Antisemitic Pragmatics: Jew hatred and pigs

More than two years ago, in one of my routine walks in the streets of Amsterdam, I first encountered a Dutch citizen sitting on a mobile scooter with a sign on his backrest: “Beware of the Zionist version of pigs in a blanket.” The sign had the image of a pig on it, wrapped in an Israeli flag.

For a moment I stopped in disbelief. I looked at it again to make sure I was not imagining. No – my vision was completely real. I took a picture of that sign; the picture is attached herein. Later, I will discover additional signs, with a variety of anti-Semitic slogans and symbols, and a sad and painful Dutch reality.

I’m not a religious person, I’ve never been. But as a descendant of European Jews, who lost all their relatives in the holocaust, the Jewish tradition and Jewish history are probably rooted in me much deeper than I thought. The sign with the pig was jarring, clearly because of the text on it, but also because of what the pig stood for: pigs in Judaism are considered impure animals. Pigs in general stand for dirt and corruption, as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The pig, one of the most impure symbols of Judaism, wrapped in the flag of the only Jewish state, was used to “market” the Jewish people as a dirty, sick, negative, society.

This incident took me eighty years backwards, to the early 30’s of the previous century, long before I was born; to a time when my predecessors were persecuted, then massacred on the very same land – Europe. At that moment I understood that I could not keep silent. That to bury one’s head in the sand would not eliminate the problem, only make it worse. That it had to be stopped. It happened before, and it can happen again. I realized that an action had to be taken upon incidents like that, and the sooner, the better.

There was another element to this insight: the fact that the sign was undisturbed, while presenting hate-speech to thousands of by-passers in the central square of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The same country that in the early 40’s of the previous century, except for a few exceptionally righteous people, had willingly cooperated with the extermination of the Jews. The country in which the percentage of Jews who did not survive WWII was the highest in Western Europe. Twice as much as in Nazi Germany itself. A country that to this day has refused to return most of the property stolen then from its Jews.

The man in the mobile scooter was recognized as a BDS activist. I did not know it then, but in the next two years I would encounter an enormous number of anti-Semitic signs, pictures, and texts, and a long list of anti-Semitic activists waving them uninterruptedly in the centers of the big cities of the Netherlands, with the full cooperation and support of the authorities. History repeats.

And what’s behind the signs? Obviously, Jew hatred, despite the claims of many that “we have nothing against Jews, we only criticize Israel.” The very fact that a call for the destruction of the only Jewish state in the world is freely allowed under the “Freedom of Speech” excuse, even though it contradicts articles 137 C and D of the Dutch Penal Code, does not leave any doubt that there is much more into it than just a fair criticism towards a sovereign nation. Also, the very fact that only calls for the destruction of Israel are allowed, but not criticism of countries that violate human rights on a daily basis – such as Syria, and Iran – calls for a revisit.

In the next posts I’ll bring here more slogans used by anti-Semitic activists, and the meanings behind them. Linguistically, they are very clear, and cannot be double-interpreted. This is a dangerous situation of rising (and prospering) anti-Semitism, just like that we know from our not-so-distant history. One that contains new levels of hatred, using slogans and symbols that leave no room for doubt.

About the Author
Holding a PhD degree in linguistics from the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, I am the Principal Linguist in an Israeli Hi-Tech company, dealing with artificial intelligence. Also, I give enrichment lectures in language issues to all audiences. I have a previous experience in writing several guest-columns for various Jewish journals in the US and Canada. I am based in Israel.
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