There are definitely not enough conversations on Tumblr about antisemitism that exist to both help Jews and inform non-Jews about the situation. The posts that have the most notes tend to usually be about the Holocaust or Nazism, and yes, that’s important, but there are no real distinctions about what is and isn’t antisemitic today.
It really doesn’t help that there are Jews that actively deny that certain things are antisemitic when they absolutely are, and then other Jews that claim that other things are definitely antisemitic when they’re not. Like every other group of people, yes, some Jews are idiots or are just plain awful people.
So, in an attempt to clear things up for non-Jews and to help some of my fellow Jews regain some perspective when it comes to antisemitism, this guide separates antisemitism into different headings to help you understand what is, and isn’t, antisemitism.
Anti-Semitism, or Racism Against Semites?
Let’s just clear this misnomer before we get into the nitty-gritty, because there are antisemites that obsess over how the word looks instead of its actual meaning.
It’s rather irritating to have to bring that up, but unfortunately, this is what happens, particularly when there’s an antisemite that happens to be an Arab is criticised for their antisemitism:
It’s a “get out of jail free” card that redefines antisemitism so that antisemites with a certain background can feel as though they’re safe when hating Jews. It also creates the antisemitic “today’s Jews are really Khazar converts and not really Jews,” something that is used by supremacists of all colours.
There are, of course, different kinds of antisemitism. The worst (and most prolific) kind is the antisemitism that is purely racism, i.e. Nazi-esque hatred of Jews as a specific ethnicity. However, there is also antisemitism that focuses on hating Jews for Judaism, as well as antisemitism that is masked as “anti-Israel” or “anti-Zionist” sentiments. The term “antisemitism” is always and only for racism, prejudice and bigotry against Jews. We originally come from the Levant, no matter what colour the Jewish person happens to be.
Jewishness: The Confusion of Ethnicity and Religion
This is probably the single-most confusing thing for non-Jews to understand. Jews are Jews, but non-Jews can convert to Judaism and become Jews that way, so how can Jews be an ethnicity? The thing is, Jewishness is classed as “ethnoreligious,” where we’re unified by a common religious background. There are other ethnoreligious groups, such as the Druze, Armenians, Sikhs and Yazidis. Because we were forced out of our ancestral homeland and then chased from country to country through massacres and ethnic cleansing, but kept our communities tight-knit and our traditions alive, the vast majority of us are ethnically Jewish.
Aside from that, there are quite a number of Jews that are (or were) atheists or agnostics, such as Neil Gaiman, Franz Kafka, Carl Sagan, Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, etc. Being Jewish doesn’t have to mean “religiously Jewish.” And, whilst there is debate, converts to Judaism most often take years to become Jewish, and must be accepted by a Jewish community as well as interviews with Rabbis. Antisemites don’t care whether someone is Jewish by blood, by religion or both: their antisemitism is most usually racial antisemitism, and converts – or Jews that follow other religions – aren’t free of any of the bigotry that ethnic Jews face. There can be reasonable debate and discussion around this, but the antisemites have already made a bed for those with the label of “Jew” to lie in.
In fact, look at the treatment of some non-Jews by antisemites. There are countless claims that non-Jews that care about Jews or support Jews are either “puppets” for Jews, or are “secretly Jewish” to explain why the racists can allow themselves to hate non-Jews whilst pushing more antisemitism. It really is a moot point to bring up when it comes to what actually occurs.
Everyone should already be aware of the way that the Nazis characterised Jews as an “inferior race.” They taught children how to “spot” Jews, with artwork in children’s textbooks showing Jews being expelled from schools in Germany (no two guesses over which people were Jews and which were non-Jewish Germans):
“A special period dealt with the role the Jews had played in the German economy, and the threat they represented to the master race. To back up the lecture, a film was shown which portrayed the archetypal Jew as a suave, potbellied and shifty-eyed city type posing beside gargantuan moneybags. Alternatively, he was depicted as a long-bearded, sunken eyed scarecrow of a man who inspired fear and revulsion. The soundtrack spat the film-makers’ contempt into the classroom: The Jews are eyesores on the German landscape, boils on the back of the German people, a subhuman species comparable only to rats! A voice seething with chilling hatred: They must be eradicated!“
This kind of racism still exists today, particularly from the likes of white supremacists (thanks, Google image search):
and from MENA publications (From Bahrain’s Akhbar al-Khalij, June 9, 2008: The bearded man is labeled: "Zionist Lobby” and has Senator Barack Obama in its pocket, and Obama has Senator Hillary Clinton in his pocket, before Obama became President):
Any generalised hatred, prejudice, double-standards or canards against Jews as a group of people is pure racial antisemitism. Jews all have huge noses, Jewish men are weak, Jewish women are never happy, overly-demanding harpies, Jews are all greedy, Jews are evil for being Jews: all examples of racial antisemitism, just as “black men are criminals” and the “black women are sassy and angry” are examples of anti-black racism.
This religious hatred of Jews also appears in Islam, as described here by an anonymous Muslim woman that I spoke to:
Much of the antisemitism comes from a similar place, i.e. Jews chose not to convert to a new religion, so those of the newer religion attack Jews for it. Islamic terrorist organisations use Islam as an excuse for genocidal antisemitism, such as this quoted passage in the Hamas Covenant:
“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
So this particular kind of antisemitism is still racism, but it has roots in religious bigotry and intolerance.
These are the most common kinds of antisemitism that you’ll hear or see. Holocaust denial, Jews kill children, Jews drink blood, Jews harvest organs, Jews bake blood to make matzah for Jewish rituals, Jews are greedy, Jews control the media, Jews control world politics, Jews control the banks, Jews are only loyal to other Jews, Jews care more about Israel than their host country, Jews are vermin, Jews are behind [insert conspiracy here].
Criticising an individual Jewish person for a bad thing that they’ve actually done isn’t antisemitism. Calling Bernie Madoff a greedy, money-hungry thief isn’t antisemitic. Using Madoff as an example to “prove” that Jews are all greedy, money-hungry thieves is antisemitism. There are evil people everywhere. Jewish murderers, Jewish terrorists, Jewish organ harvesters, Jewish child abusers, Jewish racists, etc, but those are individual examples of bad people and not an excuse to push, “Well, a Jew did this, therefore all Jews are evil.”
There are absolutely Jewish antisemites. Gilad Atzmon defends Holocaust denial and blames Jews for everything bad that happens to us. There are Jews that deny that Jews that happen to be black can be Jews, just because they’re black. There are Jews that deny that other Jews experience antisemitism because they’re light-skinned. There are Jews that deny other Jews’ Jewishness, ethnic as well as religious Jewishness that is, for other arbitrary reasons.
Attacking Israel: Antisemitism or Basic Criticism?
“Anti-Zionism” is arguably the biggest form of antisemitism around today. It doesn’t help that “anti-Zionists” like to repeat that Jews lie about things being antisemitic when they aren’t just to win political points, or claim that their use of attacking “Zionists” doesn’t mean “Jews,” even when the terms “Zio” and “Zio-Nazi” are recently recognised slurs. The thing is, it’s really easy to criticise Israel without being antisemitic, and I would personally encourage criticism. All you have to do is:
Criticise the actual, factual policies of the Israeli government
Criticise individual Israeli politicians for what they’ve actually said or done
Criticise incidents that are factually true
Don’t use any double-standards when criticising Israel, i.e. if you ignore or excuse one country for doing X, yet attack Israel for doing the same thing, that’s what becomes an antisemitic double-standard
Don’t ever excuse terrorism or violence against citizens, victim-blame Jews for being harmed or murdered, or claim that terrorists are/were innocent after harming Jews
Don’t ever call for the destruction of Israel or the ethnic cleansing of Jews
Don’t deny factual, archaeological Jewish history in the region, including antisemitic history
Don’t claim that anything decent that Israel does is some kind of “–washing,” as though it’s impossible for Israel to be good: after all, Saudi Arabia is a tyrannical regime, but if they sent aid to help the victims of a natural disaster, that wouldn’t be “aid-washing,” for example; good deeds are allowed to just be good deeds, even if someone/thing you dislike is the one doing them
You fall into the trap of antisemitism if you lie or spread lies about Israel to make her look bad, manipulate something that’s happened to make it sound worse, call Israeli border control “racism” when every country enforces their borders for example, deny Israel’s right to exist, boycott Israel (especially if you don’t boycott China, Pakistan or actual dictatorships etc, which is an antisemitic double-standard) or claim that you “only hate Zionists, not Jews.”
You have to remember that Israel holds about 43% of the world’s entire Jewish population, and, as a quick pulse of the Jewish community, 90% of British Jews support Israel’s right to exist, which makes them technically “Zionist.” If someone claims that they “only hate Zionists, not Jews,” then they’re still saying that they hate the vast majority of Jews, and only Jews that agree with hating Israel are “good Jews.” Whether someone likes it or not, Israel exists, a fifth of her population is Israeli-Arab, and isn’t going to go anywhere, so criticism should be as fair as criticism about any other nation. Otherwise, because Israel is the world’s only Jewish state on a planet full of Christian and Islamic nations, that’s what makes it antisemitic.
Jews and Nazis in Standard Social Justice Debates
We’re all aware of “Godwin’s Law”: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 1,” or, in layman’s terms, “If you argue long enough, then someone or something is going to get compared to Hitler, Nazism or the Holocaust.”
Whilst discussions of antisemitism just as antisemitism is rare, debates using Jews as rhetorical devices are not. Vegans claim that using animals as food is like the Holocaust, Trump has been compared to Hitler, the refugee crisis has been compared to the treatment of Jews in the 1930s and 40s by Europe – particularly the UK – and the US. More recently, black supremacist race-baiters have taken to use Holocaust comparisons to how black citizens are treated by the US police, and then get so angry that Jews aren’t happy with the Holocaust being used as a rhetorical device that they try to claim that all Jews are “white”:
And on the other side, when Jews mourn the Jewish lives lost to the Holocaust on a separate day for our mourning of all lives lost in the Holocaust, some so-called “anti-SJWs” can be quick to jump to “correct” us.
It’s also very frustrating that Jews, Hitler, Nazism and the Holocaust are used as rheotical devices, i.e. in “feminism is like Nazism” and “if you replace X with Jews, you’ll be horrified” especially when that’s the only time that those individuals ever talk about antisemitism. It isn’t automatically antisemitic per se, but it’s definitely insensitive, it leaves many Jews frustrated and often either angry or upset, because we’re not hypothetical debate pieces, we’re real human beings with a real and horrifying history that still experience antisemitism today, from the canard to the violent and murderous.
Fair Criticism of Judaism as a Faith
Judaism, like any other religion, should absolutely be free to criticise. The only problems arise when Judaism is treated like “Christianity-lite” or claims that if someone is religiously Jewish, then they’re evil and backward. Judaism has reformed as a faith into different branches, and some of the biggest voices in Judaism are those that call for same-sex marriage, gender equality and promote LGBT rights. Judaism is also a faith that encourages thought and criticism of texts.
It’s absolutely fair to criticise kosher slaughter and circumcision as concepts. It’s also fair to criticise the branches of Judaism that are sexist and homophobic. If a religious Jew attacks an LGBT individual and uses their faith as an excuse, that’s open for criticism, too. It isn’t antisemitic to criticise Judaism like any other religion should be criticised. It becomes antisemitic if it describes religious Jews as all monsters, or evil, or links “criticism” to antisemitic blood libels.
There’s also the issue of sneering at Jews for being “the chosen people,” as though that means that Jews believe that we’re better than anyone else. It doesn’t. It means that, as religious Jews, we believe that we as a group were chosen for more responsibilities than others, not that we’re intrinsically “better” in some way. On top of that, some antisemites claim that there’s a “secret Talmud” that talks about conquering the world and murdering non-Jews, which is obviously ridiculous.
Feel free to talk about the “problematic” sections of the Torah and be surprised when religious Jews agree with you, because that’s what we do.
A Jew walks into a bar…
Jokes. Racist jokes. Dark humour. As long as you’re not deliberately using jokes to upset or try and harm anyone, then they’re your business, not anyone else’s, and they don’t automatically make you a bad, antisemitic person. Some Jews find any jokes about Jews offensive and others, like myself, use dark humour as coping mechanisms for the evils in the world. Look at Mel Brooks and his comedy films and sketches, including mocking the violent and evil Inquisition torturing Jews, as well as Nazi Germany and Hitler. It’s all personal preference. Sometimes, you might tell a joke and someone is upset by it, and that’s unfortunate. All you can do is apologise and promise not to tell those jokes around that person again, like anything else.
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to talk about antisemitism in-depth without discussing false claims of things being antisemitic when they aren’t. Offline, there are cases of individual Jews that have faked incidents of antisemitism, and even some non-Jews have done the same. On Tumblr, there is a rash of Jews that claim that certain things are antisemitic, even when they’re not, to push a permanent victim narrative. Here is a list of things that aren’t antisemitic at all that you can dismiss if a Jewish blogger tells you it’s antisemitic:
Being anti-ritual slaughter
Liking fictional characters/organisations that are antisemitic themselves
Witches/liking witches/wearing a stereotypical witch costume for Halloween
Fairly criticising Judaism as a faith
Tattoos with Hebrew on them
Abbreviating “Suicide Squad” to “SS”
Potential converts “appropriating Jewishness”
Mocking Hitler or Nazis (I sincerely wish that I were lying about this one)
Amongst other claims that I’m sure that I haven’t seen (yet). There are bigoted Jews that believe that it’s right to dismiss non-Jews, or claim that all non-Jews are antisemitic, and that’s completely false. Only antisemites are antisemitic.
Antisemitism is a Serious Issue
Hating Jews, blaming Jews, using double-standards with Jews, denying the Holocaust, glorifying Hitler, celebrating harm against Jews, it’s all antisemitic and it’s all completely wrong. Antisemitism is a specific form of racism, just like anti-black racism is a specific kind of racism. It’s more prevalent than many people think and it shouldn’t get a pass when it’s genuine, nor should it be trivialised.
I hope that this guide has given both Jews and non-Jews alike a fresh look at antisemitism, as well as explained why things are offensive and why we can get upset, along with a stark reminder that it’s often overlooked.
Most importantly of all: Jews don’t face racism for being white or black or brown. We face racism for being Jews, and it’s completely wrong and antisemitic to pretend that the racism that we face, no matter what colour we happen to be, is “less important” than any other form of racism, just because it doesn’t depend on skin colour. It isn’t about “one group is more affected by racism than another,” or “the bigotry against one group is more important than the bigotry faced by that other group.” It’s about simply accepting that antisemitism happens, Jews (and sometimes non-Jews that care about us) are affected by it, and we’d like to be taken seriously.
We’d like it if you stood with us, treated us like ordinary human beings and told antisemites that what they believe, what they do, is wrong, the same way that reasonable Jews already do.
And If You’re Confused Or Would Like to Learn More…
Jewish or not-Jewish, you are more than welcome to come and ask me a question or send me a message.
okay so the masorti minyan (Ohel Mo’ed, it’s called) was. breathtaking? amazing? i found myself and started to pull all the clutter away from the entrance of the mikdash in my heart, and got a book recommendation (What Do You Mean When You Say ‘God’?, by Shaiya Rothberg – the person who recommended it had just heard my life’s religious journey compressed into four minutes, and promptly recommended the book, which had “turned him from a staunch atheist into someone much more open to the Divine”), and found a really really cool community, and found out about a few days of shiurim local to me.
“The rabbis’ resolution begins by stating, “Our Torah asserts that all humanity is created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s Divine Image.” It discusses historical evidence of “non-binary gender expression” in Jewish texts dating back to the third-century Mishnah, and points out current-day discrimination against transgender Americans in employment, medical care and voting rights.”
Once upon a time in the 1980s, when I was a twenty-year-old graduate student full of arrogance and attitude, I worked in the Hebrew books and manuscripts division of the Judaica Department at Sotheby’s New York. My boss was the “Judaica expert,” the late, great Jay Weinstein, a man truly deserving of his title, which he bore with immense modesty and humour. My own title was also “expert” but, by way of contrast, it only exacerbated my supercilious arrogance when I found myself called to the front desk to meet a client… The client I was about to meet on the day I am describing had called a week before to tell me that he was in possession of “a very old Hebrew book.” I was not looking forward to the encounter, since auction experts know very well that the hoi polloi consider anything more than ten years old to be ancient and hence of untold value. Disabusing clients of this notion as it applies to their particular treasure is an often painful but necessary task…
Mr. X, I was dismayed to find, embodied all my worst fears. Stooped, elderly, still in his coat, and eager — very eager. Authoritative and disdainful though I made myself, he was simply unimpressed by my “impressiveness.” With total focus and trembling hands, he reached into a plastic shopping bag and produced, wrapped in newspaper older than I was, his “treasure” — a book of Psalms, printed in Warsaw in 1920. I couldn’t believe this monumental waste of my precious time — a brand new book of Psalms would be worth more than this! I was exasperated by this schlepper, and I wanted to tell him so. I wanted to show him the real treasures — gold, silver, ancient, and precious illuminated manuscripts — that had been entrusted into my “expert” care. I wanted to show him the door as I told him with authoritative disdain, “That book is worth whatever you paid for it!”
But at that moment, like the angel in the legend who moves Moses’ hand toward the glowing coal rather than the glittering crown, thus saving his life, some kindly spirit moved my tongue. And instead of that anticipated send-off, I faltered, “Um, what did you pay for this?” The old man drew himself up to his full 5 feet, 2 inches. “For this, I paid seven days’ Auschwitz bread,” he replied with a dignity that totally deflated my pose. It seems that the Nazis had caught him with the little Psalm book, and as a penalty for possessing it, imprisoned him without food — only water to drink — for an entire week. Like Moses touching the coal to his lips, I was struck dumb. “This,” I stammered, “is too valuable for us to sell.” And I stumbled out of the room, a changed young man, with a new appreciation of what is meant by the words precious, valuable, and treasured.
Marvel’s Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016-) #1 costs $4.99 on comixology. Instead of supporting Marvel, donate to the ADL. While there is no space for a message on the regular donation form, the ADL offers a variety of ecards, including ‘In Memory’ and ‘In Tribute’. Let’s donate $5 (or whatever you can afford) in memory of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, the two Jewish men who created Captain America when the USA had not yet entered World War II. When you send an ecard, use the email for the executive VP of Media Relations: email@example.com (most of the Marvel email addresses are locked down tight).
What is the Anti-Defamation League? From their site:
The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.
I feel like people don’t understand that Jewish tradition holds that the acts of Sodom that were so bad were 1. Rape 2. Starving homeless people for fun 3. Covering foreign women in bee honey and letting the native insects eat her alive in the public square 4. Cutting off people’s limbs for the lolz 5. Being a mega douche to anyone different from them 6. Ect
And the act banned in Leviticus is, according to us Jews, not the ~gayness~, but rape, as done as a military conquering tactic.
Source: years of Jewish schooling in orthodox and conservative environments, growing up in an orthodox community, ect