Antisemitism — the racism of right and left.

Antisemitism is a form of racism that is directed against Jews.  However, antisemitism has its own anomalous and contradictory aspect.  While racists commonly conceptualise the groups against whom they are prejudiced to be inferior forms of humanity, Jews are depicted as both ‘inferior’ and ‘superior’.

Controversial ‘antisemitic’ artwork on wall in major multicultural part of east London with long Jewish history. credit:

On the one hand, racists liken Jews to rats, cockroaches, vermin and parasites.  On the other hand, racists also portray Jews as highly adaptable, chameleon-like, manipulative and smart enough (the loaded word ‘cunning’ is often used) to control the mechanisms of power in the world.  No other ‘race’ of people is accused of having such power.

For antisemites, Jews are seen as both innately evil and absolutely powerful.  These attributes have been part of both Christian and Islamic theologies – Jews have been collectively portrayed as Christ-killers and prophet-killers, respectively.  The result has been centuries of false accusations, including decide, Blood Libels (the myth that Jews kill gentile children in order to drink their blood), host desecration (“torturing” the Eucharist wafer), poisoning wells, falsifying sacred scriptures, and more.  These crusty old legends have seeped into the subconscious minds of many Christians and Muslims.  Bizarre conspiracy theories about Jewish power and evil have been popularised and spread by ‘evidence’ such as the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, a proven forgery that was entirely fabricated by the Czarist secret police in the early 1900s.

2000 Years of Jewish Ritual Murder. credit:gailallen

While most targets of racism are portrayed as dirty or lazy, barbaric or uncultured, backward, lacking intelligence or animal-like, Jews are portrayed as a malevolent force, often with supernatural ‘mystical powers’, as controlling international finance, media and politics, aiming to subjugate the non-Jewish population of the world in a quest for world domination, and therefore as representing an existential threat to non-Jews.  Other forms of racism have escalated into mass murder in order to serve a more basic purpose, such as the conquest of territory or the acquisition of resources. With antisemitism, genocide is an end in itself.

Far right racists still propagate conspiracy mythologies about Jews being inordinately powerful and manipulating and controlling institutions and events.  Nazi ideology goes further, and considers Jews to be at the bottom of the human racial hierarchy (and, indeed, as sub-human), less than all other races, ethnicities and nationalities.  Nazi racial theory posits an eternal battle between “the Aryan race” and “the Jewish race” as the protagonists in a cosmic battle between good and evil.  In general, far right antisemitism is overt, and hence easier to recognise and identify.

Those on the far left claim to oppose all forms of racism, including antisemitism.  They therefore have a problem in recognising and identifying antisemitism when it does not come from the right, or when it comes from those they perceive to be allies of the left, or from within their own ranks.  Many of them cannot conceive of any racism on the left at all.

The modern far left has been blinded to antisemitism by two factors.  Firstly, it sees racism through a particular ideological lens of a binary world composed of mutually exclusive opposites – rich and poor, powerful and powerless, racist and anti-racist, oppressor and oppressed, etc.  There is nothing in between and no overlap; it is an either/or worldview.

Symbol – “occult” icon used by Twitter.

Secondly, far left ideology views racism as a function of the power structure within the capitalist system. This means that racism can only be perpetrated by those with power against those without power. It is a one way street: racism is downward; and the reverse, upward racism, is excluded from being categorised as racism.  Only those with power, or deemed so, can commit racism; while those without power, or so deemed, cannot.

Racism, from a far left perspective, is seen as ‘punching down’ the power ladder, not ‘punching up’. Therefore, only ‘whites’ can be racist, whereas non-whites, or people of colour, cannot be racist.  In this ideological far left lens, racism is not based on the number or type of incidents or discrimination against a targeted group, but is based on a highly contrived conceptualisation of who the perpetrators are.

In the same vein, because those on the far left place Jews collectively in the category of a powerful class, this precludes them from categorising Jews as targets of racism.  Not only are more subtle forms of antisemitism often denied, ignored or minimised, but antisemitism by so-called ‘powerless’ non-Jews is often excused, or in some cases encouraged as ‘punching up’ against the ‘powerful’.   The far left thus becomes an enabler of antisemitism.

Jews as Instruments of the Dark Der Stürmer

In summary, antisemitism is often seen and treated differently to other forms of racism.  Those on both the far right and far left view Jews as a powerful force.  For the far right, this view feeds into its conspiracy theories that Jews are an evil and existential danger to gentiles.  For the far left, this view feeds into its racism theories and often leads it to deny that antisemitism exists (unless perpetrated by the far right), and in many cases to excuse it when it comes from others on the left or its allies.  In both cases, this occurs because the images the far right and far left have of Jews is a false and mythological image.  Jews are placed in the uncomfortable and dangerous position of being targeted by the far right and of being betrayed by the far left.

Racism is racism, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim.  All racism and bigotry is wrong, not just some forms.  If racism is allowed to occur and fester against even one targeted group, then the whole of society is diminished.

Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and author of the annual ECAJ Report on Antisemitism in Australia.

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  1. Here we go again Julie is totally obsessed with the far right and rarely links the far left Islam alliance .

    Whilst Julie continues her obession trying to deflect the far more serious physical threat by the leftist /Islam alliance and in particular elements within our Muslim communities as real experts on this issue in Europe ground zero readily admit and as facts on ground prove .

    Julie is quick with meanless platitudes like all racism is rasism oh really Julie please post your ECAJ Public media statement unconditionally condemning rasism anti semitism in your own backyard recently by a Muslim NSW labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane.

    I guess the reason Yeshiva at Bondi required a bomb proof wall and soon to be erected at Caulfield Beth Weizmann is because of potential far right suicide bombers and arm guArds and CSG required outsudecour schools and synagogues because of far right religious extremists that hate Israel and Zionists!

    • Michael Burd: “Racism is racism” is not a meaningless platitude when applied to far-Left antisemites who claim to be anti-Racists as Julie Nathan has done here. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Surprised you missed the irony, my friend.

      Here in the UK, as recent posts on Jews Down Under have shown, Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the British Labour Party. He’s the far-Left antisemite who leads a party which he and many others claim is an anti-Racist party.

      “For the many, not the few” is the populist motto of British Labour under Corbyn, but many British Jews see, hear, and understand only “For the many, not the Jew.”

      Despite, or, in spite of, the fact that Jeremy claims British Jews don’t get British irony. A bit like how he claims not to get antisemitism, maybe?

      As regards the bomb-proofed walls and other security barriers around synagogues you allude to, they have been a feature of Jewish communities here in the UK for over 25 years, mate. Welcome to the unending war of the haters. Look after yourselves.

  2. My friend having just returned from holidays in what Uk,s most courageous Jew Melanie Phillips quite correctly renamed Londonistan over 12 years ago I got caught up In a huge anti Trump demo on oxford street near Regent street estimated 150 thousand I wandered amongst the crowd of leftist fascists and could not help noticing the large number of Muslims including many holding the usual anti Israel pro palestinian placards not surprising the left Islam bedfellows racists
    In fact I stoped one of these Palestinian placard racists and asked him what does the Israel Palestine conflict have to do with this anti trump march he responded Trumps supports the Jews

    I looked for but could not see any indentifiable far right alt right so called neo Nazis but could not see any at this demo

    My point being yes the far right hate Jews always will but don’t try to deflect the bigger threat and the reason we Jews live under siege is not from the far right
    Yes they are both racists but as I have pointed out in just one small example ignoring Muslim racism in her own town by publicly not outing Moselmane and this obsession with the far right perhaps she needs to get out of her cushy Sydney harbour office and go to Marseille or any of the 800 yes 800 no go Muslim not far right no go areas
    Then take flight try Ryan air they are cheap to molembek in Belgium ,malmo in Sweden then on to
    Londonistan but warning don’t wear your i love Tel Aviv t shirt

    As far as the passive UK Jewish community don’t get me started .

    • Michael what and who are you talking about?

      I’m on my phone and can’t copy what I mean. Will do it in the morning.

    • MICHAEL BURD I guess you don’t get nuanced, do you my friend? But you just love all those meaningless labels you fill your pages with. So long as jingoism and divisive labels are used like mortars there seems little chance of us having any meaningful dialogue. Please don’t get started on what you call the passive UK Jewish Community, because it is the UK Jewish Community that has (at long last, I grant you) taken on Corbyn and his far-Left antisemites. G’day, cobber!

    • Michael, with all due respect, quoting World Israel News does you no credit. It’s rather a sensationalist website.

  3. A very astute and thought-provoking article about antisemitism from left, right and most points in between. Thankyou, Julie Nathan.