9 antisemitism myths

 

ANTISEMITISM ENDED WITH THE HOLOCAUST 

Antisemitism neither began nor ended with the Holocaust. Known as the world’s oldest hatred, antisemitism is a virus that has persisted for over two millennia because it transforms, adapts, and mutates as it sees fit. Only a few years after the Holocaust, the entire Jewish population of the Middle East and North Africa was ethnically cleansed, decimating communities that once stood in the hundreds of thousands to just a few hundred Jews in most countries in the region. The Soviet Union systemically oppressed the Jewish People, and that legacy persists in Russia and Eastern Europe to this day. Though only 2% of the American population, Jews are overwhelmingly the targets of religious hate crimes in the US (56.7% as of 2018). Antisemitic bombings, shootings, and stabbings are commonplace from Latin America to Europe to North America. 

 

ANTISEMITISM ONLY EXISTS ON THE FRINGE 

AntIsemItism is cyclical. During periods of relative calm, it might only be visible on the far left and the far right. During times of social unrest, it starts to seep into the mainstream. We’ve seen this time and time again in history, from Nazi Germany to the surge of antisemitism in Venezuela in the past couple of decades. In recent months, we’ve seen fringe antisemitic conspiracies on both the right and the left grow more and more mainstream (for example, QAnon on the right and the conspiracy that Israel is responsible for police brutality in the US on the left). 

Antisemitism is also institutionalized. Western society was built on it. It is everywhere, embedded in the languages we speak, depicted in our children’s books, and more. You inevitably will have some antisemitic biases, and it is your responsibility to tackle them. 

 

JUDAISM IS LIKE ANY OTHER RELIGION

Believe it or not, the word “Judaism” is not mentioned once in the Torah (the holy book of the Jewish People). That’s because the Jewish People are an ethnic group and a tribe. Following the Roman expulsion of the Jewish People from their indigenous land, Judaism became the vehicle in which Jews preserved their tribal beliefs, traditions, practices, and laws no matter where the diaspora took them. 

It’s important not to look at Judaism or the Jewish People through a Western lens. Though Judaism is classified as a religion in the Western sense, that classification cannot even begin to encompass what it means to be a Jew. The most observant Orthodox Jew is no more Jewish than an atheist Jew. This is not the case in other religions, such as Islam and Christianity. 

 

ANTI-ZIONISM IS NOT ANTISEMITISM 

Not only do 95% of the world’s Jews beg to differ, but historically, this couldn’t be father from the truth. 

Anti-Zionism is antisemitism for several reasons: 

(1) Zionism is a movement for the self-determination of the Jewish People in their indigenous land. Zionism is over 2000 years old: a longing to return home and self-govern since Jews were expelled from their homeland. Self-determination is a basic tenet of international law. Zionists exist on all ends of the political spectrum. Palestinians are fighting for self-determination. So are Kurds and a whole host of other groups. If we believe all peoples have a right to self-determination, why is it that this should not apply to Jews?

(Please note: as Zionism is a Jewish movement, it should be defined by Jews and by Jews alone). 

For what it’s worth, 83% of American Zionist Jews support Palestinian self-determination. 

(2) Jews have been murdered in the name of anti-Zionism for nearly a century, first in the Soviet Union and later all throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Today, Jews are murdered in the name of anti-Zionism across the globe, from France and Germany to Argentina. We need to call a spade a spade. 

(3) antisemitism is a virus that adapts. Though in most circles today it’s unacceptable to say that you hate Jews, hating Zionists is fair game. But if you say that you hate Zionists, what you mean to say is that you hate 95% of Jews. 

 

JEWS ARE WEALTHY AND POWERFUL 

Not only is this one of the oldest antisemitic tropes in the book, but it’s one that has gotten Jews murdered since at least the Middle Ages. 

In the Middle Ages, Jews were banned from practicing most professions in Europe. The Catholic Church, however, forbade Christians from handling money, as it was considered dirty. Therefore, Jews turned to money-lending to survive. This resulted in stereotypes that Jews are wealthy, greedy, and powerful. 

Additionally, the 1903 publication of an antisemitic hoax called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion reignited old conspiracies that there is a powerful cabal of Jews that controls foreign governments and plots to take over the world. 

Understand that antisemitism is insidious. Terms like globalists, Zionists, and Rothschilds are often code words for Jew. 

This myth is one that is particularly dangerous because it implies that Jews couldn’t possibly be oppressed and makes Jews the perfect scapegoat for any and all problems. It also means that many don’t take the threat of antisemitism seriously. 

 

JEWS CRY ANTISEMITISM TO SILENCE PALESTINIANS 

This myth is extremely harmful to Jews and Palestinians alike. Antisemitism is a virus that is over 2000 years old and far precedes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Antisemitic violence is on the rise in the United States and Europe, quite often under the guise of pro-Palestinian activism. Movements like BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) violently target Jews in the diaspora that have absolutely nothing to do with Israel, which perpetuates the antisemitic trope that all Jews are responsible for the sins or perceived sins of other Jews. The antisemitic sentiment within BDS is so blatant that a 2019 UN report came to the conclusion that the movement is indeed antisemitic. 

Additionally, one of the most harmful antisemitic tropes is that Jews exaggerate antisemitism, encourage antisemitism, or provoke antisemitism as a means to an end. For example, some people think that Jews caused or invented the Holocaust to obtain Israel. Not only is this rhetoric extremely dangerous, but it’s blatantly untrue. 

Please listen to Jews when we say something is antisemitic. It’s up to us to define our own oppression, as we are its victims. Fighting for Palestinian liberation and self-determination is important, but not at the expense of Jewish safety. Hating Jews is not going to liberate Palestinians. It’s just going to hurt Jews. 

 

JEWS/ISRAELIS/ZIONISTS ARE THE NEW NAZIS 

No matter how terrible or bigoted a Jew is, you should never, ever compare them to a Nazi. 

There is no country in the world that absorbed more Holocaust survivors than Israel. Around 200,000 of them are still alive today. Israel is the only country in the entire world with a Jewish population that is more than 2%. It’s a nation that is still grappling with the collective intergenerational trauma of the Holocaust. Jews as a whole are too. 

It’s been 75 years since the Holocaust and the Jewish population in the entire world has yet to recover. Tokenizing and weaponizing our own genocide against us is not only antisemitic and offensive, but does absolutely nothing for Palestinians.   

There are plenty of ways to call out bigotry that do not involve throwing our trauma in our face. 

 

JEWS SHOULD GO BACK TO EUROPE/JEWS HAVE NO CLAIM TO ISRAEL-PALESTINE 

Not only is this an erasure of Mizrahi (Middle East/Western Asia), Sephardic (North Africa), Beta Israel (Ethiopian), Bene Israel (Indian), Kaifeng (Chinese), Mountain and Bukharan (Central Asian), Amazigh (North African), Cochin (Indian), Bene Ephraim (Indian), Bene Menashe (Indian), and other Jews of color, but the fact of the matter is that all ethnic Jews (including Ashkenazi or “European” Jews) are indigenous to the region of Israel/Palestine, as proven by DNA studies, archeology, and other cultural factors, such as the fact that Jews observe the Hebrew calendar, which follows the agricultural cycle of Israel/Palestine. 

I recommend you read my post STOP WHITEWASHING JEWS for more information on this. 

Jews were taken to Europe as slaves. Additionally, Jews have been exiled, mass murdered, and ethnically cleansed from every corner of Europe time and time again throughout history. Jews were never safe in Europe. Telling us to go back to Europe is not only an erasure of our indigenous identity and of Jews of color, but extremely offensive because we were never welcomed there. 

The Jewish claim to the land should not negate the Palestinian claim, and vice versa. 

 

ANTISEMITISM IS A RIGHT-WING PROBLEM 

Antisemitism is a massive problem on every end of the political spectrum. I recommend you read my post WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT LEFT-WING ANTISEMITISM for more information. 

The left is just as susceptible (sometimes even more susceptible) than the right to antisemitic conspiracy theories. It’s important to understand that only a minority of antisemites outrightly say or believe that they hate Jews. Most antisemitism is much more insidious, which is precisely what makes antisemitism so dangerous. 

Currently, only 13% of antisemitic hate crimes in the United States come from the far right. 

Historically, the left has oppressed Jews just as much as the right. The Soviet Union systemically oppressed the Jewish People, massacring them, restricting their rights, ethnically cleansing them, and even outright planning a genocide at one point (that thankfully never came to fruition thanks to Stalin’s sudden death). 

If you want to be an ally, you must condemn antisemitism wherever it comes from, ESPECIALLY when it comes from people, organizations, or movements that you otherwise respect and support.