Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

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.

No More Dog Whistles

To my readers: Watch President Obama’s eulogy to John Lewis, and remember what a President looks and sounds like.

Now I return you to my regularly scheduled screed….

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Can you stand one more post on Republican bigotry? I ask because there’s a new story every day.

For example, there was a recent report from The Hill about a display in the office of Representative Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.)–  an 1897 book, “General Robert Edward Lee; Soldier, Citizen and Christian Patriot.” People waiting for a meeting with the Representative reported that

the book was opened to a page that read: “The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race, and, I hope, will prepare and lead them to better things.”

Just another day in GOP-land.

A post devoted to enumerating explicitly anti-Black  behaviors by multiple Republican officeholders would be both long and redundant. There has been less focus on the party’s growing willingness to express its anti-Semitism, despite the fact that prejudice against Jews is another reliable element of White Nationalism.

I was reminded of the prevalence of that anti-Semitism by a recent news article–also from Georgia.

A political Facebook ad for Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue’s campaign has been pulled after sparking controversy and charges of antisemitism. 

At the helm of the controversial ad is a photo of Perdue’s Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff with what appears to be an exaggerated nose. In an investigation lead by The Forward, a media outlet geared toward a Jewish audience, it was determined that Ossoff’s nose was both “lengthened and widened.” 

Perdue’s campaign team says the ad was designed by a third-party vendor and that any distortion of the image was unintentional. The campaign team added that incumbent Perdue has a strong record of standing against antisemitism and all forms of hate.

 On Monday, Ossoff addressed the offensive photo seen in the ad by tweeting, “I’m Jewish. This is the oldest, most obvious, least original antisemitic trope in history. Senator, literally no one believes your excuses.”

Perdue said that Ossoff’s nose was “inadvertently” widened when the picture was resized for use in the ad; however, observers pointed out that the nose was the only part of the photo that was affected. They also noted that the ad showed Ossoff together with Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (who is also Jewish), and accused them of trying to ‘buy Georgia,’ a not-so-subtle allusion to centuries-old anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish people.

The Intercept recently had an article  about Trump’s ironic attack on Muslim Representative Ilhan Omar, calling her anti-Semitic for two insensitive tweets about Israel (for which she has “unequivocally apologized”) and saying she should resign. The article highlighted six Republican members of Congress it said “should resign first” for having exhibited far worse anti-Jewish behaviors.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, representative for California’s 23rd Congressional District, has promised to “take action this week” against Omar over her tweets.

This is the same McCarthy who took to Twitter in October 2018 to accuse three Jewish billionaires — George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bloomberg — of trying to “buy” the midterms. He posted his tweet just a day after Soros received a pipe bomb at his home in New York.

McCarthy never apologized.

The article listed five others: Steven Scalise, who in 2003 spoke at a convention of the white supremacist European American Unity and Rights Organization, a group founded by David Duke; Louie Gohmert (enough said); Matt Gaetz, who invited the notorious Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson* to be his guest at the State of the Union, and who has appeared on Alex Jones’s “Infowars” show. (Among other canards, Jones has accused George Soros of funding the caravan of migrants from Central America); Steve King (again, enough said); and Paul Gosar,

Rep. Paul Gosar, the Republican who represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, has claimed that the far-right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — at which marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” — was “created by the left” and led by an “Obama sympathizer.” He has also suggested that Soros funded the event and falsely claimed that the Jewish billionaire “turned in his own people to the Nazis.”

In fact, Gosar is so brazen in his conspiratorial, anti-Jewish bigotry that his own family has felt the need to publicly denounce him.

Republican anti-Semitism has become so widespread and obvious that a new website has been developed to track it.

The website — which is part of a broader campaign against white nationalism launched earlier this year by progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc — aims to educate the wider public on the explosion in far-right antisemitic incidents since Trump became the Republican presidential nominee.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the GOP has abandoned its dog-whistle in favor of an out-and-proud White Nationalist bullhorn.

In November, we’ll see how many Americans endorse that bigotry.