Antisemitism Resurgent: Manifestations of Antisemitism in the 21st Century

Religion and Antisemitism

In November 2019, an unidentified man began screaming at a visibly Jewish family on London’s subway. The man accused Jews of murdering Jesus while holding up what appeared to be a Bible. When confronted by another passenger to stop his invective, he shouted, “It’s not my opinion. It’s God’s word.”* The man was arrested days later for racially aggravated offenses after a video of the encounter went viral.*

The incident is evidence of how ingrained old stereotypes and hatreds can be. Just days before the incident in London, the Church of England took responsibility for the role of Christianity in perpetuating antisemitism over the centuries, eventually leading up to the Holocaust. According to a report by the Church’s Faith and Order Commission, “Christians have been guilty of promoting and fostering negative stereotypes of Jewish people that have contributed to grave suffering and injustice.”* The Church of England and the Catholic Church made strides in the twentieth century to rectify historic antisemitic policies and declarations, but antisemitic attitudes based on centuries of religious indoctrination remain difficult to overcome.

Those like U.S. Pastor Steven Anderson, leader of the Arizona Faithful World Baptist Church, embrace classic Christian antisemitic tropes in their religious interpretations. Anderson has posted several videos on YouTube accusing Jews of being the anti-Christ, killing Jesus, and being children of the devil.* Ireland banned Anderson from the country in 2019,* while Arab News named Anderson to a list of “Hate Preachers” that same year.* Demonstrating the continued power of antisemitic religious indoctrination, Evangelical Christian Luba Yanko told the Washington Post in August 2019 that U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to act on Christian values, but he is inundated with “Zionist” and “kabbalist” values.*

While acknowledging that some Jews pressed for Jesus’s crucifixion, the Catholic Church absolved Jews as a whole of responsibility for the death of Jesus with the publication in 1965 of Nostra Aetate.* Offshoots of certain Christian denominations have continued to reject the reforms of Nostra Aetate, promulgating the narrative that blames Jews for deicide. Before John Earnest attacked a Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, on April 27, 2019, he penned a manifesto explaining his background as an evangelical Presbyterian Christian. He wrote that Jews deserved to die as they were responsible for killing Jesus and controlled the media. Killing Jews, Earnest wrote, would glorify God. Earnest belonged to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, an evangelical offshoot meant to counter what it considers liberalization of the Presbyterian Church. Reverend Mika Edmondson, a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, told the Washington Post that the church must take some responsibility as Earnest was “radicalized into white nationalism from within the very midst of our church.”*

The Washington Post also noted the opinions of others who felt the church should not have to take responsibility for Earnest’s actions, as he acted alone. Still others told the paper that the church bears the same responsibility to disavow Earnest as Muslim communities do when an Islamic extremist carries out an attack.* While Christianity as a whole should not be held responsible for Earnest, just as Islam as a whole should not be held responsible for Islamist attacks, both religions must reconcile that elements of their religions have been and continue to be used by extremists to justify horrific crimes.

Within Islam, both religious leaders and Islamist radicals have interpreted passages within the Quran in a manner that ensures the continuation of antisemitism. Arab News also singled out Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a hate preacher because of, among other things, his repeated instigation of his followers to antisemitism and to the influence of numerous other radicals.* During a 2005 address, for example, Qaradawi cited a particularly antisemitic hadith and exhorted his listeners to “continue to fight the Jews and they will fight you, until the Muslims will kill them. And the Jew will hide behind the stone and the tree, and the stone and the tree will say: ‘Oh, servant of Allah, oh Muslim, this is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him!’ The resurrection will not come before this happens.”*

Qaradawi is but one of many modern Islamist clerics who overtly fold antisemitism into their theology. More than a decade after Qaradawi called the death of Jews necessary for the resurrection, an imam in Copenhagen issued a similar call. In March 2018, Mundhir Abdallah of the Masjid Al-Faruq mosque in Copenhagen said during a sermon that the Quran instructs followers to “fight the Jews and kill them.”* Abdullah al-Faisal is a U.S.-designated Islamist propagandist who has recruited for ISIS and facilitated travel to ISIS-held territory. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has documented dozens of extremists who have worked with or otherwise been influenced by Faisal. These include Garland, Texas, attacker Nadir Soofi, London Bridge attacker Khuram Shazad Butt, and British extremist Anjem Choudary. Faisal claimed he learned of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in university and subsequently recommended it as “an excellent source of knowledge.”* He has also accused Jews—not Israelis—of committing genocide and “playing the race card,” while underlining his belief that “Hitler was right.”*

Faisal’s brand of propaganda demonstrates a willingness to accept long debunked conspiracy theories as factual. Both Qaradawi and Faisal have used antisemitism to create a singular enemy for Islam. The hadith Qaradawi referenced in 2005 tells of the end times and the need for Muslims to confront that enemy in order to fulfill prophecy. As with Anderson’s likening of Jews to the devil, Qaradawi and Faisal are constructing a narrative that places Muslims on the side of the holy and Jews on the opposite side. Such a paradigm can then be used to excuse acts of violence—such as suicide bombings or Earnest’s attack on the Poway Chabad—as a venerable act against the enemies of God.

Such characterizations have provided justification for horrific terrorist acts by Islamist groups such as Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas’s original 1988 charter reads: “Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people.”* The charter further accuses Jews of using their money to buy control of global media, while Article 22 specifically accuses Jews of responsibility for World War I and the destruction of the last Islamic caliphate, the Ottoman Empire.* The Hamas charter justifies its blatant antisemitism by drawing on sections of the Quran and the hadith, a collection of practices and philosophy attributed to Muhammad. In particular, the Hamas charter references a hadith necessitating an apocalyptic battle between Jews and Muslims to bring about the Day of Judgement:

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.*

The hadith is the same one referenced by Qaradawi in 2005, predicating the salvation of Muslims and God’s final judgement of humanity following the defeat of the Jews. Qaradawi himself was a student of Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb. And as a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, Hamas is also faithful to Qutb’s writings. Hamas’s charter essentially rephrases a passage in Qutb’s book Ma’rakutuna ma’a al-Yahud, “Our Struggle Against the Jews,” in which Qutb argues that Jews “stand behind” the “war waged against Islam…which persists against the Islamic revival in all places on earth.”* Though Hamas’s leadership protests that its fight is with only Israel and not Jews as a whole, antisemitism has permeated the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control in 2007. And although this antisemitism is rooted in the religious justifications provided by Islamist clerics such as Qutb, it also draws on historical tropes and conspiracies that lend support to the initial religion-based claims.

Hamas released an updated version of its charter in May 2017 that removed overtly antisemitic passages and references to Jews. Hamas leaders explained that their fight was against Israel, not against the Jewish people. However, Hamas leaders also stated that the new charter is not a replacement for the original document, which remained in effect.*

Similar hadiths to the tree story have also appeared in official state sources in Islamic nations. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the revelation that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, U.S. media outlets reported that extremist language in Saudi textbooks may have helped fuel radicalism in the country.

Saudi officials have worked in the ensuing years to overhaul the educational system. In 2015, the Saudi education ministry banned books by Qutb, Qaradawi, and Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.*

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Read Part I:

Historic professional, societal, and political restrictions on Jews helped give rise to some of the most enduring conspiracies about Jewish influence.

Read about Antisemitism throughout History

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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