world's oldest hatred: intro to antisemitism


Antisemitism is bigotry, prejudice, and/or discrimination of Jews based on religion, culture, and/or ethnicity. 

Antisemitism is both a religious-based and racial-based bigotry. Antisemites generally have a problem with Jews, not with Judaism. Though Jews are not a race, antisemitism is oftentimes racialized. Examples of this racialization include stereotypes about Jewish phenotype (e.g. large noses) and depictions of Jews as non-human or sub-human. 

The word “antisemitism” itself was coined in the 1870s by a self-proclaimed antisemite in Germany to replace the previously used term “Jew-hatred.” The word was specifically conceived to legitimize Jew-hatred, not hatred of any other folks who speak Semitic languages, and as such, it is only applicable to anti-Jewish bigotry.

The international Jewish community has overwhelmingly adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism. You can read it at 



Antisemitism functions very differently than other forms of bigotry. While other bigotries see their victims as “inferior,” antisemites perceive Jews to be superior in a sense, all-powerful and sinister. 

Antisemitism flourishes in the shadows. It moves via conspiracies, tropes, and euphemisms. If you are unsure what you’re looking for, it might be hard to catch. For this reason, it’s super important to familiarize yourself with common antisemitic conspiracies, euphemisms, and tropes. 

Antisemitism has survived for the past 2000+ years because it’s very adaptable. When societies change, antisemitism mutates to survive. The euphemisms and details of the conspiracies change, but the formula remains the same. 



Let’s explore a common antisemitic trope: that Jews are greedy or money-hungry. 



The harsh reality is that you probably have at least some antisemitic bias. Antisemitism is both foundational and institutional in most societies. Fighting antisemitism begins with challenging your own inherent bias. 

There is no easy or non-controversial way to fight antisemitism because challenging antisemitism is inherently controversial, as antisemitism is the status quo in our society. 



Antisemitism is older than…

  • white supremacy 
  • the left-right political spectrum 
  • Christianity and Islam 
  • most languages, including English 
  • communism, capitalism, and everything in between 
  • and many other things 

Think of each of those points as a “house.” Now imagine that the house was built atop an already existing antisemitic foundation. 



Jews form 2.4% of the American population, and yet nearly 60% of religiously-motivated hate crimes in the United States target Jews. Around 10% of all hate crimes in the United States target Jews.

Among the most targeted Jews are Orthodox Jews and Jewish college students, both of whom are prone to underreporting hate crimes. 

Worldwide Jews form less than 0.2% of the population. About half of the world’s Jews live in Israel. 

Because we are so overwhelmingly outnumbered, it can be hard to hear our voices. The antisemitic narratives about us are much louder than we are.

Instead of propping up the communal voice of the Jewish community, antisemites tend to prop up the voices of fringe Jews who reinforce their antisemitic views but are not at all representative of the views of the Jewish community as a whole. 



Antisemitism does not always look like Nazism. In fact, it usually does not. Nazism is an overt expression of antisemitism, but antisemitism also manifests in other overt and covert ways. 



Antisemitism is foundational to white supremacy, but it is not exclusive to white supremacy.

It’s important to understand how and why antisemitism is foundational to white supremacy. The main role that antisemitism plays in white supremacy is scapegoating: (1) blaming Jews for societal issues shifts responsibility and blame away from the actual perpetrators, and (2) creating a system of “divide and conquer,” isolating Jews by pitting us against other marginalized minorities.

All white supremacists are antisemites, but not all antisemites are white supremacists. 



Many other bigotries are at least partially rooted in or deeply interwoven with antisemitism. For example: many antisemites believe that homosexuality is part of a Jewish plot to degenerate Christian, white, and/or western society. Similarly white supremacists also believe that Jews are responsible for Black and Brown immigration as part of a plot to “dilute” the white race. 



Antisemitism is very old. What is new is the speed at which it spreads today due to social media. Dangerous rhetoric that once took many years to get from one part of the globe to another can now reach half a world away in a matter of less than a second. 

Social media algorithms lend themselves to echo chambers, and unfortunately with antisemitism it is no different. A person in search for dog content will only be shown dog content, not cat content. Similarly, once a person is consuming antisemitic conspiracies online, the algorithms will never show them any content that combats those dangerous ideas. 

Antisemitism proliferates in comment sections. People previously “neutral” on antisemitic matters are exposed to new conspiracies via the comments. A way to stand with the Jewish community is to make sure you moderate comment sections on posts pertaining to Jews and antisemitism. 

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