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A Guide for the Perplexed: The Surge in Antisemitism amidst the War

In a prior post, we explored what seems to be a significant surge in antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, which has left many within the Jewish world feeling overwhelmed and powerless. Western Islamist organizations backing Hamas have fueled this surge, which, in our analysis, plays a crucial role in Hamas's current rejection of a hostage deal. Through the rise in antisemitism, Hamas has managed to both isolate Israel and detach itself from accountability for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza Strip, a crisis it initiated to further its objectives. The impact of the State of Israel on this dynamic is a focal point of our extended efforts at Atchalta (see also here). This piece will refocus on the Jewish world.

Identifying the Surge: A Quintuple Challenge

Understanding this seemingly monolithic surge as comprising five distinct challenges is key. Each challenge necessitates a unique approach, making the differentiation between them crucial. Here are these challenges and examples how distinguishing among them guides specific actions:

1. Traditional Antisemitism

Soldiers fighting in the port

In recent times, the torchbearers of ancient hatred globally are predominantly radical right-wing and Islamist groups, with radical left-wing factions to a lesser extent. This antisemitism manifests through conspiracy theories, blood libels, Holocaust denial, allegations of Jewish greed, and the accusation that Jews were responsible for the killing of Christ and disloyal to “host” countries, .

Example Derived Insight: Shaming and exposure remain potent responses - in the Western mainstream, traditional antisemitism is still widely condemned, making the shaming and exposure of explicit antisemitic statements highly effective.

2. New Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism and Delegitimization of Israel

 A relatively minor group of anti-Zionist organizations, mainly from radical left and Islamist spheres, denies Israel's right to exist. Their success in pushing the anti-Zionist agenda comes from a deliberate obscuring of their true intentions, adopting human rights rhetoric, and negatively branding Israel. This strategy has been particularly effective amidst the political stalemate before and war and certainly now during the war, enabling them to draw even non-anti-Zionists into acts of delegitimization, like the BDS campaign.

Example Derived Insight: Combatting anti-Zionism and delegitimization doesn't resonate as broadly in the Western mainstream as the fight against the traditional antisemitism. Thus, shaming tactics tend to fail and even blowback, as occasionally, “delegitimizers” are turned into 'hero martyrs' in their circles.

The delegitimization campaign thrives on media attention; we should not hand them 'free' airtime - their aim is to negatively brand Israel, so even failed boycott efforts that garner media coverage are seen as victories. Sometimes, it's the aggressive responses from pro-Israel groups that grant "delegitimizers" the media spotlight.

3. Criticism of Israel's Policy

Amid the war, Israel faces significant criticism over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the high civilian casualty count. Even nations and individuals typically seen as Israeli allies have publicly critiqued Israel, leading to severe political isolation and even an arms embargo from several countries. This decline in Israel's international standing reflects its failure to convince even its allies of a simple truth: Hamas engineered the humanitarian crisis as part of its wartime strategy.

Example Derived Insight: It's vital to distinguish between legitimate critique and attempts to undermine Israel's legitimacy. Although such critiques may feel like antisemitism to the Jewish community, recognizing the difference enables a focus on genuine antisemites rather than critics of Israeli policy. A Reut group's report,  led at time by Atchalta's founder, noted that "a broad definition of the phenomenon essence harms the fight's success by causing internal disagreements within the pro-Israel network and unnecessarily 'enlarging' the adversary's camp."

4. The Jewish Erasure

Amidst the surge in identity politics, Jews are often labeled as white and privileged, which in turn casts the Jewish state in the same light, perceived as white and colonial. Thiis categorization, not necessarily rooted in malice, effectively discriminates by 'erasing' Jews and denying them the legitimacy to self-define fundamental aspects of their identity. This view of Jews as privileged contributes to the relative indifference towards antisemitism in the mainstream, turning it into a 'rich problem' lacking urgency.

Example Derived Insight: The threat of Jewish erasure should be formally recognized by the Jewish establishment - in the U.S., the progressive discourse's erasure of Jewish identity isn't widely condemned nor met with a united Jewish response. Instead, many young Jews have absorbed this narrative, viewing themselves as white and privileged, thus distancing themselves from the Jewish establishment and its support for Israel.

5. A Crisis of Jewish Identity

Across the globe, Jewish communities are marked by deep intergenerational and ideological divides, manifesting in varied stances towards the Jewish establishment and Israel. This fragmentation significantly weakens community cohesion and the collective pursuit of goals, evidenced by the uneven response to anti-Zionist campaigns within the Jewish community.

Example Derived Insight: Cohesion within the Jewish community is critical to effectively countering delegitimization - in the face of anti-Zionism and delegitimization, liberal Jewish communities have often struggled to present a united front, due to a lack of consensus on the threat's nature and severity. While the community has historically united against traditional antisemitism, the newer, more elusive forms of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment have sparked debate over their classification and even their recognition as antisemitism. Without a unified voice, effectively addressing these challenges remains elusive.


The war has amalgamated various threats and challenges, rendering them indistinct and often perceived as a singular surge of antisemitism. However, differentiating among them is crucial for a more effective response.

Amidst this the war, calls for measures typically viewed as anti-Semitic, such as advocating for an arms embargo against Israel, found support even among Israel's allies. This situation underscores the necessity for Jewish and pro-Israel organizations to shift their focus. Rather than aiming to eradicate antisemitism - a seemingly unattainable goal - they should concentrate on preventing the exploitation of antisemitic sentiments to enact policies or make statements that challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel in mainstream discourse.

Ultimately, Israeli public diplomacy did not achieve its objectives during this conflict, highlighting the indispensable role of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora. Their involvement in combating antisemitism and addressing other threats is crucial and cannot be overstated.


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