do Jews cry antisemitism?



Recently, a Jewish Journal article argued that Jews raising concern over Bradley Cooper’s use of a stereotypically “Jewish” prosthetic nose in Maestro makes us look “paranoid, thin-skinned, and insecure.”

Thus, the article implied that Jews are either seeing antisemitism where there is none or blowing minor antisemitism out of proportion. 

As someone who combats antisemitism every day, I not only found this incredibly offensive, echoing ancient stereotypes that Jews are spineless, weak, self-victimizing, and “cry antisemitism,” but also laughably inaccurate. 

Fighting antisemitism is terrifying. We are so outnumbered — only 0.2 percent of the world is Jewish, and there are far more antisemites than Jews — and we are fighting against the current of over 2000 years of systemic bigotry. 

Calling out antisemitism, whether “big” or “small,” takes a whole lot of courage and comes with scary consequences, such as exposing yourself to dangerous people. There’s nothing “paranoid, thin-skinned, and insecure” about it. On the contrary: fighting antisemitism takes thick skin and self-confidence in who you are. I should know — my skin has thickened considerably since I started doing this work. 



The antisemitic trope that Jews “cry antisemitism” — that is, that we see or invent antisemitism where there is none — is incredibly old. For thousands of years, since we were incorrectly and collectively blamed for the death of Jesus, antisemites have seen us as the aggressors, not the victims. Anything that was done to us was justified in the name of the greater good. 

Believe it or not, Jews were accused of “crying antisemitism” even while the Holocaust was unfolding. When Jews in the United States lobbied for a boycott of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the American public accused them of being “reactive and aggressive.” Both the right and the far left accused American Jews of trying to drag the United States into the war. In 1942, when reports of the Nazi extermination camps started coming out, the American public insisted the accounts were “exaggerated.”

Similarly, in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Soviet Union held its Jews hostage, denying them jobs, entry into universities, and more, Jews were accused of fabricating the reports on behalf of the State of Israel.

Today, as Jews, who form 2.4 percent of the American population but are targeted in 55 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes, people on the left accuse us of “over-reporting.” This is not only offensive (what does “over-reporting” hate crimes even mean? If something happened, it happened), but it’s also factually incorrect. 

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. 

Additionally, a December 2022 American Jewish Committee found that the FBI’s 2021 report on antisemitic hate crimes was deeply flawed. For example, thousands of crimes were not included in the report, and many blatantly antisemitic hate crimes were not classified as “antisemitic.”



The claim that Jews act like victims when we are not is pervasive to this day. Again, this ties back to the conspiracy that Jews are all-powerful and manipulative. How can we actually be victims when we supposedly control everything?

Perhaps the ugliest manifestation of this trope is the idea that Jews either orchestrated or fabricated the Holocaust to “be given” Israel. This is so antisemitic and historically inaccurate that it’s a form of Holocaust distortion, which is considered a form of Holocaust denial. This trope has been popular among neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Islamists — not to be confused with Muslims — for decades, but unfortunately it’s seeping into left-wing discourse as well. 

We see this “self-victimization” trope come up time and time again when Jews call out “criticism” of Israel shrouded in antisemitic conspiracies. To be clear, criticism of Israel is not antisemitic — what is antisemitic is projecting antisemitic tropes, conspiracies, and stereotypes onto the one Jewish state on the planet. 

We also see the trope come up when Jews object to terrorism in Israel, particularly terrorism targeting civilians. Terrorism is, per UN Resolution 49/60, “in all circumstances unjustifiable.” When terrorism targets civilians, it classifies as a war crime. Yet we are accused of “acting like victims” — despite the fact that the perpetrators of this terrorism have explicitly called for Jewish genocide time and time again — because of Israel’s real or perceived treatment of Palestinians. 



The stereotype that Jews are frail and sensitive dates all the way back to the Greek occupation of the Land of Israel. The Greeks highly valued sports and athleticism, while the Jewish leadership of the time valued intellect and gentleness. 

By the nineteenth century, the stereotype of the “frail” Jew was all but cemented, particularly in Europe. The Jewish body was described as weak, passive, and unmanly, unsuitable for warfare, brutality, violence, and sports. 

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. The Nazis applied the theories of scientific racism to antisemitism, which in turn was one of the main factors that fueled the Holocaust.

Scientific racist claims that Jews are inherently weak also intersected with homophobia. Among other things, Jewish men were described as effeminate.

The early film industry capitalized on these stereotypes. Jews were characterized as the “brain” — intelligent, even cunning and manipulative — and not the “brawn.” This stereotype persists to this day in film and television. 



Let’s get one thing out of the way: after over 2000 years of violence, massacres, genocide, ethnic cleansing, segregation, disenfranchisement, and more, to call Jews “paranoid” is gaslighting, plain and simple, and arguably ableist as well. Intergenerational trauma is very much a thing, and it’s only natural for Jews to feel hyper-vigilant, given all we’ve been through.

That said, there is no compelling scientific evidence that Jews are more anxious, neurotic, and/or paranoid than the general population. 

So where does the stereotype come from?

Well, from Jews.

For millennia, Jews were characterized as deceitful, traitorous, greedy, manipulative, corrupt, and more. In many circles, we are still perceived like that.

The Jews in the early entertainment industry hoped to change this perception — all the while remaining palatable to the predominantly non-Jewish audience. So they drew upon 3000 years of Jewish texts, many of which reflect anxieties over persecution and displacement, and turned so-called “Jewish neuroticism” into a comedic shtick. 

Unfortunately, this characterization has now been weaponized by antisemites who dismiss or mock legitimate Jewish concerns about antisemitism. 



Gaslighting is an inherent part of antisemitism. In fact, one of the factors that makes fighting antisemitism so difficult is that antisemitism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. More specifically, antisemitism always protects itself.

For example, one of the most pervasive tropes about Jews is that Jews control Hollywood to further our “agenda” through film and television. So then, if an actor engages in antisemitism of some kind and faces consequences for their behavior, an antisemite points to the consequences and say, “See? The Jews really do control Hollywood. So and so actor said the truth about the Jews, so the actor was fired.”

It’s also important to note that antisemitism functions quite differently from other forms of bigotry. While other bigotries tend to see their victims of inferior in some sense, antisemitism is more complex, with antisemites or people with antisemitic bias seeing Jews as both inferior and superior, all-powerful, and even supernatural, capable of controlling everything from the world banks to even the weather. 

When Jews are faced with antisemitism and we call it out, we are gaslit because we are perceived as “too powerful” to be oppressed — even though we are the longest oppressed marginalized minority in history. There’s a reason antisemitism is known as “the world’s oldest hatred.” 

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