a new and improved guide: how to be an ally to Jews

As a non-Jewish person, you must understand 5 things: 

(1) antisemitism is known as the world’s oldest hatred, and as such, it’s embedded into the fabric of our society. It’s a central tenet and one of the two main driving forces of white supremacy. THERE IS NO DISMANTLING WHITE SUPREMACY WITHOUT DISMANTLING ANTISEMITISM. 

(2) no matter who you are or what you believe in, YOU HAVE ANTISEMITIC BIASES THAT YOU MUST WORK TO DISMANTLE. The world as we know it today was built on antisemitism, and as such, it’s impossible that you have not internalized at least some of it. 

(3) ANTISEMITISM FUNCTIONS VERY DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER FORMS OF BIGOTRY. While racism, for instance, dehumanizes its victims, antisemitism positions Jews as “superior” beings, considering us conniving, evil, and, most importantly, powerful. Therefore, because of your own antisemitic biases, you might think that we are actually not oppressed or that we’re exaggerating or self-victimizing. That’s not true. That’s your antisemitism speaking. 

(4) ANTISEMITISM KILLS. In recent years, the entire remaining Jewish population of Yemen was decimated in an act of ethnic cleansing and genocide. While Jews only form 2% of the American population, we are the victims of over 50% of religiously motivated hate crimes [FBI annual report on hate crimes]. We are the most targeted religious minority in the United States. Only 13% of antisemitic hate crimes come from the far right [ADL annual report on antisemitic incidents]. The rest come from “regular” people, just like you. 

(5) antisemitism is not exclusively a left-wing or a right-wing problem. ANTISEMITISM EXISTS — VIOLENTLY — EVERYWHERE ON THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM. Antisemitism works by isolating Jews. We have few (if any) true allies (tokenizing Jews is not allyship). We are left stranded — and vulnerable. 

 

UNDERSTAND THAT YOU HAVE ANTISEMITIC BIASES. 

Antisemitism is embedded into the world’s bones. It’s everywhere. In our institutions, in our folklore, in the languages that we speak. 

In Europe, Jews were massacred, exiled, and scapegoated for 2000 years. We were blamed for everything from the Black Death to Germany’s losses in WWI. 

In Southwest Asia (the Middle East), Central Asia, South Asia, and North Africa, Jews were massacred, relegated to second-class citizenship (or no citizenship at all), and stripped of our identities more times than it’s possible to count for the last 3000 years. 

Jews were persecuted and massacred in Latin America at the hands of the Spanish and Portuguese since their arrival in 1492. 

With such a stained history, it’s impossible that you don’t have at least some antisemitic biases engrained in your head. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do the work to get it out of there. Instead of responding with defensiveness or excuses when called out, reflect, unpack, take the time to learn, and do better next time. 

If you are a POC, understand that white supremacy uses antisemitism as a tool to divide and conquer. Scapegoating Jews (often under euphemisms, such as “Zionist” or “Israel”) for issues such as police brutality or slavery not only lets the real perpetrators off the hook, but creates deep and painful divisions between Jews and other communities. Also understand that there are many Jews with intersecting identities — Black, Native, Latinx, LGBTQ, etc. — and that division hurts us most of all. It leaves us stranded and vulnerable. 

 

UNDERSTAND THAT YOU’VE BEEN TAUGHT JEWISH HISTORY AND IDENTITY WRONG. 

First of all, we are NOT merely a religious group. WE ARE AN ETHNIC GROUP INDIGENOUS TO THE REGION OF ISRAEL/PALESTINE AND ONE OF THE OLDEST TRIBES IN THE WORLD (our tribe is almost 5000 years old). 

This is proven archeological, historical, genetic, cultural, and scientific fact. There are hundreds of studies on this, and as such, it’s considered scientific consensus. 

Erasing our identity — one that we’ve been stripped of over and over again through colonization — is violent, harmful, antisemitic, and a function of white supremacy.

[Our indigneity does not and should not erase Palestinian indigeneity. If you believe that it does, then you have some serious antisemitic biases to dismantle]. 

Understand that our history and our persecution extends far, far beyond the Holocaust. In fact, you’ve been taught the Holocaust all wrong [I have a post called READ THIS BEFORE YOU EVER COMPARE ANYTHING TO THE HOLOCAUST that you might find helpful. I also have a post called AN ALMOST COMPLETE LIST OF ANTISEMITIC MASSACRES, GENOCIDES, AND ETHNIC CLEANSING, which might give you some important insight into the scope of our oppression].

 

THREE IMPORTANT THINGS FOR NON-JEWISH LEFTISTS/PROGRESSIVES TO UNDERSTAND:

(1) first and foremost, ONLY JEWS GET TO DECIDE WHAT IS OR ISN’T ANTISEMITIC. If you are called out for antisemitism, the likelihood is that you are, indeed, being antisemitic. Only we can define our own oppression, as we are its victims. 

(2) 95% of Jews identify as Zionists [Mellman Group, among multiple other studies]. Zionism is the Jewish right to self-determination in our ancestral land. SELF-DETERMINATION IS CONSIDERED A BASIC TENET OF INTERNATIONAL LAW. Zionism is a movement that’s been around for 2000 years, long before there was such thing as Israelis and Palestinians. It’s an indigenous liberation movement. Whatever you’ve heard about Zionism is incorrect — and probably antisemitic. But as we are only 0.2% of the world population, our voices are getting drowned by the antisemitism. 

Jewish self-determination and Palestinian self-determination should not be mutually exclusive. If you think that they are, then you are a bigot. 

Furthermore, as a non-Jew, Zionism is not for you. That means that you don’t get to tell us you’re “anti-Zionist.” It’s not your movement. It’s ours, and as such, we get to define it. 

(3) Jews have been murdered in the name of anti-Zionism for nearly 100 years now. ANTI-ZIONISM DID NOT ORIGINATE IN PALESTINE. It originated in the Soviet Union, as an alternative to antisemitism, because antisemitism was associated with Nazism — and the Nazis were the enemies of the Soviets. Anti-Zionist ideology, though, is chock full of antisemitic tropes. [read my posts 9 TIMES JEWS HAVE BEEN MURDERED UNDER THE GUISE OF ANTI-ZIONISM, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT LEFT-WING ANTISEMITISM, and A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTISEMITIC TROPES]. 

 

Okay, so you’ve been called out for antisemitism. 

Never ever excuse it, defend it, or deflect responsibility. Antisemitism, like any other form of bigotry, is absolutely inexcusable. Period. If you’ve been called out, don’t deflect by pointing to this Jewish friend or that Jewish friend. That’s absolutely not okay. 

Remember that antisemitism functions through conspiracy theories. Never deflect blame by claiming that Jews (or Zionists, or Israel, or “the Israel Lobby”) are conspiring against you. That’s feeding straight into the antisemitism. 

Instead, apologize, learn, and do the work to undo your antisemitic biases. 

Elevate Jewish voices — particularly the most marginalized Jewish voices. Understand that not everyone has had the experience of being a white-functioning Jew in the United States. The Jewish diaspora is vast and diverse, with a multitude of different truths and experiences. Not one Jew is the authority on all things Jewish. As such, not one Jew is the authority on what is or isn’t antisemitic. 

LISTEN TO THE JEWISH CONSENSUS. Don’t tokenize Jews that agree with you to prove a point. That’s gross behavior. 

At the same time, remember that we are not a monolith. We are real people, just like you. 

 

SOME ACTIONABLE ITEMS: 

(1) Learn about us from Jewish sources only. Make sure you are listening to a wide variety of Jewish voices and especially the most marginalized Jewish voices.

(2) stop putting the burden of fighting antisemitism on Jewish people. 

(3) learn all about antisemitic tropes. It’s the only way to catch antisemitism. Remember that antisemitism is insidious and can be hard to catch if you’re not well-informed.

(4) hold antisemitic activists, politicians, and celebrities accountable — especially when you otherwise agree with them. 

(5) Jews are 0.2% of the world population. There’s no way we can fight this 3000-year-old hatred by ourselves. Check in on your Jewish friends. 

(6) stop whitewashing our history and spreading lies about us. If you catch others doing it, call them out. Understand that you’ll receive backlash. That’s too bad. We receive it everyday just for existing. 

(7) don’t ever say you are “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic.” Ever. We are so sick and tired of hearing that. Plus, you don’t get to decide whether you are antisemitic or not. Jews do. 

(8) listen to Jews. Leave your ego at the door. Allow yourself to be challenged. It’s a good thing. Stop gaslighting us. You’re not right. 

(9) stop comparing everything to the Holocaust. Let us mourn in peace.