Between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Some thoughts on the new Europe



The apparent resurgence of hostility against Jews has been a prominent theme in recent discussions of Europe. At the same time, the adversities of the Muslim populations on the continent have received increasing attention as well. In this article, I attempt a historical and cultural clarification of the key terms in this debate. I argue against the common impulse to analogize anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Instead, I offer an analytic framework that locates the two phenomena in different projects of exclusion. Anti-Semitism was invented in the late 19th century to police the ethnically pure nation-state; Islamophobia, by contrast, is a formation of the present, marshaled to safeguard a supranational Europe. Whereas traditional anti-Semitism has run its historical course with the supersession of the nation-state, Islamophobia threatens to become the defining condition of the new Europe.