It is not generally known that antisemitism was used as a trigger to launch the first-ever damaging political attack on a legitimate, democratically elected Government of the day as early as 1753. It was used effectively as a weapon to rouse the irrational fears and hatred of the masses in England in that year. The hubbub and threat of violence created panic in the governing political party, whose leadership decided that they had better repeal the Jewish Naturalization Act if they were to restore calm and remain in power. Antisemitism was again used effectively as a political weapon by Hitler in Germany in 1933.
It is also not fully understood that antisemitism remains a real and present danger to decent democratic society. Hidden fascist forces remain active.
In truth, antisemitism is an evil amorphous concept. It can take any form and come from any source. There is no good in it. It is evil at work. It is irrational, and yet, it can be, and has been, weaponised and used rationally to achieve, either hidden or open agendas. Antisemitism is more than xenophobia because its victims are the same worldwide where they are cast in the same mould. It has no limitations, and it can be lethal. It poisons the well of decent society. Simplistically, it can start from the dislike of the unlike, facial, or cultural, or it can be based on religious prejudice, or political or economic leanings, or just irrational hatred.
History has demonstrated that it may start with individual attacks against Jews, but if left unchecked, it will become weaponised and used to trigger anti-democratic movements that will threaten the stability of western democratic societies. It can lay relatively dormant for periods of time, only to be resuscitated when needs must for political, economic, or other hidden agendas. The hidden agenda is the gun and antisemitism is the ammunition.
Antisemites do not believe that Jews are entitled to unconditional equal rights and opine that they reside under sufferance, wherever they may be. Jews can be, at one and the same time, too religious or irreligious, capitalists or beggars. For the antisemite, the truth is irrelevant, myths will do, and half-truths are godsends.
Current reports show that violent antisemitic incidents in the western world in this twenty-first century have been growing alarmingly, with continuous attempts to blur the antisemitic nature of anti-Zionism.
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are one and the same, a mere change of name does not change the intent. Indeed, it is well to remember that the term antisemitism is itself a euphemism for anti-Jew and anything anti-Jewish that was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, a German publicist. Prior to that date, there was no need for a euphemism to express Jew hatred. That this evil concept is no longer restricted to Christians, does not change its underlying nature, whilst the messenger may change and the method of delivery may change, the antisemitic message remains the same – exclusion. This can manifest itself in many ways such as the making of life difficult for individuals, for Jewish university students or societies, or for members of mainstream political parties, or internationally for the attempts at threatening or delegitimatizing the very existence of the State of Israel.
History had shown that Jews had no unconditional rights of residence. Jews have been, and still are, misled to believe that they are residents by right in the democratic countries where they reside. Twentieth-century Germany proved otherwise and in the 1940s, the French Vichy Government reneged on the French constitution and expelled many of its Jewish citizens. Other European countries did not protect their Jewish citizens and even British Jews in the Channel Islands were not immune.
By establishing the State of Israel, in 1948, the Jews broke this rule, much to the chagrin of many in the international community. The Arab/Israeli wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973 were supposed to have rectified the “error” of recognition “perpetrated” by the United Nations in 1948. The wars failed and the current international Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for delegitimizing the State of Israel and the current UN Assembly support for Nakba Day, are the latest attempts to put the Jews ‘in their place’, or rather, ‘out of their place’. Anti-Zionists have embraced Goliath and seek to deny David his sling.
Israel has taken the place of “the others” in today’s antisemitic vocabulary. In the language of the antisemite, the term “You Jews,” is the singular incarnation of all Jews into one Jew, when addressing a single Jew, transforming him or her from the singular to the plural, into world-controlling political or financial conspirators, or as the case may be, a collection of subversive communists ready to undermine or destroy democracy or the entire capitalist system, or simply a bunch of cheats, liars or various combinations of the aforesaid.
In pre-State of Israel days, so-called friendly individuals expressing antisemitic sentiments to individual Jews would attempt to confirm their best intentions by saying, “It’s not you, it’s the others,” meaning another individual Jew or other groups of Jews unless, of course, the speaker is talking about you to someone else. Today, Israel is the “other” that is used to hide the speaker’s antisemitic intent by claiming to be a politically acceptable anti-Zionist. As long as you are a Jew who is not part of, or supports, Israel, that exceptional nation, that was established to give permanence to the national aspirations of the Jews and bestow real equality on Jews internationally, then, you are fine; it’s not you. Or is it?
When society ignores, tolerates, or turns a blind eye to individual or group acts of antisemitism, it leads to institutionalization. In the case of Nazi Germany, the state encouraged it and when the world powers failed to react, or worse, openly denied the German Jews any protection, it emboldened the tyrant Hitler to promote his hidden agenda of world domination, that led to the deaths of tens of millions of innocent non-Jewish civilians.
A concerted effort is needed across governments, universities, schools, and religious institutions, to explain the invidious nature of antisemitism and to protect society from this evil concept. Antisemitism is sometimes subtle and quiet, and at other times raucous and openly aggressive, but it has never gone away. It is endemic and can be weaponized for political gain.
There is, unfortunately, no simple cure for this disease which must be continuously exposed and confronted. Unrestricted antisemitism must be seen for what it is, where it can lead, and how it can uncompromisingly damage decent democratic society.
Yoel Sheridan is the author of three books on British Jewry. “From Here to Obscurity” (2001) that deals with the now lost Yiddish-speaking London East-End Jewish community during the Hitler years 1933 – 1945 , “Gold Ducats and Devilry Afoot” (2012) that relates the many trials and tribulations of a Polish Jew in mid-eighteenth-century England when all his gold ducats were stolen from him, and “Antisemitism and the 1753 Jew Law Controversy” (2022).
His essay Jews, Feudalism and the Magna Carta Mediaeval Myth Management and Modern Mismanagement© was published by ISGAP in November 2016.