8 ways you are gaslighting Jews

“I cannot be antisemitic because…”

Stop right there. No one is incapable of perpetrating antisemitic conspiracies or tropes. Yes, even Jews.

“The widely-accepted definition of antisemitism silences criticism of Israel.”

No, it does not. In fact, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism very clearly states that criticism of Israel is not antisemitic: “[C]riticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

The vast majority of Jews and experts on antisemitism support the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. If the definition of antisemitism silences you, perhaps that is because you are an antisemite.

“I’m not antisemitic; I’m anti-Zionist.”

First, it’s not up to you to decide whether you are or are not antisemitic. Second, if that were true, you’d be vandalizing Evangelical churches, not synagogues. After all, Evangelicals are the biggest donors to the conservative “pro-Israel” lobby.

Zionism, as defined by the vast majority of the world’s Jews, is the movement for Jewish self-determination in our ancestral land. No more, no less. Beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find anything else Zionists actually agree on. Self-determination is a basic tenet of international law. Surveys consistently show that 89-97% of Jews identity as Zionists to some capacity. Hating 89-97% of Jews is still hating Jews.

Every single country — every last one — that has ever outlawed “Zionism” immediately went on to persecute its Jewish population, including prominent anti-Zionists. Meanwhile, non-Jews supportive of Zionism have never experienced such persecution. So even if there is a difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the world has made it clear to us over and over again that it sees no distinction between “Jews” and “Zionists.”

“Jews are the most disproportionately targeted minority in the United States because they overreport hate crimes, compared to other marginalized groups.”

First, even if this were true, the sheer amount of hate crimes that are reported, compared to the small Jewish population (2.4% of the United States is Jewish), is still an incredibly disproportionate number. Second, this is simply untrue.

The most frequently targeted subset of the Jewish population in the United States is the insular Orthodox Jewish community in the New York City area. According to Rabbi David Neiderman, the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, most antisemitic incidents go unreported, as reporting is time-consuming and can interfere with religious observance (e.g. Shabbat). He states: “It’s very difficult to get someone to complain…I know it’s underreported.”

Jewish college students are the second most targeted. They, too, underreport. According to a comprehensive 2021 survey from the Anti-Defamation League and Hillel International, only 37% of Jewish college students reported antisemitic property damage, 24% reported antisemitic slurs, and only 23% reported incidents that they experienced in person.

“Why are you focusing on left-wing antisemitism? Right-wing antisemitism is more dangerous.”

Actually, you’re fundamentally misunderstanding how antisemitism and antisemitic conspiracy spreads. Historically, left-wing and right-wing antisemitism haven’t worked independently of each other, but rather, have worked together. Both utilize the same ancient antisemitic tropes and conspiracies and the same virulently antisemitic texts (e.g. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion inspired both fascist, far-right Nazi antisemitism and communist, far-left Soviet antisemitism).

When antisemitism rises on the left, Jews on the political left and left of center, which is the majority of us in the United States (71% of American Jews are Democrats), are left politically homeless and unprotected from violent right-wing antisemitism. This creates a ripe environment for right-wing antisemitism of the Nazi and white supremacist ilk to fester.

When a left-wing antisemite publishes antisemitic texts, conspiracies, or lists of Jews (or “Zionists”), we know that it’s only a matter of time before they fall into the hands of Nazis. A perfect example is the recent “Mapping Project,” created by a left-wing antisemite, which was a map depicting “Zionist organizations” in Massachusetts, including Jewish summer camps, disability centers, nonprofits, and more. Unsurprisingly, Goyim TV, a white supremacist video-sharing website, quickly picked up the map and shared it with its viewers.

“How can Jews be oppressed? They are rich.”

Well, that’s your antisemitism speaking. Though there are wealthy Jews — just as there are wealthy folks of every race, ethnicity, religion, and/or nationality — poverty is a very real and pressing issue in the Jewish community. 
Antisemitic conspiracies about supposed Jewish power and wealth go back thousands of years and are super deeply ingrained in society. It seems that they’ve been ingrained in you, too. 
Here’s the reality: currently, there are about 7 million Jews in the United States, including a little under 2 million in New York, where Jewish poverty is a major issue. About 1/5 of Jewish homes in New York state are living under the poverty line. About 1/10 of Jewish homes in New York state are considered “near poor.” Between 16-20% of Jewish households in the United States earn less than $30,000, and 7% earn less than $15,000. 
As of 2013, 42% of senior Jewish households in New York lived under the poverty line. Among Russian-speaking senior Jews, 72% lived under the poverty line. Nearly 45% of all Hasidic households lived in poverty. Among families with a disability, 54% lived in poverty. 
One third of Holocaust survivors in the United States are poor. In New York, 52% of Holocaust survivors live in poverty. Among Soviet Jewish Holocaust survivors, the statistics are even more harrowing, with 80% living in poverty. 

Additionally, rich or not, that has never saved Jews from being violently targeted by antisemites.

“Why does the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism matter? It’s not like an antisemite will consult the definition before they spread antisemitism.”

Well, of course no antisemite will check the definition of antisemitism before spreading antisemitism. That’s not why the IHRA definition matters. It matters because it can help governments and institutions monitor antisemitic trends; educate the public on the sneaky nature of antisemitism; pass laws, guidelines, and regulations to protect Jews; and more.

For example: a person who is not antisemitic might hear an antisemitic dogwhistle and think nothing of it (that’s why it’s called a “dogwhistle”: only dogs can hear it). But, for example, a white supremacist could hear the very same dogwhistle and take it as a free pass to hurt Jews. That’s why the general public needs to be educated on how antisemitism presents itself and spreads. To the untrained eye, antisemitism can be very hard to catch. For example, in the Soviet Union, while Jews were being systemically targeted in the name of “anti-Zionism,” non-Jewish folks in the United States continuously gaslit the Jewish community, telling us that the Soviets were only after Zionists, not Jews. In reality, all Jews were persecuted.

“It’s not antisemitism; it’s the truth: Jews really do run Hollywood/the music industry/banks/etc.”

Once again, this is your antisemitism speaking. Even though there are certainly Jews in positions of power and privilege — just as there are folks of all races, ethnic groups, religions, and/or nationalities in positions of power and privilege — that doesn’t mean that the Jewish People as a collective are powerful and privileged. Believe it or not, we don’t have a collective bank account we all share or super secret meetings where we all conspire to manipulate Hollywood to do our bidding.

Historically, Jews were banned from numerous professions, which is why many of us gravitated toward other industries. For example, in the Middle Ages in Europe, Jews were not allowed into most occupations, except for money-lending. Thus, the stereotype of Jews as bankers was born. In the early 20th century, Jews faced serious barriers and economic discrimination, which prompted many to create their own opportunities — for many, these opportunities took them to Hollywood.
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