Prejudice, Discrimination, Oppression, Bigotry & How to be an Ally

Anti-Semitism

What is Anti-Semitism?
1. Anti-Semitism is a very imprecise word for anti-Jewish hate.
Arabs, Assyrians, and Armenians are also semitic. Nevertheless, anti-semitism usually refers to anti-Jewish hate so we'll use that term. It is extremely hard to pin down what is and isn't anti-semitism. Anti-semitism comes in many shapes and forms.
There are many half-baked ideas floating around public discourse that say Jews run the world or Jews control the banking sector. (Conspiracy theories usually name one Jewish person as running the world, for example, Mark Zuckerberg though it can be much more subtle.)
2. The Holocaust happened. It was not fabricated, it was not exaggerated; 6 million Jews were killed.
Not only Jews died in the Holocaust - other people seen as not “Aryan” like the Roma and Sinti, disabled people, Soviet soldiers, gay people, real and suspected political opponents, Poles, et cetera. The Nazis viewed Jews as sub-human and “un-pure” and subjected them to a genocide. Learn more about the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and .
3. Judaism is both a religion and ethnicity. It is not a race.
A person could be ethnically Jewish in that they have Jewish relatives steeped in the traditions of various branches of Judaism but not be religious, but you can also have a convert that is religiously Jewish but not ethnically Jewish. Judaism is an incredibly ancient and complex religion and ethnicity, not one thing.
There are deep divisions within Jewish community about Israel, about religiousness, and many more things. It is impossible to paint Jews with a broad brush.
4. Understand that Jews have wildly different experiences based on country, region, class, skin color, et cetera. We are not one “thing,” we are a diverse group of people that happen to share a religion and/or ethnicity.
There is not one uniform experience for Jews across the world - we not one thing. Some of us have had our school lockers vandalized with Nazi imagery. Some of us are more “fortunate” and have “only” been subjected to verbal harassment or misconceptions.
5. A lot of anti-Semitism has to do with Israel.
The debate around the Israel/Palestine issue is laden with legitimate criticisms and also anti-semitic tropes. Like many other things, it's not clear cut - there is much debate even within the Jewish community about what does and does not constitute anti-semitism within the debate.
6. Understand that Israel and Judaism aren't intrinsically linked.
Israel claims to represent the Jewish people but it is a little bit like ISIS claiming to represent the Islamic faith: Certainly, it represents one part of the faith but not all - even though it bills itself as a homeland for all Jews. Many Jews have very strong criticisms of it - not least because of its terrible human rights record with the Palestinians.
7. Understand the differences between Judaism, Zionism and radical Zionism.
Judaism is one of the oldest religions in the world and has endured centuries upon centuries of oppression - not least the Holocaust. Zionism is the ancient belief that Jews should have a homeland of their own. Over the years, this idea of a homeland has morphed to become Israel - the push to create the Israeli state came after the Holocaust. Not all Zionists support the current Israeli government's actions regarding Palestine, but they do want a homeland for the Jewish people. Radical Zionism is basically the current Israeli government - it says that the lands that the Palestinians live on were Jewish ones once upon a time before we were forced off so the Palestinians need to move and deserve to be oppressed.
8. We won't go into the history of modern Israel here for the sake of everybody's sanity, but the Israel/Palestine issue is an incredibly complex one that many people claim to have an opinion on but don't actually know much about.
Ultimately, it's a question of who is considered indigenous and to what extent it matters. The original idea of the Israeli state was to have a homeland for Jews, for a people that have been historically persecuted wherever they have been and exiled. Of course, this does not give Israel the right to oppress Palestinians - there is little debate about that. The solution to the conflict is an incredibly complex one, one in which there is plenty of fault to go around in the breaking down of talks and other solutions. But it is a microaggression to demand of a Jew their opinion on the Israeli question - not least because they, more than often, won't know much more about the issue than you will.
Here is a good resource for understanding the conflict:
9. Just because a person is Jewish doesn't mean that they have an encyclopedic knowledge on the Israel Palestine conflict, nor that they need to.
In fact, this continues the centuries long anti-semitic trope that Jews have a dual loyalty to another country (i.e. Israel) instead of their country. It's similarly ridiculous to asking a Muslim person what they think of ISIS.
10. Even though many of us are white and have white privilege, we are not seen as “completely white.” We are not afforded all of the privileges afforded Christian white people (in the West) - we face discrimination, stereotypes, and misconceptions on a daily basis.
Our experiences are different from those of other white people on account of our religion/ethnicity. We are often grouped in with other white people but that ignores our unique culture, history, and the discrimination we face.
11. So listen to the voices and take our voice is seriously.
Don't discount our experiences because they don't fit your set expectations of “the Jewish experience.” We all have different perspectives, different experiences, different lives. We are not one thing.
If you're interested in learning more about the culture, the religion, or the history, there are amazing resources online, just a click away.

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