October 21, 2023
This website will continue to be updated as events unfold.
When does criticizing Israel veer into antisemitic territory? In May 2021, as tensions heightened during the conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza, we saw two examples: beating Jews down in the streets and telling them to go back to Israel. Across the globe, protesters—some maliciously, some unwittingly—employed and spread antisemitic themes and tropes.
Fast forward to October 7, 2023, as thousands of Hamas terrorists funded by Iran and fueled by hatred for Jews attacked Israel with one goal: to indiscriminately butcher and kidnap as many Israelis as possible—women, the elderly, children, and babies. The numbers now stand at 1,400 murdered and over 200 held hostage in Gaza, their fate unknown.
As Israel rightfully responds to terrorism and defends its people, we must be prepared for rising antisemitism. We must anticipate false moral equivalencies. Double standards. Misinformation. Outright lies. We’re already seeing this from certain media outlets and prominent voices.
There’s a source that offers clear guardrails about what can constitute antisemitism: the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted by more than 1,000 entities, including more than 40 governments, the EU, the Organization of American States, recommended for use by the UN, used by the U.S. Departments of State and Education and embraced by the White House.
The Working Definition is a clear and compact description of antisemitism in its various forms, including where and how anti-Israel animus can become a form of antisemitism, separate and apart from criticism of Israel.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) created its signature tool: Translate Hate – a glossary of dozens of antisemitic terms – many dating back to medieval times, others either born or given new life in recent years – to shine a light on antisemitism that can hide in plain sight.
Here are seven antisemitic terms, tropes, and themes that pervaded anti-Israel protests during the last significant conflict between Hamas and Israel in May 2021, and new examples already seen since Hamas prompted its brutal, unprovoked war on Israel in October 2023. To be clear, these trends make life more dangerous for Jews in America and around the world. Today, as this dangerous rhetoric ramps up and as Jewish communities across the globe increase security, we must be prepared to recognize and respond to antisemitism no matter the source.
1. Dirty/Filthy Jews and 2. Dual Loyalty
In the wake of Hamas's war on Israel, antisemitic incidents have quadrupled in the United Kingdom, including a Jewish person walking to a synagogue in London on October 8, 2023, who was called a "dirty Jew" by a stranger, who said, "no wonder you're all getting raped."
In New York’s Times Square in May 2021, a man wearing a yarmulke was punched, kicked, and attacked with pepper spray by several men who yelled a series of antisemitic phrases, including the well-worn antisemitic epithet “Dirty Jew. Filthy Jew,” as well as “Hamas is going to kill you” and “Go back to Israel.”
Why this is antisemitic:
Dirty/filthy Jews: These are slurs meant to demean Jewish people and cast them as unworthy, unclean, and greedy. Depending on the context, it can refer to multiple themes of antisemitism, including “Poisoning the well,” an accusation rooted in the 14th century Bubonic Plague, blaming Jews for purposefully spreading disease and “greed,” which has led to a long list of Jewish stereotypes, including being excessively materialistic and money-oriented, exploiting others for personal gain, being overly wealthy, and controlling the world’s finances.
Dual loyalty: Telling an American Jew to “go back to Israel” is a form of dual loyalty, accusing a Jewish person of being a disloyal citizen whose true allegiance is to Israel. This charge sows distrust and spreads harmful ideas—like the belief that Jews are a traitorous “fifth column,” meaning they undermine their country from within. For centuries, these antisemitic accusations of disloyalty have led to the harassment, marginalization, oppression, and murder of Jewish people. Go deeper, read more from AJC Translate Hate’s entry on Dual Loyalty.
Hamas, the terrorist group that occupies Gaza: The terrorist organization is dedicated to the murder of all Jews in Israel – a goal spelled out in its charter: the end to the Jewish state and the creation of an Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
"As stated in its founding document, the Hamas Charter, Hamas is committed to waging Jihad, or holy war, in order “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Its stated goal is to eliminate the Jewish state and kill Jews. That is precisely what it has set out to do, and has been doing, in its present savage campaign of mass slaughter.
Any justification for Hamas - which we are already seeing offline and online in our research - must be condemned for what it is, a justification for the indiscriminate murder of Jews. We call on decent people everywhere, including on social media platforms, to help reduce the accelerating and dangerous hatred of Jews and Israel."
3. From the River to the Sea
At a London rally organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on October 9, 2023, demonstrators in front of the Israeli embassy chanted “From the River to the Sea” – a call for Palestinian control over the entirety of Israel’s borders, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Why it is antisemitic:
There is, of course, nothing antisemitic about advocating for Palestinians to have their own state. However, when protesters chant “From the River to the Sea,” they are rejecting Israel’s right to exist, by indicating that the entire land of Israel should be freed from Jews. Calling for the elimination of the Jewish state denies Jews the right to self-determination. This saying is a historic call-to-arms for terrorist groups and their sympathizers, from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to Hamas.
In fact, Hamas leaders shared the belief that the Jewish people do not have the right to a national home in their ancestral homeland (e.g. that the State of Israel should not exist)—is itself widely believed by Jews to be a form of antisemitism. Go deeper, and read AJC Translate Hate’s entry on Zionist.
4. Deicide and 5. Blood Libel
“Jesus was Palestinian, and you killed him too!” declared a protester’s sign in Miami. In Los Angeles, protesters hoisted a banner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a Hitler mustache and devouring a Palestinian child. Both tropes voiced in 2021 echo centuries-old methods of maligning Jews.
Why this is antisemitic:
Deicide: While the deicide charge, or blaming Jews for Jesus’ death has been refuted by the Catholic Church, antisemites continue to make this charge to justify their anti-Jewish hatred. Branding Jews as Christ-killers has been recycled in the Middle East, often in the form of Jesus representing Palestinians who are “crucified” by the Israeli Defense Forces or the Israeli Government.
Blood libel: Blood libel charges have evolved from Medieval times into widespread blame of Jews or Israelis for purposefully targeting and killing Palestinian children. As one of the longest-standing forms of antisemitism, blood libels have led to horrific violence, destruction, persecution, and massacres of Jewish people and communities—before, during, and beyond the Nazi propaganda that used it to demonize Jews.
6. Holocaust Denial/Distortion
A day after the brutal Hamas invasion which left over 1,300 people dead, a crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters took over New York City’s Time Square on October 8, 2023, waving signs and placards including a Nazi swastika.
Similarly, when a Jewish group gathered in Boca Raton, Florida to show their support for Israel in 2021, white supremacists cruised by in a van painted with the phrases “Holocaust never happened” and “Hitler was right” and waving a Palestinian flag. At the same time, at a Seattle rally, a sign featured images of Adolf Hitler and Netanyahu side-by-side with the slogan “Zionism=Nazism.”
Why this is antisemitic:
Holocaust denial: Those who say the Holocaust did not happen or deny its scope are peddling antisemitism. Despite endless historical facts, Holocaust denial spreads the false notion that Jews invented or exaggerated the Holocaust, including the diary of Anne Frank, Hitler’s intent to massacre Jews, the use of gas chambers in concentration camps, and the murder of six million Jews.
Holocaust distortion: Equating the Israeli prime minister to Hitler is a graphic and offensive form of Holocaust distortion. One can disagree with Israeli policy, but saying Israel is perpetrating a “second Holocaust” and trying to annihilate Palestinians just as Hitler attempted to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews is not only factually wrong, it is antisemitic. Claiming that Israel, home to the largest number of living Holocaust survivors, behaves like the Nazis in its treatment of Palestinians is a personal attack on survivors and distorts the impact of the Shoah.
7. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel
As hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the Sydney Opera House on October 8, 2023, to oppose the building being lit in blue and white to demonstrate solidarity with Australian Jewish communities, shouts of “Gas the Jews” were heard.
On October 8, 2023, the glass front door of a kosher restaurant in northwest London was smashed and its cash register stolen, while a bridge just meters away was spray-painted with ‘Free Palestine.’ Unfortunately, the restaurant burglary is not being treated as a hate crime despite its timing and proximity to the bridge graffiti.
Additionally, Jewish students at the College of William & Mary say that other students verbally assaulted them due to Hamas's war on Israel. Three Salt Lake City synagogues were also forced to evacuate due to a bomb threat during pro-Palestinian rallies held following the outbreak of the war.
In Tunisia, the Al Hammah synagogue was burned and destroyed in rioting tied to the Israel-Hamas war.
Why this is antisemitic:
Interchangeably targeting Jewish people for the actions and policies of a sovereign nation furthers conspiracy theories about control and world domination. Reports that claim Jews control the media, banks, and governments are part of a longstanding conspiracy of secret Jewish power. This antisemitic trope is rooted in the discredited publication, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was published in Russian tsarist times and accused Jews of trying to control the world.