On Holocaust Memorial Day, these are the insidious ways antisemitism has resurfaced in the last year

The most frightening aspect? Seventy-three years on from those horrific events, there are still people being murdered for being Jewish

Matt Greene
Sunday 27 January 2019 11:26
Comments
Holocaust survivor Susan Pollack explains on what Jeremy Corbyn needs to do to help eradicate antisemitism in the Labour Party

“Jews will not replace us.” So chanted white supremacists marching through the Virginian town of Charlottesville last August under the banner of Unite The Right, an alliance of swastika-clad, gun-wielding alt-right, far-right and neo-fascist militias, who were ostensibly protesting the removal of Confederate-era monuments from across the States in the wake of the Charleston church shooting of 2015.

The marchers, some of whom according to Donald Trump were “very fine people”, weren’t concerned about an uptick in Jewish procreation that would see a group that represent roughly 1.4 per cent of the American population suddenly swell to displace those further up the charts; rather they believed that Jews were funding a global campaign to weaken America’s borders and sponsoring caravans of dangerous illegal migrants.

On 27 October, Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old white nationalist, who’d posted on the social media site Gab that Jews were the children of Satan and were committing “a genocide against his people”, walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire with an automatic weapon, killing 11 congregants.

Back in the UK the day after the attack, Steve Cooke, the secretary of a local Labour branch in County Durham tabled an emergency motion condemning the fatal attack in Pittsburgh and was told that it focused too heavily on antisemitism, that “other types of racism never even got a mention… They wanted references to antisemitism removed from the Pittsburgh motion.” Steve suggested an amendment to the motion that condemned all far-right, neo-Nazi activities while noting Bowers’ “long history of antisemitic views and deep hatred for Jewish people” but this proposal was also deemed unacceptable.

As this should demonstrate antisemitism is not exclusively, historically or most explosively a problem on the left, but 2018, like 2017 and ’16, has been dominated by stories of antisemitism crises in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. There is a wider discussion to be had about how our reliance on the internet and our increasing intellectual isolation facilitates conspiratorial thinking on both ends of the political spectrum but for now it’s enough to say that Jews occupy a dangerous intersection, subject to conspiracists on both sides.

The left might not believe that the Jews are funding caravans of illegal migrants, intent on eroding national borders, but there are many self-proclaimed anti-racists who believe globalist Jews operate transnationally to undermine democracy and further their Zionist agenda, as well as many more, like those who in November accused Jewish MP Luciana Berger of inventing the need for police protection to attend her own party’s national conference in September, and believe instances of antisemitism at operational levels of their party are part of a wider smear against their leader.

A propensity towards conspiracy is one area where left and right meet on antisemitism but another, as 2018 proved again, is the reaction when called out. As Rachel Riley detailed last week in her speech to the Commons, Jews who dedicate themselves to reporting antisemitism spent much of the year fending off racist abuse from those demanding evidence of it.

While such gaslighting is now common on the left, it is also a tactic employed deliberately by the far right with a view to undermining Jews’ legitimate concerns. Again in November, with the triple-bracket echo tag (a far-right tactic of identifying Jews online) now a part of mainstream internet culture, alt-right 8chan users suggested wishing Jews “Happy Hanukkah” as a new way of tagging them online. This tactic had the added bonus of appearing friendly, so that Jews reporting the tags would be made to look paranoid and ridiculous.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

But more frequent for Jews (or others) reporting antisemitism in 2018 was the demand that we consider the bigger picture, as though a little Jew-hating was acceptable collateral for social progression and not a calamitous backslide. This too is typical of and particular to Jewish experience. While All Lives Matter, the reactionary, cognitively dissonant backlash to Black Lives Matter was rightly derided for wilfully ignoring the particularity of black experience, reports of antisemitism are routinely met with the assumption that those reporting it are unconcerned with other forms of racism, as if anti-racism were a finite resource whose value diminishes with use and opposing one form of hatred were an endorsement of another.

Holocaust Memorial Day itself, which also commemorates subsequent genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and Darfur, remains controversial for being exclusive. Many groups were murdered in the Holocaust so why do the Jews get a monopoly on suffering? And why doesn’t today’s event place equal emphasis on other genocides happening around the globe? What makes Jews so exceptional?

The irony, of course, is that Jews do not want to be treated exceptionally; we want the same treatment afforded any other minority that speaks out in its defence. We want to be believed, we want solidarity and we want for our warnings to be heeded. Last Sunday, the interred remains of six unknown Holocaust victims were buried at a cemetery in Bushey, the first known burial of victims of the Holocaust in this country or, I believe, anywhere.

As the UK’s chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis remarked at the graveside only two facts were known of them: first, they were Jewish and second, consequently, they were brutally murdered. In 2018, 73 years from the end of the Holocaust, there were still people murdered for being Jewish. If you think that’s acceptable or that it doesn’t need repeating, you’re not on my side.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in