Can Jews Be Antisemitic?

When a Jewish person expresses anti-Jewish ideas, is that antisemitism? It might sound odd, but yes. From the Middle Ages until the present day, there are plenty of examples of Jewish people perpetuating antisemitism, despite being Jews themselves. Sometimes it is what scholars call “internalized racism,” which is something that many minorities, including Jews, have experienced. Other times, Jews attempt to separate themselves from other Jews as a defense mechanism. But whatever the reason behind it, antisemitism from Jewish people is no more acceptable than antisemitism from non-Jewish people.

  1. In 1238 CE, Jewish apostate Nicholas Donin travelled to Rome in order to denounce which Jewish book as anti-Christian?:
    • The Talmud
    • The Book of Jeremiah
    • The Mishneh Torah
    • The Siddur
  2. Nicholis Donin’s denouncement of the Talmud led to the burning of ________ hand written Talmuds in France:
    • 1000
    • 10 to 12 thousand
    • 613
    • 100
  3. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair posted a controversial image on Twitter that was reshared by which well known antisemite?
    • Mel Gibson
    • Coco Chanel
    • Walt Disney
    • David Duke
  4. Who infamously wrote: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.”
    • Adolf Hitler
    • Karl Marx
    • Yasser Arafat
    • Joseph Goebbels
  5. Many Jews and other minorities have experienced:
    • Racism
    • Internalized racism
    • Discrimination
    • All of the above
  1. Can a Jew, or someone with Jewish heritage, really be antisemitic or can only non-Jews be antisemitic? To what degree does the source matter and to what degree does the content matter?
  2. In 2017, Yair Netanyahu (son of Benjamin Netanyahu) posted a meme with antisemitic origins to his Facebook page. The original meme depicts Jewish philanthropist George Soros, an object of many antisemitic conspiracy theories, as controlling the world. You can see both the meme Yair posted and the original meme below. Why is this picture of puppeteering antisemitic? Do you think using this meme was antisemitic, an example of internalized racism or simply Yair trying to make a political point? What are the implications of each?
  3. Which is more detrimental to the Jewish community: antisemitism emanating from Jews or antisemitism emanating from non-Jews? Explain your answer using real life examples.
  4. Reflect on the following statement: “as long as there is religious and ethnic hatred in this world, there will be members of oppressed groups who turn on themselves.” Why do you think this psychological phenomenon takes place and what do you think is the best way to prevent it from happening?
  1. Ask your students to read about the anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta in small groups. Students should jot down 3-5 ideas that jump out at them about the group. On the one hand, Neturei Karta may look like the “most Jewish Jews” due to how they dress and their level of observance. On the other hand, they regularly protest against Israel’s existence and have met with terrorist groups sworn to Israel’s destruction like Hamas, Hezbollah and even attended a Holocaust Denial Conference in Iran.The internationally accepted definition of antisemitism from IHRA says that “denying the Jewish people their right to self determination” such as “by claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavor” — and “applying double standards by requiring of [the Jewish state] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” — could be antisemitic “when taking into account the overall context.”Is Neturei Karta displaying antisemitism or anti-Zionism? Should the two be differentiated or do you see them as one in the same?
  2. The Unpacked video explains that:“There are Jews who adopt the assumptions of antisemites wholesale and make them their political program. For these individuals, antisemitism is a punch card to power in places where their community is despised and ostracized. By separating themselves from most other Jews, and justifying prejudice towards them, these people hope to insulate themselves from antisemitism, and obtain influence among growing political movements that are otherwise hostile to Jews. By throwing other Jews under the anti-Jewish bus, they hope to save themselves from it.”

    Read about the following people who many would argue have practiced this:

    • Gilad Atzmon
    • Nicholas Donin
    • Jackie Walker
      After reading about these people, in small groups, students should present three facts that surprised them about these people’s actions and what they think their motives are or were.
  3. Play our Kahoot about “Can Jews Be Antisemitic?”
  1. Minorities often absorb stereotypes about themselves from the majority. When everyone around you shares certain assumptions about your community, it can be easy to subconsciously accept them. Have you ever experienced this yourself? If so, what can you do to avoid internalizing racism in the future?
  2. In the video, the narrator says “racism is racism no matter who says it. It is the substance of bigotry that matters, not the source.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Is it “not as bad” if antisemitism comes from a Jew?
  3. Have you ever heard somebody Jewish say an antisemitic joke or comment? How do you distinguish between Jewish self-deprecating humor and antisemitic jokes? Where do you draw the line?

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