There is a gross misconception that is being pushed by right-wing Western extremists that Islamaphobia is not racism. Furthermore, among right-wing Zionists there is even a push to assert that to be anti-Zionist is to be anti-Semite.
Western right-wing extremists that are Islamaphobic argue simplistically that Islam is not a race and, therefore, it cannot be racist to be Islamaphobic. They ignore that discrimination against people because of their religion and/or culture is as much racist as discriminating against people because of their blood and biology.
In his piece published in the ‘Jerusalem Post’ on 3 December 2008 Clemens Heni, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, wrote:
Quite aside from the fact that Judaism embraces both a race and a religion, whereas Islam is strictly a religion, anti-Semitism is different than other forms of prejudice or racism. Whereas the racist view of blacks, for example, holds that they are "below" whites, anti-Semites think Jews are planning to rule the world. The Israel Lobby by American academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt is just one example of this viewpoint.
Firstly, Mearsheimer and Walt quite emphatically do not suggest that “Jews are planning to rule the world” as Heni deceitfully infers. They merely suggest that the Israel Lobby, which includes non-Jews such as Christian Zionists and neoconservatives and other pro-Israel Zionists who are not Jewish, wield an extraordinary amount of influence over US foreign policy with regard to the Middle East generally and the affairs of Israel particularly.
Nor is it entirely true to say that “Judaism embraces both a race and a religion…” Not all practitioners of Judaism are actually ‘Jewish’ by race yet it is quite properly accepted that to discriminate against people that call themselves ‘Jewish’ by religion and culture because they or, more likely, their ancestors converted to Judaism for what ever reason, is racism.
Zionism, however, doesn’t fall into any ‘racism’ category. Zionism is a right-wing political ideology that embraces Israeli nationalism and a notion of a Greater Israel that precludes Arabs (which, in itself, is racist). The fact that many, but certainly not all, of Zionism’s adherents happen to be Jewish is in fact incidental. Zionism is not a ‘race’, nor is it a ‘religion’ and it is not a ‘culture’ – it’s an ideology.
Heni also becomes confused with regards to how anti-Semites view Jews. He argues on one hand that anti-Semites do not view Jews in the same way as, “for example”, white racists view blacks, which is as being, as Heni says, “below” whites, yet in the very next paragraph Heni writes:
Anti-Semitism was the motif for the Holocaust. Those unprecedented crimes combined religious Jew-hatred, quasi-scientific racial theories, and modern anti-Semitism in all its forms, including a comprehensive worldview.
Those “quasi-scientific racial theories” were based around the Nazi perception that many races that were non-Germanic or Aryan races, including, but not exclusively, Jews, were “untermenschen” (sub-human). Those perceptions of racism, not just anti-Semitism, were the blueprint upon which the Holocaust were perpetrated; indeed, it was what made anti-Semitism no different at all from other “forms of prejudice or racism” as Heni otherwise says.
Contrary to Heni’s view that the Holocaust somehow made anti-Semitism unique, Heni should be aware that had Hitler prevailed over the USSR, the number of European Jewry that perished would have paled against the slaughter that Hitler and Himmler had planned for the peoples of Russia and the Slavic nations. The point is that the Holocaust wasn’t just about European Jewry; it was about what the Nazis believed was the superiority of the Germanic and Nordic races relative to virtually all other races.
Despite Heni’s view that ‘anti-Semitism isn’t the same as Islamaphobia’, from the point of view that anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia are both resultants of discriminatory attitudes, they are exactly the same – they are both very much racist.