A member of a Neo-Nazi group attends the "Day of Honour" in Budapest, Hungary, February 10, 2018, as he commemorates the breakout attempt by Schutzstaffel (SS) troops from Soviet-surrounded Budapest during World War Two..
(photo credit: BERNADETT SZABO / REUTERS)
In the 1990s, I was part of a coalition working to reduce hate crimes and bigoted violence and, for research purposes, I attended a pseudo-emergency preparedness conference. This conference was attended by various groups, including armed militias, neo-Nazis and other assorted white nationalists. Christian identity adherents who taught that people of color where subhuman, Jews were the literal children of Satan and white Northern Europeans were the true descendants of Israel were also sprinkled liberally throughout the more than 500 individuals in attendance.
You might wonder how an African-American was treated at a gathering of those who thought that people who didn’t look, think or worship like themselves were less than human, but for the most part I was actually welcomed. In fact, a white man who was a member of an armed militia group said to me, “I’m glad to see someone like you here” – meaning someone black. But, he asked, somewhat puzzled, why I was at the conference? I quickly made up the explanation that I was there to learn a little bit about survival and what was really going on in the country, so that my community could also prepare and protect ourselves. He said he completely understood me. In fact, some of the conference speakers would talk about the need to expand the white nationalist movement – what they then called the “patriot movement” – to reach out to blacks, Mexicans and Asians, citing the need to form a collation against a larger enemy.
The white nationalist movement – which is now re-branded as the “alt-right” – has managed to coalesce around one common enemy: the Jew.
I was honored to speak at Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Israel and to explain why, as a non-Jew and an African-American, I am so focused on the problem of antisemitism. My deep concern is that antisemitism has become the engine that drives white nationalist racism, Islamophobia, nativism and homophobia.
To repeat, antisemitism is not merely another form of racism for the white nationalist – it is the movement’s very ideological core.
Its genesis lies in the inability of adherents of racial segregation to justify the victory of the civil rights movements of the 1960s. It was then that the modern white nationalist movement borrowed from older European antisemitism and constructed a worldview that contended that whites had lost their God-ordained supremacy due to a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.
This is why people like George Soros, who is Jewish, wealthy and a major philanthropist, centers heavily in the rhetoric of white nationalists. “Soros” has become shorthand for “Jew.” This is also why communities that care about combating the white supremacist movement should not ignore how prominent Jewish celebrities are used as fuel for international antisemitism. Soros has been attacked as a Nazi. This is not acceptable. It is a desecration to attack a survivor of the Holocaust as a member of the Nazi Party. We must be courageous, and we must speak up. We should identify the tactics and messages of international antisemitism for what they are.
Because antisemitism is at the core of modern white nationalism, adherents of this ideology seek a whites-only ethno-state and see Jews as the only collective force that keeps them from attaining this goal. In Charlottesville, Virginia, this message was made loud and clear. It’s why the tiki-torch wielding mob of white men chanted that it was “Jews” who will not replace them – the white race – as controllers of the United States.
Jews and non-Jews need to understand that we have a unified threat. The white nationalist movement in the United States doesn’t simply seek to spread hate, it seeks to use hate to build political power. White nationalists want to influence what happens in the political mainstream.
The federal government needs to investigate white nationalist activity and violence in the US. People are being threatened and murdered and it is the responsibility of our government to protect all of its citizens.
Those who oppose antisemitism and white supremacy together have our own work to do. We must raise our voices and support one another’s work. It will not just be Jews, Latinos, African-Americans or Muslims who suffer. It will be everyone who doesn’t identify as a white supremacist.
Let’s put aside partisanship and let’s tackle the social movement that seeks destroy us all. This is the priority before us in this moment of history.The author is executive director of the Western States Center. He is a national expert on the relationship between hate violence and preserving democratic institutions. Last week, he participated in the 6th Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism held in Jerusalem.
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