Guide to Identifying Antisemitism in Debates about Israel

Mistaking political disagreements about Israel for antisemitism is counterproductive.

It diverts the debate away from the substance to whether something is - or is not — antisemitic.

It hinders policy debate about Israel.

It distracts from addressing real instances of antisemitism and bigotry.

Making your case on its merits is the most effective way to refute unfair criticism of Israel.

Be on the lookout for antisemitism. Here are some examples:

When criticism of Israel or Zionism uses an antisemitic trope that has historically been directed at Jews — it’s antisemitic.

When Israel is used as a surrogate term for Jews — it’s antisemitic.

When criticism depicts Israel as having hidden power or control — it’s antisemitic.

When Israel is criticized because of its Jewish character — it’s antisemitic.

When Jews are denied the same individual or national rights as others — based on their Jewish identity — it’s antisemitic.

When Jews are held collectively responsible for Israel’s policies or actions — it’s antisemitic.

When criticism insinuates that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the country in which they live/are citizens — it’s antisemitic.

But don’t confuse criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Criticism or disagreement with Israeli government policies are not antisemitic.

Harsh characterizations of Israel that may be unfair are not necessarily antisemitic.

Even Yitzhak Rabin once warned that maintaining an occupation would lead to apartheid. He certainly wasn't an antisemite.

Non-violent actions that press for changes in Israeli policies are not generally antisemitic.

Boycotting goods made in the West Bank and/or Israel is not antisemitic unless it specifically singles out Israel because of its Jewish character.

Anti-Zionism can be antisemitic if it specifically denies the Jewish right to self-determination or it employs an antisemitic trope.

But opposition to Zionism in and of itself is not necessarily antisemitic.

Devoting special attention to Israel is not generally antisemitic. Israel attracts special attention for many reasons: e.g., because it is at the crossroads of the three major Western religions or because the U.S. is Israel’s closest ally and provides $3.8 billion annually in aid to Israel.

Advocating for equal rights and justice for all peoples is not antisemitic.

Compiled by the Nexus Project, a coalition of Jewish leaders dedicated to combatting antisemitism and preventing its abuse as a political tool.
For more information and additional materials go to www.israelandantisemitism.org.

The Nexus Task Force is a project affiliated with the Center for the Study of Hate (SFSH) at Bard College. We are grateful to BCSH for providing Nexus with an academic home and for the opportunities to engage interested Bard faculty and students in the Task Force’s work.