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July 13, 2016 3:33 am

The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Antisemitism

avatar by Justin Amler

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Hitler Youth Hour of Commemoration in front of the Town Hall in Tomaszow, Poland during German-Nazi occupation, May 11, 1941. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

Hitler Youth Hour of Commemoration in front of the Town Hall in Tomaszow, Poland during German-Nazi occupation, May 11, 1941. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

When I was young, I always thought that antisemitism had died in the burning wreckage of Berlin, or the smoldering remains of Hitler’s body. I thought that it had reached its zenith, and that the world was truly shocked at what had happened to the Jews — one of the most targeted groups of hatred throughout human history. That people had finally realized the extent of where that hatred had led: the systematic murder of 6 million people.

Even as a very young person, growing up near the city of Cape Town, I very rarely encountered much antisemitism. Yes, I had a few remarks directed towards me, but never felt the anxiety that people feel today.

As I got a little older, I learned more about the state of Israel and its struggles for survival, but always felt confident that despite its precarious position, the world would support it, because antisemitism had died and the world would always stand behind a tiny country that embraced freedom against a vast Arab would where freedom was like a poisoned chalice from which no one was allowed to drink.

I was right and yet wrong at the same time.

In a sense, the antisemitism of those dark days had disappeared, fading into the background of a sad chapter in Jewish history. It was gone, expelled — a part of our past, not our future. Jews had their country back again, back after thousands of years of exile. They had returned to their rightful place in the world, no longer a foreign entity without a home, subject to relentless persecution.

But then something happened.

I grew up — and so did antisemitism. Unlike the days of open discrimination of Jews, it had become discreet — no longer a part of mainstream society.

While lingering in the dark shadows of society, it never really died, but simply adapted to a changing time and a changing environment.In the past, Jews were easy targets because they were seen as outsiders and nomads — people with no fixed address. But now, there is most definitely a fixed address — the state of Israel, and the ever evolving antisemitism has adapted quite remarkably.

The days of openly preaching hatred against Jews has largely disappeared, because in a new, post-Holocaust world, that was unacceptable. Instead, preaching hatred against Israel is the newly acceptable term, especially if done in a way that switched the Jews as the victims of aggression and hatred to the perpetrators of it. Israel was the new Nazi Germany, and Jews were the new Nazis.

All of a sudden, this tiny country, whose territory is 650 times smaller than the Arab world, was seen as an expansionist aggressor. This country, whose population is 50 times smaller than the Arab world, is seen as the main reason for lack of peace.

Antisemitism has evolved from a hatred of Jews as a people into the hatred of Israel as a country representing Jews. Just as previous societies tried to malign the Jews and remove them from society, the same practice continues with anti-Zionism. Each UNESCO resolution that denies Jewish history in Israel, and each UN resolution that portrays Israel as war mongers, and each EU resolution that wants to boycott Israeli goods, is proof of this.

And then something else happened.

The antisemitism from the past that was replaced by anti-Zionism, once again began to creep up to the surface. The thin veneer that anti-Zionism groups had held up to show they were only against Israel and not Jews began to falter. Jews were once again being accused of blood libels in the European Parliament. Jewish singers were being boycotted and targeted by hate groups. Jewish owned shops were being attacked by groups like BDS. And Jewish students no longer felt safe on university campuses.

Antisemitism has emerged from the shadows where it once lurked, and, unlike the generations of the past who stood by, it is up to the good people of this time to fight it.

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  • Joshua Laskin

    When Justin refers to “the generations of the past who stood by”, I guess he’s referring, in part, to American Jews, who did nothing, while the Jews of Europe were being wiped out. They did nothing, because their country was at war, and it was safest to keep silent, and not make a fuss. If the Jews of America had marched, en masse, on Washington DC, calling for the infrastructure of racial destruction to be bombed, as an immediate priority; would they have saved not a few lives? Most likely. Would they have paid a political price? Certainly. So, they made a choice. They chose their own status, over the lives of their coreligionists. We can blame antisemitism ’til the cows come home; but our grandparents’ moral cowardice was complicit in the Holocaust. It’s easy to point the blame outward, to others, and feel self-righteously victimized; to emotionally justify our unilateral support of Israeli occupational policies. Yes, Jews can take on the whole world–but a price must be paid. Can we pay that price? Or, do we still have too much to lose?

    • Jack Mutnick

      Justin, it wasn’t too great of a concern for the anti-Semitic German Bund in America to hold rallies, parades and marches supporting Nazi policy exterminating Jews. It was Jews like Meyer Lansky, Benjamin Siegel, and other “toughs” who showed up to provide a protest in the only manner that the Xtians in America understood. Concern for paying a price at the risk of supporting Jews in Europe?!?! Are you serious? Did Eleanor Roosevelt not pen an article at the time that FORCED a ship with escaped Jews right back to European concentration camps for murder? How about photos showing American bombers flying over concentration camps (with smoke abundantly escaping the crematoriums) and not dropping a single bomb to stop the massacre of Jews and other “unwanteds?”So showing the slightest of concern for a small wave of backlash in a country that vehemently supported anti-Semitism (still does) is not a reason to keep our mouths shut or prevent actions. Jews were going to die regardless, but Jews in this country have remained in the belief that the hatred is “over there” so let’s not “rock the boat” since my life is comfortable. That is the most disgraceful of mentalities that, sadly, persists even today.

  • Justin, you are so articulate. After WWII, anti-Semitism sort of went underground, but in the USA it was still legal and allowed to discriminate against Jews and other minorities. I was denied jobs when prospective employers got to the religion question. We couldn’t live anywhere we wanted to. I had rocks thrown at me as I was verbally taunted and called a dirty Christ Killer. By the 1960’s it stopped being legal but it still lurked under rocks and behind closed doors. Now it has come out into the light once again.And we once again must fight to try to extinguish as much of its fire as possible.