Three Ds of antisemitism

The "three Ds" or the "3D test" of antisemitism is a set of criteria put forth by Israeli politician Natan Sharansky[1] to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism. The three Ds stand for:

  • delegitimization of Israel
  • demonization of Israel
  • subjecting Israel to double standards

Each of which, according to the test, indicates antisemitism.[2][3] It was published in the Jewish Political Studies Review in 2004.[4] The test is intended to draw the line between legitimate criticism towards the State of Israel, its actions and policies, and non-legitimate criticism that becomes antisemitic.[5] The three Ds test intends to rebut arguments which say that "any criticism toward the State of Israel is considered antisemitic, and therefore legitimate criticism is silenced and ignored".[6] This test was adopted by the U.S. Department of State in 2010,[2] and replaced by the Working Definition of Antisemitism in 2017.[7]

Main concepts[edit]

The theory can be applied to many different situations, especially non-classical antisemitism, i.e., antisemitism that is more subtle and harder to recognize. This non-classical antisemitism takes the form of attacking Israel, the Jewish state. As Sharansky explains, "hiding behind the veneer of 'legitimate criticism of Israel', this new antisemitism is much more difficult to expose".

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."[8]

A person can analyze a news story, op-ed, interview or even a protest and see if the criticism being made in it crosses the border of at least one of the following "D"s:


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.[9] This claim 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 anti-Semitism 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."[10] 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.[11]


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".[9] 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.[9][10]

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.[9] One example is the tendency among media and policy-makers to treat the migration of civilian settlers from Israel into occupied Palestinian territories differently from settlers from Morocco in occupied Western Sahara, or settlers from Turkey in Northern Cyprus.[12] The settler population in these latter two is now believed to outnumber the native 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.

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, claiming 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".[11] 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.[11]

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 anti-Semitism. 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]


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".[3]

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."[15]

Michael Bueckert has pointed out parallels between the ways supporters of "pariah states" such as apartheid South Africa have defended them and the 3D test have been pointed out, suggesting that the test is not very helpful.[16]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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 anti-Semitism: when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized.
  3. ^ a b Jonathan Judaken (2008). "So what's new? Rethinking the 'new antisemitism' in a global age" (PDF). Patterns of Prejudice. doi:10.1080/00313220802377453.
  4. ^ Sharansky, Natan (Fall 2004). "3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization". Jewish Political Studies Review.
  5. ^ Cohen, Florette. The New Anti-Semitism Israel Model: Empirical Tests. p. 12.
  6. ^ Kenneth L. Marcus. Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America. Cambridge University Press. pp. 60–62.
  7. ^ 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."
  8. ^ Cotler, Irwin. "On judging the distinction between legitimate criticism and demonization". Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d "Working Definition of Antisemitism" (PDF). EUMC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 January 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  10. ^ a b Cotler, Irwin. "Irwin Cotler delivers remarks at signing of Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism". Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  11. ^ a b c Dershowitz, Alan (2003). The Case For Israel. New Jersey, USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc. pp. 208–216. ISBN 0415281164.
  12. ^ Ahren, Raphael (25 December 2013). "Why is this occupation different from all other occupations?". The Times of Israel.
  13. ^ Friedman, Thomas. "Campus Hypocrisy". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Foxman, Abraham. "Revisiting Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism". Huffington Post.
  15. ^ Marcus, Kenneth. "The New OCR Antisemitism Policy". Journal for the Study of Antisemitism.
  16. ^ Bueckert, Michael (March 26, 2019). "When is it antisemitic to criticize Israel?". Africa Is a Country. Sean Jacobs. Retrieved 3 December 2019.

Further reading[edit]