Often dubbed the “longest hatred,” anti-Semitism is again on the global rise. Long-seated prejudice against the Jewish people, which has largely kept to the political fringes in the decades following World War II, is now brazenly presenting itself near the political forefront on both the left and the right.
Studies reveal that Jewish stereotypes, the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and ethnic anxiety are fanning the flames of anti-Semitism across the globe. With this in mind, it’s important to take a deeper look at the recent rise of anti-Semitism in both the United States and Europe.
A recent report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) reveals jarring data regarding the state of popular anti-Semitism in Britain. The 2019 report shows that a full 13% believe that Jews have a superiority complex, 12% believe that Jews exploit other individuals to gain their wealth, 12% believe that British Jews have interests disparate from that of the common citizen, 10% think that Jews use the Holocaust as an excuse to further their political agenda, and 8% believe that Jews contain too much influence over Great Britain.
The report goes on to connect these feelings of anti-Semitism with broader intentions to support Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS), a British movement seeking to boycott the Israeli state. It’s not just Britain, however, that struggles with the rise of anti-Semitic sentiment.
In France, for example, anti-Semitism has turned violent, with reports indicating a 74% increase in violent anti-Semitic crime in 2018. Germany, too, reports that the rate of violent anti-Semitic crime has risen by 60% over the last year. This comes with the knowledge that total anti-Semitic crime in the nation increased to nearly 2,000 overall incidents.
Experts correlate this violence with a rise in immigration-spiked fears and the emergence of an alternative right that seeks to build stronger borders based, in part, on ethnic or national purity. With this in mind, it becomes important to focus on the rise of the new right and its implications for global anti-Semitism.
The Rise of the New Right
The rise of the new right in Europe can be traced to a variety of factors: the mass influx of Islamic refugees, a rise in “political correctness,” and the desire to be sovereign, just to name a few. The emergence of an alternative, populist right is largely built on the back of ethnic anxiety and nationalism, leaving some European Jews worried.
While many alt-right groups in Europe—and France, in particular—began as simple economic protests, recent events have connected their “Yellow Vest” demonstrations with anti-Semitism. And though Yellow Vest leaders in France have actively denied anti-Semitic or prejudicial goals, critics warn that the movement—which centers around limited migration and increased ethnic scrutiny—has helped French and European anti-Semites find a home.
And the results have been devasting. Over the last few months, swastikas have begun to desecrate French Jewish graves and portraits of Holocaust survivors. In total, ninety-six Jewish graves have been defaced since the rise of the new French right.
This, combined with the recent spike in violence, has led French president Emmanuel Macron to decry that French anti-Semitism is at its worst levels since World War II. With other European nations facing similar threats, the continent appears to be on darker horizons.
Some would argue that the United States has already reached those horizons. Despite US President Donald Trump’s stellar relationship with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his insistence that he is the most “pro-Israel” president ever, some question the president’s willingness to decry anti-Semitism when necessary.
Critics point to the president’s campaign, which made use of Jewish stereotypes to insult running mate Hillary Clinton—a move the president has since apologized for. Others note that—whether the president intends it to or not—his fanning of the populist flames has led to a similar alt-right movement in the United States. Though the American alt-right is loosely defined, it does appear to have apparent themes.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, “A number of Alt Righters are also blatantly anti-Semitic and blame Jews for allegedly promoting anti-white policies such as immigration and diversity…[they also] mock conservative support of Israel as anti-white.”
Far right-wing politics, then, have become a breeding ground for ethno-centered anti-Semitic thought that poses dangerous implications for the Jewish community. Following the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh—in which eleven worshipers tragically lost their lives—2018 FBI data revealed that US anti-Semitic hate crimes had risen by 37% over the course of the last year.
With new right movements springing up across the West, it’s become increasingly important that established right-wing parties take a stand against populist right-wing movements and denounce anti-Semitism in all its forms.
Anti-Semitism from the Left
It would be remiss, however, to simply consider anti-Semitism a partisan issue. As several recent events—both in the US and abroad—highlight, creeping anti-Semitic sentiment on the political left threatens to damage left-wing party standings with the Jewish community across the West. This fact is most clearly illustrated by looking to Great Britain, where Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire for anti-Semitic statements and ties.
Corbyn, who has emerged as a dominant force in British politics, lit this fire with his 2012 support of an anti-Semitic mural named “Freedom of Humanity,” which appeared to show racist caricatures of Jewish bankers counting their money and reveling in the exploits of common workers.
As a result of the conflict, Labour Party MP Joan Ryan and several likeminded individuals quit the party, citing dissident values. Common citizens flocked to the UK Parliament in protest. In the year since this shocking development, more concerning news has emerged regarding the minority party leader. Corbyn, who openly courts pro-Palestinian crowds, has been accused of associating with anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers and has been questioned about his role in the Labour Party’s refusal to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.
The crisis highlights a broader fear conservative critics have of the political left: that pro-Islamic and Palestinian viewpoints have begun to color larger social views. The left, long the birthplace for conspiracy theories, is seen as the perpetuator of the growing anti-Zionist viewpoint, which seeks to paint Israel as a dark, illegitimate state with malign intentions for and undue influence over the world.
In the US, this growing anti-Semitic sentiment has taken root with a more passionate millennial rank and has crept into the platform of several major left-wing events. This is evidenced by the 2019 Women’s March, which was criticized for its ties to noted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and its use of anti-Semitic canards during its meets.
Perhaps no American figure best exemplifies anti-Semitism better than recently-elected Democratic legislator Ilhan Omar. The Congresswoman, who has made no secret her pro-Palestinian stance, was recently criticized for anti-Semitic tweets that appeared to play to popular Jewish stereotypes. Specifically, Omar’s tweets seemed to suggest that when it comes to Jews, it’s “all about the money.”
Though Omar’s tweets were widely condemned by right-wing media, the refusal of the Democratic party to issue any sort of condemnation either for Omar’s statements or against anti-Semitism in general has a few spectators worried. Indeed, some experts warn that left-wing leadership failure to condemn brazen anti-Semitism could be the first step for wider social acceptance of anti-Semitic values, which begs the question: is anti-Semitism becoming institutionalized?
With Congresswoman Omar’s statements not being denounced by the Democratic Party—a surprising move by an organization known for its use of identity politics—and with Jeremy Corbyn’s continued support in the UK, some see failure to condemn elected leaders as signs that greater acceptance of anti-Semitism may be just around the corner.
In a piece, former Labour Party member Adam Langleben writes, “You [Jeremy Corbyn] have fed a culture of denial that has allowed [anti-Semitism] to spread. You brief alt-left media…Our party has become institutionally racist on your watch in just four short years.”
Others point to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as an example of a far-right leader with the potential to expand institutional anti-Semitism. The European prime minister has made it a significant part of his platform to target individuals like Jewish billionaire George Soros, whom the leader believes to have too much political control. Perpetuations of such stereotypes—and policies put in place to act on them—by a world leader suggest that, if left unchecked, institutional anti-Semitism could soon be a reality in parts of Europe.
To combat this, it would behoove leaders of established parties—both left and right—across the United States to publicly and clearly denounce anti-Semitism. Without this comfort, some Jews may not be able to rest securely in the face of growing social and political anti-Semitism.
Still, some forms of anti-Semitism are not politically motivated. Specifically, Islamic anti-Semitism, which accounts for one of the largest types of anti-Jewish prejudice, has come to dominate the Middle East. Studies show that anti-Semitism is twice as likely among Muslims than among Christians, inciting fear that large-scale waves of Islamic refugees to the West could fundamentally change the landscape for European and American Jews.
With both Muslim Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib criticized for making seemingly anti-Semitic statements, concern that Islamic anti-Semitism becomes normalized is a growing issue for some Western Jews. Various left-wing platforms across the West have adopted more pro-Palestinian viewpoints and have become more sympathetic to the perceived slight that Muslim individuals—and refugees, in particular—face.
In the process, these same politicians could be fostering an increased acceptance of anti-Semitism through popularization of largely Islamic viewpoints concerning hotly contested issues in the Middle East. Specifically, through the adoption of pro-Palestinian viewpoints on the Gaza conflict and the portrayal of Israel as an aggressor state—particularly among millennials—some lawmakers could be fostering a sense of anti-Semitism commonly found in the Islamic community.
Understandably, this is worrisome for some Jews, particularly in Europe, where a slew of violent anti-Semitic crimes committed by Islamic sympathizers has changed the political landscape over the last decade. In 2018 alone, an eighty-five-year-old Holocaust survivor was murdered in her home by an Islamic assailant, just three months before three African Muslims went on trial for the 2014 murder of a Jewish man and his girlfriend.
In what is worrying news regarding current immigration patterns, the French government has consistently identified Muslims as the largest perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence in France. This, in part, has led to the mass exodus of Jews from France to Israel—a number that’s reached over 50,000 individuals over the course of the past two decades.
In a world where anti-Semitism is growing across the board, Islamic prejudice and violence against the Jewish community continues to play a large role. With this in mind, it’s crucial that lawmakers and high-ranking religious leaders do their part to ensure the safety of the Jewish people and ease religious intolerance.
The Bottom Line
It’s 2019, and we’re no longer dealing with Nazi Germany. Still, all data point to one dark reality: anti-Semitism has reached its highest levels since World War II. In an era of increased Islamic extremism, increasing partisan divides, and the popularization of anti-Semitic far left and far right groups across the United States and Europe, the Jewish people are facing increased prejudice—and violence.
With violent anti-Semitic crime up across the board and with survey data revealing wide-spread anti-Semitic and anti-Israel mindsets, it’s crucial that world leaders do what it takes to denounce anti-Semitism and put forth the necessary protections in place to protect the Jewish people from all forms of anti-Semitic violence.
Nearly eighty years after the end of World War II, the Jewish people are facing their biggest battle against anti-Semitism yet, and it’s up to all of us—religious and political leaders, community activists, and simple citizens—to do our part to combat this disturbing and far-reaching trend.