Matthew Lewis

The Oldest Prejudice: This is Modern Antisemitism

Star of David etched onto the home of a Jewish woman in Germany, October 2023
A Star of David etched onto the home of a Jewish woman in Germany, October 2023. Source: The Jewish Chronicle

One of the most brutal massacres of recent history took place last week. I thought that was that: I thought that the world would finally understand what Israelis have to live with. But I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

I’m a British non-Jew who’s lived in Israel for some time. I’ve worked, made friends, and brushed elbows with Jews and Arabs alike for over four years, and have also spent time in the West Bank. It’s a sad reality that I have to mention that I’m not Jewish if I hope my voice gets heard. If it helps, I consider myself left-leaning, and fully support a two state solution between Israel and Palestine. I’ve also spent most of my career as an Officer in the British Army, an experience that often helps put this conflict into perspective.

For decades, Israel has been telling the world its side of the story. It has pointed out Hamas’ charter, where Hamas has published and promoted its genocidal intention against Jews. Since then, Hamas has launched waves of suicide bombings against buses, weddings, malls and restaurants, claimed responsibility for hundreds of individual stabbings, shootings and car rammings, and fired tens of thousands of rockets, killing thousands of civilians. Hamas has very publicly oppressed its own people, and have been caught lying very blatantly about very serious propaganda points on several occasions – just last week Hamas claimed not to have attacked civilians on the 7th of October, for example. Even before Hamas, the Palestinian Liberation Operation (PLO) attacked Israeli and American civilians with a consistency and savagery that we hadn’t seen in the Western World for decades.

Yes, of course Israel has put up a blockade against Gaza, what else could it do? Yes, of course Israel strikes back at Hamas, what else can it do? What would any other country do? And yes, Israel has clearly done a lot to prevent civilian casualties, employing roof knocking tactics I have never seen in my career at NATO, and using even a 100% surgical weapons rate in some escalations which is unheard of across the rest of the world.

Yet the world news has repeatedly and consistently shown a huge anti-Israel bias for the entirety of this conflict. Misleading headlines, out of context coverage, and even plain and simple lies, from some of the most well respected news outlets such as Sky News, the BBC and the New York Times, have given most people the impression that Israel is a regime like Iran or North Korea that is hell bent on the suffering of people. 

Even last week, BBC employees celebrated and justified Hamas’ action on the 7th of October.

BBC reporters appear to justify killings by Hamas on BBC Arabic on the day of the massacre. Source: BBC Arabic.

And it’s not the first time.

BBC journalist fired for 'Hitler was right' tweet blames 'pro-Israel mob' | The Times of Israel
Famous BBC journalist Tala Halawa’s Twitter post from 2014. Source: Twitter.

In fact the reports about the BBC’s anti-Israel and even antisemitic bias make a long list. Note that this isn’t a news outlet funded by a state that opposes Israel, like Al Jazeera. The BBC takes pride in portraying neutrality.

Outside of the news, the UN has laid more condemnations against Israel than it has against all other countries combined, in spite of Israel being an extremely small country. In spite of how relatively small the Israeli Palestinian conflict is compared to the atrocities we’ve seen in China, Russia, Ethiopia, Syria, central America, Nigeria, and so many other countries in the last few decades.

So when one of the most brutal massacres took place in recent history last week against Israeli civilians, well documented mainly by Hamas itself, who gleefully shared their footage of torture and executions all over the internet, I felt an array of shock, fear and anger, but I also felt assured that for once, at last, the world will finally see the real nature of this conflict, and the core reason behind the actions of Israel and the IDF over the past few decades.

So why, instead, am I seeing pro-Palestinian protests around the world?

Why were there anti-Israeli posts all over social media even on the same day of the attack, the 7th of October, before Israel had retaliated in any way?

Why are the news outlets like the BBC, Sky News and the New York Times working so hard to portray a one sided story of Israeli aggression, which is exactly what Hamas wants?

And why, oh why, are even the most normal, intelligent and well-rounded of my European friends splitting hairs about the massacres with long debates about exactly how barbaric the killing of Israeli babies had been, or with a “yes but” attitude toward the rape, torture, murder and kidnapping over 1,600 Israelis.

The answer to these questions can probably be found by looking closer at the history of the Jewish people.


In 70 CE, the Romans reclaimed Jerusalem, and destroyed the Second Temple. The Jews were almost all exiled, and scattered around Europe and the Middle East. This was, quite literally, the earliest form of migrants we’ve seen in history of one culture relocating into another in significant numbers. 

Jews are Satanic

By the 5th century CE, Christianity had become the dominant religion in Europe, which spread the narrative that Jews were unwilling to accept the word of god, spreading illuminations of Satan binding the eyes of Jews and accusing the Jews of being agents of the devil and murderers of God. Jews were restricted from owning land and holding public office across Europe for centuries, and they weren’t allowed to work in most occupations. In the 11th century, the Crusaders set off to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims, and slaughtered thousands of Jews across Europe in their wake.

Jews were accused of causing the Black Plague by poisoning wells. Around this time, propaganda against Jews portrayed them as drinking the blood of children. Jews were forced into segregated ghettos, and masses of Jews were expelled from countries including Spain, Germany, Portugal, England and France.

In the 16th century, Protestant Christianity arose, and Jews refused to convert. As a result, Jews were killed in mass, with synagogues and Jewish homes destroyed.

The accusation that Jews had murdered Jesus Christ, by the way, was only recently renounced by the church as late as the 1960s.

Catholic blood libel portraying Jews as satanic worshipers, drinking the blood of children. Source: Catholic World Report.

Jews are political conspirators

Even during the enlightenment of the 18th century, many now blamed Jews as being the source of what they saw as irrational religious faith. The famous Dreyfus affair took place in 1894 in France, where mobs took to the streets chanting “death to the Jews”. As the world took a turn toward a more secular, social and political culture, they adapted antisemitism to follow suit. In the early 20th century, the propaganda against Jews started to take on a form of global conspiracy, where Jews were accused of conspiring to dominate the world. The Elders of Zion, a proven forgery that supposedly proved Jews were planning to take over the world, was translated into every major language and distributed worldwide, and is still circulating to this day.

Antisemitism became a focal policy in Russia, who accused Jews of assassinating Czar Alexander the second, in 1881, and organized brutal pogroms that murdered, tortured and injured thousands of Jews in the country.

European propaganda portraying a Jewish conspiracy to control the World. Source: Holocaust Enciclopedia

Jews are racially inferior

In Europe, the same old ideas about Jews were still vibrant, but a new form of antisemitism took the central stage: the idea of Jews being an inferior race. Pseudo-science was used and propaganda efforts increased to convince the world that Jews were a genetic burden to the world, as well as a satanic global conspirators fixated on death and destruction. While being simultaneously accused of secretly controlling the banks, Jews were also – by some logic – accused of spreading communism, and were blamed for Germany having lost the First World War. This kind of antisemitic propaganda was also rife in the UK, US, and elsewhere in Europe. Leading up to and during the Second World War, boycotts against Jewish businesses moved onto violent pogroms, and ultimately, the Holocaust, when the Nazi Regime slaughtered over 6 million Jews using cold blooded industrial practices.

Nazi propaganda displaying Jews to have a mix of, in their eyes, many “undesirable” racial genes. Source: El Pais English

It’s well known that Amin Haj Husseini, the later co-founder of the PLO, was working for the Nazi Regime in Berlin during most of the Second World War, spreading antisemitic and anti-Western propaganda throughout the Middle East. Husseini had already led the anti-Jewish propaganda efforts in the Holy Land, and had been expelled by the British for inciting mobs to attack Jews throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

November 1943: al-Husseini greeting Bosnian Muslim Waffen-SS volunteers with a Nazi salute.[9] At right is SS General Karl-Gustav Sauberzweig. Source: Wikipedia

Jews are racist colonists

Shortly after the Second World War, the Jews declared independence from Britain, and founded their own state. This was immediately invaded by five neighboring nations (almost all of which had supported the Nazi Regime during the war), who didn’t hide their intentions of antisemitic genocide, with quotes such as “and we will erase [Jews] from the earth” as quoted by the Secretary General of the Arab League. After losing the war, practically all Jews were expelled from countries across the middle east, leading to a mass exodus of over 800 thousand people, most of whom having nowhere else to go but Israel. The Jewish nation has been boycotted from the first moment it existed, attacked constantly on a weekly basis, and invaded with conventional armies three times.

The Jews who had managed to survive the Holocaust had no respite from violence, a violence that continues to this day. Israel is the OECD country most affected by terrorism, and is surrounded by most terrorist organizations per capita in the world. Terror attacks are practically a weekly event, and have been since the State of Israel was created in 1948.

The Israeli Palestinian conflict receives a lot of media, but not for the reasons I’m writing about. Israel receives more condemnation from the UN than all other countries combined, in spite of this conflict being a minor one, and there are more international protests against Israel than there are against any other nation. The UN even declared in 1970 that Zionism is a form of racism. Somehow, the movement for Jews themselves to be safe from western white supremacy was declared as a racist movement. This declaration was only able to be reversed in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The University of Harvard holds an annual anti-Israeli event. Source: The Harvard Crimson

On Propaganda

Propaganda very often can be detected because of its betrayal of even the most basic of logic. Russia is an expert at it. Declaring that they are invading Ukraine to remove its supposed Nazi Problem, while Ukraine’s president himself is Jewish, just doesn’t add up to anyone above the age of five.

It’s safe to assume that Jews have been targeted by propaganda throughout history more than any other culture. The religious era propaganda of “Jews killed Jesus”, when Jesus himself was Jewish, and when it was the Romans that crucified him, dates back almost two millennia. Believing that the religious group from where your own religion emerged from is actually “Satanic” begs for a lot of questions. The industrial era propaganda held that Jews were both in control of the banks, but also communists.

Hamas tortures, rapes, executes and kidnaps over a thousand civilians, posts the videos themselves, and then makes a declaration that they didn’t target civilians literally the next day, a declaration that a surprisingly large amount of people were very eager to believe. Hamas also believes that Israel is a colonial state, when Jews are indigenous to that land, and haven’t been welcome anywhere else in the world for centuries. Hamas has even been caught using cadavers from morgues to flaunt in front of cameras. Yet somehow whenever they make a claim, the news passes it on to the world with the assurance of “local officials [Hamas] report that Israel has done something evil”.

Last but not least, the modern belief that Israel has caused this conflict by erecting defensive walls, like the one around Gaza, has never made much sense. History clearly shows that it was Jewish immigrants to the Holy Land who were attacked by radical groups way before any retaliation, and organized terrorism was widespread well before the occupation. If the massacre from last week doesn’t make this clear, nothing will. The instant Hamas managed to break through Israel’s defenses, it carried out some of the most brutal attacks on civilians we’ve seen in recent history, and it’s not like they hadn’t warned the world very publicly several times of their intentions. The same people that claim their anger is against Israel, and not against the Jewish people, are ones that attack Jews and Synagogues in support of Hamas’ massacre, or at least turn a blind eye to it. The same western politicians so keen on preaching tolerance and equality in the name of the Palestinian cause, are then opposing policies against antisemitism in their countries.

Antisemitism did not start or end with Nazism, as so many people seem to believe. It didn’t miss a beat, and since the formation of Israel, Anti-Jewish propaganda today takes on the form of demonizing and attacking the only Jewish state. It’s popular across the West, and is a very vibrant ideology throughout the Middle East, where 74% of the population express deeply antisemitic tropes. Jews, as well as racially inferior and global conspirators, are also accused of colonization, oppression, racism, ethnic cleansing and even genocide. Israel is measurably one of the most democratic countries in the world, yet somehow the Jewish state is also an apartheid. Just like throughout history, whenever the world rallies together for a cause, whether it’s religious, political or social, the Jewish people find themselves accused of being the enemy in the worst light possible.

Perhaps this very depressing reality can help make sense of the celebrations we witnessed on the 7th of October in wake of the massacre, or the fact that even the most respected media outlets are showing support, often through manipulation of wording and imagery, toward the violent anti-Israeli campaign in the region. Perhaps it can explain why attacks against Jews have spiked to unprecedented levels in places like the UK, and the US, and why Jewish homes are being marked with a Star of David in Germany. Sadly, I imagine most people reading these words would rather look the other way and pretend that antisemitism isn’t a problem.

What is clear to me is that racism will still be a major problem worldwide until we manage to eradicate its core: the deepest, most ancient and most violent form of racism that the world has seen. The hatred toward the first group of migrants across the world is at the heart of this conflict in the Middle East.

Antisemitism is the problem, not Israel, not the Jews.

Source: AJC
About the Author
Matthew has extensive experience in the Middle East with the British Ministry of Defence, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been a keen interest to him. He spent time in the West Bank, and now lives in Israel. As a Western liberal non-Jew, Matthew's opinions on the conflict can often clash with those of his peers back home. He has a knack for bringing a fresh perspective to the conflict, and strongly believes in a two-state solution.
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