Fighting Jew-hatred requires recognising its persistent appeal
Recently a well-educated, accomplished man, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company – one of America’s most successful corporate entities – attended a seminar I gave on antisemitism. After my presentation, he raised his hand and, with a perplexed tone in his voice, observed: “Jews are so smart, so accomplished… How is it that they have not been able to solve this problem of antisemitism?”
I told him that his question, sincere as it certainly was, was aimed in the wrong direction. He should not be asking the victim of racial prejudice to solve that problem. He should be asking the perpetrator.
On Jan. 5, at the rally and march against antisemitism held in New York, I found myself walking next to a woman who carried a sign: “This Catholic Hates Antisemitism.” When I thanked her for being there, she responded: “It’s more our problem than yours.”
The purveyors of this hate and hostility should be the ones who bear the onus of having to resolve the issue. It is the rapist and not the person who has been raped who should have to supply the solution. Suffice it to say, antisemitism is a problem for all of us.
There is no easy solution to prejudice because it is an irrational sentiment. Prejudice: the etymology of the word itself is testimony to its irrationality: to pre-judge, to decide what a person’s qualities are long before meeting the person him or herself.
To put it more colloquially, the purveyor of prejudice encounters the stereotype even when the actual person is still 500 metres away. In other words, stereotypes exist independently of an individual’s actions.
That does not mean that a member of the group in question is immune from possessing the negative characteristics ascribed to the entire group. But when an individual’s wrongdoings are seen as characteristic of “the” entire group, because “that is how they are,” we have entered the realm of prejudice.
If a person with blond hair were to do you wrong and you, as a result, condemned all people with blond hair, everyone would no doubt think it absurd. Why then, if a Jew or a person of colour does you wrong, do we not think antisemitism or racism absurd?
While antisemitism is a prejudice and, therefore, shares many of the characteristics of prejudice in general, it has certain unique characteristics that set it apart from these other hatreds.
First of all, it is a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theorists find “culprits” to blame for something they oppose or find threatening. Those who subscribe to these theories tend to rely on familiar “enemies” – e.g. Jews – to give events that may seem inexplicable an intentional explanation. By picking a familiar or common enemy, their claims seem rational to the person who has heard these charges before.
Conspiracy theorists reflexively reject facts that contradict their narrative. Logic falls by the wayside and exaggerations, suspicions, and stereotypes predominate. Therefore, the committed antisemite will not be dissuaded by a demonstration that they are subscribing to something irrational.
Secondly, antisemitism has another distinctive characteristic. Unlike other prejudices it comes from the right and from the left. Both rely on the same set of prejudices. It is the one place those on the left and those on the right meet in perfect harmony.
Thirdly, when one contrasts antisemitism to the prejudice of racism, yet another distinction emerges. The racism punches down, claiming that the person of colour is “lesser than,” “not as smart as,” or “not as industrious as” the person who is not of colour. Were they to move into “our” neighbourhoods or attend “our” schools, they will lessen the quality of the school or the neighbourhood. They will bring us down.
In contrast, the antisemite punches up. The Jew is “smarter than”, “more powerful than”, or “craftier than” the non-Jew. Therefore, the Jew is to be, not just opposed, but feared because of what they might do to the non-Jew.
Antisemitism makes people stupid. It is delusional, ascribing to Jews contradictory qualities. For example, according to antisemites, Jews are both capitalists and communists. Antisemites accuse Jews of being clannish and sticking together and, at the same time, charge them with being pushy and wanting to be accepted in circles that have no desire to accept them.
It is impossible to simultaneously be a communist and a capitalist, pushy and clannish. But that is logic. And prejudice defies logic.
Antisemitism is not something random. It is not disliking a Jew. It is disliking someone because they are a Jew. It is persistent and has a structure and a template.
Antisemitism began as anti-Judaism, as Christianity sought to differentiate itself from Judaism. It soon grew into a contempt, not just for the religion, but for the people who adhered to that religion. Jews were, not just marginalised, but seen as willfully blind to the truth of the new faith.
By the Middle Ages Judaism had been rendered, no longer just a competing religion, but a font of evil and a danger to Christians. Christian anti-Judaism of the medieval period added a litany of additional accusations. Jews were charged with committing ritual murder, poisoning the wells to spread the Black Plague, profaning the “host”, engaging in sorcery and magic, and an array of other evil acts, all of which had the objective of harming non-Jews.
The striking aspect of antisemitism is the way it migrated out of the confines of the Church and was adopted and adapted by those who, not only were not affiliated with the Church, but were opposed to it. In the 18th century, Voltaire, an arch opponent of the church, said of the Jews, “You have surpassed all nations in impertinent fables, in bad conduct and in barbarism. You deserve to be punished, for this is your destiny.”
Karl Marx, a virulent critic of all religions, echoed those same accusations. Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists propagated the same hatred. The source of the hatred may have changed but the nature of the charges remained the same.
The notorious “Protocols”: Still widely availableOne of the most enduring and widely circulated antisemitic classics is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This publication has been greatly responsible for reinforcing the notion of a Jewish conspiracy. Purporting to be the record of late 19th century deliberations of an unnamed group of Jewish “elders”, the Protocols “document” their intentions to control the world, its economies and political systems.
First published in its current form early in the 20th century by a supporter of the Russian Tsar, it, in fact, began life in the mid-19th century as a tract having nothing to do with Jews. Jews were nowhere to be found in it.
When Tsarist supporter Sergei Nilus published the first version early in the 20th century (he subsequently reissued many other editions), the central characters were now Jews who, not only were determined to dominate non-Jews, but to corrupt their morals as well.
Car magnate Henry Ford published a half million copies in English and distributed them widely. (In the 1960s while on a visit to the home of Jordanian diplomats in Amman, I found a copy of the English version on his bookshelf. It was signed by Henry Ford and had been given to the diplomat’s father.)
Despite the fact that in 1921 the Times of London exposed the Protocols as a forgery concocted well before the time in which it was set, the publication continued and continues to have a life of its own.
Over the course of the 20th century, this forgery has been republished in German, French, Arabic and an array of other languages. It was used by Nazis to justify their antisemitic campaign. Teachers in the Third Reich used it as an historical document.
Today, in addition to becoming an element in anti-Israel attacks, it is broadly available throughout the world, including on Amazon. It reinforces all the conspiracy theories that have been the fulcrum upon which antisemitic hatred pivots.
A more recent iteration of antisemitism is Holocaust denial. Though deniers have no evidence, no witnesses, no narrative and no facts to support their claims, they assert that Jews were able to plant evidence, doctor documents, arrange for “survivors” to give false testimony and convince the Allies to hold war crimes trials that falsely charged defendants with having committed genocide.
Think about it, for deniers to be right who would have to be wrong? Victims, bystanders who saw what was happening, thousands of historians, and, of course, the perpetrators.
According to the deniers’ scenario, Jews used their power to compel Germany to accept responsibility for this massive crime and to pay billions in reparations to these “non-existent” victims. In addition, they have compelled the world to give them a state.
In this “explanation” of why the Jews have created this myth, one, once again, encounters the antisemitic template: money (reparations), power (forcing the world to give them a state), and nefarious intellect (being able to pull off such a massive hoax).
Today we see antisemitism emerging from both the right and the left. For some people on the progressive left, those who possess power cannot possibly be victims. Their view of prejudice is refracted through a prism that has two facets: class and race.
Someone who is wealthy or from a group that is considered wealthy and someone who is white or from a group that is considered white cannot be a victim. When Jews claim to be victims, these progressives dismiss their claims as invalid and as a means of subterfuge designed to deflect attention from other issues, e.g. Israel. Once again Jews have engaged in their devious ways using trickery and false accusations to accomplish their goals.
On the right, antisemitism comes from extremists and populists who, in contrast to those on the progressive left that I have described above, do not consider Jews to be white. These white supremacists believe that they are being subjected to a genocide of white Christians. Refugees, people of colour and others who are less talented and accomplished are pushing them out of their jobs and their positions.
The only rational way they have of explaining this development is that someone is engineering their “replacement.” They find that culprit in “the” Jew, who, as per usual, acts in subterfuge, pulling the strings behind the scenes.
This is what the marchers in Charlottesville meant when they chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” It is why the shooter in Pittsburgh, even after he was subdued by the SWAT team, told officers that he wanted all Jews to die because they were committing genocide against his (white) people.
It also comes from Islamist extremist and, sadly, increasingly from some segments – certainly not all – of Muslim communities who, while they do not engage in terror or even violence, are inculcated with a hatred of Jews. We see this in Europe in particular, often among new arrivals. I stress that this is symptomatic of segments of that community. Certainly not all.
Irrespective of whether these charges come from the right or the left, Christians, Muslims or atheists, they always rely on the same themes that we have repeatedly seen: the nefarious Jew, unscrupulously manipulating matters behind the scene, acting to his own advantage and to the detriment of the non-Jew, particularly the white Christian.
Ultimately, the hatred that is antisemitism can best be compared to a herpes virus, a disease that cannot be cured. Just like this virus, it mutates and presents in different ways and in different parts of the body. Medication may ease the symptoms.
However, in its essence, it remains the same, always lurking beneath the surface ready to emerge at a time of stress. So too with antisemitism. It has taken vastly different forms. And it persists.
What then can we do about it? If it is irrational must we simply throw up our hands in defeat? I think not.
We must expose its conspiratorial, irrational, and delusional nature. We must challenge those who engage in it. We must familiarise ourselves with its history and understand the terrible consequences of ignoring it. There are no easy correctives, no magic pills, and no silver bullets. This fight might be one that can never result in total victory.
The roots of this hatred may be too deeply embedded to ever be fully eradicated. However, we must act as if we will be able to achieve that victory. The costs of not doing so are too great.
Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Holocaust History at Emory University and the author of Antisemitism: Here And Now. The above is an edited version of testimony delivered by her before the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on Jan. 8, 2020.
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More than 150 artworks entered into this year's B'nai B'rith Jewish Youth Art Competition were on display at the Glen Eira Arts Complex.
At the opening ceremony held on Sunday 4th August at the gallery, the Mayor of Glen Eira, Cr Jamie Hyams, praised the quality of the work by the primary, secondary and tertiary students aged 11-18.
"The art competition encouraged youths into healthy activities that build self-esteem through artistic expression," he said. "It creates a concrete and valued stepping-stone on an artistic pathway for students who aspire to a career in the arts."
The Morrie Gold Memorial Prize, presented to the overall winner of the competition, was won by Mount Scopus Memorial College student Ella Hermann for her work - painted on a large tree trunk - titled Falling Into Place.
The Thalia Hakin Prize, sponsored by Gandel Philanthropy, was won by Leibler Yavneh College student Raphael Brykman. The award was established last year in honour of 10-year-old Thalia, a student at Beth Rivkah Ladies College, who was killed in the Bourke Street rampage in January 2017.
The best work on a Jewish theme, sponsored by B'nai B'rith Victoria, was won by Gabriella Steinberg, who is currently in Israel and was presented with her award via smart-phone connection by B'nai B'rith Victoria president Dr Benny Monheit.
We have attempted this year to revitalize the event by rebranding Eisteddfod as Showcase: fostering Jewish Musical Talent. It was felt by the community that the word Eisteddfod was anachronistic and irrelevant. The new tagline better describes what we actually do, in simple, accessible language.
It challenges and provides opportunities for competitors to perform in a supportive and nurturing environment. It offers valuable opportunities to perform in public and be adjudicated by a panel of expert musicians and “best practice” teachers.
Our adjudicators in 2019 have been John Quaine (Classical Strings), Thomas Lorenzo (Guitar), Doug Heywood OAM (Classical Vocal), Galit Klas (Contemporary Vocal and Yiddish/Hebrew Vocal), Amy Howden (Contemporary Piano), Justin Jacobs (Classical Piano) and Anne Gilby (Woodwind). We are so fortunate to have had the services of such experienced and skilled professionals.
I would like to thank our official accompanist: Karen Neumann for her dedication and support.
This year we once again have a record number of vocal and instrumental ensembles and some outstanding solo performers as you will soon attest. I look forward to the final ensemble performance, which will feature representatives from four of the main Jewish day schools.
The Showcase Finals Concert will be held on Sunday 15th September @ 2:00pm. See flyer below for all booking information.
B'nai B'rith’s Bernard J. Lustig Memorial Scholarship has expanded its scholarship scheme and for the first time, it will be awarding more than one scholarship per year.
“In the past,” chairman of trustees Dr Paul Gardner AM explained, “we offered the scholarship in two categories, as a travel grant to outstanding university student leaders, or as a post-graduate research grant. However, our available funds allowed us to make only one major award each year.
“This year, B'nai B'rith’s Unit Akiba decided to make a substantial grant to the Lustig scholarship, derived from the Peter Krafel Bequest, a BB Akiba member who passed away in 2016 and left a legacy to support various B'nai B'rith educational programs. This will allow us to offer more than one scholarship each year. We are naturally very grateful to Unit Akiba for their support. It is an on-going annual commitment.”
The first student to benefit from this expansion is Monash student Jarryd Shaw, who was presented with his travel grant at the beginning of a Unit Akiba meeting in July. In announcing the award and introducing the winner to the audience, Dr Gardner encapsulated Jarryd’s life as a Mt Scopus graduate and beyond: “Brilliant academically, high level sporting achievements, engaged in interfaith relations, involved in the Jewish community, Friday night services, Jewish Holocaust Centre, projects in Israel. The list goes on and on.” At Monash, he is taking a combined Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce program. His academic record to date shows High Distinctions in thirteen subjects.
High academic achievement, while a necessary criterion for winning a Lustig Travel Grant, is not sufficient. “He won the award,” Gardner explained, “as a result of his work within the law faculty as a student leader. He tutors first-year students. He is the deputy co-ordinator of the Monash Law Students Society Peer Mentoring Program. He has been appointed as a research assistant to the Dean of the Law faculty, working on a proposal to establish the Anti-Death Penalty Institute, which aims to abolish the death penalty across Asia.”
Jarryd is leaving Melbourne in early August and is heading for Pennsylvania State University, a highly rated Ivy League institution. He has been accepted as a student in the university’s business school, where he will study game theory and international economics.
In his application for the scholarship, Jarryd stated that he intended to “serve my community as an advocate, both in a professional and charitable capacity.” He noted that he had already been accepted as a member of a program known as the Global Engagement Community at Pennsylvania. He explained that this is “a leadership program designed to combine international exchange students with domestic students to develop an understanding of cultural differences. As a person who fundamentally identifies as a global citizen, learning more about various cultures and backgrounds will assist my development as a leader and allow me to be more engaged with the broader community and a better leader of the Jewish community.”
The scholarship is B'nai B'rith Victoria’s oldest on-going project. It was established in 1955 following the death of Bernard Lustig in January of that year in a car accident. A brilliant young barrister, he was at the time the president of B'nai B'rith Youth Melbourne.
In his acceptance of the award, Jarryd noted the tragic parallel with the recent death of another outstanding lawyer and community leader, Anton Hermann, who had been a personal mentor.
Presentations in the Post-graduate Research awards category will be made in September.
For further information, contact Dr Paul Gardner 9578 4724, 0412 275 623, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you wish to interview Jarryd Shaw, his contact details are 0449 199 995; email@example.com
Click & Connect's Aviva Sztrajt, Liora Vitos Koren & Claire Morton were interviewed for J-AIR's Shabbat Shalom Drive on July 19th. Click HERE to listen to their interview.
A wonderful article in The Australian Jewish News about the Click and Connect launch. If you'd like to know more about C&C, please visit www.clickandconnect.org.au
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