Thursday, May 13, 2010

"We're not like that" (Or, there are antisemites besides neo-Nazis)

This article from the Daily Mail has a few problems. First, as a British paper, it must feel like a great relief to criticize antisemitism in America. It isn't like we haven't got problems over here, but Britain (which invented the Blood Libel) has more than enough problems of its own. Second, the focus on neo-Nazis is always an issue. Yes, they're sensational and entertaining subjects, and news is ultimately an entertainment industry. But again, it's a great relief to swell our chests in pride and say, "we're not like those people." Antisemitism exists in different forms, and it can be difficult to criticize precisely because people only think of antisemitism as this kind of kooky far-right. When Jenny Tonge is criticized for antisemitism, she responds by saying, "I'm not like those people." Third, the beliefs of these neo-Nazis are hardly described. This article is actually better than most on this account, but still falls short of really informing anyone, focusing instead on the openness of the family's hatred. The family are described more than once as Holocaust deniers. Beyond that, there's this bit (toward the end, where an editor might have cut it off for length):
'I have read a little bit about their religion and a lot of it is very damaging to people,' she said.

'The Jews are definitely the worst race in America.'
But there is nothing more specific about their beliefs about Jews. Why do they think the Jews are the worst race in America? That's not to say that antisemitism is worse than other forms of racism. It's important to note the distinction that these antisemites make, which is not the same as reifying the distinction. They see people of color as animals but see Jews as demons. Animals could never take control of the government, but demons can and will. Watch The Omen if you don't already get why people who don't look so different can be so scary; the film features an infant as the ultimate evil for a reason. Neo-nazis view the US as occupied territory, controlled by a "Zionist Occupied Government." It's here that someone who likes to talk about the power of Jews (like Stephen Walt or John Mearsheimer or Jenny Tonge) might find a similarity they couldn't dismiss so simply by saying "We're not like that." And, of course, such a similarity is far more important than the swastika tattoos.

People simply don't know enough about antisemitism, which makes it difficult to keep antisemitism from being subsumed into a more general anti-racist effort that doesn't come close to meeting the needs of Jews. Articles like this, which discourage any sort of self-criticism, are part of that problem.

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