Blaming Jews for anti-Semitism: The old canard exposed

Blaming Jews for anti-Semitism: The old canard exposed

The persecution of Jews has always been an iconic example of blaming the victims.

By Manfred Gerstenfeld
4 March 2016

Published in Israel National News

A widely-held belief that Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism has been entrenched in the Western world for many centuries. In 2015, Isaac Bachman, Israeli ambassador to Sweden, exposed this perverted idea when invited for a rare state radio interview. The female interviewer asked him if Jews were responsible for the rising anti-Semitism in Europe. The ambassador rejected the question entirely.

However, the interviewer insisted. Bachman then answered that “the question of how a woman contributes to the fact of her rape is irrelevant altogether. I don’t think there is any provocation that Jews are doing – they just exist.” Afterwards, Sweden’s state radio took the unusual step of publicly apologizing and even deleted the question from the recording of the interview in its digital archive.[1]

A recent French poll has again brought this ever-simmering belief into the limelight. Seventeen percent of those interviewed among the general public responded that Jews are significantly responsible for anti-Semitism. The percentage among Muslims was much higher, 31%. An additional forty-two percent of both general and Muslim respondents answered that there is Jewish responsibility for anti-Semitism, yet it is minimal.[2] The majority of the French thus adhere to this false accusation whose beginnings go back more than fifteen centuries.

Jewish responsibility for what much later was called anti-Semitism is an ancient core idea of Christianity, usually used together with two other extremely evil concepts; collective responsibility and scapegoating. The Jews were perceived as responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion, which was in reality a sentence decided on and executed by the Romans.

Few Jews, if any, were present at the crucifixion. This did not prevent the collective blaming of all Jews through all generations for an evil act that even those few had not committed. This is another example of a typically rabid discriminatory attitude: that of stereotyping an entire group of people for the evil acts supposedly perpetrated by a small number of its members.

On the contrary: responsibility for the innumerable anti-Semitic attacks, expulsions, pogroms and the like carried out by Christians throughout the centuries rests exclusively with those who ordered and committed such acts.

Even Martin Niemöller, one of the best-known German Protestant critics of Nazism during the Second World War, delivered pre-war sermons claiming that the Jews were cursed because their ancestors killed Christ.[3] The persecution of the Jews has thus became an iconic example of blaming the victims.

In 1937 Winston Churchill wrote an article titled “How The Jews Can Combat Persecution” that was never published. It partially blamed Jews for anti-Semitism. Although he wrote that Jews were industrious and law-abiding, Churchill added that “there are times when one feels instinctively that all this is only another manifestation of the difference, the separateness of the Jew.” He then blamed Jews for “aloofness” and urged them to integrate into wider society to prevent future persecution.[4]

Churchill was soon proven dramatically wrong under the German occupation, when converted or assimilated Jews who matched the encompassing definition of Jews set down in the Nuremberg laws, were murdered along with other Jews.

American psychology professor Kevin MacDonald has strongly espoused, and abused, the concept of Jewish responsibility for anti-Semitism. In a series of books on evolutionary psychology published from 1994-2004, this hatemonger claimed that Jews had a successful group “evolutionary strategy” and that anti-Semitism is a “rational” response to Jewish successes. In his view, the Spanish Inquisition was a “defensive reaction to the economic and political domination [of Jews]” and even Nazism was justified as a “group evolutionary strategy that mirrored Judaism.”[5]

Even some intelligent Jews have not grasped the insidious nature of this anti-Semitic trope. In 2003, billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros spoke before the Jewish Funders Network. In addition to blaming Israeli and US policies, he also blamed himself. In his words, “I’m also very concerned about my own role because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world… As an unintended consequence of my actions, I also contribute to that image.”

In response to Soros’ speech, the late Elan Steinberg, senior advisor to the World Jewish Congress at that time, gave the correct answer: “Let’s understand things clearly: Anti-Semitism is not caused by Jews; it’s caused by anti-Semites. One can certainly be critical of Bush’s policy or Sharon’s policy, but any deviation from the understanding of the real cause of anti-Semitism is not merely a disservice, but a historic lie.”[6]


[1] Itamar Eichner, “Swedish radio asks ambassador: Are Jews causing anti-Semitism?” YNet, 19 February 2015.

[2] Brice Teinturier and Etienne Mercier, “Perceptions et attentes de la population juive,” Fondation de Judaïsme Français, IPSOS Public Affairs, 2015. [French] 28-34.

[3] “Martin Niemöller: Biography,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 29 January 2016.

[4] Reuters, “Pre-WW2 Churchill Article Says Jews Partly to Blame for anti-Semitism,” Haaretz, 11 March 2007.

[5] “Kevin MacDonald,” Extremism in America, The Anti-Defamation League, 2013.

[6] “In Rare Jewish Appearance, George Soros Says Jews and Israel Cause Anti- Semitism,” JTA, 10 November 2003.

Comments are closed.