The Impact of Conflating Jews with Israeli Policies: Lesson Plan | Facing History & Ourselves
A broken window is seen at the center of the Jewish community in Rostock, Northern Germany
Lesson

Antisemitic Conflation: What Is the Impact of Conflating All Jews with the Actions and Policies of the Israeli Government?

Students start with the universal and move to the particular to learn about conflation as a manifestation of antisemitism.

Published:

At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — US

Subject

  • Civics & Citizenship
  • History
  • Social Studies

Grade

9–12

Duration

One 50-min class period
  • Antisemitism
  • Culture & Identity
  • Propaganda
  • Equity & Inclusion
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

Overview

About This Lesson

In this lesson, students will start with themselves, considering their own experience with the concept of conflation and its impacts. Next, students will view and respond to an educational video that explores the concept of antisemitic conflation—holding all Jews accountable for the Israeli government’s actions and policies. Finally, students will closely read about recent examples of antisemitic conflation and consider how these examples contribute to their understanding of this form of antisemitism.

  • What is conflation?
  • How can conflation lead to antisemitic behavior and speech? 
  • What antisemitic tropes and conspiracy narratives are often embedded in antisemitic conflation?
  • Define the concepts of conflation and antisemitic conflation.
  • Identify examples of antisemitic conflation, and articulate why each is an example of antisemitism.
  • Identify the tropes and conspiracy theories that often fuel antisemitic conflation.

This lesson focuses specifically on the antisemitic act of conflating all Jews with the actions and policies of the State of Israel. This version of antisemitism can show up online when a Jewish teenager’s social media posts are barraged with comments that reference the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regardless of whether or not the post had anything to do with Israel or Palestine, and it can also surface on the street, when a person wearing visibly Jewish emblems (e.g., a Star of David necklace or kippah/yarmulke) is physically and verbally assaulted by a stranger shouting anti-Israel slogans.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex and long-running conflict between two self-determination movements, Jewish nationalists (Zionists) and Palestinian nationalists, who both lay claim to the same lands. However, it is also a broader geopolitical conflict that involves the interests and support of various countries within and outside of the region. For thousands of years, both Jews and Palestinians have lived in the region of the Middle East that has become the nation-state of Israel and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. Both groups consider it their ancestral homeland, sharing many of the same holy sites. Like all history, the history of this region does not contain a single story, and the multiple narratives about the historical events that have shaped and perpetuated the conflict are sometimes in opposition to each other. The peoples in this region have suffered from frequent eruptions of violence, including terrorist attacks, human rights abuses, massive civilian casualties, and, at times, full-fledged war. However, many Israelis and Palestinians have worked together, and continue to work together, to seek out peaceful solutions that would ensure the freedom and security of both groups. 

If you wish to consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with your students in more depth, it is essential that you have the knowledge, contracting, resources, and time to safely engage in this learning without causing harm. At the present moment, Facing History & Ourselves does not have resources to assist educators in discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the classroom. Two organizations that provide curricular support for teaching about the conflict are the Institute for Curriculum Services and the UK-based Solutions Not Sides. 1

When there are spikes in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instances of antisemitic and Islamophobic conflation around the world increase as Jews, Muslims, and Arabs become scapegoats for the violence and unrest in the region. 2 In the months following the October 7, 2023, Hamas attacks on Israel and subsequent outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, hate-related incidents and violence toward Jews, Arabs, and Muslims outside of the region has spiked. In the United States, there has been a 316% increase in antisemitic incidents 3 since October 7 and a 216% increase in Islamophobic and anti-Arab incidents 4 . Some examples include:

  • Three days after the Hamas attacks on Israel, a landlord in Chicago, after listening to an incendiary talk-radio show about the Hamas-Israel war, murdered a six-year-old Palestinian American boy who lived in his building. The landlord also attacked the boy’s mother, who survived. 5  
  • In Berlin on the weekend following the attacks, several Jewish citizens discovered their homes newly marked with the Star of David symbol near the entrances, a practice the Nazis employed during the Holocaust to publicly identify Jewish homes and businesses. 6  
  • Mosques, Islamic centers, Muslim schools, and Palestinian businesses have been vandalized and threatened. Synagogues, Jewish schools, and Jewish businesses in the United States and around the world have been burned, firebombed, shot at, and vandalized. 
  • Jews and Muslims who wear visible signifiers of their identities experience a particularly high frequency of hate crimes when there are outbreaks of violence and war in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Places with substantial Orthodox communities, like Brooklyn and London, have seen a string of violent assaults paired with antisemitic slurs against Jewish people from these communities. 7 8  In November 2023, three Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vermont, while on a walk. The students were speaking in a mixture of Arabic and English and wore keffiyehs, scarves that symbolize Palestinian nationalism. The shooter’s motivations have not yet been publicized, but he may be charged with a hate crime. 9

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

Before you begin this lesson, it is very important to consider whether you have already established a classroom culture that will be relatively safe for difficult and potentially complex conversations. These conversations may stir strong emotions in students and often end without closure. The guide Fostering Civil Discourse includes practices and resources to establish the sort of classroom environment that increases safety and productivity when having such conversations. Students may respond differently to the materials, depending on their knowledge of or personal experience with hate speech or antisemitism. Before teaching the following activities, consider revisiting your classroom norms with your students, or creating a class contract together if you have not done so already, in order to properly prepare them for disturbing content. You might invite your students to check in with you privately if they are anxious for any reason about engaging with this material.

Your contract should also make it clear that, while you encourage the expression of different viewpoints and diverse voices, members of your community are responsible for maintaining an environment that respects the dignity and humanity of all. Consider how you and your students can respond if someone in your class violates your norms (for example, by validating the hate speech or an antisemitic trope from this material). For more explicit strategies on how to respond productively in these scenarios, read human rights educator Loretta J. Ross’s resource “Speaking Up Without Tearing Down.”

It also is important that you view and read all the materials for this lesson before deciding whether or not they are appropriate for your students. You may want to inform your administrators or parents about this lesson and the rationale behind it. If you have not discussed antisemitism in your classroom previously, we strongly recommend that you first introduce your students to some fundamental definitions, history, manifestations, and impacts of antisemitism using Facing History’s Explainer: Antisemitism and Its Impacts. This resource has an accompanying Antisemitic Tropes Chart that provides information about common tropes and conspiracy theories that are essential to identifying antisemitism.

Students do not need to have studied the long and complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to learn how to recognize the antisemitic tropes and conspiracy narratives that are sometimes embedded in rhetoric related to the conflict. At the same time, we understand that the subject of the conflict is likely to be raised by students during discussions of contemporary antisemitism and/or contemporary Islamophobia. It is critical for educators to be aware of a tendency for participants to shift away from the original focus of the conversation when Israel surfaces in any discussion—in this case, identifying instances of bigotry or hate related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—to discussing the conflict itself. Name the shift when it happens and redirect students back to the topic of contemporary antisemitism.

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Lesson Plans

Activities

Explain to students that conflation is the act or process of confusing two separate things as part of one whole or assuming that two separate things are connected, whether they are or not. Internal bias can lead to the conflation of individuals with perceived ideas and assumptions about a group. Additionally, conflation can mean associating a whole group of people with an action or belief. Stereotyping is a form of conflation. Consider providing a few examples of conflation that your students would be aware of or might even have experienced themselves. For example, a teenager who does not participate in bullying but who is part of a friend group with members known to bully others may be considered “guilty by association” by those who conflate the non-bullying teen with the group that bullies. When a teenager is closely monitored or followed in a store because the shopkeeper has caught teenagers shoplifting before, the shopkeeper is conflating this teen with other teenagers involved in a previous incident. 

In this first activity, students will reflect on a time when someone has conflated them with a group, or they have conflated another person with a group, assuming the individual and the group are one and the same (in ideas, actions, behavior, personality traits, physical traits, etc.). 

Have students respond to one or more of the following prompts in their journals. Make sure students understand that they do not need to respond to all four prompts.

  • Has anyone ever assumed that you were part of an identity group that you do not identify with? What happened?
  • Has anyone ever assumed that you agree with another person just because you belong to the same group as them (or were assumed to belong to the same group)?
  • Have you ever been held responsible for the actions of a group (or the perceived actions of a group) just because you belong to that group (or were assumed to belong to that group)?
    • What happened?
    • How did the situation make you feel? 
    • What were the consequences? 
  • Have you ever held someone responsible for the actions of a group (or the perceived actions of a group) just because they belong (or you thought they belonged) to that group? 
    • What happened? 
    • What prompted you to respond in this way? 
    • What were the consequences?

Using the Wraparound strategy, give each student the chance to share one word that captures how people might feel when others make assumptions about them because of their group membership or identity. 

Now that students have considered how conflation can impact them, they will learn about how conflation can perpetuate bigotry and racism. Conflating an individual with an entire ethnic or racialized group is a form of bigoted conflation, as is assuming that all individuals who share an identity engage in the same actions or hold the same beliefs. Below are two examples you can share with your students. 

  • A grocery store customer overhears two fellow shoppers speaking in Spanish. He tells them that they should learn to speak English or go back to their country. The customer knows nothing about the citizenship status or country of origin of the other shoppers, but he conflates all Spanish speakers with immigrants. 
  • When racial profiling motivates a police officer to pull over Black drivers with greater frequency than white drivers, the officer is making assumptions about an individual Black person based on their assumptions about Black people in general—in this case, that Black people are likely to engage in criminal activity and warrant a higher degree of suspicion and interrogation than others require.

Antisemitic conflation is the act of making assumptions about the beliefs or accountability of individual Jews, or Jews collectively, based on one’s understanding or experience of actions or beliefs held by some Jews or some groups of Jews. This form of antisemitism most commonly manifests in the conflation of Jews anywhere in the world with the actions and policies of the State of Israel. This type of conflation might take the form of making assumptions about Jewish people’s beliefs or opinions about Israel; holding individual Jews accountable for what takes place in Israel; or invoking the “dual loyalty” trope, which accuses non-Israeli Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their own country. 

Students will examine the Antisemitic Tropes Chart and watch a short educational video clip on antisemitic conflation.

First, place graffiti boards around the room that are divided into three sections, each displaying one of the following prompts: 

  • What did you learn? 
  • What questions do you have? 
  • What is something you found particularly striking, upsetting, or challenging?

Before showing the video clip, project the Antisemitic Tropes Chart and go over it with students. Please do not print out and distribute this chart or give students unmonitored access to it, as it contains images and language that could cause harm outside of this context. 

As students watch the Antisemitism Disguised video on antisemitic conflation, ask them to take notes using the 3-2-1 strategy, writing down the following:

  • Three things they have learned from the video clip (and the tropes chart)
  • Two questions they still have
  • One thing they found particularly striking, upsetting, or challenging

After viewing the video clip, ask students to transfer their notes to the graffiti boards, starting with the one nearest to them. Once they have finished, instruct students to silently walk around and read their peers’ responses.

Arrange students in small groups and assign each group an article from the Contemporary Examples of Antisemitic Conflation handout, which contains excerpts from news articles. After reading the article, have each group use the Connect, Extend, Challenge strategy to discuss the following questions: 

  • Connect: How do the ideas and information in this reading connect to what you already know about antisemitic conflation?
  • Extend: How does this reading extend or broaden your thinking about antisemitic conflation?
  • Challenge: Does this reading challenge or complicate your understanding of antisemitic conflation? What new questions does it raise for you?

Make sure to circulate as the small groups discuss the articles so that you are able to assess how students are responding to the readings and making connections to the lesson’s central concepts. Either using the graffiti boards again or in a whole-class discussion, have groups report out, providing a brief summary of the act of antisemitic conflation discussed in their reading along with their responses to the Connect, Extend, Challenge exercise. 

Use the Exit Tickets strategy to find out what students are taking away from this lesson when they leave the classroom. Possible prompts for today’s exit ticket include: 

  • List three things you learned in class today.
  • What questions, ideas, or feelings did this lesson raise for you?
  • What do you need?
    • What is something I can do as your teacher to support you in this class? 
    • What is something other students can do to support you in this class? 

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