Home > Uncategorized >  The Dark Spectre of Anti-Semitism Re-Emerges – posted 5/6/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 5/14/2017

 The Dark Spectre of Anti-Semitism Re-Emerges – posted 5/6/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 5/14/2017

For a long time, it seemed like anti-semitism was dead in America. Sure, there were anti-semitic incidents but they were few and far between. Now it appears that anti-semitism is making a comeback.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), anti-semitic incidents have spiked in the first quarter of 2017. ADL reported 541 anti-semitic incidents nationally, including 380 harassment incidents, 155 vandalism incidents, and 6 physical assaults. That follows a surge of anti-semitic acts in the last quarter of 2016.

Just to give a flavor:

In Whitefish, Montana, since December, a Jewish woman, Sherry Gersh, her husband, and her 12 year old son have been targets of a campaign of harassment, trolling and intimidation by white supremacists and the alt-right. Gersh and her family have received more than 700 anti-semitic emails, phone calls, texts, social media comments, and letters. Many of the messages have been extremely threatening calling her a “slimy jewess” and an “oven-dodging Christ killer”. The “troll storm” initiated by a neo-Nazi website featured day and night harassment of Gersh. The Southern Poverty Law Center has now filed a federal court lawsuit against the neo-Nazi website and its publisher seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

In February this year, Jewish cemeteries were vandalized in Philadelphia, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and just outside St. Louis. The perpetrators damaged more than 100 headstones in Philadelphia, almost 200 headstones near St Louis, and 55 headstones in Fort Wayne.

Last November, Marna Street, a violist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was walking to her car after a rehearsal. Someone painted a swastika on the trunk of her car. Street had placed a magnet on her car indicating that she was Jewish.

In 2016, the writer Julia Ioffe wrote a profile of Melania Trump for GQ Magazine. She received a flood of hateful tweets, phone calls and emails many of which were anti-semitic. On Twitter, users posted photos of Ioffe’s face superimposed on a mug shot from Auschwitz.

Ioffe’s experience was not unique. The conservative Jewish writer, Bethany Mandel, found her anti-Trump tweets met with a terrifying response. She was told that she “deserved the oven”. Trump’s anti-Semitic followers “doxed” her. “Dox” is a term for adversaries’ attempt to ferret out private or identifying information online, with malicious intent. Mandel, who had converted to Judaism, felt so threatened that she purchased a gun.

I think it is worth mentioning that many journalists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have received similarly abusive and disgusting treatment by the alt-right if they did not support Trump.

In response to all these incidents, Oren Segal, the Director of the ADL Center on Extremism said:

“These incidents need to be seen in the context of a general resurgence of white supremacist activity in the United States. Extremists and anti-semites feel emboldened and are using technology in new ways to spread their hatred and to impact the Jewish community on and off line.”

So why the uptick in anti-semitism now? I think undoubtedly it is connected to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Trump unleashed the dogs. During the campaign he looked the other way while white supremacists, anti-semites and the alt-right became more assertive in his campaign. It was well known that one component part of the Trump coalition was hardcore racist.

Although no candidate can be responsible for all the actions of his supporters, the candidate does set a tone. By his inaction, Trump conciliated the racists and anti-semites. The fact that Trump has a Jewish son-in-law does not change that. The problem was his long failure to speak out. That silence was acquiescence.

ADL reported 34 incidents linked to the election, In Denver, graffiti posted in May 2016 said, “Kill the Jews, Vote Trump”. In November a St Petersburg Florida man was accosted by a stranger who told him, “Trump is going to finish what Hitler started”.

ADL also found an increase in anti-semitic incidents at non-Jewish elementary, middle, and high schools. In 2015 there were 114 reported incidents. That increased to 235 in 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, 95 incidents were reported. It is not surprising that if more parents are expressing anti-semitism, it will show up among children.

Trump has played a cagey game with anti-semitism. While he very recently denounced it, which is certainly positive, he spent the campaign conspicuously ignoring it, remaining silent. He got support from white supremacists and neo-Nazis like David Duke, Richard Spencer and Andrew Anglin. The Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party endorsed Trump.

Trump’s denunciation of anti-semitism has been weak – too little, too late. He consistently passed on denouncing the creepy anti-semites and racists who infested his campaign. Now we have one denunciation after almost two years of silence.

I would agree with the assessment made by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. In February, they released a statement directed at the President.

“Rightly or wrongly, the most vicious anti-semites in America are looking at you and your administration as a nationalistic movement granting them permission to attack Jews.”

Trump appeared to condone and even encourage violence at his campaign events. Singling out protesters to be ejected from his campaign rallies, encouraging the audience to remove those with contrary opinions, saying he would pay the legal bills of his supporters who attacked his opponents – that is not exactly behavior worthy of any President. Anti-semitism fits right into that type of mindset.

There is a reason anti-semitism is called the longest hatred. There is an ancient tradition of blaming Jews for disasters. The tradition partly has its roots in religious rivalry. Ruling elites also found it convenient to scapegoat Jews to deflect blame away from themselves.

The relative economic success of some American Jews should not lead to a dismissal of the danger of anti-semitism. Oppression is not entirely a matter of economic hardship. I think anti-semitism is similar to the oppression of LGBTQ people or women. The hatred transcends economic class.

What I find particularly worrisome now is the new form of online anti-semitism. In 2016, Twitter and social media saw a steep rise in the spread of anti-semitic content. Anti-semitic and racist cowards, hiding anonymously on the internet, are viciously harassing perceived opponents of all political persuasions.

I do not think that bigotry against Jews can be separated from the wider assault against Latinos, Muslims, people of color, gays and lesbians or immigrants. All forms of hatred must be fought.

Considering the 20th century experience of the Holocaust, anti-semitism must never be taken lightly. It must always be vigorously combated. That is true whether you are conservative, libertarian, moderate, liberal, progressive or socialist. 

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. paul2eaglin
    May 8, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Why doesn’t this concern strong Trump supporters like Sheldon Adelson, PM Benj Netanyahu, and powerful people like that? The ADL is so highly respected. Why would its assessment and warning not mean more to Trump’s Jewish supporters?
    Paul Eaglin

    • May 8, 2017 at 11:38 pm

      I think it comes down to the fact that powerful people like Adelson are Republicans. They see Trump realizing their agenda at least in part and they are willing to look the other way. I am sure they assume the more mainstream Republicans will keep the crazies in check.

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