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Word Count: 265
Anti- Semitism is political social and economic agitation and activities directed against Jews The term is now used to denote speech and behavior that is derogatory to people of Jewish origin whether or not they are religious The word Semitic originally was applied to all descendants of Shem the eldest son of the biblical patriarch Noah In later usage it refers to a group of peoples of southwestern Asia including both Jews and Arabs The word anti-Semitism was coined about 1879 to denote hostility toward Jews only Although the term was coined in 1879 anti-Jewish agitation has existed for several thousand years This hostility is supposedly justified by a theory first developed in Germany in the middle of the 19th century that peoples of so-called Aryan stock are superior in physique and character to those of Semitic stock Although all responsible ethnologists rejected the theory widely read books incorporating anti-Semitic doctrines were written by such men as the French diplomat and social philosopher Comte Joseph Arthur de Gobineau and the German philosopher and economist Eugen Duhring The theory of racial superiority was used to justify the civil and religious persecution of Jews that had existed throughout history Many explanations of the phenomenon of anti-Semitism have been advanced One theory widely accepted by social scientists suggests that anti-Semitism is nurtured in periods of social instability and crisis such as those existing in Germany in the 1880s and in the era preceding World War II from 1939 to 1945 Passions and frustrations engendered during such periods are theoretically deflected onto scapegoats for example an available isolated minority such as the Jews
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