Antisemitism Is Thriving, and Coronavirus Will Fuel Its Growth
I got called a lampshade on Twitter the other night.
I was called this hateful epithet by an anonymous defender of Giovanni Gasparro, the Italian artist who posted images of a recent painting of his on Facebook. The painting depicts an act of “Jewish ritual murder” perpetrated by a mob of hook-nosed Jews. The painting is based on a 15th-century blood libel in the Italian city of Trent, which cost 15 Jews their lives.
Predictably, E. Michael Jones, a noted and professional antisemite, just loved the painting, declaring in a Tweet that “Gasparro is clearly a great artist who is willing to contest the hegemony of modernism and post-modernist blasphemy and pornography by getting to the heart of the matter, namely Jewish control of the art world.”
The painting put defenders of the Jewish people in a bind. By condemning Gasparro’s lurid and pornographic painting, they risk drawing attention to it and prompting Jew-haters to come to Gasparro’s defense — hence the lampshade jibe, which is a reference to Nazis allegedly using the skin of dead Jews to make lampshades and other household items. But remaining silent about the painting would send a message of acquiescence to its ugly message.
“Gasparro’s painting is not a cartoon,” said Brian Schrauger, a journalist based in Israel, and a Christian defender of the Jewish state. “This is Jew-hatred dressed up in the trappings of high art. It’s going mainstream.”
The troubling reality is that we are now confronted with a subculture of Jew-haters who can recruit new members into their ranks via the internet. The subculture was always present, even after the Holocaust, but their ability to transmit the virus of antisemitism into the larger American society was limited by a number of factors.
Antisemitism was a tough sell to children whose parents and grandparents had fought to defeat the Nazis in World War II. A lot of people who may not have liked Jews too much hated Nazis more, and understood that it was necessary to keep obsessive Jew-haters out of the mainstream.
Under these circumstances, dressing up in a white robe or donning the uniform of a neo-Nazi organization would put you so far outside the realm of polite society that most people wouldn’t do it, even if they hated Jews. Their bosses and their relatives would shun them.
Anyone who was interested in participating in the American economy and raising a family had to think long and hard about coming out as a full-blown antisemite. They might have talked about Jews privately, but they kept their mouths shut in public.
These days, the anonymity of the internet allows Jew-haters to spread their message and recruit new members into their movement without having to reveal their identity. And those folks who do reveal themselves to be antisemites are able to generate an income from their less-than-public supporters. Getting them kicked off Twitter, PayPal, and YouTube hinders them somewhat, but not entirely, because they can always go to other hangouts like Bitchute and Gab — the Brown Shirt District of the internet — to connect with their audience.
To make matters worse, the COVID-19 crisis has become an asset to Jew-haters throughout the world. Just recently, the FBI foiled a would-be killer in Missouri who was going to blow up a hospital. The suspect, who died after being shot by the FBI, had previously told his fellow Jew-haters that the COVID-19 virus was “engineered by Jews as a power grab. Jews are playing a long game and we are the only ones standing in their way.”
With rhetoric like this, which closely mirrors the Iranian government’s accusation that COVID-19 was a Zionist plot, the would-be killer was talking to the type of folks who call Israel and its supporters “lampshades.”
In the coming months and years, we will probably see the development of a vaccine and effective treatments to drive COVID-19 into the dustbin of history, where it will remain.
Sadly, the virus of antisemitism has proven to be more resilient, making the need for a Jewish state ever more evident with each passing day.
Dexter Van Zile is Shillman Research Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA). Van Zile’s work has appeared in a number of publications including The Jerusalem Post and The Boston Globe.