Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

It Isn’t Just Space Lasers

I’ve made a lot of fun of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s accusation that California’s fires aren’t the result of climate change, but instead were started by Jewish Space Lasers financed by George Soros. Greene and her loony-tunes ilk are perfect representations of an anti-Semitism that continues to attribute super-powers to an invented Jewish “cabal.” (Elders of Zion, anyone?)

If only we Jews were really that powerful…

There’s a robust academic literature attempting to explain some people’s need to pin the world’s woes on an identifiable, deliberate and malevolent group–and as Hitler figured out, it helps if the group chosen to be the bad guys is numerically small and unable to effectively protect itself.

Whatever has made Jews the “chosen” people to blame, it seems the contemporary GOP has become the preferred home for today’s anti-Semites, whose versions are marginally less whack-a-doodle than Greene’s, and for that reason, pose more of a threat.

A recent article in the Intercept recounted the then-Republican rejection of Pat Buchanan’s version of anti-Semitism, then contrasted it with what is occurring today.

Trump resurrected Buchanan’s strain of populist nationalism. He’s always nurtured business relations and personal ties with Jewish people, but his revival of “America First” — both the slogan and the ideas surrounding it — inevitably excited antisemites. In 2016, he tweeted out an image using a Star of David to symbolize Hillary Clinton’s “corruption.” The Trump campaign tweeted an altered version after an outcry but then ran an ad in the campaign’s closing days decrying “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities” coupled with images of Janet Yellen, George Soros, and Lloyd Blankfein — all of whom are financial figures who happen to be Jewish.

Trump attacked his critics as a cabal of “globalists” and fixated on the secret powers exerted by Soros, who has displaced (or in some cases joined) the Rothschilds in the imagined role of secret Jewish financier orchestrating a series of catastrophes for profit. The explosion of militant paranoia that followed Trump’s rise — from the Oath Keepers to QAnon — has appeared both online and in the real world with occasionally deadly consequences in places like Charlottesville and Pittsburgh. Although much of this activity has taken place outside the party system, the energies on the right have crept into the Republican Party.

The article went on to report anti-Semitic statements by high-level Republicans (including a spokesperson for Ron DeSantis) and the close relationship of Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s GOP nominee for governor, with the ultra-right-wing social-media site Gab. (The site promotes Christian Nationalist themes, and its chief executive is an “out and proud” antisemite “who has promoted Mastriano as a fellow enemy of the Jews.”)

Is it fair to criticize the Republican Party for the views of its most distasteful members? The Intercept article is lengthy, with a number of other examples, but I found the closing paragraphs pretty persuasive.

There is a simple test to measure their influence. If antisemites were too marginal to pose any danger, it would be easy enough for the party to cut them off. (If you want to know what it looks like when Republicans decide to really throw somebody out of their party, look at their treatment of Liz Cheney.) Instead, they vacillate. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to comment on Gosar’s attendance at white nationalist Nick Fuentes’s conference. McCarthy has likewise promised to restore Greene’s committee privileges if Republicans regain the majority.

Prosecutors have found that Trump’s January 6 rally attracted a significant number of people who share Hitler quotes, hold membership in neo-Nazi organizations, have a fixation with “white genocide,” and the like, making the party leadership’s desire to sweep the whole thing under the rug all the more dangerous. Whatever misgivings the remaining old-line Republicans may have toward the militant cadres Trump inspired, Republicans fear their political and even terroristic power. They no longer imagine they have the gatekeeping force to exclude the antisemites, less still to steer the party away from the kind of paranoid rhetoric that invites their participation.

The GOP’s overriding goal is to win, and it has decided this means accepting the support of anybody who will provide it. For three-quarters of a century, antisemites were locked out of major American politics or at least had to keep their bigotry quiet. Now the door is open.

I guess a Republican Party that has been deserted by  people who are pro-choice, pro- LGBTQ, pro-public school, pro-gun safety regulation and pro-environment needs to replace those groups with whoever is handy…

However, watching them scrape the bottom of the barrel is making me feel distinctly unsafe.

The March of Those Christian “Soldiers”

Marching backwards…

Last Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star reported on the explosion of anti-Semitic incidents on IU’s Bloomington campus. National headlines trumpet passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation (“Don’t say gay!”) and mean-spirited attacks on transgender youth. The Ted Cruz’s of the GOP and the Tucker Carlsons of rightwing media warn against the “feminization” of American men and the “dire threat” posed by (nonwhite) immigrants.

The fears and hatreds that feed these behaviors are exploited by the Christian Nationalists who have come to exercise disproportionate influence in American life by turning  a political ideology into a version of Christianity, and insisting that only adherents of that version are authentically American.

In a recent column, Jennifer Rubin considered that influence–and confluence. In a column about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, she wrote:

.Democracy functions only with restraint, good-faith application of procedural rules and devotion to the principle that the other side gets to govern when it wins. That concept is now an anathema to the GOP. As Thomas Zimmer has written for the Guardian, “Many Republicans agree that the Democratic Party is a fundamentally illegitimate political faction — and that any election outcome that would lead to Democratic governance must be rejected as illegitimate as well.”

That view of illegitimacy often stems from Christian nationalism. As Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, explains, “A worldview that claims God as a political partisan and dehumanizes one’s political opponents as evil is fundamentally antidemocratic.” He tells me, “A mind-set that believes that our nation was divinely ordained to be a promised land for Christians of European descent is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and equality of all.”

The New Republic–among others–has also looked at what it called “The Shock Troops” of Christian Nationalism, and the wealthy theocrats funding them. 

The article focused on a little-known foundation, the James and Joan Lindsey Family Foundation, and what it characterized as “a vast and steady flow of contributions” to  organizations in that Christian nationalist movement: the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, WallBuilders, a media company called Mastermedia International, and the Council for National Policy, a networking group for movement leadership.

“We are a Christian country. And the Founders were—definitely—and our founding documents were written under prayer each day of the writing,” Joan Lindsey has said. On the eve of the 2020 election, she announced that “this election will either preserve faith’s sacred place in our country or destroy it.”

The most recent effort backed by the Lindseys is something called “The Church Finds Its Voice,” a new entrant in what the article identifies as “a long-standing pattern in the Christian nationalist movement of backing projects to turn America’s network of tens of thousands of conservative churches into a powerful partisan political machine.”

The article is lengthy, and includes multiple other examples of Christian Nationalist activism.  It’s chilling; one leader of the movement is quoted as saying that “every election is a contest against absolute evil, and the consequences of failure are almost too dire to imagine.” To suggest that these activists are motivated is to understate the situation. Rightwing media has convinced them that Trump was anointed by God to protect Christians from those who would not only dislodge them from their privileged position but would also strip them of their rights and liberties.

Numerous accounts of the January 6th insurrection have focused on the ubiquity of Christian Nationalist symbols, and expressions of belief that God was on their side. As the deeply religious Michael Gerson has observed, transforming opponents into infidels provides an opening for racism and anti-Semitism.

The anti-Semitism being displayed at Indiana University is just one aspect of the Christian Nationalist worldview, but it is a fairly major element of it. An analysis by the Washington Post found that Christian Nationalism, support for QAnon, and anti-Semitism to be tightly linked.

Since Christian nationalism is a worldview holding that the United States was created by and for Christians, it may not be surprising that they dislike non-Christians. On average, the most ardent Christian nationalists subscribed to four of the eight anti-Semitic tropes presented; those most opposed to Christian nationalism subscribed to an average of one. Christian nationalists were more likely to believe each individual trope but showed the strongest support for the mistaken ideas that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country” and “Jews killed Jesus.”

Christian Nationalists who had bought into nutty QAnon conspiracy theories were even more anti-Semitic. QAnon reinforces a number of anti-Semitic tropes: that Jews control the banks, the media and the government, and that Jews are the ones behind the Deep State.

The problem is, those “Christian soldiers” own today’s GOP.

 

 

Speaking Of Conspiracy Theories…And Space Lasers….

Two recent reports about the hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue gave me one of those “ah ha” moments, a genuine epiphany.

I thought I understood anti-Semitism. After all, I’m Jewish–and what’s more, I grew up in a small town in Indiana where I routinely encountered classmates with negative feelings–and sometimes bizarre beliefs– about Jews. (Yes, we live in houses like “real people” and no, we don’t have tails. I am not making those questions up!)

Clearly, however, I still have much to learn about the deep-seated assumptions in which anti-Semitism is grounded.

The column from MSNBC was straightforward. The opinion piece took aim at the FBI assertion that the choice of hostages wasn’t “related to the Jewish Community.” While it is true that the perpetrator’s goal was not to harm Jews, but to obtain the release from prison of an unconnected person, the hostage-taker himself explained that he targeted a synagogue because he believes the U.S. “only cares about Jewish lives.”

The  article argued that the FBI statement

failed to capture the very nature of antisemitism and how it’s embedded in a wide range of age-old and contemporary conspiracy theories about power, elites, U.S. governance and global cooperation. As Yair Rosenberg explained in The Atlantic this week, antisemitism is not only a discriminatory prejudice, but also “a conspiracy theory about how the world operates.”

The second “aha” article  I read was the one from The Atlantic referenced in the foregoing quote.That article explained something I’d never previously understood: anti-Semitism isn’t simply one more manifestation of human tribalism– another “us versus them” hatred–it’s a conspiracy theory.

Most people do not realize that Jews make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population and 0.2 percent of the world’s population. This means simply finding them takes a lot of effort. But every year in Western countries, including America, Jews are the No. 1 target of anti-religious hate crimes. Anti-Semites are many things, but they aren’t lazy. They’re animated by one of the most durable and deadly conspiracy theories in human history.

I’m pretty sure I am not the only person–Jewish or not–who had never previously recognized what the article persuasively described–the weird way in which Jews “play a sinister symbolic role in the imagination of so many that bears no resemblance to their lived existence.”

Evidently, once he had taken the rabbi and congregants hostage, Akrim (the hostage-taker) demanded to speak to the rabbi of New York’s Central Synagogue. Why? He was convinced that the rabbi had the power to authorize the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani woman he was trying to free.

Obviously, this is not how the prison system works. “This was somebody who literally thought that Jews control the world,” Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told The Forward. “He thought he could come into a synagogue, and we could get on the phone with the ‘Chief Rabbi of America’ and he would get what he needed.”

The author noted the irrationality of that belief.

The notion that such a minuscule and unmanageable minority secretly controls the world is comical, which may be why so many responsible people still do not take the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory seriously, or even understand how it works. In the moments after the Texas crisis, the FBI made an official statement declaring that the assailant was “particularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.” Of course, the gunman did not travel thousands of miles to terrorize some Mormons. He sought out a synagogue and took it hostage over his grievances, believing that Jews alone could resolve them. That’s targeting Jews, and there’s a word for that.

it is really hard to take this lunacy seriously–although the consequences are very serious indeed.

It is patently ridiculous to think that a Jewish “minuscule and unmanageable” minority secretly exercises immense super-powers, that–as wacko Marjorie Taylor Green insists–we can deploy “space lasers” to set fires in California. (Why would we do that, even if we could?) It is particularly ludicrous to those of us who grew up in the “unmanageable” Jewish community to suggest that we are even capable of agreeing to conspire; as my mother used to say, the only thing two Jews can agree about is how much money a third Jew should be contributing to charity.

And as far as the “minuscule” descriptor goes, with inter-marriage rates hitting new highs  (Pew Research has found the current intermarriage rate to be 58% among all Jews and 71% among non-Orthodox Jews) we’re heading from minuscule to undetectable.

Pretty soon, the nut cases might have to find a different group guilty of running the world….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear Of” Replacement”

It was in August of 2017 that the torch-bearing mob in Charlottesville, Virginia marched and chanted “Jews will not replace us.”

Sines v. Kessler is a civil case growing out of that episode; it was brought against two dozen neo-Nazis and white nationalist groups who organized the 2017 Unite the Right rally. There are nine plaintiffs, including people who were injured when James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed Heather Heyer, 32. He injured at least 19 others.

The New York Times had a recent update on those proceedings. The article focused on the testimony of Deborah E. Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust scholar, who linked the chant to the history of Nazi anti-Semitism.

The plaintiffs, who seek unspecified damages, say they want to show Americans how the chants of the marchers are connected to other forms of racism and have gained a renewed foothold in American politics. Dr. Lipstadt declined to comment for this article — attorneys for the plaintiffs barred her from interviews before her testimony — but in a 48-page report she prepared for the trial, she wrote that “this fear of active replacement by the Jew, derived directly from the historical underpinnings of antisemitism, is a central feature of contemporary antisemitism.”

“Two animuses — racism and antisemitism — come together in the concept of a ‘white genocide’ or ‘white replacement’ theory,” Dr. Lipstadt wrote in the report. “According to adherents of this theory, the Jews’ accomplices or lackeys in this effort are an array of people of color, among them Muslims and African Americans.”

The Right-wingers who marched in Charlottesville were protesting the removal of Confederate monuments. They did so while “wearing and displaying Nazi symbols, waving Confederate flags and chanting slogans associated with the Third Reich.”

But since then, their animating ideology, great replacement theory — the false idea that religious and racial minorities are bent on eradicating white Christians or replacing them in society — has moved from the fringes to the mainstream, Dr. Lipstadt and civil rights groups say.

Replacement theory has joined–and supported– conspiracy theories about voting fraud, about Jewish “globalists,” and warnings of “invasions” by black and brown immigrants.  The theory has been endorsed by Fox News commentators, by Republican members of Congress and–unsurprisingly–by former President Donald Trump, who insisted that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the chaos in Charlottesville. According to the Times, perpetrators of at least three mass shootings since 2017 have expressed belief in replacement theory.

In April, Fox News host Tucker Carlson espoused replacement theory on air. “The left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the third world,” Mr. Carlson said on the broadcast. “That’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Carlson’s comments have been echoed by Ron Johnson, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, as well as by several Republican members of the House of Representatives, including the odious Matt Gaetz, lending the idea of “replacement” a faux legitimacy.

“There’s this kind of hate laundering that takes place, where fringe ideas move from the margins into the mainstream laundered by pundits, political candidates or even elected officials as if they are some kind of legitimate discourse,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.

 Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism have persisted on both the political right and the far left, and have provided impetus for bigotries targeting other groups.

“When expressions of contempt for one group become normative, it is virtually inevitable that similar hatred will be directed at other groups,” Dr. Lipstadt wrote in “Antisemitism: Here and Now,” her 2019 book about the resurgence of antisemitism in different guises. “Even if anti-Semites were to confine their venom to Jews, the existence of Jew-hatred within a society is an indication that something about the entire society is amiss.”

I keep coming back to that speech in An American President, in which the film’s fictional President describes his opponent as someone who is “not in the least interested in solving your problems–he only wants to make you fear them and tell you who to blame for them.” Those lines are more relevant than ever.

Replacement theory is somewhat more sophisticated than space lasers funded by George Soros, but the intended effect is the same: to make White Christian Americans fear Jews and people of color, and blame them for whatever is going wrong in their lives.

 

 

Facing Reality

At this moment, it looks as if Joe Biden will win. But no matter who is President when the smoke clears and the votes are all counted–if they are– we learned some things on Tuesday. And the lessons weren’t pleasant.

The most obvious–and ultimately least consequential–is that polling is not nearly as “scientific” as the pollsters think. The effort to figure out what went so wrong will undoubtedly occupy pundits and nerds for a long time.

The far more painful lesson concerns the nature of our fellow-Americans.

I read about the thuggery leading up to the election–the “good old boys” in pickups ramming Biden’s bus, the desecration of a Jewish graveyard in Michigan with “MAGA” and “Trump” spray paint, the consistent, nation-wide efforts to suppress urban and minority voters–but until election night, I’d convinced myself that those responsible represented a very small segment of the population.

I think what I am feeling now is what Germany’s Jews must have felt when they realized the extent of Hitler’s support.

I am not engaging in hyperbole: the research in the wake of 2016 is unambiguous. Trump supporters are overwhelmingly motivated by racial and religious animus and grievance. White nationalist fervor has swept both the U.S. and Europe over the past few years, but it has taken firmer hold here. The QAnon conspiracy has clear roots in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and America’s racism–our original sin–has provided fertile ground for the alt-right sympathizers who defend tearing brown children from their parents, treating both immigrants and citizens of color as disposable, and keeping women in “our place.”

Trump didn’t invent these people, but he has activated them. Indeed, he is one of them.

I thought it was tragic when Trump’s approval ratings forced me to recognize that more than a third of America fell into that category. I find it inconceivable–but inarguable and infinitely depressing–that the actual number is close to half.

Evidently, the America I thought I inhabited never really existed. I’m in mourning for the country I believed was mine.