, Nietzsche, God, and the Jews (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994)
Yovel, Yirmiyahu, Dark Riddle: Hegel, Nietzsche, and the Jews (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998)
Rosenblatt, Jason, Renaissance England's Chief Rabbi: John Selden (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
Biale, David, “Masochism and Philosemitism: The Strange Case of Leopold von Sader-Masoch,” Journal of Contemporary History 17 (1982): 305–23
Massey, Irving, Philo-Semitism in Nineteenth-Century German Literature (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2000)
Hastings, Adrian, The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)
Kidd, Colin, British Identities before Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)
Ballantyne, Tony, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002)
Kidd, Colin, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Parfitt, Tudor, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2002)
Alpert, Michael, “Dr Angel Pulido and Philo-Sephardism in Spain,” Jewish Historical Studies 40 (2005): 105–21
Rohr, Isabelle, The Spanish Right and the Jews, 1898–1945 (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2007)
Deutscher, Isaac, The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968)
Slezkine, Yuri, The Jewish Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004)
Karp, Jonathan, The Politics of Jewish Commerce: Economic Thought and Emancipation in Europe 1638–1848 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)
Feldman, David, Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture, 1840–1914 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994)
Vital, David, A People Apart: A Political History of the Jews in Europe, 1789–1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)
Levene, Mark, “The Balfour Declaration: A Case of Mistaken Identity,” English Historical Review 107 (1992): 54–77
Renton, James, “The Historiography of the Balfour Declaration: Toward a Multi-Causal Framework,” Journal of Israeli History 19 (1998): 109–28
Renton, James, The Zionist Masquerade: The Birth of the Anglo-Zionist Alliance, 1914–1918 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
Piterberg, Gabriel, The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel (London: Verso, 2008)
Picker, John M., “George Eliot and the Sequel Question,” New Literary History 37 (2006): 361–88
Levenson, Alan T., “Writing the Philosemitic Novel: Daniel Deronda Revisited,” Prooftexts 28 (2008): 129–56
Shalev, Eran, “‘A Perfect Republic’: The Mosaic Constitution in Revolutionary New England, 1775–1788,” New England Quarterly 82 (2009): 235–63
Whalen, Robert K., “‘Christians Love the Jews!’: The Development of Christian Philosemitism, 1790–1860,” Religion and American Culture 6 (1996): 225–59
Goldman, Shalom, “‘Nabokov's Minyan’: A Study in Philo-Semitism,” Modern Judaism 25 (2005): 1–22
Foer, Franklin, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization (New York: Harper, 2010
Cahill, Thomas, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (New York: Random House, 1998
Haag, Ernest, The Jewish Mystique (New York: Stein and Day, 1969
Yovel, Yirmiyahu, The Other Within: The Marranos: Split Identity and Emerging Modernity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009