Is the 'new antisemitism' gaining a foothold in Europe and America?

The new antisemitism is a more media savvy and complex beast.

White nationalist leader Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute. (photo credit: REUTERS)
White nationalist leader Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There have been fears of late, perhaps justifiably so, in Jewish communities around the globe, that antisemitism is on the rise. Perhaps the main reason for this line of thinking comes from the rise of far-right parties in Europe, and a resurgent Jew-hatred from the American “alt right.”
Many would say that there is nothing new about the “new antisemitism”: it is simply the old antisemitism coming back to life.
Indeed, we can see the same old rhetoric coming from the mouthpieces of anti-Jewish organizations and political parties. And, yes, the subtle streams of antisemitism have always pervaded certain cultures.
But that is where the similarities end.
The new antisemitism is a more media savvy and complex beast. While the old mantra of “the Jews run the media” has been resurrected, there is a subtler form now brewing, where the approach is to turn the spotlight on situations and issues of the day and let people draw the “correct” conclusions.
While the word “Jew” has not been used yet, the recent fall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein may be a case in point. His lurid behavior is repulsing even the most hardened Hollywood types. But his incredible successes in movie production along with powerful influence within the Hollywood culture perk up the ears and warm the heart of virulent antisemites.
No tirade against Jews is needed – the media simply needs to point at the man and wink an eye. The message is clear.
On a more political plane, there is former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who was caught up in a “sexting” scandal with an underage woman. Again, we have not heard anybody yet get up on a soap box and rail about “Jewish decadence” – but they don’t need to. Shortly after his run-in with the law, his office received a number of antisemitic emails and letters – one even signed with a swastika. According to those who worked for him, this was not an unusual event.
Internationally, French antisemitism has been at times subtle and at times overt. But with terrorism on the rise in that country, eventually the finger will be pointed at Jews or Jewish groups for being too “open minded” (read: “caring and humane) when it comes to humanitarian issues. Jews have also not fared well in Poland, Spain, Greece and other European venues.
You may say that there has always been a strain of antisemitism in these countries, so what’s new? Again, the media spin that pervades every area of Western civilization.
As to the cry that Jews are simply “playing the victim” again, the facts say otherwise.
An article in The Los Angeles Times (April 23, 2017) stated that incidents of violence against Jews in the US alone increased by 34% in just the first quarter of this year. Moreover, violence against Jews in the UK is at an all-time high and is in fact unprecedented.
Human beings can be a covetous lot, and with Jews being prominent in so many areas, from science to entertainment, there is going to be pushback. But this is not the fault of any Jew on the planet – industriousness is always resented.
So how have these events impacted Israeli society? There answer is in subtle ways, perhaps.
When you live in a country the very existence of which is challenged every day, and where your personal life could be in danger from a terrorist act at any moment, one has to be of stout mind – and perhaps a bit philosophical.
Israeli society itself has its own internal tensions; political parties, peace groups and the ultra-Orthodox are constantly vying for position.
Since Israel was created as a safe haven for Jews seeking to escape persecution and worship in peace, global antisemitism and domestic turmoil make for great introspection.
The fear here is that Jews will go through a “dark night of the soul” thinking that perhaps there is indeed something inherently wrong with Jewish culture and tradition. During and after the Holocaust, similar questions were asked: “Why would we be singled out for such a horrible thing? Why are they killing us?”
Opposing groups in Israel have shot political and cultural arrows at each other, hoping to gain ground. Each of these groups may have their own definition of what it means to be Jewish – and each may be right.
Anyone who has been bullied as a child knows that no matter how wrong the accusations and mocking of a bully are, there may come a time when one looks in the mirror and says, “Maybe the bully has a point!” This type of conclusion cannot be drawn by a healthy society and a healthy people. In essence, this is why Jews have been able to survive years and years of persecutions and pogroms: they have a solid and settled mind as to who they are, where they have been, and where they are going.
If the new antisemitism gets a strong foothold, it will not be because the forces of evil have gained the upper hand through their wit and manipulation of technology – it will be because the object of their hatred looked inward and drew the wrong conclusions.
The author is an independent journalist, author and publisher located in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is Unnecessary Noises.