Why Do People Discriminate against Jews?

Jonathan Fox, Lev Topor

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This book provides a new and innovative approach to answering the age-old question of why people discriminate against Jews. The authors argue that anti-Semitism and discrimination are distinct concepts. While anti-Semitism is a negative attitude toward Jews, discrimination is a negative real-world action taken against Jews. From this perspective, one can hold anti-Semitic beliefs but not discriminate, while another can discriminate against Jews but be less anti-Semitic in general. In this context, anti-Semitism is seen as a potential cause of discrimination against Jews, but not the only one. This book examines anti-Jewish discrimination using a two-pronged approach. First, it combines and integrates ideas and theories from classic studies of anti-Semitism with social science theories on the causes of discrimination. For example, social science theories developed to explain how governments justify discrimination against Muslims can help explain the processes that lead to discrimination against Jews. Similarly, conspiracy theories, a major topic in the anti-Semitism literature, are relatively unexplored in the social science literature as a potential instigator of discrimination. Second, the authors use previously unavailable data on discrimination against Jews in 76 countries with significant Jewish minority populations to analyze the patterns and causes of discrimination. They find that government-based discrimination against Jews is below average, but societal discrimination is higher against Jews than most other religious minorities. They focus on three potential causes: religious causes, anti-Zionism, and belief in conspiracy theories about Jewish power and world domination. While all of these factors cause discrimination against Jews, conspiracy theories are the strongest predictors.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages248
ISBN (Electronic)9780197580349
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press 2021. All rights reserved.


  • Anti-Semitism
  • Anti-Zionism
  • Conspiracy theory
  • Data
  • Discrimination
  • Jews
  • Minorities
  • Racism
  • Religion
  • United Kingdom


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