A new poll has revealed that most people in Britain do not understand the meaning of the word “anti-Semitism”.
The Deltapoll survey was conducted between 8 and 11 March 2019 and asked 2,000 British people, “In your own words, what do you understand by the term anti-Semitism?”
The JC, who first published the story, revealed that only 47 per cent of UK adults understood what the word “anti-Semitism” refers to.
The Jewish Chronicle reported:
More than half of adults aged 18 to 24 replied “don’t know” when asked to identify antisemitism.
Just 32 per cent of those aged between 22 and 37 years old identified it as “discrimination against Jewish people,” while 49 per cent said they did not know what antisemitism meant.
According to the poll, those aged 65 and over are much more familiar with the concept of antisemitism, with 71 per cent saying they understood it, compared to just 23 per cent who did not.
The result also revealed a difference between voters. Only 43 per cent of Labour voters in the 2017 general election said they understood antisemitism, with the same number saying they did not know what it was. Sixty three per cent of Conservative understood it, and 51 per cent of Lib Dems.
Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust, told the JC that one explanation for the poll result is that “antisemitism is a stupid and difficult word. When we use it with the media and the general public, we also have to explain what it actually means.”
As an organisation, CUFI is often explaining the meaning of the word anti-Semitism as “Jew-hatred” because some are unaware of its meaning.
It is safe to say that most British people know what racism is and specific forms of prejudice, Islamophobia, for example, is quite self-explanatory based on its name. Anti-Semitism, however, is a much harder word to explain.
We often hear this argument from anti-Semites that Jews are not the only Semites and that being anti-Semitic is not exclusive to the Jews. Some even go as far as claiming that Jews are trying to claim they are the only “Semites” and that they are “erasing the history of other Semitic people”. This is absolutely false.
The word “Anti-Semitism” is by definition “hostility, prejudice or discrimination against Jews”. The term was first used in Germany in 1879 by journalist Wilhelm Marr who was writing against the Jewish people. He used the word “Antisemitismus” to show opposition to the Jews as a people. Jews did not use this word or steal it, the term was originally used by those who hated the Jews and over time the official word for Jew hatred in English became anti-Semitism (or antisemitism).
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said “education” was the key to combatting such lack of understanding of racism against Jews. She added: “This poll is a sign that despite our efforts to reach out to the wider community about Jewish life, culture and history, there is still a great deal of ignorance.”
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said the results were “deeply concerning” — especially at a time when reported antisemitic incidents are increasing.
Deltapoll interviewed 2,001 British adults online between 8-11 March 2019. The data was weighted to be representative of the British adult population as a whole