Rabbi Sacks on Antisemitism

JInsider (March 2010)

What is antisemitism?

The short answer is this: there have been many definitions given, but the simplest is actually the earliest. The statement of perhaps the world’s first anti-semite, Haman in the Book of Esther. Haman says to Ahasuerus, “Yesh lo am echad mephuzah mephorad ben orhamim v’dataihem shenot mikol am.” There is one people scattered throughout the peoples whose religion is different from all others.

Antisemitism is dislike of the unlike. Jews were hated because they were different.

Now, you will say that everyone is different, and everyone is different. It’s just that Jews were the only people consistently throughout history who insisted on the right to be different, even the duty to be different. And so they became the only nation in history not to assimilate to the dominant culture or convert to the dominant faith. And that is why antisemitism is the paradigm case of hatred in world history.

And that is how we must fight antisemitism. Antisemitism begins with Jews, but it never ends with Jews. And the reason is because antisemitism is hatred of difference, but difference is what makes us human. Precisely because every one of us is different from every other one of us, each of us is unique, therefore irreplaceable, therefore sacred.

Therefore, a nation that has no room for Jews has no room for humanity. And that is why we must stand together in the fight against antisemitism, not just Jews, but everyone who cares for the sanctity of human life and the non-negotiable principles of freedom and dignity.