Anti-Semitism Is Back, From the Left, Right and Islamist Extremes. Why?

BERLIN — Swastikas daubed on a Jewish cemetery in France. An anti-Semitic political marketing campaign by Hungary’s far-right authorities. Labour lawmakers in Britain quitting their celebration and citing ingrained anti-Semitism. A Belgian carnival float caricaturing Orthodox Jews sitting on baggage of cash.

And that was simply the previous few months.

The gathered incidents in Europe and the United States have highlighted how an historical prejudice is surging in the 21st century in each acquainted and mutant methods, fusing ideologies that in any other case would have little overlap.

The spike is happening in a context of rising international financial uncertainty, an emphasis on race and nationwide identification, and a deepening polarization between the political left and proper in Europe and the United States over the battle between Israel and the Palestinians.

“There’s an ideological pattern that is common,” mentioned Günther Jikeli, an professional on European anti-Semitism at Indiana University. “The world is seen as in a bad shape, and what hinders it becoming a better place are the Jews.”

Anti-Semitism has turn into a bit of as we speak’s political Venn diagram the place the far proper can intersect with components of the far left, Europe’s radical Islamist fringe, and even politicians from America’s two fundamental events.

That confluence is new, consultants say, as is the emergence of an Israeli authorities that has sidled as much as far-right allies who reward Israel at the same time as they peddle anti-Semitic prejudice at residence.

“It creates a landscape that is very confusing and where things are more blurry than in the past,” mentioned Samuel Ghiles-Meilhac, an professional on Jewish historical past at the Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent, a government-funded analysis group in France.

Polling means that anti-Semitic attitudes could also be no extra widespread than in the previous, notably in Western Europe, the place Holocaust remembrance has turn into a ritual for many governments.

Despite this, bigots have seemingly turn into extra brazen, making a local weather that has made anti-Semitism much more permissible and harmful.

In latest a long time, Western anti-Semitism has tended to hint the contours of the Israeli-Palestinian battle, spiking and ebbing in correlation with spasms of violence between the two sides. But since the 2014 warfare in Gaza, researchers say, anti-Semitic incidents have remained at excessive ranges.

“And that’s kind of worrying because it means it has become normal to act in anti-Semitic ways,” Mr. Jikeli mentioned.

“Today, mainstream European and North American politicians, even presidents, premiers and prime ministers, don’t hesitate to flirt with or embrace overtly anti-Semitic messages and memes,” said David Nirenberg, dean of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and an expert on Jewish history.

“This electoral utility of anti-Semitism feels new to me, newly flexible, and therefore newly dangerous,” Mr. Nirenberg added.

Far-right parties often portray Jews as a cosmopolitan threat to national identity, especially in regions where the stereotype has been used historically. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been able to present the Jewish billionaire George Soros as a secret instigator of Muslim immigration.

In Poland last month, a far-right newspaper sold inside the Parliament ran a front-page headline saying “How to spot a Jew,” alongside a condemnation of a historian who researches Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

On the far left, some politicians have associated Jews with the failings of capitalism and conspiracies about supposed control over the global economy. Those complaints are now heard on the fringes of the Yellow Vest movement in France.

President Trump himself embodies the contradictions of the moment. Mr. Trump has openly courted white nationalists, saying they include “some very fine people,” even as they marched in the style of the Ku Klux Klan, gave stiff-armed Nazi salutes and chanted slogans like “Jews will not replace us.”

During his campaign, he attacked Hillary Clinton with a Twitter post that included her image, a Jewish star, and a pile of money.

“It cheapens the very right struggle against anti-Semitism for Islamophobic bigots to weaponize it in their campaigns,” said H.A. Hellyer, a nonresident expert on Islam and the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, a research group.

“One needn’t agree with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to recognize that she is being targeted primarily as a black, Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, and by many people whose records on combating bigotry and discrimination, or calling it out in their own ranks, are abysmal,” Dr. Hellyer added.

It is unsurprising to find a resurgence of anti-Semitism at a time of prolonged political and economic instability, historians and analysts say, when citizens from many different political and cultural traditions are grasping for easy explanations for sudden and complex injustices.

Just as Jews were a ready-made scapegoat during previous eras of anxiety about the pace of social change or global economic trauma, so are they again today, said Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, the head of the Center for anti-Semitism Research in Berlin.

“Globalization and especially the crisis of 2008 have strengthened a feeling of being at the mercy of mechanisms that we do not understand, let alone control,” Ms. Schüler-Springorum said. “From there it is only a small step to classical conspiracy theories, which have always formed the core of anti-Semitism.”

That step is even smaller in the social media age. Rumor and conspiracy theories have always played a role in stoking anti-Semitism. Today, the speed at which lies can spread, because of the internet, is without precedent.

The increasingly hard-right Israeli government led by Mr. Netanyahu is a point of divergence for the different strands of contemporary anti-Semitism.

Far-right political figures like Mr. Orban have drawn close to Israel, while leftist anti-Semites revile it. But both do so for the same reason: They perceive Israel as a country that has done its best to preserve its ethnic and religious character at the expense of a Muslim minority.

The main difference is that Mr. Orban, the prime minister of another small country fighting to preserve its ethnic identity, sees this as a virtue, whereas leftist critics of Israel, such as the supporters of the British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, largely do not.

Both left and right “have the same image of Israel,” said David Hirsh, a sociologist at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a critic of Mr. Corbyn who campaigns against the academic boycott of Israel.

“Corbyn says that Israel is a uniquely belligerent human-rights-abusing state that defends its purity at all costs against Muslims,” he said. “And I suspect that people on the far right have exactly the same picture of Israel — that it is a belligerent country that defends itself against Muslims.”

For critics of Mr. Netanyahu, this also explains why the leader of the world’s only Jewish state might find common cause with a far-right leader like Mr. Orban, despite the latter’s anti-Semitic leanings.

Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Orban share an approach to domestic politics: an antipathy for liberal voices, a discomfort with Muslim minorities and a willingness to work with the far-right.

Like Mr. Orban in Hungary, Mr. Netanyahu has introduced legislation that targets civil society organizations that receive significant funding from overseas. His government has forbidden non-Jews to exercise the right to self-determination, and removed Arabic as an official Israeli language.

Recently, Mr. Netanyahu engineered an electoral pact with a racist party from the far-right fringe who could help him retain power in a general election later this year.

“I don’t believe that Netanyahu really wants a State of Israel with no Arabs, but I believe he does want a State of Israel where the position of Jews is so dominant and secure that it would never have to consider having to be a Western-style liberal democracy without an ethno-religious character,” said Derek Penslar, a professor of Jewish history at Harvard University.

“There is an aspiration for ethnocracy,” added Mr. Penslar. “It doesn’t mean there are no other ethnic groups — but only one group truly rules.”

And though the relationship between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Orban may trouble some in the Jewish diaspora, it may not be so troubling for Israelis themselves, said Yossi Shain, a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University.

Mr. Orban supports Israel’s right to exist, whereas his critics are perceived by some Israelis “to demean Israel’s nationalism and right to exist,” said Mr. Shain, the author of a forthcoming book addressing the subject.

“And for Israelis, that is the core of anti-Semitism in the modern era.”

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