Head to Head

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Old fears, new threats?

Jewish scholar Robert S Wistrich on whether all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, and the root causes of Islamophobia

Since recording this programme in February, Professor Wistrich, the foremost expert on anti-Semitism, died unexpectedly on May 19 2015. This is his last interview on Al Jazeera English.

Anti-Zionism is a new form of anti-Semitism, that is according to Professor Robert S. Wistrich who contends that, “in many quarters what anti-Zionism has become over three, four decades and especially more recently … is a kind of mask for an increasingly open form of demonisation, even slander of the essence of the whole Zionist project.”

I think it's an objective fact that there are passages very hostile to Jews in the Quran

by Robert S. Wistrich, Jewish scholar

In this episode of Head to Head, Mehdi Hasan challenges Robert S. Wistrich, one of the world’s leading scholars of anti-Semitism, on why he thinks criticism of Israeli policies is a modern manifestation of historical anti-Jewish hatred.

Is anti-Zionism a new form of anti-Semitism? Are boycotts driven by prejudice or principle? And is criticism of the Palestinians and the Muslim world Islamophobic?

In front of the Oxford Union audience, and with the help of an expert panel, we discuss the complex relationship between legitimate criticism of Israel and illegitimate racism.

Joining this discussion are:

• Hannah Weisfeld, the founder and director of Yachad, a pro-Israel, pro-peace movement
• Jonathan Arkush, the vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
• Richard Kuper, the founder of Jews for Justice for Palestinians 
• Sharif Nashashibi, a Palestinian commentator and former advisor to the UN

What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

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Head to Head is Al Jazeera’s forum of ideas, a gladiatorial contest tackling big issues such as faith, the economic crisis, democracy and intervention in front of an opinionated audience at the Oxford Union.

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