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Anti-Semitism comes from right and left

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Modern anti-Semitism, or the “Israelisation” of anti-Semitism, is a curious alliance between the “hard, regressive” left and political Islam. Karen Milner, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand, explained this to shul goers at Greenside Shul in Johannesburg last weekend.
by JULIE LEIBOWITZ | Nov 08, 2018

“The hard/regressive left have moved from anti-racism to a virulent form of anti-Westernism, and Political Islam – not Muslims or Islam – also has an obsessive anti-Western agenda. At the nexus of this alliance is the Jews and Israel.

Milner was talking about the various forms of anti-Semitism that exist today on the left and the right of the political spectrum, and how prejudice has evolved over time from traditional anti-Semitic tropes and blood libels to include opposition to the Jewish state.

She was speaking in response to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue-Or L’Simcha Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 27 October, which has been described as the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history.

This attack, in which 11 people were killed and seven injured, was carried out by a lone gunman, Robert Gregory Bowers, who identified with the far right.

Milner quotes French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy in explaining the three core propositions of modern anti-Semitism:

“First, Jews are detestable, i.e. worthy of hate because they support an evil murderous state. In support of portraying this absolute evil, this red-green alliance uses classic or old anti-Semitic tropes, drawing strongly on the original incredibly inflammatory blood-libel images – Israeli leaders as vampires, drinking the blood of Palestinian children, etc. We’ve seen this before,” Milner said.

“Second, Jews are even more detestable because their claim to Israel is based either [there are two versions of this] on a huge hoax [the Holocaust], or on oppressing the Palestinians in the same way or worse than they were oppressed in the Holocaust, making the Palestinians pay for the sins of Europe.

“Third, Jews are so protective of their victimhood, and so debased, that they use the memory of their dead for the purpose of legitimising an illegitimate state, and sentencing the rest of the world’s victims to silence [competitive victimhood].”

“Because people still seem to struggle to understand exactly what anti-Semitism is in 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a working definition of anti-Semitism, which, quite honestly, should have put an end to the matter,” Milner said.

“It is worth mentioning here that the IHRA definition does not say that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism, only criticism that treats Israel differently or demonises Israel for its very existence is anti-Semitism, but this was intolerable to many members of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

“For a year, the Labour Party in Britain has remarkably been debating how anti-Semitic it wants to be. It has been fighting tooth and nail not to have some components of the definition included in its policy. As you all know, it’s those components relating to Israel that it so objected to.”

Coming back to Pittsburgh, Milner addressed the “other face of anti-Semitism”, namely right-wing anti-Semitism. “This isn’t any less prevalent or dangerous – as we have just recently established all too tragically,” Milner said, “but it bears far more obvious similarities to the classic anti-Semitism that we are all too familiar with. There are, however, a few very modern twists to this old classic which were very evident in the Pittsburgh atrocity.

First, the association with white supremacy. Milner talks about “a fascinating dynamic” in terms of how the ways white supremacy, racism, and anti-Semitism work together.

“Blacks, migrants, and so on are looked down on as a kind of lower life form, but they are [considered] too stupid and incompetent to be a real threat – that’s where the Jews come in,” she said. “We use our slyness and global power to facilitate these sub species into breeding and ascending to power, leading to mongrelisation and white downfall. Bizarre, I know, but that is what animated the Pittsburgh killer.”

Milner relates how the last information we have about the Pittsburgh shooter is the message he left on the online right-wing platform, GAB, in which he said, “Can’t stand by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in…”

She talks about how conspiracy theories are given new power online. For example, the original anti-Semitic conspiracy The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has found new life online. These theories, “have tremendous power to terrify and breed hate. Their proliferation through online, right-wing platforms is a very real challenge we have to face.” In fact according to research by Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Jews are the third biggest target of online hate – after blacks and homosexuals.

In answer to the age-old question about what we can do about it, Milner said:

“We need to have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism from both the regressive left and hard right. We tend to see anti-Semitism as being on the opposite end of the political spectrum to ourselves, and ignore it on our own side. What we can see quite clearly is that these versions have become indistinguishable.

“We should be aware that what starts with Jews, never ends with Jews. We are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. This uptick in hatred is not just aimed at us, but at all who hold democratic values.”

Last but not least, Milner said, we should “look for the helpers”.

“Through this terrible time, we have also experienced unbelievable support for Jews: the first responders who ran in to save Jews, knowing that they would probably get shot; the Muslim crowdfunding initiative which raised more than over $70 000 (R992 000); the outpouring of support globally.”

Milner refers to a recent talk by Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre Director Tali Nates, who spoke about the four types of people in the Holocaust: perpetrators, victims, bystanders, and upstanders. “The helpers are the upstanders,” she said. “We must find them, and we must be them.”

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