Skip to main content

Protesters hold placards as they demonstrate in Parliament Square against anti-Semitism Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Is Anti-Semitism Curable?

Allegations that British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is encouraging anti-Semitic sentiment have renewed fears that Jews are once again becoming fair game for politicians. But the tensions in Britain also offer an opportunity to examine the evolution of bias and search for new antidotes to prejudice and xenophobia.

LONDON – Protesters in the United Kingdom are sounding the alarm over a perceived resurgence of anti-Semitism in politics. At the center of the crisis are revelations that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party and an ardent critic of Israel, supported the artist of an anti-Semitic mural in 2012.

But as the British public accuses the left-wing party and its boss of encouraging anti-Jewish sentiment, an important psychological question needs to be addressed: Can we really blame Corbyn for failing to identify the controversial mural for what it was? The answer may indeed be yes, but the reasons are complicated.

Psychologists have long studied the effects of prejudice on the ability to identify bias in images. In 2008, a team of psychologists at Northeastern University discovered that people who are more prejudiced toward Jews are less accurate in discerning whether a photograph is of a Jewish or non-Jewish person. More broadly, the more accurate people believe they are at guessing elements of people’s identity – for example, their sexual orientation – the less accurate they actually are.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;

Handpicked to read next

 Black Lives Matter counter protestors at the Unite the Right rally Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

When Shall We Overcome?

Joseph E. Stiglitz

In 1968, the year after riots erupted in cities throughout the US, the Kerner Commission, established by President Lyndon B. Johnson, famously concluded that the country was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.” Sadly, it is conclusion that still rings true.

  1. campanella17_Ryan AshcroftSOPA ImagesLightRocket via Getty Images_englihs Ryan Ashcroft/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

    Back to Little England?

    Edoardo Campanella

    The United Kingdom's bid to withdraw from the European Union is typically characterized as a dramatic manifestation of British nationalism. In fact, it has almost nothing to do with Britain, and everything to do with English national identity, which has been wandering in the wilderness ever since the fall of Pax Britannica.


Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions