Something I have noticed time and again is that white Jews are sometimes lumped in with people of colour in conversations about privilege and oppression. This bothers me greatly.
First of all, I’m sick of people using the term “anti-Semitic” to refer to anybody who disagrees with Israeli policy. Aside from the psycho fringe (Neo-Nazis and the KKK in the US), I have seen very little actual anti-Semitism on the Internet, and experienced it myself very few times in my life. I have been called an anti-Semite and a self-hating Jew far more times than I have actually experienced anti-Semitism.
I’m starting to see the use of that term in the same light that I see “reverse racism.” Although reverse racism isn’t an actual thing, and anti-Semitism is, they are both overused so much that I have similar reactions to both.
Jews as a culture have dealt with oppression in a very different way than many other cultures, and I believe this is partially because of the amount of power we have. White Jews tend to have just as much power (and the privileges that come with it) as other white people. Israel, partially a haven for survivors of untold horrors, has received so much military and financial support from the US that it is able to do what some oppressed cultures have not been able to do: Perpetuate the cycle of violence on a massive scale.
I come from a wealthy, highly educated background. My great-grandfather was a multi-millionaire (I am not, lol). My family on my mother’s side has had all the privileges that come with being white, even more so than my father’s side, because they were wealthy.
There are certain things that white Jews share with people of colour; for example, we have every right and reason to be just as disgusted by holocaust jokes as people of colour are of racist jokes. People using similar rhetoric against Jews as that used by the Nazis can rightfully be accused of racism and anti-Semitism. This goes for conspiracy theorists who believe that Jews run the world.
But don’t ever compare anti-Semitism in today’s industrialized nations to racism, unless you’re referring to Poland or another nation that is anti-Semitic. I am not berated every day with shit about being Jewish. I don’t have friends who say, “but I don’t see Jews; I’m colourblind.” I don’t have to worry about people not wanting to hire me or rent me a house because I’m Jewish. I don’t worry about being less likely to be accepted to a college for being Jewish. I don’t get followed around convenience stores, for fear I might steal something because I’m Jewish. I don’t have a higher likelihood of being incarcerated or having a longer sentence because I’m Jewish. I’m not treated like I’m dirty, like I’m an alien, a criminal, or uneducated because I’m Jewish.
So no, for all intents and purposes (in the conditions stated above), anti-Semitism isn’t racism, because racism = power + prejudice. It is simply prejudice.
Note: I would like to see the term “anti-Semitic” expanded to include people of Arabic descent, because they are Semites as well. In that case, it would be racism. Unfortunately, the term has been used only to mean one very specific family of Semites, and that is the term I’m referring to.
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