Surprisingly, there is a striking similarity between the antisemitic expressions of the left and right-wing extremist movements
By Aya Ben Naftali, Director General of Massuah International Institute for Holocaust Studies
“The hatred that begins with Jews never ends with Jews,” stated Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for the last 22 years, in a lecture at the Holocaust Museum in Washington in 2014, in which he emphasized that antisemitic discrimination and hate crimes against Jews were a warning to the very existence of every free and liberal society.
This idea should be in front of our eyes when we approach the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In contrast to Holocaust Remembrance Day and the general Kaddish day (10th of Tevet), where we pray for the memory of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, it is important that this day should be devoted to critical thinking and to the clarification of the actual significance of the remembrance of the Holocaust. Following the events of the Holocaust, the next generations face serious questions about our core values as Israelis, Jews and human beings.
In the first decades after the Second World War and the Holocaust, it seemed that the horrors seen during the Nuremberg Trials (1946) would forever put a brake to any expression of racism and antisemitism. Many countries have initiated legislation designed to prevent any activity by the remnants of the extreme right, and any signs of racist and antisemitic propaganda in the public sphere. However, in recent years, the most prominent extremist movements in the public sphere have been gaining an unrestrained momentum, mainly via the Internet. Movements and parties that have been on the margins of society during the second half of the 20th century, are now in the center of public discourse and sometimes even earn great levels of legitimacy in society and politics in Europe and the United States.
Surprisingly, there is a striking similarity between the expressions of antisemitism of the extreme right-wing and left-wing movements. In extreme right-wing demonstrations, again and again they use slogans reflecting homophobia, xenophobia, antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Following the great immigration crisis and the rise of the nationalist right, the social taboo cracked when facing racist and antisemitic manifestations. We are witnessing the awakening of many neo-Nazi groups, counting tens of thousands of activists who openly and blatantly express antisemitism and feelings of anger against various minorities. They use classic racism supporting the supremacy of the “white race.” The propaganda of some left-wing groups in the West uses images taken from classical antisemitism. The Israelis are perceived as imperialists, racists and expansionists, while comparing the “Israeli occupation policy” with Nazism. Contrary to legitimate criticism of the State of Israel, the delegitimization of Israel and the denial of its right to exist also lead to an antisemitic ideology denying the Jewish people its right to political sovereignty. From here the way to antisemitism is very short.
Among these, the use of conspiracy theories (“the Jewish conspiracy”) not only didn’t they stop, on the contrary they intensified in the 21st century due to international political and economic crises and an increase in terror acts. And they adapt to changing circumstances. The hidden power of the Jews, as expressed in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, continues to dazzle antisemites all over the world, whether right-wing or leftist, religious fundamentalists or secularists, whether Western, Eastern or people living in the Third World.
Studies show that there is a clear correlation between antisemitism, intolerance and manifestations of hatred towards other groups in the population: racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. Patterns of hatred against different minority groups are interrelated. They are based on an ideology of inequality, have similar predictors and even similar results. In countries where there is a high level of antisemitism, we will also find a high rate of hatred towards other minority groups. Moreover, it was found that the levels of hatred towards various groups of affiliation were inversely proportional to the amount of Jews and foreigners in those countries. For example, the hate incidents in Poland and Hungary were very high compared to the corresponding numbers in the Netherlands.
Intolerance is a threat to the cohesion of pluralistic and democratic societies throughout the Western world, as well as to the Israeli society of the early 21st century.