Monday 8 September 2008

Neo-Nazis now also talk about Zionists, not Jews

"The idea that political leaders are influenced for malign purposes by Jews is at the heart of modern anti-Semitism. It is an alarming but increasingly familiar notion that by swapping "Zionist" for "Jewish" - i.e. that the then Prime Minister was surrounded by a "Zionist cabal" - Dalyell's comment can be rendered apparently "bigotry-free." This is typical of an anti-Semitic discourse by which the most common ideas, themes and images from the history of anti-Semitism have re-emerged in recent years, cloaked in an anti-Israel or anti-Zionist wrapping. (...)

Opinions will differ over exactly where, or whether, an anti-Israel screed becomes anti-Semitic. Often, the writer or publisher in question may be completely unaware that the words or images they choose have an anti-Semitic provenance. There is a necessary process of education before it can even be asked why a particular metaphor appealed to them, or why they thought it would resonate with their readers.

In an effort to measure and track the phenomenon, my organisation, CST, has published its first survey of anti-Semitism in mainstream discourse in Britain. This publication will be produced annually - the first one covers 2007 - and will complement our existing reports into anti-Semitic incidents each year.

One example is of a magazine article about the pro-Israel lobby in America which was illustrated with a cartoon of a giant sea dragon, emblazoned with what looked like a Star of David, but was in fact the AIPAC logo, a nuance that will have been missed by many of its British readers. Anti-Semitic iconography has long portrayed Jews as dragons, both in their individual physicality and as an abstract, collective force. (...)

When neo-Nazis allege Jewish control of the media or government, Jewish conspiracies to cause war or global foment, or Jewish infanticide and bloodlust, and when their propaganda portrays Jews as snakes, dragons or other beasts, nobody questions whether it is anti-Semitic. When similar allegations are made and associations drawn, but about supporters of Israel, not Jews per se, and set in the context of arguments over Israel and the Palestinians, there are plenty of people who cannot, or will not, see the connection between this contemporary discourse and an anti-Semitic past. Neo-Nazis have spotted this, and now also talk about Zionists, not Jews, blurring the distinctions further.

Anti-Semitism is not just about the hate crimes that make up the numbers of anti-Semitic incidents that get reported each year; it is also about the ideas, words and images of anti-Semitic discourse."

From The language of anti-Semitism, by Dave Rich, Haaretz

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