You might be anti-Semitic if…

Do you think that the powerful and secretive Israeli lobby/AIPAC/”the Jewish lobby” completely controls U.S. foreign policy and willfully (and secretly) conspires to harm U.S. interests in favor of Israel’s interests--and that no U.S. politicians ever dare to cross it?  Do you think that the U.S. media is controlled by rich and powerful Jews or “the Jewish lobby”?  Do you believe “the Jews” control the banks too?  Are you convinced that Israel had something to do with 9-11 or that no Jews showed up to work at the World Trade Center that day?  Do you think that Jews secretly control the U.S. government and direct U.S. support for Israel and involvement in foreign wars?  Do you believe that these statements are all proven “facts” and that the only reason why more people are not aware of these “facts” is because of Jewish control of the media?  Are you still resentful that “the Jews” killed Jesus?  Are you definitely not an anti-Semite, and you have even had a couple of Jewish friends, but you just wonder why Jews are so secretive (or greedy, stingy, etc.)?  Do you wonder why it is that Jews seem to only care about money?  Do you suspect that Hitler might have been justified in persecuting the Jews because they really were a threat to Germany?  Do you suspect that the Holocaust didn’t really happen, that the numbers killed have been intentionally exaggerated, or that it was all a Jewish invention to manipulate the rest of the world?  Do you think Obama is a puppet controlled by his Jewish advisers?  Do you think that all Jews support everything Israel does?  Are you interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict primarily because it gives you another reason to hate the Jews?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then you hold some anti-Semitic beliefs.  “But, I’m not anti-Semitic,” you say, “some of these things really are true, and the charge of anti-Semitism is just a way to stifle criticism of Jews and Israel.”   While there may be a small degree of truth in a few of the above statements, none of them are true, and whether you are aware of it or not, these ideas have historical roots in anti-Semitic literature and cultural beliefs.  Anti-Semites, just like bigots and racists who hate and fear other groups of people, like to present so-called “facts” to support their beliefs and prejudices.  Some people repeat anti-Semitic ideas because they are prejudiced, hateful, or fearful toward Jews.  And in some cases, people may repeat anti-Semitic ideas because they are ignorant of the inaccuracy, implications, and history of statements they have heard from others. 

Anyone who has spent time working in solidarity with Palestinians knows that the vast majority of peace and justice activists in the movement are not anti-Semitic. Their criticisms of Israel stem from oppressive policies against the Palestinians, not the ethnic or religious identity of Jewish Israelis. However, a small number of activists may either be drawn to the issue because of pre-existing anti-Semitism or develop anti-Semitic attitudes after witnessing the oppressive reality of Israel’s occupation and discrimination against Palestinians. This is unfortunate because although such attitudes represent a small minority of the movement, anti-Semitic arguments undermine the cause for peace, justice, and Palestinian rights.

Everyone should try to avoid all forms of racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism, which has a long history. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) has stressed the importance of these anti-racist principles, as have other leaders of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and other social justice movements around the world. Leaders and organizations in the BDS movement have publicly disavowed or disassociated themselves from a handful of individuals who have expressed anti-Semitic or racist attitudes.

The presence of the influential and well-funded pro-Israel lobby in the US, as well as ongoing US government support for Israel despite its human rights violations, can sometimes lead harsh critics of Israel to be swayed by anti-Semitic rhetoric as a way to explain these facts. But it is possible to both criticize Israel, US policy toward Israel, and the influence of the pro-Israel lobby without resorting to anti-Semitism.

For example, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a very influential, well-funded, and well-organized lobby that has been very successful at influencing U.S. policy in support of Israel, but it does what all lobbies do.  There is nothing secretive about it, and it is not the only reason why the U.S. supports Israel.  Other factors, including the benefits to the US military-industrial complex from Israel (because it is required to spend most of its US aid on US-made arms), historical geopolitical factors dating back to the Cold War, the perceived similarities between the history and values of the two countries (the US is, after all, also a settler-colonial state founded on ethnic cleansing of the indigenous inhabitants). AIPAC is also not the only interest group that seeks to direct U.S. support of Israel.  Even the controversial professors Walt and Mearsheimer, who wrote the book, The Israel Lobby, explain that there are many other non-Jewish organizations, including right-wing evangelical Christian groups like Christians United for Israel (CUFI), that lobby U.S. policy makers and give funds and support to Israel.  In contrast to the more hawkish right-leaning interest groups, there are also many American Jewish lobbies and organizations, including J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace, that take stands in opposition to AIPAC and other right-leaning interest groups. 

Some people claim that the U.S. media is biased in favor of Israel because “Jews control the media.”  While it is true that the U.S. news media has typically had a distinctly pro-Israel bias, which mirrors U.S. policy, supposed “Jewish control” is not the reason for this bias.  First of all, the U.S. media is also biased in its coverage of many other regions, especially where one side is a close ally of the U.S. or if one side is seen as hostile or an enemy, but people do not argue that because the U.S. news media was biased in favor of Georgia and against Russia during the conflict in South Ossetia in 2008 that the U.S. media was therefore controlled by Georgians.  Secondly, Jews and Jewish Americans are not a monolithic group; many of them are critical of Israeli policy, and their critical perspectives are being heard more and more in recent years.  While there are some Jews who are journalists, commentators, entertainers, and there have even been a few Jewish CEOs of media companies, most figures in the U.S. media are not Jewish, and “Jews” do not “control” the media in favor of Israeli policy.  For example, the most pro-Israel American news outlet (that also happens to be the highest-rated cable news channel in the U.S.) that regularly supports a right-wing Zionist perspective is FOX News.  FOX News, which is a subsidiary of NewsCorp (one of the largest media empires in the world) does happen to reflect the attitudes and beliefs of its owner, Rupert Murdoch.  Despite anti-Semitic claims otherwise, Rupert Murdoch is not Jewish.  Like most Zionists in the United States, the Australian Murdoch is a Christian of Christian heritage. 

And, while some Israel-supporters may over-hype charges of anti-Semitism in a way that sometimes stifles legitimate criticism of Israel, anti-Semitism does exist, and it is important to recognize and confront it when it arises.  The overwhelming majority of activists in the Israeli-Palestinian peace and justice movement believe in peace, justice, and equal human rights for all, but unfortunately, some people who speak out against Israel are motivated primarily by anti-Semitism.  These people seek primarily to demonize Israelis and Jews rather than to work for the universal respect of human rights.  Allowing anti-Semitic criticisms of Israel to gain audiences alongside legitimate criticism serves to undermine and weaken legitimate criticism by giving fuel to those who claim that criticism of Israeli policy is motivated by anti-Semitism, and it can also alienate people, including some Jews, who might otherwise be allies in the cause for peace and justice.

Some History of One of the Oldest Hatreds

Prostitution is one of the oldest professions, and anti-Semitism, or Jew-hatred, is one of the oldest hatreds.  The Nazis did not invent Jew-hatred.  It has been around for over a thousand years.  Much has been made in recent years of increasing anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world, largely a result of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts in the Middle East, but most of the persecution and oppression that Jews have faced has been at the hands of European Christians over the centuries.

Christian Anti-Semitism

From the Inquisition, to the Crusades, to the pogroms in Russia, and climaxing in the Nazi Holocaust, the Christian West has not been kind to the Jewish people.  In contrast to the tolerance and support typically shown to Jews by many Christian Westerners today, Christians have in the past, more often than not, been extremely brutal and intolerant to the Jewish people.

Christian hatred of the Jews was originally founded on the belief that the Jews killed Christ and resentment that they refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah.  As a result of this hatred, suspicion, and a lack of understanding, European Christians developed false but popular “blood-libel” accusations that Jews regularly kidnapped and sacrificed Christian children as part of secret Jewish rituals.  Over the centuries, many Jews were burned at the stake by Christians on the false belief that they had murdered Christians in blood libels. 

Jews were also resented in part because they were often forced to take the professions of tax collecting and money-lending.  Christians were prohibited from lending money at interest during the Middle Ages, and Jews were prohibited from owning land and from most other professions in Christian Europe.  So, by default, they ended up filling the necessary roles of tax collecting and lending money—professions that Christian borrowers and tax payers resented, and which first created the stereotypes of Jews as greedy. 

This widespread hatred and contempt for Jews across Europe led to their expulsion from several European countries in the Middle Ages, including Britain and later Spain.  During the Inquisition and the Crusades, Jews were often forced to convert or die at the hands of Christian soldiers.

After centuries of expulsions, persecution, oppression, and hatred in Europe, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was written after the turn of the 20th century and used to incite even more hatred against the Jews.  Written by anonymous sources in Russia, the fictional Protocols was portrayed as a factual document obtained from a secret and powerful cabal of Jewish elders.  This text alleged that Jews were secretly conspiring to control international media and finances and to malevolently direct nations to get involved in wars—all in an attempt to destroy Christian civilization for the benefit of Jewish power.  Many contemporary anti-Semitic stereotypes can be traced back to The Protocols.  Hitler and Henry Ford were just two of the fans of The Protocols that tried to pass off the book as factual to persuade others to hate and fear the Jews. 

The only reason Hitler’s anti-Semitic ideas were able to persuade so many Germans to engage in genocide against the Jews was because many Europeans already believed such hateful ideas.  Anti-Semitism likely also played a role in the refusal of many Western countries to accept Jewish refugees while they were being persecuted in the early years of the Nazis.  Up until the 1950s, Jews were barred from many professions even in the U.S. 

After the extent of the Holocaust became known, many Western Christians felt guilt and remorse for their anti-Semitism and lack of intervention on the behalf of Jews during WWII.  The German people are now taught about the dangers of anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denial is illegal hate speech in many European countries. 

Even though many Christian Westerners have tried to repair relations with Jews and to confront anti-Semitism, Jew-hatred still exists in the Christian West.  The 2009 shooting at the Washington D.C. Holocaust museum is just one example of the persistence of this oldest hatred that can also be found in the attitudes of neo-Nazi groups and numerous anti-Semitic websites.

For a more in-depth history of Christian anti-Semitism, see Wikipedia for starters:

Anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim World

Historically, Jews enjoyed relative tolerance and prosperity in much of the Muslim world when compared with Christian Europe, especially in the Middle Ages. This greater level of tolerance was primarily because Muslims recognize both Jews and Christians as “people of the book”--fellow monotheists and descendants of Abraham.  Muslims recognize Jewish prophets, and they even respect Jesus as an important prophet.  Despite this greater tolerance and prosperity, Jews, like Christians, were officially second-class citizens under Islamic rule.  Unlike the Jewish stereotypes in the Christian West that painted Jews as greedy, evil, demonic, and even murderous, in the Muslim world, Jews were often seen as weak and subservient.

It was not until the late 1800s, and after the beginning of Zionism, that European classically anti-Semitic ideas began to spread to the Arab and Muslim world—first through  Christian Arab translations of European anti-Semitic texts, but later due to Nazi propaganda directed at the Arab world.  While small communities of Jews had been living in Palestine for centuries and enjoying peaceful relations with their Muslim and Christian neighbors, as Zionist immigration to Palestine increased during the British Mandate period (1917-1947), and more and more Palestinian Arabs felt threatened by the Zionists’ stated political goals and the loss land and jobs to Zionist immigrants, anti-Semitic ideas began to become more appealing.  In the late 1930s, Nazi-supported anti-Semitic propaganda radio broadcast from Germany began to specifically target the Arab world in an attempt to incite revolt there against the British by spreading fear of alleged British and Jewish plans for dominance over the Arab world (1).

After the war of 1948 when Israel was at war with many neighboring Arab countries, most Mizrahi Jewish communities who had been living in Muslim Arab countries for centuries began to emigrate.  This was partly due to their attraction to Zionism and desire for a better life in Israel and the encouragement of Israeli officials, but it was also a reaction to increasing hostility from the local Arab populations and governments who began to associate their Jewish citizens with the actions of the state of Israel with whom these Arab countries were at war.  While most Mizrahi Jews chose to leave their Arab countries of origin willingly for Israel, in some cases, including in Egypt, Jewish citizens had property confiscated and were forced to leave after the war of 1948.  While there were almost 1 million Jews living in Arab Muslim lands prior to the war of 1948, by the early 1970s, less than 10% remained, most of them having immigrated to Israel.

In the decades following the war of 1948, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion turned up and gained popularity in several Arab and Muslim countries where anger at Israel, sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, and continuing conflict with the Jewish state opened the door to this classically anti-Semitic text.  The fictional meeting of conspirators in The Protocols also allegedly took place at an early Zionist conference, and the stated end goal of the malevolent Jewish elders in the text is the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, which gave Arabs and Palestinians even more reason to be attracted to this false anti-Semitic text.  The charter statement of Hamas even references The Protocols as if it were factual.  To some Arabs, The Protocols and the anti-Semitic conspiracies it describes seem to explain the success of Zionism at their expense, as well as continuing and sometimes confusing U.S. and European support for Israel.

Though Muslim-Jewish relations have not always been harmonious, and anti-Semitism does exist in the Arab and Muslim world as it does everywhere else, Arab and Muslim anger at Israel is not simply the result of age-old hatreds or pre-existing cultural anti-Semitism--contrary to claims otherwise.  Classical European-style anti-Semitism did not begin to gain popularity in the Muslim and Arab world until after Zionist immigration to Palestine increased during the British Mandate period (1917-1947), and even more so following the war of 1948, which resulted in large-scale Palestinian displacements and a Palestinian refugee crisis, and then later, the 1967 War and Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. 

It is important to note that anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world does not have a very long history like that of Christian anti-Semitism.  The growth of modern Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism has largely been the result of the conflict with Zionism and the state of Israel—not the cause.  This idea is contrary to the common argument heard today from some Jews and many Christian Westerners that the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts are rooted in age-old Arab or Muslim anti-Semitism—and that they are solely religious conflicts, rather than political conflicts.  Arguments like these are often supported with selective historical evidence, including the misleading practice of presenting a few selective passages from the Qur’an while ignoring many others.

Differences Between European and Arab anti-Semitism

The context within which anti-Semitism arose and flourished in the Christian West is very different from that of the Arab and Muslim world.  Jews were persecuted by European Christians for being “Christ-killers” while they were living precariously as oppressed, persecuted minorities in Europe, and later by the Nazis for being an invisible, internal threat to the German people.  In the case of Europe, Jews faced persecution as a relatively powerless minority.  In contrast, due to the success of Zionism, and partly thanks to continued U.S. support and Israeli universal conscription, the state of Israel has one of the most powerful military forces in the world and by far the most powerful military in the Middle East.  As a result of past military successes, Israel was not only able to found a state in the Middle East, but it has managed over the years to displace much of the indigenous Palestinian population and prevent their return, defeat the armies of multiple Arab neighbors, acquire almost 100% more land than it was originally allotted by the UN partition plan of 1947, and militarily occupy the Palestinian territories for over 40 years. 

Anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world should be acknowledged and confronted.  It does not serve the cause of peace and coexistence, and it only serves to increase Jewish fears and Israeli defensiveness, as well as to support the arguments of those in the West (as well as some radical extremists) who try to paint this conflict as a religious one.  With all of Zionism’s successes and Israel’s military strength, however, Israel’s current position does not mirror that of the scape-goated, vulnerable, and powerless Jewish communities of the past.  Anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world exists, but it is not the only reason that Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims harbor anger toward Israel.

Combating Anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim World

In addition to speaking out against anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement, one of the most powerful weapons against Palestinian (and Arab and Muslim) anti-Semitism is the growing participation of Israeli and diaspora Jews in the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for justice and Palestinian rights, which sends the message that not all Jews support the oppressive policies of the Israeli government and humanizes Jews beyond the violent images and humiliating experiences with IDF soldiers or Border Police that most Palestinians deal with on a daily basis.

  1. (1) Article about the origins of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world:


  3. A primer on the history of anti-Semitism and its relation to the Left:

  4. Antisemitism_Rosenblum.pdf

  5. A page that includes links to articles that deconstruct several anti-Semitic myths:


  7.      One place to start for an overview of Muslim treatment of Jews:


What role does anti-Semitism play in the conflict and the criticism of Israel?