click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Anti-Semitism in 3D

Anti-Semitism in 3D

Differentiating legitimate criticism of Israel from the so-called new anti-Semitism.


Last week I took part in a conference on anti-Semitism in Europe. Hosted by the president of the European Commission Romano Prodi, the conference brought together leaders from around the world determined to fight the new wave of anti-Semitism that has engulfed Europe over the last few years.

The question is how the sincere intentions of the participants to combat this evil can be translated into effective action.

My experience has convinced me that moral clarity is critical in taking a stand against evil. Evil cannot be defeated if it cannot be recognized, and the only way to recognize evil is to draw clear moral lines. Evil thrives when those lines are blurred, when right and wrong is a matter of opinion rather than objective truth.

That is what makes the battle against the so-called new anti-Semitism so difficult.

To the free world's modern eyes, classical anti-Semitism is easily discernible. If we watch films that show Jews draining the blood of Gentile children or plotting to take over the world, most of us would immediately recognize it as anti-Semitism.

Such movies, produced recently by the government-controlled media in Egypt and Syria and broadcast via satellite to hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, including millions of Muslim immigrants in Western Europe, employ motifs and canards that are familiar to us.

But the new anti-Semitism is far more subtle. Whereas classical anti-Semitism was seen as being aimed at the Jewish religion or the Jewish people, the new anti-Semitism is ostensibly directed against the Jewish state. Since this anti-Semitism can hide behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel, it is much more difficult to expose.

In fact, over the past year, whenever we have criticized particularly virulent anti-Israel statements as being rooted in anti-Semitism, the response has invariably been that we are trying to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel by deliberately labeling it anti-Semitism.

What emerged from this conference was an admission by European leaders themselves that not all criticism of Israel is legitimate. This recognition was evident in the remarks of President Romano Prodi, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and other officials.

If not all criticism is valid, how then do we define the boundary line?

I propose the following test for differentiating legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism. The 3D test, as I call it, is not a new one. It merely applies to the new anti-Semitism the same criteria that for centuries identified the different dimensions of classical anti-Semitism.


The first D is the test of demonization.

Whether it came in the theological form of a collective accusation of deicide or in the literary depiction of Shakespeare's Shylock, Jews were demonized for centuries as the embodiment of evil. Therefore, today we must be wary of whether the Jewish state is being demonized by having its actions blown out of all sensible proportion.

For example, the comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and of the Palestinian refugee camps to Auschwitz -- comparisons heard practically every day within the "enlightened" quarters of Europe -- can only be considered anti-Semitic.

Those who draw such analogies either do not know anything about Nazi Germany or, more plausibly, are deliberately trying to paint modern-day Israel as the embodiment of evil.


The second D is the test of double standards. For thousands of years a clear sign of anti-Semitism was treating Jews differently than other peoples, from the discriminatory laws many nations enacted against them to the tendency to judge their behavior by a different yardstick.

While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel's right to exist is always anti-Semitic.

Similarly, today we must ask whether criticism of Israel is being applied selectively. In other words, do similar policies by other governments engender the same criticism, or is there a double standard at work?

It is anti-Semitism, for instance, when Israel is singled out by the United Nations for human rights abuses while tried and true abusers like China, Iran, Cuba, and Syria are ignored.

Likewise, it is anti-Semitism when Israel's Magen David Adom, alone among the world's ambulance services, is denied admission to the International Red Cross.


The third D is the test of deligitimization. In the past, anti-Semites tried to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish religion, the Jewish people, or both. Today, they are trying to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish state, presenting it, among other things, as the last vestige of colonialism.

While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel's right to exist is always anti-Semitic. If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the Jewish people have a right to live securely in their homeland.

To remember the 3D test I suggest we recall those 3D movies we enjoyed as children. Without those special glasses the movie was flat and blurred. But when we put on our glasses the screen came alive, and we saw everything with perfect clarity.

In the same way, if we do not wear the right glasses, the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism will be blurred and we will not be able to recognize this ancient evil, much less fight it.

But if we wear the special glasses provided by the 3D test -- if we check whether Israel is being demonized or deligitimized, or whether a double standard is being applied to it -- we will always be able to see anti-Semitism clearly.

And with moral clarity, I have no doubt that our efforts to combat this evil will prove far more effective.

For more on this topic, see "Identifying the New Anti-Semitism" by Irwin Cotler.

February 23, 2004

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 25

(22) Anonymous, April 29, 2018 4:25 PM

antisemitism is increasing

I did medical school and my radiology training at Einstein medical school and the associated Einstein Medical school program.and did not feel any antisemitism. When I applied for fellowships I was warned that if I wore my Yamulkah it would hurt my chances. I did not believe this so I wore my Yamulkah to 1/2 of my fellowship interviews and not in the other half. I was surprised that in the places I wore my yamulkah including Harvard , Sloan Kettering I was not accepted.' Note I was accepted at renown Malinkrodt Institute of Radiology and University of San Francisco.
Then when /i was on the faculty at University of Miami and they had to cut back on their Radiology Facullty. All people let go were Jews and 1 black radiologis. This is despite me having more publications and seniority in my division.
My wife was also on faculty of University of Miami and she was
assaulted by a arab administator. The administrator was advanced and she was fired with the other Jewish female hit by this administrator. The University did nothing to punish this person for his hateful action. Note the women and minority brought this to the university senate and were not allowed to proceed.
My daughter went to Barnard and Columbia where many Jews attend, but Columbia paid the leader of Iran to speak on campus based on freedom of speech and Barnard just passed a BDS against Israel. Anti semitism is on the rise on campuses.
The number of antisemitic acts have increased and many Jewish communities pay for guards to protect their synagogues and schools.
We must stop supporting the schools that do not combat anti-semitism at their campuses.

(21) Beverly KurtiiIt, June 3, 2013 3:56 AM

It is Israel's fault

Israel ignored the fact that the Arabs were building a massive PR group around the world. They did not block the propaganda that the Arabs got going, making up lies..."Big Lies" which were repeated over and over and over again, just like the Nazis who taught the Arabs all of the Nazi tricks.

Israel kept relatively quiet. I feel that they figured that people would be intelligent enough to know that they were lying.

Well, they were wrong. I know now that Israel has their PR people, but it is WAY too late, the BIG LIES are sticking.

Being only ONE Jew, I fight the lies every chance I get. I LOATH it when people tell me how horrible Israel is. Rather than talk to them, I show them videos that tell the truth. I grab them from Aish, Honest Reporting, and a few other sites.

Jew-hate has been around since the git-go of our people; every Jew needs to know the truth and fight it. Each Jew ought to be part of the public relations for Israel.

Peter Fernandez, March 6, 2018 8:03 PM

Palestine and its allies winning propaganda wars

This is a little late, like almost five years, but the pro-Palestine movement through our smug western media accepts falsehoods as facts and emblazons them for all to see. Taqqiyah, an Islamic practice allows all Moslems the right to lie if it furthers their cause.

(20) Anonymous, April 11, 2004 12:00 AM

What is idolatry

I say I can live with the though of G"d in the heaven my problem is to survive with the false G"d on earth, who break the rules of the 10 commandments that we should not serve idols and in our dealing with our fellow man we are serving idols if we try to exercise power over others. The second lot of the 10 commandments each specify a power over another human being by the person breaking any of the commandments only belief in G"d and the shabbath and honouring our parents is allowed as not being idol worship. We ourselves are the idols if we exercise power over another human being.
Truth consists of facts not of biased truth and any indoctrination is an exercise of idolatry and in my view that is why we Jews have freedon of choice

(19) jennifer, March 21, 2004 12:00 AM

dear Iris

This is exactly the point. It is the historical inaccuracy that is frustrating and disrespectful, I think.
In no way did I see evidence of the Jewishness of Jesus, nor the spiritual enlightenment of the post-Hillel Rabbinic era in the religious leaders. I just think it is a sad and unfair depiction of the religion. Even if it is verbatim NT.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment