This was first published, without footnotes, in the Jerusalem Post, and reposted here with the author’s consent.
HOW ANTISEMITISM HAS CHANGED SINCE THE SHOAH
The upcoming Yom HaShoah is an appropriate occasion to review the many ways in which anti-Semitism has changed since the Holocaust. Identifying the current forms of anti-Semitism is all the more important as they are in continuation of the extreme hatred of Jews in much of Europe which provided the infrastructure for the genocide of six million Jews.
Such an analysis is a complex matter. The basic motifs of anti-Semitism have remained unchanged for almost two millennia, yet their manifestations have mutated and continue to do so. The outrageous idea that the Jews are absolute evil was introduced by Christians many centuries ago and holds sway in some circles until today. This demonization is based on the false blame attributed to all Jews, past, present and future, for the death of Jesus.
Nazism, the most extreme movement of ethnic/national anti-Semitism, transformed this core motif of Jews being absolute evil into a pseudo-scientific classification of Jews as subhuman. Currently the motif of absolute evil has been assigned to Nazism. This has mutated into perceptions of Israel as a Nazi state. Polls have shown that beliefs such as “Israel conducts a war of extermination against the Palestinians” have the support of at least 40% of the European population.1
Similar mutations have occurred concerning major sub-motifs. “Jewish conspiracies” have morphed into “Zionist conspiracies.”2 The blood libel, an invented medieval defamation accusing Jews of using the blood of Christian children to bake matzot, has also mutated within the context of anti-Israelism. Several years ago the largest Swedish paper, the social democrat Aftonbladet published an article stating that Israel kills Palestinians in order to harvest their organs for Jews.3
Besides mutations in ancient hate motifs, there have been significant other innovations in post-Holocaust anti-Semitism. The most obvious is the emergence of Holocaust denial. Its underlying concept is simple: the evil surviving Jews invented a genocide of 6 million of their co-religionists by the Germans and their allies. They thus assumed the false position of absolute victims and dishonestly accused many Europeans of a non-existent mass murder.
Apart from the Holocaust, a number of other factors caused changes which greatly influenced post-war anti-Semitism. One of these was the creation of the State of Israel, which permitted anti-Semites to aim their hatred at the Jewish state rather than to target the surviving Jews. The aforementioned labeling of Israel as a Nazi state is the clearest example of this.
Analyzing the innovative elements of antisemitism is further complicated by at least three additional factors which play key roles in contemporary manifestations of the phenomenon. These are the emergence of a post-war victim culture, the forceful rise of post-modernism and the invention of the internet combined with the development of social media.
The victim culture is the easiest to analyze. It developed as a result of the Holocaust and focused initially on the Jews. The largest part of the British Mandate of Palestine had already been turned into a Palestinian State now named Jordan. While the Jews accepted the division of the remainder between themselves and the people now termed Palestinians, the Arabs did not.
Despite this, anti-Semites have since been trying to turn Palestinian Arabs into absolute victims. This notwithstanding the fact that the majority Palestinian party Hamas is Islamo-Nazi in nature, and openly promotes genocide of the Jews in its charter.4 As part of this process Jesus, revered in Christianity as the person who died for humanity, has now become retroactively, for some Christians, a Palestinian. They compare the Palestinians to Jesus on the cross, though his teachings were far removed from the promotion of genocide.
Post-modernism is much more difficult to analyze. One of its main characterizations is the fragmentation of issues. This also holds true for anti-Semitism. The number of anti-Semitic sub-motifs has greatly multiplied. There are no longer major identifiable predominant inciters, such as the Catholic Church in religious anti-Semitism or Nazi Germany in ethnic anti-Semitism.
Indeed the perpetrator categories have also fragmented. One frequently finds prominent promoters and perpetrators of anti-Semitism operating under the guise of anti-Israelism. They are conspicuous among Muslim states, Muslims in the Western world, mainstream and other politicians, media, academics, trade unions, NGOs, extreme rightists, lawfare promoting jurists, the United Nations in its extreme bias, self-hating Israelis and Jews, individuals on the internet and so on.
While Christianity promoted anti-Semitism primarily by preaching and teaching, nowadays the modes of transfer have also changed. Media incites to anti-Semitism through editorials and biased reporting, and can also be used to broadcast hatred by publishing hate mongering op-eds. The UN incites against Israel through statements of its Secretary General Ban Ki- moon and transmits hatred through its support of anti-Israel motions initiated by Arab states.5
The internet has become a huge platform for transmission of hatred. Yet it also reflects another change in anti-Semitism, in the tremendous acceleration of the diffusion of hate messages. In the Middle Ages Dominican monks wandered from town to town, steadily and consistently inciting hatred against the Jews.6 The internet can transmit and multiply new hate messages all over the world in a matter of hours or days.
While these changes have not altered the core nature of anti-Semitism, they are so major that the classic methods of anti-Semitism studies have become insufficient tools to understand the contemporary hate complex. Successive Israeli governments have failed to promote the study of anti-Israelism. Israel pays a major price for that, as it is essential to learn the structure of threats to the country in full detail in order to fight them. Indeed the incompetence of consecutive Israel governments in this field has played a major part in making the current verbal onslaught on the country possible.
2 See for instance: www.timesofisrael.com/senior-dutch-govt-employee-isis-a-zionist-conspiracy/
3 Donald Boström “Våra söner plundras på sina organ” Aftonbladet, 17 August 2009 (Swedish). See also Mikael Tossavainen, “The Aftonbladet Organ-Trafficking Accusations against Israel: A Case Study,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 95, 1 March 2010.