No, it’s not mostly from the right, and it doesn’t just threaten Jews.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - By Yair Rosen­berg Twit­ter: @Yair_Rosen­berg Yair Rosen­berg is a se­nior writer at Tablet Mag­a­zine.

For a phe­nom­e­non of­ten dubbed “the world’s old­est ha­tred,” anti­Semitism is not well un­der­stood. From top Ira­nian of­fi­cials who blame the Tal­mud for the in­ter­na­tional drug trade to Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists who claim that the Mos­sad is steal­ing their shoes, anti­Jewish big­otry can be be­wil­der­ing and bizarre. But given the prej­u­dice’s longevity, vir­u­lence and re­cent resur­gence in Europe and Amer­ica — wit­ness the waves of bomb threats against dozens of Jewish cen­ters na­tion­wide in the past month and the con­tro­versy over the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­peated re­fusal to in­clude Jews in its Holo­caust memo­rial state­ment — it’s well worth de­bunk­ing com­mon mis­con­cep­tions that im­pede our abil­ity to fight it.

MYTH NO. 1 Anti-Semitism largely sub­sided af­ter the Holo­caust.

In my time re­port­ing on anti-Semitism, I’ve of­ten en­coun­tered a cer­tain wellmean­ing skep­ti­cism: Didn’t the Holo­caust, with its shock­ing hor­rors, fi­nally com­pel so­ci­ety to stamp out anti-Jewish big­otry? So­phis­ti­cated peo­ple don’t write this idea down, but it’s one I hear con­stantly in my re­port­ing.

This is pro­foundly, de­press­ingly wrong. Ac­cord­ing to the FBI, Jews in the United States are an­nu­ally sub­ject to the most hate crimes of any re­li­gious group, de­spite con­sti­tut­ing only 2 per­cent of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. The pic­ture is con­sid­er­ably darker in Europe, where Jews were the tar­get of 51 per­cent of racist at­tacks in France in 2014, even as they made up less than 1 per­cent of that coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. In re­cent years, syn­a­gogues and Jewish schools and mu­se­ums have been sub­ject to ter­ror­ist at­tacks in France, Den­mark and Bel­gium. A 2013 E.U. sur­vey found that nearly 40 per­cent of Euro­pean Jews fear to pub­licly iden­tify as Jewish, in­clud­ing 60 per­cent of Swedish Jews. Non-Western ex­am­ples abound as well. Pop­u­la­tions of Jews in Arab lands, which once num­bered nearly 1 mil­lion, have been re­duced to only a few thou­sand, hav­ing been per­se­cuted to the point of ex­pul­sion or flight in the past cen­tury.

These facts un­der­score a cru­cial point: It’s wrong to sub­sume anti-Semitism un­der Nazism, its worst man­i­fes­ta­tion, when the cen­turies-old prej­u­dice usu­ally takes less ex­treme or ex­ter­mi­na­tion­ist forms. The end of Amer­i­can slav­ery did not mean the end of Amer­i­can racism; like­wise, the end of Nazism as a dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal force did not si­lence anti-Semitism.

MYTH NO. 2 Anti-Semitism comes pre­dom­i­nantly from the right.

This past elec­tion sea­son, the as­cen­dant alt-right, a band of re­ac­tionary white na­tion­al­ists with a pen­chant for ha­rass­ing Jewish jour­nal­ists, filled Twit­ter with neoNazi memes, Pho­to­shopped re­porters into gas cham­bers and con­cen­tra­tion camps, and chanted anti-Semitic slo­gans at po­lit­i­cal ral­lies. (My crit­i­cal re­port­ing on Trump made me the sec­ond-most-ha­rassed Jewish jour­nal­ist on Twit­ter, ac­cord­ing to an An­tiDefama­tion League study.) One could be for­given for as­sum­ing that such big­otry flows from one pri­mary po­lit­i­cal source.

But anti-Semitic out­bursts were tak­ing place on the left at the same time. At lib­eral Ober­lin Col­lege, a writ­ing in­struc­tor named Joy Karega shared Face­book memes about Jewish con­trol of the global econ­omy and me­dia, along­side posts as­sert­ing Is­raeli re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Is­lamic State and 9/11. Yet when school of­fi­cials and oth­ers crit­i­cized her con­duct, the stu­dent coun­cil dis­missed it as a “witch-hunt.” In New York, de­spite a lo­cal out­cry, the hip left­ist hub Brook­lyn Com­mons hosted Christo­pher Bol­lyn, a con­spir­acy the­o­rist who ar­gued that “Zion­ist Jews” were be­hind 9/11. Dur­ing the Demo­cratic pri­maries, Jewish can­di­date Bernie San­ders was con­fronted by a ques­tioner who de­clared that “the Zion­ist Jews . . . run the Fed­eral Re­serve, they run Wall Street, they run ev­ery cam­paign.” Sur­vey­ing this scene, TBS co­me­dian Sa­man­tha Bee aired footage of an an­tiSemite rant­ing at a Trump rally, then cracked, “To find anti-Semitism that ra­bid, you’d have to go to, well, any left-lean­ing Amer­i­can col­lege cam­pus.”

This bi­par­ti­san big­otry shouldn’t sur­prise. Anti-Semitism could never have at­tained its im­pres­sive in­flu­ence with­out forg­ing coali­tions across ide­o­log­i­cal and re­li­gious lines. Ha­tred of Jews has long thrived on its abil­ity to en­snare ut­terly op­po­site world­views. Thus, the 2013 E.U. sur­vey found that Ital­ian and Swedish Jews per­ceived more anti-Semitic state­ments com­ing from the left, Hun­gar­ian Jews heard them over­whelm­ingly from Chris­tians and the right, and French Jews re­ported abuse largely from Mus­lim ex­trem­ists. It’s tempt­ing to cast anti-Semitism as the sin of other peo­ple, but that’s usu­ally a way to avoid con­fronting the prob­lem within one’s own com­mu­nity.

MYTH NO. 3 Crit­i­cism of Is­rael is gen­er­ally anti-Semitic.

The state of Is­rael of­ten con­founds the anti-Semitism con­ver­sa­tion. Some as­sume that an at­tack on Is­rael and its poli­cies must nec­es­sar­ily be an at­tack on Jews; evan­gel­i­cal leader Franklin Gra­ham, for in­stance, dubbed crit­i­cism of Is­raeli set­tlers an as­sault on God’s “cho­sen peo­ple.” Oth­ers jus­tify their at­tacks on Jews around the world by point­ing to Is­rael, claim­ing to be anti-Zion­ist, not an­tiSemitic. Much of this con­fu­sion stems from the con­fla­tion of all Jews with the state of Is­rael, its gov­ern­ment and its poli­cies.

Crit­i­cism of Is­rael, how­ever, is not nec­es­sar­ily anti-Semitic. In fact, it is a pop­u­lar pas­time in Is­rael and among Jews across the globe. Ob­jec­tions to set­tle­ments, for in­stance, or even calls to boy­cott them are de­bat­able po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions, not big­oted slurs. Do­vish pro­po­nents of such views are no more pro­mul­gat­ing anti-Jewish prej­u­dice than those se­cu­rity hawks and re­li­gious na­tion­al­ists who have op­posed Is­rael’s land con­ces­sions for peace. Is­rael is a democ­racy — and can be held to ac­count for its ac­tions, just like any other coun­try.

MYTH NO. 4 Crit­i­cism of Is­rael can­not be anti-Semitic.

At the same time, crit­i­cism of the Jewish state can mask mal­ice to­ward Jews. Some cases are ob­vi­ous, such as when the or­ga­niz­ers of a 2010 flotilla that aimed to breach Is­rael’s mar­itime block­ade of Gaza sub­se­quently de­nied the Holo­caust and claimed that Is­rael was be­hind the Char­lie Hebdo mas­sacre. Sim­i­larly, those who ac­cuse Is­rael of com­mit­ting “Pales­tinian geno­cide,” when the Pales­tinian Cen­tral Bu­reau of Statis­tics records a four-fold pop­u­la­tion in­crease since Is­rael’s found­ing, are en­gag­ing in li­bel, not le­git­i­mate ar­gu­ment.

In other, less-bla­tant cases, Is­rael is sub­jected to crit­i­cism lev­eled at no non-Jewish coun­try. Con­sider the United Na­tions, whose Hu­man Rights Coun­cil has con­demned Is­rael more of­ten than all other coun­tries com­bined, in­clud­ing Syria, North Korea, Iran and Rus­sia. As Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s U.N. am­bas­sador, Sa­man­tha Power, put it, “As long as Is­rael has been a mem­ber of this in­sti­tu­tion, Is­rael has been treated dif­fer­ently from other na­tions at the United Na­tions.” In Oc­to­ber, one U.N. body even passed a res­o­lu­tion deny­ing the Jewish con­nec­tion to Jerusalem’s Tem­ple Mount, Ju­daism’s holi­est site.

What these un­for­tu­nate ap­proaches all share is that they treat the Jewish state in much the same way anti-Semites have his­tor­i­cally treated Jews: sin­gling them out for cen­sure and im­pli­cat­ing them in out­landish con­spir­a­cies.

MYTH NO. 5 Anti-Semitism mostly threat­ens Jews.

Most big­otries de­bil­i­tate their tar­gets while em­pow­er­ing their dis­sem­i­na­tors, much like slav­ery and redlin­ing en­riched Amer­ica’s white ma­jor­ity at the ex­pense of its African Amer­i­can mi­nor­ity. Many suc­cess­ful so­ci­eties have been built atop prej­u­dices.

Anti-Semitism, how­ever, is a unique case — and uniquely cor­ro­sive to those so­ci­eties that em­brace it. That’s be­cause it of­ten takes the form of a con­spir­acy the­ory about how the world works. By blam­ing real prob­lems on imag­ined Jewish cul­prits, anti-Semitism pre­vents so­ci­eties from ra­tio­nally solv­ing them. In one of the most fa­mous ex­am­ples, Nazi sci­en­tists shunned Ein­stein’s ad­vances as “Jüdis­che Physik,” as op­posed to “Deutsche Physik,” en­fee­bling their un­der­stand­ing.

As Bard Col­lege’s Wal­ter Rus­sell Mead has put it: “Peo­ple who think ‘the Jews’ dom­i­nate busi­ness through hid­den struc­tures can’t build or long main­tain a suc­cess­ful mod­ern econ­omy. Peo­ple who think ‘the Jews’ dom­i­nate pol­i­tics lose their abil­ity to in­ter­pret po­lit­i­cal events, to di­ag­nose so­cial evils and to or­ga­nize ef­fec­tively for pos­i­tive change. Peo­ple who think ‘the Jews’ run the me­dia and con­trol the news lose the abil­ity to grasp what is hap­pen­ing around them.” For this rea­son, Mead has warned, “Ra­bid an­tiSemitism cou­pled with an ad­dic­tion to im­plau­si­ble con­spir­acy the­o­ries is a very strong pre­dic­tor of na­tional doom.” This is one case where the ha­tred ul­ti­mately de­stroys the hater.


The Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holo­caust memo­rial mu­seum in Jerusalem. Anti-Semitism didn’t abate in re­sponse to the Holo­caust.

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