Understanding Antisemitism:
Fueling ⛽ vs. Using 🔧

Understanding Antisemitism:
Fueling ⛽ vs. Using 🔧

March 15, 2024

All antisemitism is damaging. It is never acceptable, whether it comes from the Left, the Right, or anyone else. And it’s normal and natural for us as Jews to feel afraid every time it happens.

But in our mission to dismantle antisemitism, it’s helpful to distinguish between people who fuel antisemitism and those who use it.

Stick with us: We differentiate between “fueling” and “using” antisemitism because it helps show that while all antisemitism is harmful, we can take different approaches to addressing it.

Fueling antisemisim: An individual or group is FUELING antisemitism when they say or do something antisemitic but don’t necessarily benefit from it. This proliferates harmful, dangerous ideas, and the effect can be Jewish fear and isolation.

EXAMPLE: A public figure might fuel antisemitism by repeating an antisemitic trope, whether they understood it to be antisemitic or not.

Using antisemitism: An individual or group is USING antisemitism when they know what they’re doing. They use antisemitism when it serves their purposes and when they derive a concrete benefit from it.

EXAMPLE: A politician might use antisemitic conspiracy theories or accuse opponents of antisemitism to increase fear and division and gain voters during an election.

Fueling antisemitism is damaging, scary, and dangerous. But we can stay in relationship with people and groups who share our goal of liberation for all, even when they err and fuel antisemitism.

It’s the same as how people of color stay in relationship with white people (including white Jews!) when their bias fuels racism, or how queer people stay in relationship with straight people when a stereotype fuels homophobia. So, for example, we can correct our allies when they conflate the state of Israel with all Jews, just as our allies correct us.

There is opportunity for learning, repair, and growth in solidarity — plus we can find our true allies. This takes work and cooperation — and no, not everyone will be open to change — but it’s the only way to solve the problem.

Choosing solidarity would mean that antisemitism, or any other form of white supremacy, would no longer cause fear and division, and it couldn’t be used against us by people and movements who try to divide us to strengthen themselves (like white and Christian nationalists and MAGA Republicans).

People who use antisemitism count on Jewish fear, isolation, and division to get what they want. We don’t need to give it to them.

We can end antisemitism by choosing solidarity with all who are threatened by the machinery of white supremacy.