Canaanites, Philistines, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans all fought the ancient Jews, and no doubt hated them, yet this did not make antisemitism a meaningful issue in those days. Nevertheless, the heritage of ancient and mediaeval hostilities remains. Even now it is argued that a single category of antisemitism is inadequate to describe anti-Jewish sentiment. In Europe, Jews were generally negatively seen as powerful, while in the Middle East they were historically perceived as weak. The empowerment of the Jews after 1948 may have inclined Arab views closer to the traditional European stereotype.
There is also the problem of distinguishing between antisemitism, a hatred of Jews and a desire to do them harm, and anti-Zionism, opposition to Israel's existence and security. Since the vast majority of Jews supports Israel's existence and security, opposition to Israel strikes directly and personally at one-third of all Jews and indirectly at the other two-thirds related to that country by sentiment or family ties. Consequently, there is a real overlap between the two categories of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The dilemma of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has been to find ways to delegitimize Israel while not being discredited in the West as antisemitic. This has partly been done by calling Zionism a distortion of Judaism, which is then defined only as a religion. The state of Israel itself is portrayed as a creation of Western imperialism rather than a nationalistic expression of the Jews.
There is a sharp difference in anti-Jewish sentiment between east and west Europe. As a result of detailed surveys in 1991 in the former communist bloc countries, it is know that 61% of those questioned in the former Soviet Union are positively disposed towards Jews as compared to 18% in Austria. Majorities of Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and 44% of Poles view Jews as integral members of society, whereas one-third of Austrians believe that Jews are disliked generally and 19% want no Jews in their country. While 20% of East Germans took the view that Jew are overinfluential, the figure for West Germans was 44%. A 1992 poll of 3,000 Germans reported that 10% of West and 4% of East Germans wholly agreed with the statement : "It's the Jews' own fault that they have been persecuted so often in their history". A further 28 and 27%, respectively, found "a bit of truth" in the statement. Similar surveys in 1982 and 1987 found even higher degrees of anti-Semitism in West Germany. In 1992, 61% of French believed anti-semitism had grown in France in the past decade.