Hatred of the Jews unites far right and left

A few days ago, on the Media Diversified website, a writer called Nafeez Ahmed accused me of promoting genocide. I was apparently the “acceptable face” of “far-right extremist ideology” which remains “inspired by antisemitic ideology” and promotes “stereotypical negative tropes about Muslimised foreigners and minorities”.

Ahmed seized upon a piece I had written about the truly genocidal antisemitism coursing through the Islamic world. For stating that the Jews would defend themselves I found myself, as a Jewish person, accused of promoting genocide. This is as obscene as it is unhinged. For Jews are the principal targets of genocidal white supremacists.

Last Saturday a man called Robert Bowers allegedly walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue where the congregation was celebrating the sabbath and opened fire screaming: “All Jews must die.” Eleven were killed and many others wounded.

In New York that day, where I attended a synagogue guarded as a matter of routine by two armed police officers, grief and horror were compounded by two contradictory emotions. The first was shock that this could have happened in America, where Jews have felt so safe. The second was that, like Jewish communities in Britain which now have to be permanently under guard, American Jews have been dreading precisely this. That’s because of the toxic atmosphere of hatred, violence and hysteria. Antisemitism has exploded across the internet, social media and university campuses.

According to the US Extremist Crime Database, since 9/11 there have been 85 attacks by both radical Islamist and far-right extremists. This affects people across all faiths and cultures but Jews fear that they are particular targets. In Pittsburgh, this fear turned into horrific reality.

Sickeningly, the attack was instantly turned into a political weapon. No matter that Bowers denounced Trump for being “a globalist, not a nationalist” — the very opposite of the left’s charge against the president. The left rose as one and blamed Trump for having incited the massacre through his nationalist rhetoric.

Both Bowers and Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man accused of posting more than a dozen bombs to left-wing figures, are far-right conspiracy theorists. At the same time there are conspiracy theorists on the left who, like the far right, think that the Jews run American foreign policy in the interests of Israel. Left-wingers have been behind many violent political attacks on conservative targets in recent times. Last year the Republican congressman Steve Scalise was wounded by a Bernie Sanders supporter who opened fire on his party at a baseball practice. Republicans have been harassed in restaurants, egged on by the Democratic representative Maxine Waters, who urged anyone to make them feel unwelcome anywhere.

The Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, has called Jews “satanic” (in almost identical language to Bowers) and expressed his admiration for Hitler. Yet at Aretha Franklin’s funeral he was seated in a place of honour on the dais near the former president Bill Clinton.

People on the left simply can’t believe that anyone on their side can be guilty of antisemitism. They think it only comes from the far right and that Trump has empowered them.

In fact, white supremacists have turned against Trump because he is so philosemitic. After the Pittsburgh attack American Jews noted that he spoke against antisemitism in terms stronger and more passionate than ever used by any other president.

The far right clearly poses a threat to minorities. What is overlooked, though, is the alarming nexus it has formed with both the far left and Muslim extremists. The far left marches alongside Islamists carrying Hezbollah flags and shouting “death to the Jews”. Islamists share identical tropes about global Jewish power with white supremacists and
neo-Nazis. And the American white supremacist David Duke and the British neo-Nazi Nick Griffin have supported Jeremy Corbyn over remarks by the Labour leader denounced as anti-Jew.

Muslims are also victimised by the far right. But in both the US and Britain Jews are the group most heavily targeted for hate crime relative to their numbers.

Trump is accused of enabling white supremacists by his nationalistic stance. But such people don’t come out of the woodwork because politicians are talking up the nation. On the contrary, they do so when the nation is imploding and people stop pulling together and start fighting each other.

The far right thrives on chaos, anarchic violence and the erosion of social norms. Which is where we’ve got to in Britain and America. Hatred and intimidation course through social media. People hurl insults at each other, destroying reputations and careers. At the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, protesters were being recruited to disrupt the proceedings.

Trump is not blameless: his incendiary rhetoric against opponents raises the temperature. But the Democrats also toxify debate by regularly calling him Hitler and the Republicans Nazis. In short, there is a hate-fuelled, incipiently violent, dangerous atmosphere. There’s a culture war over western identity and values and a terrifying repudiation of reason on all sides.

When a culture falls apart, people invariably turn on the Jews. Antisemitism is always the sign of a terminal cultural sickness. The Pittsburgh massacre was not just an attack on Jews. It was yet another warning to the West.

Melanie Phillips

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