Antisemitism in the United States

A 2014 study found that 25 percent of the world’s population—1.1 billion people—holds antisemitic views, even though 70 percent of them had never met a Jew. Thirty-five percent had never heard of the Holocaust, and of those who had, one-third thought it was either a myth or greatly exaggerated. The highest percentage of populations holding antisemitic views are in the Middle East. 


Antisemitism is seeping into the United States via college campuses, where Palestinian groups are mobilizing students to their cause by using anti-Israel vitriol. A frightening alliance of these anti-Israel groups with progressives and Far-Right activists has made campuses dangerous for anyone Jewish or pro-Israel. This was evidenced after the horrific October 7 massacre of more than 1,200 innocent people in Israel ignited a firestorm of anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian protests across US college campuses. Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said antisemitism surged after the October 7 Hamas attack and that “the American Jewish community is facing a threat level now unprecedented in modern history.”


Another frontier for the spread of antisemitism is the internet, where hate-filled people spew a relentless stream of paranoia and lies, provoking some to acts of violence. That is how Robert Bowers was incited to take a semiautomatic weapon into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 to kill as many Jews as possible and how information about protests across the United States circulated after October 7.


Antisemitic incidences were already at an all-time high pre-October 7 (the ADL says the United States reached a record high in 2023, up 140 percent from 2022, with more than 8,800 antisemitic incidents documented). But after October 7, those numbers spiked. According to the ADL, they reflected “global trends as Jewish communities worldwide faced heightened tensions and hatred in response to the massacre and conflict—on campuses, in the public square, and at anti-Israel demonstrations.”



Since a Jewish nation-state is antithetical to the ruling philosophies of our day—globalism and secularism—this modern form of political antisemitism is finding large-scale acceptance. It is directed not at individual Jews but against the collective Jew—the Jewish State—and is called anti-Zionism. 


Natan Sharansky, an Israeli politician and human rights activist who spent nine years in a USSR gulag for being a Zionist, developed the 3D test to determine when a discussion of Israel is antisemitic. If any of the following are true—delegitimization of Israel, demonization of Israel, or subjecting Israel to double standards—criticism of Israel is antisemitic. 


The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism also includes examples of antisemitic anti-Zionism”: 


  • “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel” 


BDS Movement 

The BDS—short for “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions”—movement unfairly places blame on Israel, then calls for others to boycott, divest from, or sanction the Jewish State. A central premise of the BDS movement is that modern Israel is a racist reincarnation of apartheid South Africa. Ignoring Palestinian demands for a Jew-free state, BDS activists paint Israel as an “apartheid state” that employs “Nazi-like” policies against the Palestinian people. They boycott corporations operating in Israel, stores selling Israeli products, entertainers who plan performances in Israel, and Israeli academic institutions. 


The BDS National Committee (BNC) was established in 2007 in Ramallah, where the Palestinian coordinating body manages the international campaign. Their aim has nothing to do with creating conditions on the ground where Israelis and Palestinians can finally live side by side in peace and prosperity. On the contrary, it opposes any peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. The final solution the BDS movement ultimately seeks is the complete dismantling of the Jewish State to be replaced with a Palestinian state. 


Far Left and Far Right 

Whereas the BDS movement is largely a progressive liberal movement of staunch activists involved in numerous causes such as human rights, gender equality, and abortion, these liberal activists are finding common cause with white supremacists, fascists, and the remnants of the neo-Nazi movement. That common goal is the demonization of Jews. 


The growing number of young progressives taking leadership in the Democratic Party has brought antisemitic tropes and conspiracies to mainstream political discourse. On the other extreme, white supremacists are now adopting and promoting the BDS campaign’s antisemitic propaganda and imagery. 


The Internet 

The problem of antisemitism in the United States is a problem of the Far-Left and Far-Right fringes and not one of mainstream society. However, social media and communication technologies that bypass conventional media controls have allowed the fringe to have excessive influence and to network with each other in unprecedented and alarming ways. Rumors and conspiracy theories can now spread around the globe in seconds on the internet. 


Conspiracy Theories and Pandemics 

Pandemics are dangerous times for Jewish communities due to the conspiracy theories they spawn. One of the greatest catastrophes to afflict the human race was the fourteenth-century bubonic plague—the “Black Death”—that swept through Europe. Historians estimate that up to 50 percent of Europe’s population died in the pandemic, with rates of death as high as 75 percent in Italy, Spain, and France. 


Church and State had already demonized the Jewish minority, so they were an easy scapegoat. They also fared better than the general population, possibly due to their dietary and religious practices or the fact many were confined in walled ghettos. Their lower death rates, however, fueled suspicions they were behind the pandemic, and many Jews who survived the plague were then massacred in pogroms. 


During the COVID crisis of 2020, antisemites spread lies that Jews developed the virus to kill a large number of people and gain power. They were also accused of using it to make money selling the antidote. The fact that the Orthodox Jewish community in New York had higher rates of infection than the general population was used as proof. The lies were propagated on all social media platforms. 


Conspiracy theories should not be dismissed as mere craziness; they produce anger, and anger moves quickly from words into actions. Verbal insults often result in physical attacks. 


Holocaust Denial 

Holocaust denial is any attempt to diminish or deny the facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jews; it is a form of antisemitism because it perpetuates the antisemitic trope that Jews are dishonest and manipulative and accuses them of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust as a plot to advance “Jewish interests.” 


Some common Holocaust denials include reducing the number of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, denying the existence of Nazi facilities that used gas chambers to systematically murder Jews, and denying the widespread killing of Jews in all of the camps and not just in ones equipped with a means of mass extermination. 


Many Americans have fathers or grandfathers who fought in WWII and may have personally witnessed the carnage the Nazis left behind in the camps. Holocaust denial is not only an insult to the Jewish people but to all those who fought to bring down the evil Nazi regime. 



A 2019 poll by the American Jewish Committee revealed that over 80 percent of Jews feel that antisemitism is increasing in America. While there is a combination of reasons for the increase, there is one thing that can stop it. 


One of the largest demographics in America—Evangelical Christians—must be educated to recognize antisemitism in all its forms and stand against its spread into society. If the Holocaust taught us anything, it is that a silent majority is an enabling majority. Christians in the United States must learn to speak out while they can.