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Anti-Semitism Returns With a Vengeance

Anti-Semitism Returns With a Vengeance


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

When PBS runs a program on anti-Semitism in the U. S. and around the world, Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations Tuesday night, it is obvious that the specter of the world’s “oldest hatred” has once again reared its ugly head.  Knowing that undoubtedly this program was weeks or months in the making, ought to have made most people aware that the world is once again descending into a hole in which it has slipped for time immemorial.

For a while, there has been a growing effort to ascribe anti-Semitism as only anti-Israel or anti-Zionism, however, even before the pandemic there were ugly strains emerging expressing many of the classic tropes of anti-Semitism. Both the recent annual audit of the anti-Defamation League (ADL) as well as that of the Community Security Trust in England, have provided clear statistical evidence of the pervasiveness of the recent world-wide growth of anti-Semitism.

To be clear, historically speaking economic dislocation and any sort of political unrest always has been blamed on Jews. The litany of sins committed by the Jewish people was always the same. Jews were seen as radicals and Communists or sometimes even right-wing fascists. Troubled times always flipped historical clocks back to Jews’ rejection of Christ and their determined separateness. When there were economic downturns, Jews were always the culprits allegedly seeking to exploit business struggles for their own selfish ends. Finally, when there were health crises even before the Bubonic Plague, Jews were always to blame.

Recent examples—some of which may have not made it yet into the PBS documentary—prove the point most cogently:

*A study released last week by researchers at Oxford University which sampled 2500 individuals reported that just under 20% of respondents indicated that they believed that to some degree Jews was responsible for creating Covid-19 for financial gain. (Virtually the same number believe that Muslims connived to spread it in order to attack Western values.)

*When he toured the Ford Motor Car plant last week Donald Trump praised the good bloodlines of Henry Ford, one of America’s most virulent anti-Semities during 1920’s and 30’s. The President was invoking another of the classic anti-Semitic troupes, this one concerning eugenics, in praising the work of Henry Ford.  The automotive creator was championed by Hitler himself who awarded Ford the Grand Cross of the German Eagle in 1938. As late as 1940, Ford continued to blame World War II on the Jewish bankers.

*Republican Congressman Steve King from Iowa may finally meet his match in the forthcoming Iowa primary. Having served in Congress since 2003, King has never recanted his racist as well as persistent anti-Semitic remarks and affiliations. While the House GOP leadership has removed him from power, he still is competing for re-election although he is facing four challengers in the June 2 primary.

*The virtual graduation ceremonies at Oklahoma City University earlier this month broadcast on Zoom were hijacked by a group that invaded the ceremony by posting anti-Semitic and racists language and symbols including a swastika. This forced the University President, Martha Burger, to terminate the ceremony.

Anti-Semitism clearly continues to be a plague which never disappears; it only ebbs and flows.

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