Recognizing Antisemitism Is the First Step to Fighting It
There is major confusion about the nature and range of antisemitism today. Most people recognize antisemitism when presented with it in simple statement form, such as calling someone a dirty Jew. Accusing all Jews of killing Jesus, while anachronistic, also falls into this simple, easily recognizable category of antisemitism.
However, it is much harder to identify the essence of some of the antisemitism disseminated through social media, a major channel used for this purpose nowadays. This particular form of antisemitism frequently uses stereotyping as its modus operandi, i.e. blaming all Jews for the actions or statements of one or a few Jews.
News items, speeches, and articles — frequently taken out of context — are shared on antisemitic social media platforms. This snowballs, drawing a host of inciting and violent talkbacks. One extreme case demonstrates the use of stereotyping in social media-disseminated antisemitism in recent years. Barbara Lerner Spectre is an American Jew fairly unknown in Europe, outside of Sweden. She is a founding director of Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden.
In 2010, Spectre said in a rather minor broadcast: “I think there is a resurgence of antisemitism because at this point in time Europe has not yet learned how to be multicultural. And I think we are going to be part of the throes of that transformation, which must take place. Europe is not going to be the monolithic societies they once were in the last century. Jews are going to be at the centre of that. It’s a huge transformation for Europe to make. They are now going into a multicultural mode and Jews will be resented because of our leading role. But without that leading role and without that transformation, Europe will not survive.”
Few, if any, European Jewish leaders will share her views, but the relevance of her judgment is not the issue here. Hate-promoters picked up the broadcast and shared it en masse, presenting it as proof that Jews intend to take over Europe. Over recent years, this broadcast has attracted a barrage of at least 50, if not many more, articles and postings on hate sites and blogs, including Stormfront, a large white-supremacist site. Antisemitic hate reactions have overwhelmed Google, making it difficult to find any other statements by Spectre using the search engine.
There is a huge need for teaching materials on how to discern antisemitism once it goes beyond the direct curse or insult. Recognizing antisemitism in all its tactics and strategies is the indispensable first step toward fighting it. Incorporating it into teaching materials is the essential second step.