Writer: Alma Samocha
Editor: Adelyne Koe
Graphic Designer: Maulina Gheananta
Antisemitism refers to the political belief systems that enable physical/verbal violence, discrimination and other forms of harm towards Jewish people. As a marginalized religious minority in every country but one, the Jewish community has consistently faced numerous violence and prosecution. In the USA, a 2021 survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) revealed that “63% of American Jews had experienced or witnessed antisemitism in the past 5 years”. Meanwhile, in the UK, a different survey implied that at least “45% of adults hold antisemitic views”.
Antisemitism functions through the systematic stereotyping and scapegoating of Jewish people, creating dog-whistles and negative archetypes to which they are held, thus rationalizing or promoting discrimination against them as a minority group. Several of the most common antisemitic myths may not come as a surprise; indeed they can be seen recycled throughout history - that of the disloyal, greedy hoarder, the white and privileged beneficiary of a system designed to benefit only them, the all-powerful and controlling puppeteer, or simply the ugly witch with a crooked nose. The villainization of the Jewish people has worked repeatedly through isolating them as an elite source of power, so that antisemitism gains the perspective of an individual “punching up” against their oppressors, consequently normalizing violence.
One of the most prominent examples of antisemitism and mass prosecution of Jewish people is the impact of the Nazi Party in Germany, which came to power in 1933 and instated a genocidal regime with the aim of eradicating Jewish life completely. The Holocaust, a tragedy costing the lives of approximately 6 million Jews and referred to in Hebrew as the ‘Shoah’ (‘disaster’), is remembered across the world as one of the most terrible events in history, with resounding impacts felt even today through intergenerational trauma and a vastly reduced Jewish population across the world. In modern times, as the Holocaust becomes increasingly recognized as an event of the past, it is more important than ever that we remind ourselves that this was not an isolated incident, that the prosecution and discrimination against Jewish people has been present centuries before the rise of the Nazi party, and that it still persists to this day.
In a more recent time frame, instances of antisemitism are currently rising at an alarming rate, while a lack of knowledge on the topic of Jewish life and persecution seems to become the increasingly recognized “norm”. Only months after the #JewishPrivilege trend took over the internet, accusing Jewish people of responsibility for the faults of the capitalist system and presenting them as individuals benefiting from the principles of white supremacy, the Capitol riots shocked the world as thousands of far-right Trump supporters violently attacked the US congress. Amongst these, several carried the age-old symbols of white supremacist ideals. Pictures of an individual wearing a shirt bearing the acronym “6MWE” (“six million wasn’t enough”), and of another sporting a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, were enough to remind the world of the undeniable danger posed by the far-right to Jewish people across the world. Beyond the riots, vandalism of Jewish property with swastika graffiti and references to the words of Adolf Hitler in both school noticeboards and political speeches served to further emphasize this point: the safety of Jewish people was never guaranteed, and the same principles which prompted the Holocaust can be found thriving today, in our present society.
At the same time, antisemitism within the progressive left becomes an increasingly relevant issue. International discourse on the Israel-Palestine conflict has prompted major levels of antisemitism in online progressive communities; a monolithic view of Judaism, due to its cultural link to Israel, allows supporters of the Palestinian cause to assign political responsibilities to Jewish people, conflating them with the Israeli government. Antisemitic myths, conspiracy theories and misdirected anger trigger the harassment of Jewish individuals, and an antisemitic bias in the progressive community is then rationalized as a valid political stance regarding the conflict. The errors of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party in the UK rendered the 2019 elections an impossible choice for Jewish people, to whom the political left became almost completely inaccessible as communities within it consistently excused the party’s antisemitism - even after the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commision) found the party responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act. Politicians across the pond, such as AOC, a congress representative critiqued for her dismissal of antisemitism in progressive communities, tweeted support for Corbyn. Indeed, the majority of non-Jewish people were seemingly willing to ignore the damage caused to Jewish communities, who could no longer find safety even amongst those who promoted equity of treatment.
With antisemitic sentiments flourishing both online and in daily life, the phrase “includes Jews in your activism” becomes more relevant than ever to conversations held about the struggle of marginalized communities and the battle against bigotry and injustice. Individuals supporting progressive change owe it to their Jewish friends to support them by researching and understanding the history of persecution that Jewish people have faced, as well as making an active effort in helping end the cycle of antisemitism. A place to start is by listening to Jewish voices and turning to activists for actions that you can take in your own community to help make marginalized voices be heard. Check in on your Jewish friends when news of antisemitic attacks strike the media, check your own bias against Jewish people in the context of political dilemmas, and keep up a consistent effort in recognizing the Jewish struggle for safety so that we can create real, long-term change and make the world safer for those who are discriminated against.