Home > Uncategorized > Where is the antisemitism coming from? – posted 11/2/2019 and published in the Concord Monitor on 11/16/2019

Where is the antisemitism coming from? – posted 11/2/2019 and published in the Concord Monitor on 11/16/2019

These are uneasy times for American Jews. After Charlottesville and after the Pittsburgh and Poway, California synagogue shootings, it does seem like there has been some kind of resurgence of antisemitism. The degree of the resurgence remains unclear.

I had never thought I would see armed guards screening worshipers as they enter American synagogues.

On November 1, federal authorities arrested Richard Holzer, a self-described skinhead and former Ku Klux Klan member, who was accused of plotting to blow up a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. On Facebook, Holzer had written that Jews “need to die” and that they were a “cancer”. He had previously posted a video of himself urinating on a temple.

Holzer’s plot was quickly followed by another story about the alt right leader, Richard Spencer. Milo Yiannopolis, his alt right colleague and apparently ex-comrade, leaked an audio recording of Spencer from the day after the Charlottesville march. The recording has Spencer ranting about “little f—— kikes. They get ruled by people like me”.

The Anti-Defamation League recorded 1,879 antisemitic incidents nationally in 2018, with incidents ranging from vandalism to harassment. Of these antisemitic incidents, 1,794 were classified as “right wing (anti-government, white supremacist or other)”.

In 2019, the main danger to Jewish people comes from the far Right. It is not now nor has it ever come from the Left. Certainly there have been episodes of insensitivity or wrong-headed comments on the Left but there is no comparability. The numbers alone are very clear.

The increasing antisemitism goes along with an international trend reflected in right wing authoritarian governments and movements. Trump, Orban, Bolsanaro, Duterte and others of that ilk thrive on fear of the stranger, anti-intellectualism, and hateful rhetoric. Anti-semitism is one element in that toxic stew.

I think the shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway also persuasively show the role of online communities in radicalizing antisemitic bigots to engage in acts of violence. Neo-nazi and white supremacist websites have generated and continue to generate a surprising amount of traffic.

With the most disturbed racists and antisemites, there is a pattern of the true believer authoring an online manifesto explaining and attempting to justify his actions before he goes on a deadly shooting rampage. Their ideology is a key factor in understanding why they murder. Over the last ten years, white supremacists have been responsible for more homicides than any other extremist group in America.

The role of President Trump in all this must be mentioned and considered. It is no accident that he is a favorite of neo-nazis and the alt-right. They re-tweet him all the time and Trump returns the favor. Trump has served as an inspiration to far right extremists. He has continuously messaged the far Right that he is their guy.

Cesar Sayoc, the now-convicted Florida pipe bomber, illustrates the point. He was the guy who prepared pipe bombs for multiple Democratic leaders and people he considered political enemies. His bombs never went off and he was captured by police. Sayoc is a kind of fruit off a poisonous tree. You have to wonder how many other Sayocs are out there.

Consider Trump’s comments in August when he described Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats as showing “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty”. This was the second time this year that Trump invoked the antisemitic trope about dual loyalty. In April, before an audience of Jewish Republicans, he referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister”.

The dual loyalty trope has a long history. Trump is playing with the false association that the loyalty of American Jews is primarily to Israel. The antisemitic trope is that Jews are not loyal to their home countries; rather, they are infiltrators and outsiders.

I immediately thought of the Dreyfus Affair when Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly accused of betraying France. The common thread in the trope is that Jews harbor secret loyalty to some other, not us at home. The accusations against George Soros are very much in this same vein. Antisemites call Soros a “globalist” which effectively places him in the outsider category.

I think Trump’s attacks on Congressman Adam Schiff as “Shifty Schiff” are antisemitic. Schiff is Jewish. He is also chair of the House Intelligence Committee. In light of the impeachment probe, Trump has his reasons for fearing Schiff. Nevertheless, the way he has chosen to criticize Schiff is revealing. Trump has said:

“We don’t call him Shifty Schiff for nothing. He’s a shifty, dishonest guy.”

Trump had previously called Schiff “little pencil-neck”. Here he is playing on stereotypes of Jews as shady and unscrupulous. Think Shylock.

On October 2, Trump’s son, Don Jr. tweeted:

“And for those who don’t know who Adam Schiff is, he is not just a radical liberal, he is someone who has been hand-picked and supported by George Soros”.

Don Jr. went on to call Schiff a “Soros puppet”. While the Trump modus operandi is sliming opposition, Don Jr. has zero grounds to make the Soros accusation. Here Don Jr. is playing the antisemitic boogeyman card, throwing a bone to the irrational haters and conspiracy mongers in the Trump base.

Since 2016, the Trump campaign has played a cagey game with the use of antisemitism. Pepe the frog was a regular campaign meme. In July 2016, Trump tweeted out an image of the star of David, Hillary Clinton and piles of money. Shortly before the election, Trump used George Soros, Janet Yellen, and Lloyd Blankfein in his closing campaign ad.

Clearly, if Trump thinks that antisemitism can advance his interests, he is using it. It takes major league chutzpah to use antisemitism while accusing your opponents of being antisemites. Trump has certainly done this with the Squad, particularly Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all women of color.

Trump’s accusations, especially against Omar, have been hateful smears. The pattern is well-established: find a quote about Israel, cherry pick a phrase or a quote, and make blatantly false accusations of antisemitism. Then get pro-Trump media outlets to pile on.

The real reason for these accusations of antisemitism is that Trump and the Republicans have lost the Jewish vote so badly. In the 2018 mid-term elections, 79% of American Jews voted for Democratic candidates with just 17% voting for Trump’s Republican Party. Next to African-Americans, American Jews have been the most loyal Democratic voting bloc.

Trump is weaponizing false accusations of antisemitism in an effort to peal away Jewish voters from the Democrats. Such political machinations minimize and trivialize real antisemitism.

Also, Trump absolutely refuses to call out the racism and antisemitism in his base. Witness the neo-nazis in Charlottesville who were “very fine people”. If Trump wanted to be taken seriously as someone who genuinely opposes antisemitism and racism, he would denounce it among his own supporters. I think we will be waiting a long time for that to happen because it won’t happen.

It needs to be said that no nation state is beyond criticism. Like all nation states, Israel needs to be criticized. I personally think the Netanyahu government has been a disaster for Israel and for the Jewish people. Part of the problem has been Israel’s failure to recognize the human rights of the Palestinian people. Jewish racism against Palestinians has been a disgrace and a shame. Given the history of the Jewish people, we should know better about all kinds of racism.

As an American Jew, I find accusations of disloyalty offensive. In the United States and in Israel, there are Jewish people with a wide range of political views on every issue. People need to vote their conscience. The last thing we need is President Trump or any other authority, acting as arbiter, dictating how we vote and passing judgment.

American antisemitism is coming from the same deep well that has long brought us racism, white supremacy and xenophobia. It is the same deep well that perpetrated the genocide against Native Americans, enslaved generations of African Americans and has cursed our history.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Pat Dawson
    November 2, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    It does seem to be more openly expressed. I can only hope young people are going to see us through because our generation doesn’t seem able to manage anything.
    Well written as always.

  2. Mike
    November 21, 2019 at 4:31 am

    Scrape the scales from your eyes. Are you really accusing President Trump of being an anti-Semite? I watched Gyorgy brag about his atrocities in videos 20 years ago. He is evil incarnate and if you are defending him, you are also either incredibly naive or stupid. Perhaps both. Your agenda has been exposed. Why do you defend this evil human being.

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