anti-Zionist racism



Jews can look like anyone. Though historically racialized, the Jewish people are a nation and ethnoreligious group — that is, an ethnic group with a common religious practice — not a race.  Thanks to a variety of factors, including forced displacement, sexual violence, genocide, conversion, and more, the skin color of a Jewish person can range from very pale to very dark. Jewishness is not a skin color.

Statistically speaking, most Jews look similar to neighboring Mediterranean cultures. Dark hair and eyes are most common. Studies have found that the stereotypical hooked “Jewish nose” is no less common among Jews than among other neighboring Mediterranean populations. 

All this said, descriptions of Jews dating all the way back to Biblical times mention blond hair and especially red hair; according to tradition, King David was a redhead. There is nothing about red hair or blond hair that suggests that person is any more or any less Middle Eastern. 

The above is how the Ancient Egyptians might’ve classified race. The circled figure is how they depicted those coming from the region of the Levant, including Israel, and Mesopotamia. 



Antisemitism has managed to survive for thousands of years because it adapts quickly and easily. Antisemitism always, without fail, characterizes Jews as whatever is least desirable in any particular society.

Discussions about race and antisemitism must be especially nuanced. Race is a changing social construct, meaning that what is or isn’t considered a “race” might vary among different cultures, time periods, and societies. For instance, what is now considered a race in the United States — for example, the “white race” — was understood differently in Nazi Germany, where the Nazis considered themselves members of the “Aryan race,” and others that might be considered white today, such as Slavs, were regarded as racially inferior. 

To sum it up: when white people are considered the good guys, Jews are not white. When white people are considered the bad guys, Jews are white. 

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than comparing how a white supremacist and an anti-Zionist would describe the exact same Jewish person today. White supremacists see all Jews, regardless of their skin color, as non-white, and even accuse white-skinned Jews of trying to trick their way into the white race. Yet an anti-Zionist would accuse the same Jew of being a white person colonizing the brown people of Palestine. 

It’s really stunning to see people today describe Israelis as collectively “blond and blue-eyed,” when just 79 years ago, the Nazis persecuted us precisely because they believed that we were not blond and blue-eyed, instead believing us to be dark haired and dark eyed. In fact, one 2006 study found that, as Jews have long claimed, light-eyed and light-haired Jews were likelier to survive the Holocaust, presumably because it was easier for them to pass as non-Jews, since their physical appearance defied Nazi stereotypes. 



Anti-Judaism is bigotry, prejudice, and/or discrimination of Jews based only on religion. Antisemitism is bigotry, prejudice, and/or discrimination of Jews based on religion, culture, and/or ethnicity. In other words, anti-Judaism is always antisemitism, but antisemitism is not always anti-Judaism.

Much — but not all — of the early anti-Jewish sentiment and persecution in Europe was motivated by anti-Judaism. The persecution of Jews based on the antisemitic conspiracy of deicide — the ahistorical claim that Jews killed Jesus — for example, stems from anti-Judaism. Jews were persecuted on the basis that they had chosen to reject Jesus and Christendom. 

Racial antisemitism is a form of antisemitism separate from anti-Judaism, although, of course, there’s always overlap, particularly where conspiracy theories and tropes are concerned. 

Racial antisemitism has historically manifested in a number of different ways. The myth that Jews have horns on our heads is perhaps the oldest physical stereotype of the Jewish body. Jewish men have historically been stereotyped as weak and effeminate. Other physical stereotypes include large and “hooked” noses, dark beady eyes, and curly hair. European depictions of witches were largely based on antisemitic stereotypes.

Other forms of racial antisemitism include the dehumanization of Jews as vermin, insects, and wolves, as well as other sub-human characterizations. 



In the past four years that I’ve been doing this work online, I’ve noticed that anti-Zionists are obsessed — I mean, obsessed — with the physical appearance of Jews, particularly that of Israeli Jews. While they believe that they are doing this to advocate for the justice of the “brown, native” Palestinians, in reality their obsession with what Jews look like is no different than that of antisemites of the past.

A very common conspiracy, for example, is that Israel has the highest skin cancer rate in the Middle East, which they say must mean that Israeli skin is not native to the region and cannot handle the climate. Of course, this is absurd. Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer, and Israel does not have the highest skin cancer rate in the Middle East. Lebanon does.

Anti-Zionists consistently describe Israelis as “white,” when, in reality, not only do most Israeli Jews come from Middle Eastern and North African diaspora communities, but Israel is a multiethnic society, with a large Arab/Palestinian minority, as well as Ethiopian Jews, Druze, and many others. There is overwhelming genetic and historic evidence that Ashkenazi Jews are of paternal Middle Eastern descent. In fact, Ashkenazi Jews are more closely related to Palestinians than to any Eastern, Central, or Western European ethnic group.  

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a conflict about race or skin color. It just isn’t, and framing it as such relies on antisemitic tropes about the Jewish “race.”


This map depicts the average skin tones for native populations by region. If you believe native Middle Easterners only come in one skin tone, that is more reflective of your racist and orientalist perceptions of the region than anything else. 



The word “Semitic” comes from Semitic languages, a branch of Afroasiatic languages. Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew, for instance, are three examples of Semitic languages.

In the Middle Ages, Europeans believed all Asiatic peoples — including Jews — descended from Shem (where the term “Semite” comes from), one of the sons of Noah. By the 19th century, Europeans believed that Jews were members of a distinct “Semitic” race.

In the 1800s, race theorist Arthur de Gobineau claimed that three distinct races existed: white, black, and yellow. Among the “white” races was the “Aryan” race, which had remained “the purest” over time. Meanwhile, other “races,” such as the “Semitic” Jews from the Middle East, were a “dirty,” mixed race made up of white, black, and yellow ancestry. This idea that the Jews were “diluting” or “soiling” the white Aryan race was later adopted by the Nazis. It’s still very much present among white supremacists, who claim Jews are trying to “trick” their way into the white race to enact a “white genocide.”

The word “antisemitism” itself was coined in the 1870s by an antisemite in Germany to replace the previously used term “Jew-hatred,” as “antisemitism” sounded scientific, which “legitimized” it (as in: “I’m an antisemite, not a Jew-hater!” Sound familiar?). 



The Spanish Inquisition and subsequent expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492 is usually associated with antisemitism on a religious basis. What many do not know, however, is that racial antisemitism played a significant role in the persecution of Jews in Spain.

During the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were faced with three choices: convert to Christianity, leave Spain, or die. Understandably, many Jews chose to convert. These Jews were known as “conversos” or “New Christians.” Unbeknownst to them, however, not only were they distrusted, but they would still be persecuted.

The Spanish nobility had developed an ideology known as “limpieza de sangre,” or cleanliness of blood. According to this ideology, New Christians were racially inferior to Spaniards. In 1449, New Christians in Toledo were subjected to anti-Jewish riots and banned from official positions. After 1478, New Christians were officially persecuted exactly as Jews were. This policy later extended to Portugal, Peru, Mexico, and Colombia.

The Spanish Inquisition was not formally disbanded until 1834.



“Scientific racism” (also known as “biological racism”) is a pseudoscientific form of racism that claims there is scientific evidence to justify racial discrimination or the belief that some races are inferior or superior to others. Scientific racism reached its peak and “legitimacy” between 1870 and the end of World War II. The Nazis applied the theories of scientific racism to antisemitism, which in turn was one of the main factors that fueled the Holocaust.

The Nazis believed that it was your “Jewish blood” that determined your Jewishness. In the Nazi hierarchy of race, Jews were placed at the very bottom. The Nazis justified the Jewish genocide with the belief that they had to eradicate the defective “Jewish racial traits.”

The Nuremberg Laws were a set of antisemitic, racist laws enacted in Nazi Germany on September 15, 1935. The laws banned marriages and extramarital relations between Jews and those of “German blood,” as well as banned the employment of German women under 45 in Jewish homes. Most importantly, the Nuremberg Laws stripped Jews of their German citizenship and revoked their civil rights. In November of 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were expanded to define who was or was not Jewish. Those with only one or two Jewish grandparents were considered “Mischlings,” or “half-breeds,” a categorization below full-blooded German citizens. Like full Jews, Mischlings were still persecuted, subjected to forced labor, and murdered during the Holocaust. In Eastern Europe, the Nazis made no distinction between “Mischlings” and “full blooded” Jews.

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