We recently launched a fundraiser to tackle antisemitism in support of our June campaign. This is part of a series of campaigns for 2020 bringing a focus to 11 different kinds of hate as well as a special focus on Coronavirus.
In less than 36 hours our announcement of the campaign received 187 reactions (likes etc), 14 shares and 78 comments. Unfortunately most of those comments are hate, attempts at disruption, or unintentionally include antisemitic canards. What we are seeing is like the response to the launch of our Islamophobia campaign all over again, only this time the hate is targeting Jews.
In this briefing we focus on just one of those comments. The comment was intended to be helpful, and was a response to another person’s comment to help clarify things for them. Unfortunately, the comment itself includes antisemitic narratives. This is an example of traditional antisemitic narratives entering the discourse of the political left. This briefing, written for the original poster as much as the public, explores the issues the comment raises.
The announcement we posted for the campaign features a Star of David (a Magen David) and is called “Campaign to Tackle Antisemitism”.
We explain this will be the focus of our June campaign, and that “With more people spending more time online the volume of online engagement, including the volume of online antisemitism, has been growing. This campaign will play an important role in monitoring and responding to this problem.”
We also explain that funds raised will allow us to “enhance the campaign and increase the scope of the work and its impact”.
The response is five sentence long, each of which needs to be looked at.
“There are no people of Jewish blood as there are no people of Catholic or Protestant blood.”
Let’s start by saying “Jewish blood” and “blood purity” or “quantum” is a really problematic concept. The idea of blood purity was used by the colonial powers in the United States to help restrict citizenship. It has since been picked by some Native American tribes who require a purity above a certain level, 25% for the Navajo Nation, in order to be a member of their tribe. The Nazis also used 25%, determining that a person was Jewish if they had one Jewish grandparent – regardless of the person’s religion or the religion of their parents. For the Nazism racism was science and had nothing to do with religious beliefs.
The comparisons in the comment to people who are Catholic or Protestant is problematic as it recognises Judaism as a religion, but fails to recognise the Jewish people as a people.
Jews are more like Indigenous Australians than they are like Catholics. They are both “peoples”, a term that refers to a group which share multiple aspects of culture, language, religious / spiritual beliefs, and connection to a particular place. Ryan Belleerose, a Métis man (one of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada), has an interesting article on what it means to be not just a people but an Indigenous people and how this relates to Jews. It also means that while hate against Jews can manifest as religious vilification when it is based on religious practice, such hate is always racism because it attacks the person based on their identity as a Jew.
The idea of a religion as something distinct from the culture of a people really arises with Christianity. One of the early internal schisms in Christianity (around 1970 years ago) was between those who wanted to keep early Christianity as a sect of Judaism for only Jewish people and those led by Paul the Apostle who (with ultimate success) wanted to open it to the pagans and specifically the Romans.
Jumping to modern times, genetic research also confirms the Jewish people as a genetic group within the wider population. A 2009 article in the Journal of Genome Biology explains:
“Here we show that within Americans of European ancestry there is a perfect genetic corollary of Jewish ancestry which, in principle, would permit near perfect genetic inference of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. In fact, even subjects with a single Jewish grandparent can be statistically distinguished from those without Jewish ancestry.”
Being a Jew is about following the Jewish faith
This is largely addressed above, but it should be added that one can be an atheist Jew. One can also be an atheist Indigenous Australia, or a Christian Indigenous Australian. In fact from a religious perspective, once someone is Jewish, either because they are born Jewish or they convert to being Jewish… they are always Jewish. Even if they convert to another religion. Judaism allows conversion, its just a difficult process and not one that is encouraged.
Zionism is an ideology born in Europe in the late 1700s.
Political Zionism really starts in 1897 with the First Zionist Congress. It is predated by Religious Zionism which we can trace to e.g. Zevi Hirsch Kalischer and his actions in 1864. However, as Encyclopedia Britanica explains:
“Though Zionism originated in eastern and central Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, it is in many ways a continuation of the ancient attachment of the Jews and of the Jewish religion to the historical region of Palestine, where one of the hills of ancient Jerusalem was called Zion.”
Note reference to “the Jews and Jewish religion” – the one reference is to the Jews as a people and their culture, the other to theology and the religion. Zionism is the effort to re-establish a Jewish state in the ancient Jewish homeland.
People are sick of what the Zionist bankers are doing and that has nothing to do with antisemitism. That’s what the media come out with when anyone challenges the Illuminati.
This is actual a use of three antisemitic narratives that have nothing to do with Zionism and everything to do with historic anti-Jewish narratives i.e. antisemitism.
There’s a great article on the antisemitic conspiracy theories connecting Jews and money at the Guardian. This antisemitic narrative goes back a couple of thousand years. We can see it in Judas and the “30 pieces of silver”, a feature of Christian antisemitism through the years. In the Middle Ages Jews were often money lenders as Christians were forbidden from lending money for interest, and Jews were banned almost every other profession. When the nobles and wealthy merchants decided not to pay back what they owed, they would often organise a pogrom, a massacre, killing the local Jews as a way of erasing their debts. In England, 150 Jews were killed at York in 1190 when a person who owed money stirred up a mob. We see it today in claims of “Jewish bankers”.
An great article on the conspiracy theory about Jews controlling the media can be seen in Tablet Magazine. The article is about a student representative at Standford University who objected to a resolution to combat antisemitism instead arguing that some of the antisemitic tropes were “a very valid discussion”. Thank fully others, including the student paper, recognised that this was not ok. As we’ve previously explained, the conspiracy theory about control of the media can be traced to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The effort to refer to “Zionists” rather than “Jews” is a relatively recent development. It actually started with a switch in langue by the Soviet Union. An effort to make engaging in antisemitism appear more like political commentary. It’s use in this case has nothing to do with Israel or Zionism and is simply a code word for Jews.
The third antisemitic canard mentioned here the one about Jews controlling the government. You can see it referenced here in the form of the Illuminati. It’s part of the “New World Order” conspiracy theory, as this article explains, and also connected to the Protocol of the Elders of Zion.
There is so much antisemitism spreading online, and the internet has been taking it mainstream, that people are repeating it without recognising it. Even when they are aware of antisemitism and opposed to it, these well established antisemitic narratives can be absorbed and repeated.
To tackle this problem, we need people to recognise these forms of antisemitism when they see them. These narratives are used a cross the political spectrum. For the political left though, there is a need to pause consider when antisemitism is being hidden by code words, such as references to “Zionist Bankers” or “Illuminati” in this example.
Unfortunately, the internet allows people to find and absorb such narratives of hate with ease. It is often difficult getting them to then see they have been manipulated into hate. Still, an effort needs to be made we hope this article contributes to it.
We will release more of the comments we are moderating from the campaign in June. In the mean time, we invite you to join the campaign and invite others to join us. With your support we’ll be able to enhance the campaign and increase our output.
Comments and Support
Comments on this briefing can be made on this Facebook Post.
The Online Hate Prevention Institute is a Registered Charity that tackles all forms of online hate. To support our work on Antisemitism during May / June 2020 please join the campaign. You can support our work more generally at any time by making a donation at https://ohpi.org.au/donate/. You can also join us on Facebook, or join our mailing list.