Three Ds of antisemitism

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The "three Ds" or the "3D test" of antisemitism is a set of criteria which was formulated by Israeli politician Natan Sharansky in order to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism. The three Ds stand for delegitimization, demonization, and double standards, each of which, according to the test, indicates antisemitism.[1][2] The test is intended to draw the line between legitimate criticism of the State of Israel, its actions and policies, and non-legitimate criticism which becomes antisemitic.[3] The three Ds test is intended to rebut arguments which say that "any criticism toward the State of Israel is considered antisemitic, and therefore legitimate criticism is silenced and ignored".[4] This test was adopted by the U.S. Department of State in 2010,[1] and replaced by the Working Definition of Antisemitism in 2017.[5] The test, however, has been criticized for vagueness and its use to define criticism of Israel as antisemitic.[6]

Author and history[edit]

The concept was formulated by Israeli politician Natan Sharansky in 2003,[7] who at the time was a minister without portfolio in the Israeli government. It was first published in Jewish Political Studies Review, a journal run by the Israeli think tank Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, in 2004.[8]

Main concepts[edit]

According to Sharansky, the 3D test helps with exposing antisemitism that "hide[s] behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel".

Professor Irwin Cotler has said that "we've got to set up certain boundaries of where [criticism of Israel] does cross the line, because I’m one of those who believes strongly, not only in free speech, but also in rigorous debate, and discussion, and dialectic, and the like. If you say too easily that everything is anti-Semitic, then nothing is anti-Semitic, and we no longer can make distinctions."[9]


The term "delegitimization of Israel" refers to the denial of the Jewish people's right to self-determination, for example, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.[10] This claim allegedly discriminates against Jews by singling them out as ineligible for the basic right for self-determination as it was determined by the international law. Since any discrimination against a specific ethnic, religious, racial or national group is considered a type of racism, delegitimization of the Jewish people right for self-determination is labeled as racism against Jews, i.e., antisemitism.

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Per Ahlmark, an advocate in the combating of antisemitism, wrote: "compared to most previous anti-Jewish outbreaks, this new antisemitism is often less directed against individual Jews. It attacks primarily the collective Jews, the state of Israel and then such attacks start a chain reaction of assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions. [...] in the past the most dangerous anti-Semites were those who wanted to make the world judenrein, free of Jews. Today, the most dangerous anti-Semites might be those who want to make the world Judenstaatrein, free of a Jewish state."[11] Prof. Irwin Cotler has defined delegitimization as one of the nine sets of what he calls "new antisemitism". Cotler uses the term political anti-Semitism to describe the denial of the Jewish people's right to self-determination and the de-legitimization of Israel as a state.[12]


The second "D" refers to the portrayal of certain groups as evil, demonic, or satanic. The Working Definition of Antisemitism says that antisemitism "frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for 'why things go wrong'. It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and actions, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits".[10] If the criticism uses metaphors, images or rhetoric that implies that the Israelis or Jews are evil, it is once again a projection of antisemitic blood libels and rhetoric. One example of it might be making mendacious, dehumanization, demonization, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective—such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about the world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.[10][11]

Double standards[edit]

The last "D" refers to the application of different sets of principles on similar situations. If a person criticizes Israel and only Israel on certain issues, but chooses to ignore similar situations conducted by other countries they are performing a double standard policy against Israel.[10]

The implementation of a different moral standard for Jews and Israel compared to the rest of the world, just like the delegitimization claim, discriminates against a specific group and is labeled as antisemitism. Similar arguments were made by Thomas Friedman, stating that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movements that ignore the situation in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are hypocritical and antisemitic.[13] On the same matter, Friedman has also written that the "criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction—out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East—is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest".[12] Prof. Irwin Cotler has also included double standards as one of the nine sets of what he calls "new anti-Semitism". Cotler offers the denial to Israel of equality before the law in the international arena (i.e., "the singling out of Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena") as a new antisemitic act.[12]

Example of application[edit]

Abraham Foxman gives the following example. During the Second Intifada, a cartoon of an Israeli soldier pointing a rifle at a Palestinian baby was published. This kind of scene is not antisemitism. However, the baby was a typical depiction of the baby Jesus, who was telling to the soldier (in the caption), "Oh, you’re doing it to me all over again." Therefore, this is an example of the second "D", demonization via the antisemitic canard of Jewish deicide.[14]

Question of double standards on settlements in occupied territories[edit]

Some Israeli politicians, professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University and former Israeli ambassador to Canada Alan Baker argue that the European Union (EU) is applying a double standard by blocking deals with Israel that include the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They question why the EU imposes these restrictions on Israeli settlements into occupied Palestinian territories but have no such qualms about making deals that include Moroccan settlements in occupied Western Sahara or from Turkish settlements in Northern Cyprus. The settler population in Western Sahara is now believed to outnumber the native Sahrawi population, while the settler population in the West Bank make up around one-fifth of the resident population. The Fourth Geneva Convention states that an occupying power may not transplant its own civilians onto land that it occupies.[15]

Lars Faaborg-Andersen, then EU's ambassador in Tel Aviv, rejects the claim of double standards. He states that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is a "totally different situations" compared to the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. According to Faaborg-Andersen, "the only parallel that exists is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict", in which the European Union made sure that areas in Azerbaijan that were under Armenian occupation were excluded from any deals with Armenia.[15]


The three Ds have been criticized for categorizing essentially all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Proposed bills attempting to codify the three Ds in the United States have been accused of violating the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by censoring political speech criticizing Israel.[16][17][18]

Jonathan Judaken writes that "the criteria of demonization, delegitimization and double standards for demarcating when criticism of Israel becomes Judaeophobia are a useful beginning, but they are still tenuous and pose problems".[2]

Kenneth L. Marcus writes that: "While Sharansky's 3D test is helpful in part for its mnemonic cleverness, I have argued in Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America that it lacks sufficient rigor to be used without modification for scholarly or governmental purposes."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rosenthal, Hannah (Dec 5, 2011). "Remarks at the 2011 B'nai B'rith International Policy Conference". US Department of State. Archived from the original on December 2, 2012. Our State Department uses Natan Sharansky’s "Three Ds" test for identifying when someone or a government crosses the line from criticizing Israeli policies into antisemitism: when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized.
  2. ^ a b Jonathan Judaken (2008). "So what's new? Rethinking the 'new antisemitism' in a global age" (PDF). Patterns of Prejudice. 42 (4–5): 531–560. doi:10.1080/00313220802377453. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-18.
  3. ^ Cohen, Florette (September 2011). The New Anti-Semitism Israel Model: Empirical Tests. p. 12. ISBN 9781243561398.
  4. ^ Kenneth L. Marcus. Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America. Cambridge University Press. pp. 60–62.
  5. ^ United States Department of State "As a member of IHRA, the United States now uses this working definition and has encouraged other governments and international organizations to use it as well."
  6. ^ Keskinkılıç, Ozan Zakariya; Langer, Armin (2021). "Konkurrenz vs. Solidarität: Überlegungen zu den Chancen und Herausforderungen jüdischmuslimischer Allianzen". Diskriminierung und Antidiskriminierung: Beiträge aus Wissenschaft und Praxis. transcript Verlag. p. 205. ISBN 978-3-8394-5081-9. Kritiker*innen bemängeln den Test dahingehend, dass er zu unkonkret sei undleicht missbraucht werden könne, um legitime Kritik an Israels Palästinapolitikals antisemitisch zu diskreditieren. Darüber hinaus verwundert es, warum ähn-liche 3D-Tests im öffentlichen Diskurs keine Anwendung finden, um zu überprü-fen,wann Aussagen antipalästinensisch-rassistisch motiviert sind.
  7. ^ Cardaun, Sarah K. (19 June 2015). Countering Contemporary Antisemitism in Britain: Government and Civil Society Responses between Universalism and Particularism. BRILL. pp. 79–. ISBN 978-90-04-30089-7.
  8. ^ Sharansky, Natan (Fall 2004). "3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization". Jewish Political Studies Review.
  9. ^ Cotler, Irwin. "On judging the distinction between legitimate criticism and demonization". Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d "Working Definition of Antisemitism" (PDF). EUMC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 January 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  11. ^ a b Cotler, Irwin (October 13, 2011). "Irwin Cotler delivers remarks at signing of Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism". Archived from the original on 2014-02-19.
  12. ^ a b c Dershowitz, Alan (2003). The Case For Israel. New Jersey, USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc. pp. 208–216. ISBN 0415281164.
  13. ^ Friedman, Thomas. "Campus Hypocrisy". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Foxman, Abraham. "Revisiting Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism". Huffington Post.
  15. ^ a b Ahren, Raphael (25 December 2013). "Why is this occupation different from all other occupations?". The Times of Israel.
  16. ^ "Editorial: Enough already. Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  17. ^ "ACLU STATEMENT ON SENATE INTRODUCTION OF 'ANTI-SEMITISM AWARENESS ACT'". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  18. ^ Weir, Alison. "International campaign is criminalizing criticism of Israel as 'antisemitism'". Israel-Palestine News. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  19. ^ Marcus, Kenneth. "The New OCR Antisemitism Policy". Journal for the Study of Antisemitism. SSRN 1813192.

Further reading[edit]