What Is Antisemitism? Unpacking History’s Longest Hatred

By Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director

Antisemitism is an ancient hatred of or bigotry toward Jews that includes delegitimizing, demonizing, and dehumanizing Jews individually and as a group.

This hatred of Jews was already at pre-Holocaust levels in Europe and had reached epidemic levels throughout the Middle East where antisemitism is entrenched in everyday life before October 7, 2023, when Hamas militia attacked and brutally raped and murdered more than 1,200 people. The war in Gaza that resulted lit a firestorm of hatred of not just Israel but Jewish people around the world. In the months since, the American Defamation League (ADL) says the global Jewish community “has witnessed an increase in antisemitic activity, unprecedented in recent years.”

Jew hatred continues to surge on the internet, on college campuses, and in both the far-right and progressive political movements in the United States as never before. Anti-Zionist protestors are echoing language used in pre-Holocaust propaganda. But antisemitism is not new—it can be likened to a mutating virus that reinvents itself for new generations, a dangerous ideology of hate.

But what exactly is antisemitism, and when did it start? Why has there been such a dramatic increase over the last decade—most recently, after the events following October 7, 2023? Is hatred of Israel the same thing as antisemitism?

Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more, or skip to a specific topic below:

What Is Antisemitism?

The non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism, published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and adopted by its 31 member states is:

A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

The US State Department uses this working definition and has encouraged other governments and international organizations to use it too. Three contemporary examples of antisemitism listed on the US State Department’s website include:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or extremist view of religion
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor1

And that’s just a short list (head to the U.S. Department of State website to see their entire list).

In the video below, I unpack more about what antisemitism is:

History of Antisemitism

The evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, which is why historian Robert Wistrich called antisemitism “the longest hatred.” Every time this irrational vitriol seems to be dying out, it reinvents itself with a different look and name, but the goal is always the same: to rid the world of the Jewish people. Click the plus signs below to read more on how antisemitism evolved over time.

In the ancient world, antisemitism was a clash between pagan rulers, who demanded obedient homage, and their Jewish subjects, who would only worship and obey the God of Israel. The Jewish people could not bow down to other gods and incurred the wrath of tyrants. The Sinaitic Law also bound them to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart as nonconformist.

This was the situation described in the book of Esther where Haman, the king’s consort, demanded the Jews bow to him, and when they would not, turned the might of the Persian Empire against them. Hundreds of years later, the Hanukkah story took place under the rule of the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who attempted to make the Jews into Hellenistic pagans. He banned their religious practices and desecrated their temple resulting in the Maccabean Revolt.

One would think that once paganism gave way to Christianity this problem would go away. Instead, antisemitism took hold in the heart of Christian Europe, and among those who persecuted and hated the Jewish people were professing Christians. Space does not permit a full treatment of this sad story, but anti-Jewish theology led to centuries of church-backed denigration, persecution, forced conversions, and expulsions that paved the way for the Holocaust.

Martin Luther’s antisemitic writings were published and distributed by Hitler to justify his treatment of the Jews and their eventual extermination. When two Catholic Bishops questioned him about his policy toward the Jews, he replied that he was only putting into effect what Christianity had preached and practiced for 2,000 years.

The form of antisemitism found in Nazi ideology was not based on religion, however, but on racial theories promoting the superiority of the Aryan race. In the late nineteenth century, Darwinism was infiltrating the sciences and replacing the God who created the universe with evolution and the idea that man was created in His image with the theory of survival of the fittest. They concluded that the evolution of man was ongoing, and whereas the European people were the most developed, others were inferior and expendable.

Adolf Hitler became an enthusiastic supporter of Darwin’s evil ideas and simply applied them with fanatical zeal. The German Aryan race was, therefore, at the very top of the evolutionary process, and the Jews were at the bottom.

Whereas Christianity had sought the conversion of the Jews, and state leaders had sought their expulsion, the Nazis sought the “final solution” to the Jewish problem—the murder of all Jews and their eradication from the human race.

While classical antisemitism blames the Jews for the world’s ills, the new antisemitism, called “anti-Zionism,” blames Israel. Anti-Zionism opposes Zionism, the right for Israel to exist as a Jewish nation. UCLA Professor Judea Pearl, the father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, gave this analogy: “Antisemitism rejects the Jews as equal members of the human race, anti-Zionism rejects Israel as an equal member in the family of nations.” Believing that the Jewish State does not have a right to exist, these enemies of Israel have found a politically correct and sophisticated way to attempt to see the State dismantled.

Not all criticism of Israel can be considered antisemitic. However, criticism of Israel becomes antisemitic when it:

  • delegitimizes the state and questions its right to exist
  • uses anti-Jewish rhetoric and stereotypes or compares Israelis to Nazis
  • judges Israel by a different standard than any other nation
  • becomes an excuse to attack local Jewish individuals and institutions

The danger of anti-Zionism was on display during the 2014 war in Gaza (a defensive war on Israel’s part to prevent further missile launches from Hamas) when there were attacks on synagogues and Jewish citizens in France. Refrains such as “Jews to the gas” in Germany, the use of swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations in Latin America, and antisemitic caricatures in Middle Eastern newspapers clearly demonstrated the antisemitic nature of anti-Zionism.

More recently, the attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, led to worldwide vitriol anti-Israel protests and antisemitic incidents at an unprecedented level in modern history.

While anti-Zionism is the new “socially accepted” expression of antisemitism, it is important to note that religious bigotry still exists throughout the Muslim world. Muslims have held negative stereotypes regarding Jews throughout most of Islamic history based on the Quran and Hadith. This theological antisemitism was fertile ground for the racial and militant antisemitism that was transferred to the Islamic world by Nazi leaders during and after WWII and adopted by the jihadist movement birthed then by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Muslim antisemitism is a dangerous mix of religious, racial, and political antisemitism. It is responsible for the genocidal threats against Israel and the United States emanating from jihadist, terrorist groups and the Iranian regime. It is a modern-day ideology of hatred and death that must be stopped.

Where Does the Term “Antisemitism” Come From?

Professor Dan Michman, historian, and head of the Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, says it’s important to know when and why the term “antisemitism” emerged and if we understand it the same way as when it was first coined.

The term antisemitism first emerged in the 1890s by a German journalist named Wilhelm Marr (below image), who used it in his 1879 pamphlet The Way to Victory of Germanism over Judaism. Consider the breakdown of the word:

  • anti – “against”
  • semite – those who speak a Semitic language or descend from Semite peoples of ancient southwestern Asia, including Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs
  • -ism – a school, a movement, idea, explanation
Wilhelm Marr for the article What Is Antisemitism?

Initially, the word meant “against Jews” or “against Judaism” as a school of thought. Consider that when and where the word emerged, in late-nineteenth-century Germany, several other schools of thought were gaining traction—liberalism, socialism, communism, and behaviorism. The term antisemitism was thus an attempt to give anti-Judaism and anti-Jewishness a more academic, intellectual face. Though initially coined to present Jew-hatred in a more socially legitimate and scientific light, it concealed the truth that the target of this hatred was Jews, not all those speaking Semitic languages or descending from the Semite peoples.

Sadly, Professor Anthony Julius, Chair in Law and the Arts at University College, London, says the term antisemitism today has an “ideological value as a term,” enlisted in political arguments intended “more to sloganize than to neutrally describe realities.” Some would like to expand the idea of antisemitism into a broader term like “racism.” However, Julius argues that historically, antisemitism “communicates that Jews are the object of a particularly and specifically irrational hatred,” and dissolving the word risks “losing that historical specificity.”

Historian Dr. Robert Rozett agrees antisemitism is not the perfect term. Today, he argues, it’s more important how people understand the term, not what it might intrinsically mean. Although the connotation of antisemitism has changed over time (sometimes having racial ideas, sometimes political, sometimes religious, and sometimes social), there are constants, the top of which is the idea that the Jew is different from the rest of us and inferior.

What Are Antisemitic Tropes?

What is antisemitism article section on antisemitic tropes
1941 antisemitic poster in German-occupied Serbia showing a Jew behind both capitalism and communism (commons.wikimedia.org)

An antisemitic trope is a myth or sensational report, misrepresentation, or lie defamatory toward Judaism or the Jewish people as an ethnic or religious group. Some tropes date back to the birth of Christianity, like the belief that Jews are collectively responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Other tropes include untruths like the Jews controlling the media and the global financial system with the goal of world domination, that they are profiteers and spies, and that they perform ritual murder or “blood libel.” The Nazis used antisemitic tropes in propaganda to rally the Germans to support the persecution of Jews, the war, and ultimately the murder of 6 million Jewish people. Sadly, they did not end with the Holocaust. Antisemitism—and the propaganda encouraging it—continues to smolder today and is merely old myths in a new age.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the top seven tropes include:

  • Jews have too much power.
  • Jews are disloyal.
  • Jews are greedy.
  • Jews killed Jesus.
  • Jews use Christian blood for religious rituals.
  • The Holocaust didn’t happen.
  • Anti-Zionism or delegitimization of Israel.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), these myths have led to violence against Jewish communities worldwide throughout the centuries. Though the myths might “look” different today, manifesting in new forms, they are still provoking antisemitic violence, and according to the ADL, “finding [a] voice in the tweets and public statements of elected officials or resonating with the extremists who carried out violent attacks against Jews.”

Antisemitic tropes still exist, unfortunately. The 2024 ADL Antisemitic Attitudes in America report says from 2022 to 2024, just under 24% of Americans endorsed 6 or more anti-Jewish tropes, up from 20% in 2022. Millennials are more likely to endorse antisemitic tropes, followed by Gen Z, Gen X, and then Baby Boomers. More than 42% of Americans have friends or family who dislike Jews (23.2%) or find it socially acceptable for a close family member to support Hamas (27.2%).

Sadly, as stated earlier, Jew-hatred hasn’t just been prevalent in the secular word but historically has been present among Christians too.

What Is Christian Antisemitism?  

Hatred of, opposition to, or hostility toward Jews has existed in the church for almost 2,000 years. Today it’s termed Christian antisemitism, though many Evangelical Christians will argue that there is no such thing. For them, it is a contradiction of terms—an oxymoron. They do not believe a “true” Christian can be antisemitic. Unfortunately, history has proven otherwise.

Antisemitic Christian rhetoric that has resulted in antipathy toward Jews dates to the early years of Christianity, whether in the form of ostracism, humiliation, expropriation, violence, and even murder, which culminated with the Holocaust. When a professing Christian uses the Christian Scriptures to denigrate Jewish people and support antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories, it is Christian antisemitism. Many Evangelical Christians will argue that there is no such thing as “Christian antisemitism.” For them, it is a contradiction of terms—an oxymoron. They do not believe a “true” Christian can be antisemitic.

Unfortunately, history has proven otherwise. For example, the father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, started as a supporter of the Jews. But when the Jews did not reciprocate by converting to Christianity, he turned against them. His antisemitic book The Jews and Their Lies called for synagogues to be burned and sacred books destroyed and for someone to develop a solution to the “devilish burden”—the Jews.

This belief is known as Replacement Theology (also called Supersessionism), a Christian teaching against the Jewish people that posits that the Jews were cursed by God for their rejection of Jesus’ messianic credentials and have therefore been replaced by the church in God’s plans and purposes. This theology often led to the antisemitic trope that the Jews were Christ-killers, giving sanction to their maltreatment. Reverend Malcolm Hedding, the former executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, writes:

All the biblical statements of Israel enjoying future blessings in the land of Canaan are said to be descriptions of the spiritual blessings that now accrue to the church. Replacement Theology rests chiefly on the idea that the whole or part of the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished, for it is this covenant that promises to Israel eternal ownership of the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:7–8). Once this “promise” has been removed, the present-day restoration of Israel means nothing, and her only hope is in the church. Now, it must be made clear that we believe that only in Christ Jesus can there be salvation for Jews and gentiles alike (Romans 1:16–17). However, we do not believe that the promise of God in the Abrahamic Covenant bequeathing the land of Canaan to Israel has been removed, and therefore, Israel’s modern restoration to the land of Canaan is indeed the fulfillment of that promise and constitutes a milestone on her “way home” to her Messiah (Ezekiel 36:24–28).

Jews and Christians have had a history of difficult relations. What started in the first century as an internal squabble among Jews over the messiahship of Jesus became a split into two separate religions, both struggling to survive under the brutal Roman Empire.

A Church Severed from Its Roots

Inevitably, the church became predominantly gentile, made up of pagans who had converted to Christianity with no knowledge of, nor appreciation for, the Jewish roots of the faith or the Jewish people themselves. Several gentile church fathers began to distinguish Christianity by preaching against Judaism and warning their followers away from it. This is how the teaching of Replacement Theology took root.

Once Christianity became the official state religion in the fourth century AD, anti-Jewish theology paved the way for centuries of degrading laws and state-sanctified discrimination, persecution, forced conversions, ghettos, and expulsions of Jews. Centuries of religiously motivated and state-empowered antisemitism prepared the way for the Nazi Holocaust.

To be clear, Christianity did not cause the Holocaust. But Christian anti-Judaism, which led to antisemitism made the Holocaust possible. Whereas Christianity had sought the conversion of the Jews and state leaders had sought their expulsion, the Nazis sought the “final solution to the Jewish question”: the murder of all Jews and their eradication from the human race.

Dr. Michael Brown is an expert on antisemitism, particularly Christian antisemitism. I had the privilege to interview him in this informative video:


Not everyone who holds to a form of replacement theology is antisemitic. Some theologians simply interpret the New Testament in this way—and therefore spiritualize much of the Old Testament to support it—but have absolutely no ill intent toward anyone. Many pastors hold replacement views as a theological assumption yet have never been taught the ramifications of such faulty hermeneutics required to support it.

Does Christian Antisemitism Exist Today?

This more benign form of American Evangelical replacement theology may not be the antisemitic version of the past that went on to call for the persecution and demonization of the Jews. Nevertheless, it is the same theological foundation from which Christian antisemitism sprouts, and we need to correct it in all its variants.

A well-known pastor of one of the largest churches in America has been publishing his concerns about the loss of Christian faith among young people. He blames the influence of Judaism and the Old Testament, which he describes as irrelevant and having been replaced with the “brand-new and different” teachings and ethics of Jesus. He portrays Judaism as hypocritical, self-righteous, and exclusivist, and claims the apostle Paul considered it an eroding influence on the beauty, simplicity, and appeal of the early church. He even goes so far as to blame the sins of the church throughout history on the influence of Judaism and the Old Testament.

Many scholars agree that the Holocaust could never have happened had it not been for the centuries of Christian antisemitism rooted in this type of theology. Therefore, we must be very concerned about its growth and learn to refute it. Another lesser-known Evangelical Christian preacher has gone further than theology and is espousing antisemitic conspiracy theories. Pastor Rick Wiles of the TruNews broadcast has a history of blaming the Jews for everything from the failure of the Iowa Democratic primary app to the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump—or what he called a “Jew coup.” He also claimed the coronavirus began at the mostly Jewish AIPAC Policy Conference and spread via synagogues because God is dealing with “false religions” and “people who oppose His son, Jesus Christ.”

Is Being Anti-Israel Antisemitic?

Historically, whenever Replacement Theology prevailed, it resulted in overt anti-Jewish expression, often followed by violent actions against Jews. Ultimately, Christian antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment demonstrate a lack of understanding and/or rejection of the eternal covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants.

Today when Christian antisemitism manifests, it not only results in contempt toward Jews but can result in anti-Israel sentiment as well.

However, the Bible doesn’t make that distinction.

Dr. Tricia Miller, ICEJ USA Education Coordinator, writes:

Opposition toward the Jewish people and Jewish State is actually a blatant demonstration of opposition to God and His decision to choose a particular people for a unique purpose. Zechariah 2:8 says, “He who touches you [Israel] touches the apple of His eye.”

In other words, those who oppose Israel are poking God in the eye. 

In reality, people who hold negative attitudes toward Israel-related policies, Israeli people, and Israel-oriented conspiracy theories are significantly more likely to believe anti-Jewish tropes, which then crosses the line to antisemitism.

Most Christians today would never condone the religious antisemitism that fueled centuries of discrimination, persecution, ghettos, and expulsions in the heart of Christian Europe nor the racial antisemitism embraced by Hitler that led to the horrific genocide campaign known as the Holocaust. But they are vulnerable to the new form of antisemitism that is trying to infiltrate America and Christian churches—anti-Zionism.

Some of the more liberal protestant denominations in America have been passing anti-Israel resolutions calling for divestment from Israel and companies that do business with Israel for years. These more liberal protestant churches are losing members at such an alarming rate that their very survival is questionable.

Within Evangelical ranks, a recent movement to be “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace, and pro-justice” sought to “correct”—or back away—from the pro-Israel movement within Evangelical Christianity and entertain an anti-Israel narrative under the banner of “love and peace” for all. While the effects of this movement have been limited at the grassroots level, a similar reaction took place in seminaries and Christian colleges, creating a new generation of pastors and Christian leaders who do not want to be associated with the support of Israel.

Two other dangerous trends in the American church are making it increasingly vulnerable to antisemitic narratives against Israel and the Jewish people: loss of biblical literacy and replacement theology.

Loss of Biblical Literacy

While Evangelical Christianity—and its inherent support for Israel—is mushrooming in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, it has plateaued in the United States (and Europe) and is losing its momentum. This is evident in the growing biblical illiteracy in society, not to mention prominent Evangelical voices challenging core biblical tenets and the Bible itself.

One prominent Evangelical pastor with a huge following has publicly discounted the Old Testament and blamed it for the loss of faith in the younger generation. When the Old Testament is discarded, God’s covenant with the Jewish people and the biblical significance of modern Israel go with it.

Rising Replacement Theology

In this atmosphere of questioning—even disregarding—the Old Testament, Replacement Theology is gaining traction under various names and guises, one being “fulfillment theology.”

Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). However, fulfillment theology maintains that Jesus’ fulfillment did abolish the law and, with it, God’s covenantal relationship with Israel. It also teaches that all Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled in Jesus and thus are no longer valid regarding modern Israel.

Although this view may lack the same degree of animus toward the Jews as historical anti-Jewish preaching, fulfillment theology still winds up in the same place as replacement theology—namely that God is finished with the Jewish people and has replaced them with the church.

It is important to clarify that just because someone holds a form of replacement or fulfillment theology does not mean that they are antisemitic. Many well-meaning pastors hold replacement views more as a theological assumption simply because they were never taught otherwise.

Replacement theology, however, robs Christians of the very root that sustains our faith and separates us from the people who represent the truth of the Bible and the faithfulness of God to always keep His word. As the apostle Paul said, the Jewish faith is the very root that supports us (Romans 11:18). To be separated from that root means spiritual death.

It also leaves Christians vulnerable to anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiments. If we believe the Jews were bad enough to have lost their standing with God, then we might believe the worst of accusations any antisemite might bring forward.

The battle against this dangerous ideology is our battle. It behooves us to do everything we can to help churches recognize it for what it is and to stand against it.

Jewish-Christian relations have never been better, and churches around the world are standing with Israel and the Jewish people. Thankfully, Christian antisemites are few and far between and are largely condemned by the Evangelical world, which is the fastest-growing segment of Christianity and soon to be the largest.

However, the liberalization of Evangelical churches in America and the rise of theologies that spiritualize or discount the Old Testament is disturbing. These trends leave the Evangelical church in America increasingly vulnerable to the antisemitism seeping into our schools and society.

A Shift in Christianity Today

Despite these trends, we are witnessing a “tectonic shift” in Jewish-Christian relations, the roots of which happened half a century ago. The root of this great turnaround lies in the invention of the printing press, which made the translation of the Bible into different languages possible and encouraged its spread to the common person. For most of church history, ordinary Christians did not have access to the Bible to know what it taught. Only those who knew Hebrew, Greek, or Latin could read it. As a result, there were teachings about the Jewish people that were not grounded in Scripture and produced centuries of antisemitism in the heart of Christian Europe. Replacement Theology and the teaching of contempt for the Jewish people were the fertile ground for antisemitism, which led to their persecution, expulsion, and murder.

As soon as Christians could read Scripture for themselves, many discovered the error of their ways. They realized that Jesus was Jewish and that Christianity had been born out of Judaism. They also read the many promises of God to one day regather the Jewish people back to their ancient homeland. Preachers began to teach about that return, and they prayed for and supported it as an act of justice for a people who had suffered persecution for centuries.

Some of the greatest and most respected Evangelicals in history were what we would call Christian Zionists today: John and Charles Wesley, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Bishop Ryle of Liverpool, Professor Jacob Janeway of the Scottish National Church, and many others.  The only difference between them and today’s Christian Zionists is that they looked forward in hope to a future event, while today’s Christian Zionists have witnessed the return of the Jews to their homeland and actively support a current reality.

While Replacement Theology does still exist and is usually the dividing line in the Christian world regarding those who support Israel and those who do not, the church as a whole has come a very long way in its relations with the Jewish people.

Evangelicals are reading the Bible with a new worldview. The Jewish people have been gathered from the north, south, east, and west, returning to their homeland in fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. Christians are no longer looking down on the Jewish people and heaping condemnation on them. Instead, they are loving, comforting, and blessing them.

Churches are honoring and exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity to learn more about our own faith. The fact that God is faithful and is fulfilling His promises to the Jewish people is an encouragement to Christians that God is true to His Word. Now, as a result, the fastest growing segment of Christianity, which is Bible-based and Evangelical, is largely pro-Israel. This shift within Christianity away from that antisemitic past has evolved into Jewish-Christian relations today that are stronger than ever. Several key things in recent generations have played a part in this continually improving relationship.

Birth of a More Bible-Based Christianity

One is the exponential growth of a more Bible-based Christianity over the last centuries. For most of church history, ordinary Christians did not have access to the Bible to even know what it taught. As a result, there were teachings about the Jewish people that simply were not grounded in Scripture and produced centuries of antisemitism. As soon as the Bible was translated into the vernacular and mass distribution made possible by the printing press, Christians could read the Scriptures for themselves, and many discovered the error of their ways.

They realized that Jesus was Jewish and that Christianity had been born out of Judaism. They also read the many promises of God to one day, regather the Jewish people back to their ancient homeland. Preachers began to teach about that return, and they prayed for and supported it as an act of justice for a people who had suffered persecution for centuries.

The Holocaust

In addition to access to Scripture, the Holocaust—which shook the historic churches predominant in Europe—contributed to significant changes in Christian relations with the Jewish people. The Catholic and Lutheran churches, particularly, reevaluated their theology and liturgy. Some of the most beautiful words of Christian repentance toward the Jewish people ever written are by the Catholic bishops of Europe. While the Catholic Church has sought a new relationship with the Jewish people, it has fallen short of embracing the Jewish State.

The State of Israel 

Finally, the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 also changed the Evangelical world’s posture toward the Jewish people. This fulfillment of biblical prophecy reinforced God’s covenant with the Jewish people and dispelled replacement theology. It also opened tourism to the Land, allowing millions of Christians to visit Israel to “walk where Jesus walked” and many, for the first time, to interact with Jewish people and better understand the Jewishness of Jesus. It is no coincidence that over the past four decades as Christian tourism to Israel has mushroomed, Jewish-Christian relations have too.

While this generation is privileged to be part of a historic correction in the church’s relations with the Jews, we cannot take it for granted. Antisemitism is on the rise around the world, and dangerous trends within American churches need addressing to protect this budding relationship. It is the American church that will keep antisemitism from gaining more ground in the country, and it must understand the importance of doing so.

Why Christians Must Understand Antisemitism 

Tricia Miller PhD, ICEJ USA Education Coordinator, writes:

Antisemitism—opposition and hostility toward Jews—has existed in the church for almost 2,000 years. This ancient hatred includes delegitimizing, demonizing, and dehumanizing Jews individually and as a group. We can surmise from the apostle Paul’s instruction concerning the correct Christian understanding of God’s heart for His people in Romans 9–11 that Christian animosity and contempt toward Jews was present in first-century Rome.  

Unfortunately, Paul’s teaching on this subject has been largely ignored throughout church history, and the false doctrine of Replacement Theology—which originated in the early church—continues to feed Christian antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment through the assertion that Christians and the church have replaced Jews and Israel in the purposes of God. 

Historically, whenever Replacement Theology prevailed, it resulted in overt anti-Jewish expression, often followed by violent actions against Jews. Today when Christian antisemitism manifests, it not only results in contempt toward Jews but in anti-Israel sentiment as well.  

Opposition toward the Jewish people and Jewish State is actually a blatant demonstration of opposition to God and His decision to choose a particular people for a unique purpose. Zechariah 2:8 says, “He who touches you [Israel] touches the apple of His eye.” In other words, those who oppose Israel are poking God in the eye.  

In addition to opposing God, Christian antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment demonstrate a lack of understanding and/or rejection of the eternal covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants. 

In Genesis 12:1–3, God told Abraham to leave his country and go to a land He would show him—where he would be blessed and become a great nation. God called Abraham to a specific land, and land is an integral part of the promise and subsequent covenant. 

After Abraham arrived in the land, God said: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:14–15, emphasis added). All the land Abraham could see was given to him and his descendants as an eternal possession. 

In Genesis 17:7–8, God declared: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also, I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” 

All three of these texts emphasize the promise of a specific land. And when God established the covenant with Abraham and his descendants—including the promise of that land—He called it an everlasting covenant.    

In these perilous times in which we live, where antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment are on the rise—even in the church—may we as Christians be grounded in the truth of God’s Word and emboldened to stand with the people and land with whom God made an eternal covenant.  

Antisemitism in the United States

A frightening alliance of these anti-Israel groups with progressives and Far-Right activists has made campuses dangerous for anyone Jewish or pro-Israel.

Another frontier for the spread of antisemitism is the internet, where hate-filled people spew a relentless stream of paranoia and lies inciting 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.

Antisemitic incidences rose 57 percent in the United States in 2018 and were mainly in high schools and on college campuses. Such incidents hit an all-time high in 2019 and also included increasing attacks on synagogues, Jewish individuals, and cemeteries.

Since October 7, 2023, however, antisemitism has been at near-historic levels. The American Defamation League recorded more than 3,200 antisemitic incidents between October 7, 2023, and January 7, 2024—a 361% increase from the same period the year prior. Those numbers continue to rise and are expected to be record-breaking.

Read about other topics related to antisemitism in the United States by clicking the plus signs below:

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 discussion of Israel is antisemitic. If any of the following are true delegitimization of Israel, demonization of Israel, or subjecting Israel to double standard—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.

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.

BDS protest in Melbourne, Australia, against Israel's 2007–present Gaza blockade and 2010 attack on a humanitarian flotilla, June 2010 (commons.wikimedia.org)

The BDS National Committee (BNC) was established in 2007 in Ramallah from 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.

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 2019 report by the Institute for the Global Study of Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) describes one of the most active antisemitic forces on campuses as a group named National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) whose goal is the elimination of the State of Israel.

NSJP efforts were seen almost immediately after the October 7, 2023 massacre of more than 1,200 people in southern Israel and the disturbing pro-Palestinian protests that erupted across American college campuses, some violent, and the accompanying antisemitic incidents that left students fearing for their safety. Consider findings from a 2023 Anti-Defamation League survey that revealed a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents post-October 7, as well as a decrease in how safe Jewish students felt being on campus:

Prior to 10/7, two-thirds (66.6%) of Jewish students said they felt “very” or “extremely” physically safe on campus, compared to less than half (45.5%) post-10/7. Feelings of emotional safety among Jewish students changed even more dramatically—two-thirds (65.8%) of Jewish students said they felt “very” or “extremely” emotionally safe before 10/7, which fell to a third (32.5%) after 10/7.2

The AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America, states that since 2015, more than 7,000 antisemitic incidents have been recorded across 670 monitored campuses. Disturbingly, much of it is being fueled by what students are being taught. For example, there has been a 1,100% increase in Anti-Zionist activity and advocacy among University of California faculty since October 7.

Hillel International estimates a 700% increase in antisemitic activity on North American campuses after October 7, 2023, compared to the same period the year prior.3


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 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 inordinate influence and network with each other in unprecedented and alarming ways. Rumors and conspiracy theories can now spread around the globe in seconds on the internet.

This is evidenced by how social media has influenced what people think about Israel's war with Hamas in 2023-24. Inflated numbers of civilians killed and inaccuracies regarding which side has caused explosions or deaths fired up anti-Israel protestors who took the information as truth without researching it themselves.

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—known as 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 coronavirus 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.

We should not dismiss conspiracy theories as mere craziness. Conspiracy theories produce anger, and anger moves quickly from words into actions; verbal insults often result in physical attacks.

Holocaust denial is any attempt to diminish or deny the established facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jews. This 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 affront to the Jewish people but to all those who fought to bring down the evil Nazi regime.

Worldwide Antisemitism Since Hamas’ Attack on October 7

The 2023 Antisemitism Worldwide Report, released on May 5, 2024, by the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, revealed an unprecedented surge in global antisemitism following the October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorist attack against Israeli civilians. In his article titled “TAU/ ADL Antisemitism Worldwide Report for 2023,” ICEJ Aliyah Director Howard Flower said data collected from law enforcement agencies, governmental organizations, Jewish institutions, and media platforms across numerous countries “showed dramatic increases in antisemitic incidents compared to 2022, even in the months preceding the October attack. This indicates that the attack exacerbated an already worsening situation.”

France, which is home to the largest Jewish population in Europe, saw a “staggering rise in antisemitic incidents, jumping from 436 in all of 2022 to 1,676 in 2023” Flower said. “The United Kingdom experienced a near quadrupling of antisemitic incidents, from 1,662 in 2022 to an astounding 4,103 in 2023. Germany, too, saw a significant increase in politically motivated antisemitic crimes, which rose from 2,639 in 2022 to 3,614 in 2023.”

Since October 7, similar patterns of escalating Jew-hatred have been documented in the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Sweden.

“The Antisemitism Worldwide Report for 2023 serves as a stark warning about the resurgence of Jew-hatred in the twenty-first century.”

Antisemitism in Europe

1819 anti-Jewish riots in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

In the Middle Ages, antisemitism in Europe was undergirded with the belief that Jews were collectively responsible for Jesus’ death. Antisemitism flourished during the Crusades, and Jews were accused of ritually murdering Christian children in what became known as the antisemitic trope “blood libel.” They were blamed for the Black Death in fourteenth-century Europe, excluded from many occupations, and could not own land. Thousands upon thousands of Jews were put to death, and many Jewish communities were destroyed during this period.

Title page of Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies, published in 1543. (Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

During the Protestant Reformation, antisemitism increased, fueled by Martin Luther’s 1543 pamphlet On the Jews and Their Lies. The antisemitic picture book Trust No Fox in the Green Meadow and No Jew on His Oath was published by a well-known antisemitic cartoonish, an 18-year-old German kindergarten teacher, to explain Nazi racial ideology—the title referring to a quote in Luther’s pamphlet.

As banking developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Jews were blamed for many of Europe’s financial problems. To restrict Jews from spreading throughout the Russian Empire in the eighteenth century, Catherine II, empress of Russia, established the Pale of Settlement in 1772, which restricted Jews to the western part of the empire.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the belief of “white race” Aryan superiority had taken root: Jews were seen as a distinct and inferior race, and soon, they did not receive equal rights as citizens. Evil tropes were rampant, such that Jews wanted world economic domination, as seen in the booklet published in Russia in 1903, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Pograms in Russia in the late 1800s led to the death of tens of thousands of Jews, and millions left for America.

Then Hitler’s plan to exterminate all Jews came to fruition, resulting in one of the largest genocides in world history, where six million Jews lost their lives—about two-thirds of all European Jews. Those who survived immigrated to the United States or then Mandate Palestine—Israel.

But antisemitism in Europe did not end with the Holocaust, and today, we can no longer disregard antisemitism in Europe. After Hamas massacred more than 1,200 people and took upward of 250 people hostage in Gaza on October 7, 2023, antisemitic incidents in Europe rose sharply. For example, the Council of Jewish Institutions in France reported that the number of antisemitic acts in the three months following October 7 equaled those of the previous three years combined. Much of the recent antisemitic attacks in Europe include Holocaust denial, hate messages (primarily online), assault, and damage. Most disturbingly is the call for the destruction of Israel.

The wound of the Holocaust, deeply embedded in every Jewish person, including those in Europe, was reopened on October 7, 2023.

Antisemitism FAQ

According to a 2014 Anti-Defamation League global study of 53,000 people from 100 countries, the top 10 most antisemitic countries are:

  • West Bank and Gaza
  • Iraq
  • Yemen
  • Algeria
  • Libya
  • Tunisia
  • Kuwait
  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Morocco/Qatar/UAE

Though in the past, antisemitism has been stronger in older Americans and weaker among younger, the American Defamation League says this trend has reversed. Time magazine says millennials now lead the way, with "belief in 5.37 different tropes on average," followed by Gen Z at 5.01. Such tropes include that Jews are disloyal to America and that they are controlling the media and Wall Street. Since October 7, there has also been a massive shift in younger generations' views on Israel. Again, Time magazine states: "Today, 17 percent of Gen-Z agrees with the anti-Zionist idea that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be “the termination of the state of Israel,” compared to just 2 percent of Baby Boomers."

According to the American Defamation League's 2022 survey, political antisemitism is the most common stereotype across Western Europe, and in Eastern Europe, economic antisemitism as well as the perception of Jews as "clannish." Interestingly, the same study showed that outright denial of the Holocaust is nearly nonexistent in Europe.

The 2023 ADL Global 100: An Index of Antisemitism poll involving 102 countries and territories revealed that out of 4.1 billion people surveyed, just over 1 billion harbor antisemitic attitudes.

A 2021 survey of 3,000 young adults by Eitan Hersh and Laura Royden revealed the following:


"While antisemitism in the United States is often written about through a “both sides” lens, our evidence—the first of its kind in testing hypotheses through experiments on a large representative sample—suggests the problem of antisemitism is much more serious on the right than the left. This evidence confirms that the antisemitism that has been on prominent display in white nationalist protests is not merely confined to a tiny group of extremists; antisemitic attitudes appear quite common among young conservatives, and much more so than among older conservatives or among liberals of any age."4


There is no explanation for antisemitism but a biblical one. Antisemitism is, at its root, spiritual—the ugly face of evil.

Psalm 83:1–4 describes it as a war against God in which the Jews are the target:

Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

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. We must understand the dangerous forces behind antisemitism and aggressively stand against it vocally, politically, and prayerfully.

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  1. https://www.state.gov/defining-antisemitism/ []
  2. https://www.adl.org/resources/report/campus-antisemitism-study-campus-climate-and-after-hamas-terrorist-attacks []
  3. https://www.hillel.org/antisemitism-on-college-campuses-incident- tracking-from-2019-2023/ []
  4. https://www.eitanhersh.com/uploads/7/9/7/5/7975685/hersh_royden_antisemitism_040921.pdf []