Hate preachers of today no longer deliver their sermons hiding in secret cells. Over the past few years, the terrorism threat has spread its virus to the cyberspace. The world wide web provides unfettered access to extremist material. The Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant was active on message board platform 8chan. Shamima Begum indulged in jihadist propaganda online before joining ISIS in Syria. There are many extreme ideologies on the web, but far right and Islamism correctly receive greater attention due to their record of human destruction. These two are often thought to be diametrically opposed to one another. The far right is known for their white supremacy and anti-Muslim bigotry. The word Islamist may make you think of a bearded fanatic raging against the infidels and the West. However, closely inspecting their online material confirms that they share a critical component of their ideology: antisemitism. The extremist could be an Irish nationalist, a Saudi sheikh, an American white separatist, or a Western-born imam, but almost all of them are obsessed with the Jewish question. In their warped worldview, there must be a Jewish complicity behind every evil act.
The current online far right content is overflowing with the “White Genocide” rhetoric. This conspiracy theory alleges that the elites want to “erase the white race” by bringing in millions of Africans and Muslims to Europe and North America. The far right also believes that there is a “race mixing agenda,” in which white women are corrupted by non-white men and give birth to mixed-raced babies. Moreover, they believe that Muslims are intentionally having more children in order to “take over” Europe. Statistically, there is some truth in their claims. The U.S. Census projects that the U.S. will become minority white in 2045. White English population has shrunken from 86.8% of the entire population in 2001 to 79.8% in 2011. Pew Research Center predicts that up to 30.6% of Swedish could be Muslim by 2050, in a high migration scenario. This is because, first, white women have fewer babies. Second, whites are more open to interracial marriage than more insular minorities. And third, there is mass immigration. But the far right has an alternative explanation. They believe that Soros-backed Zionists are weaponizing Third World immigration to destroy Europe. I have also encountered YouTube videos accusing Mossad of sponsoring Islamist-inspired terrorism. Another video accuses Jews of starting a wildfire in California to kill white people.
The Islamists, on the other hand, are infuriated by the absence of the Caliphate, inability to control Jerusalem, the dominance of the decadent West, and the real and perceived persecution of Muslims. These are grievances radically different from those of the far right. Yet, the Islamists blame the same group. They claim that the Jews plan to “rule the world” and promote acts of Satan. They claim that the Jews want to wipe out Islam and have orchestrated the Christchurch shooting.
Antisemitism frequently changes its form. It mutates and evolves to suit the present politics. That is how it has survived to be the “longest hatred.” To communists, Jews are capitalists. To capitalists, Jews are communists. The far right believes Jews promote Islam. The Islamists believe Jews are anti-Islam. And in the era of the Jewish state, “Zionists” or “Israelis” are often used instead, but with the same tropes.
This mutual obsession with Jews primarily has two pernicious effects. First, it rationalizes violence. If Jews are solely responsible for the deaths and suffering in the world, perhaps the attack on them is justified. This logic already manifests itself. Robert Bowers murdered 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue because he blamed Jews for helping Muslim refugees and Central American caravans come into the U.S in order to commit “genocide to my people.” Islamists attack Jews across Europe, because they believe that Jews are the source of pain of their Muslim comrades in the Middle East. A Palestinian and a Syrian man recently strangled a man to death in Germany, mistaking him for being a “Jew” who “destroyed my country.”
Second, it prevents progress by diverting energy to scapegoating instead of searching for real solutions. Instead of advocating for immigration reforms, the far right gets incensed over alleged Jewish funding for refugee agencies. Islamists from countries with no relation with Israel blames Israel for their own shortcomings. In late March of this year, Tunisia hosted the Arab League Summit. I was traveling there and happened to pass by the site where the Arab leaders were meeting. There was heavy security presence outside the building, but it didn’t stop one group from protesting. This intrigued me. Against what could they possibly be protesting? The humanitarian crisis in Yemen? The massacres in Syria? Militant jihadism? Lack of democracy and gender equality? I approached them and read their placard. “Boycott Israel.” When all the tyrants in the region were before them, the protesters chose to direct their ire towards the Jewish state. This delusion that the destruction of Israel will bring peace and prosperity to the Muslim world (recent Arab Barometer polls revealed that Arabs consider Israel as the greatest threat, including in Sudan, Morocco, and Libya) distracts the public from the real barriers to the freedom and well-being in the region.
So, the far-right extremists and Islamists share their hatred of Jews. In reverse, this means that when you see antisemitism, it is a sign of something more broadly sinister. Antisemitism starts with Jews, but never ends with Jews. It represents the rejection of the modern, pluralistic, and democratic society, the denial of the facts, and the normalization of a genocidal hatred. A resurgence of antisemitism is a symptom of a deep illness in society. It should concern all of us, not just the Jewish people. We need to pay closer attention to the manifestation of antisemitism, wherever it comes from, and combat it at every opportunity.