Ideologies associated with social justice movements play a substantial role in spreading antisemitism

Philip Carl SalzmanIn a recent article, We Were Taught to Hate Jews, five individuals from Muslim families report on the antisemitism that was integral to their upbringing. One said: “It’s like asking me how often I drink water. antisemitism was everywhere.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her autobiographical book Infidel, reports (page 47):

In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap stopped running, the Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it. The children next door were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. Later, when we went to school, our teachers lamented at length all the evil things Jews had done and planned to do against Muslims. When they were gossiping, the women next door used to say, ‘She’s ugly, she’s disobedient, she’s a whore – she’s sleeping with a Jew.’ Jews were like djinns, I decided. I had never met a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)

Young Americans, too, are anti-Semitic, although their hate is more abstract than that of the Saudis and other Muslims. Fifty-three percent of the 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed in the Harvard Caps Harris Poll of a representative sample of registered voters say students should be free to call for the genocide of Jews, although 73 percent of respondents of all ages say students should face disciplinary measures for calling for the genocide of Jews. And while 73 percent of respondents of all ages say Jews should not be considered oppressors, 67 percent of those aged 18 to 24 say Jews are oppressors and should be treated as oppressors – such as by calling for their genocide.

social justice antisemitism

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Finally, looking at solutions to the conflict, 51 percent of respondents in the 18 to 24 age group say the solution is ending Israel and turning Israel over to Hamas and the Palestinians. However, the numbers of those who support that solution in other age groups are markedly lower.

The generational differences among Americans in antisemitism are remarkable. This is true for all of the findings.

Two other questions reflect the same split. One is whether Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. The 18 to 24 age group says in a 60 percent majority that Israel is committing genocide, while that figure decreases to 17 percent among those aged 65+. Similarly, on the question of whether Hamas can be negotiated with to establish peace, the 18 to 24 age group says yes, with a majority of 76 percent, while only 13 percent among those 65+ agree.

According to the ADL/Global 100 Survey of public opinion, the generational split among Americans is not seen in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). On the contrary, a strong consensus against Jews in all age groups exists there. For example, among a list of questions, 65 percent agree with the statement that “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.” In the 18 to 34 age group, 74 percent are anti-Semitic; in the 35 to 49 age group, it’s 78 percent; and among the 50+, it’s 72 percent. Within this consensus, some variation is seen, with men more anti-Semitic than women and Muslims more anti-Semitic than Christians, but the differences are not significant.


The generational consensus indicates that antisemitism has long been part of MENA culture. But the generational differences among Americans indicate that the high level of antisemitism has been recently acquired. These anti-Semitic attitudes are manifested in many North American venues and situations, most notably at universities.

For example, several University of California, Berkeley student groups joined up to modify their constitutions to forbid and ban any speakers with Zionist sympathies.

At my home university, McGill University in Montreal, the student newspaper, the McGill Daily, has for many years welcomed and encouraged anti-Israel articles but refused to publish any pro-Israel responses or articles. My home department, the Department of Anthropology, has hired several staff members who are advocates of the Palestinian narrative about the “nakba” and who reject any challenge to it. McGill anthropology students, far from holding to a culturally neutral position, voted to support boycotting Israel. [EDITOR’S NOTE: nakba refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.]

The lack of critical analysis by these advocates is disappointing. Then there are the Israel Apartheid weeks at universities across the countries, in which virulent antisemitism is the norm.

Why have young Americans, those aged 18 to 24, and to a lesser extent, those 25 to 34, become so anti-Semitic? Where have they learned such pejoratives about Jews?

The answer is they have been taught them. But not by their families and religious leaders, the way people from Muslim families have learned them. They’ve been taught them in colleges and universities, particularly in so-called social science and humanities courses, specifically in the now-dominant grievance studies programs – feminist, black, queer, ethnic, and Islamic studies – which have taken over what used to be academic disciplines.

Departments and faculties of education, ever weak on academics, have adopted radical causes of all types, including antisemitism, and trained their teachers to share the poison with their pupils in K-12 schools.


This all began in the 1960s with the Marxist-inspired counter-culture and the feminist movements. The feminists established Marxist class conflict, modified as gender classes – females oppressed by the “patriarchy” – as the dominant way of viewing American and Western societies. The oppression of helpless female victims by malevolent and toxic male oppressors set the model for other claims of victimhood to copy, which race and queer activists soon did. Then, the intersectional model – a concept used to describe the interconnected nature of social identities and how they overlap or intersect to create unique experiences of discrimination and privilege – was employed to establish a hierarchy based on victimhood.

After the counter-culture activists stopped robbing banks and gave up on subsistence horticulture, they entered the universities where they met the feminists for whom universities were a soft target for domination. This was the start of Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s slow Marxist march through the institutions.

Advocacy for the various “victim” categories matured into the “social justice” crusade, manifested in “diversity, equity, inclusion.” This was a way of favouring people who claimed to be members of victim categories – females, BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of colour), LGBTQ2S++, disabled, and Muslims – by giving preferential treatment in admission, funding, course activities, academic appointments, and prizes.

“Diversity” means including preferred categories of people and excluding members of the “oppressor” categories – males, whites, heterosexuals, Jews, and Asians – on the alleged grounds that Jews and Asians were never victims and are “white adjacent” or “hyper-white,” because they committed the sin of being successful in various fields. The number of Jews in prestigious universities fell precipitously, and the number of Asians was artificially restricted.


The international dimension of Marxist “social justice” theory is set out in Leninist “postcolonial theory.” The theory posits that among countries, Western countries – as imperialists and colonizers – are the “oppressors” and non-Western countries are the innocent “victims” of Western oppression. This remarkably anti-historical theory neglects the many empires throughout history and even in the contemporary world, including the vast Arab Islamic Empire, the Chinese Empire, and the Inka, Aztec, and Zulu Empires, among many others.

Folded into this accusation against the West is the claim that Western societies invented and imposed slavery, even though slavery was common in the ancient world and in every empire since (until the Industrial Revolution), including the Arab Islamic Empire and Turkish Ottoman Islamic Empire.

Amazingly, little Israel has become a giant villain in the minds of social justice warriors as an imperial colonizer despite Jews being indigenous to the Holy Land and having no country outside of it. When the Romans invaded ancient Israel before the birth of Jesus, they found only Jews living there. Muslims invaded and occupied it six centuries later. So the claim that Israelis are “colonial settlers” doesn’t hold water. Aside from the small population of Jews who never left the Holy Land, most of the returnees were refugees, half from Arab countries.

In the attempt to impose the “oppressor” designation on Israel, there are common and repeated but preposterous accusations:

  1. Israel has engaged in genocide against the Palestinians. However, the facts show a vast increase in the Palestinian population, from 156,000 to 2,100,000 in Israel itself and from 80,000 to 2,000,000 in Gaza – hardly an indication of genocide. In contrast, Jews were ethnically cleansed from Arab countries by having their property expropriated and being expelled in 1948. As for Christians, the population of Christians under the Muslim-dominated Palestinian Authority shrunk from 73,000 in 1911 to 50,000 in 2009.
  2. Another accusation is that Israel, as a Jewish state, has imposed apartheid, thus separating and oppressing Palestinians. The facts are that Arab citizens of Israel, even leaving aside the many Jewish Israelis who originate from Arab countries, have equal rights with Israeli Jews and participate in all Israeli institutions, all the way up to the Supreme Court. And, given that many Arab and non-Arab countries are officially Muslim countries – for example, the Islamic Republic of Iran – the fact that Israel is Jewish hardly makes it uniquely at fault. And, unlike in most Muslim countries, all religions in Israel – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, Baha’i – can be worshiped freely and without restriction.
  3. Finally, in North America, race activists have claimed that Jews are whites who oppress the Palestinian people of colour. Given that many of the Palestinians and Jews originate in the same Middle Eastern countries, claiming racial difference and opposition is absurd. As well, genetic studies show the close ancestry of Jews and Arabs. Then there are the Israeli Jews of colour from Ethiopia, India, China, and elsewhere. The racial opposition claims by such biased parties as the Marxist Black Lives Matter organization reflect a cultural imperialism inappropriately imposing American racial discourse in the wider world.

Equal justice

In Gaza, Hamas poisons the minds of school children by teaching them that the best thing in the world is to murder Jews or to die for Islam trying to do so. Just as in Gaza, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, University of Toronto, McGill University, and most others throughout North America impose the woke gospel of social justice and postcolonial theory on the young minds they are responsible for.

Professors and college and university administrators are the ones responsible for (or contributing to) the Jew-hatred on our campuses and beyond. K–12 school administrators and teachers, like Hamas, begin early teaching the hatred of Jews.

Jews are not the only “privileged oppressors” to be crushed. Whites and males, and recently biological females, are also the new untouchables in the North American social justice world.

Young people learn what they are taught. The ugliness that we live with is thanks to the professors and teachers and their enablers and rewarders. It is these people who need to be replaced.

We know what should replace “social justice”: Return to respect for the individual rather than census categories, assessment based on merit rather than immutable characteristics, and equal justice for all rather than preferential treatment for some. These principles should be a requirement for any position in education.

Philip Carl Salzman is emeritus professor of anthropology at McGill University, senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum, and past president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

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