The New Faces of an Old Hatred: Antisemitism in 2018

Israel Ministry of Diaspora Affairs publishes worrying study revealing record highs in global antisemitism in 2018

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has just released its annual 2018 report on antisemitism. Minister Naftali Bennet, a rising political figure ahead of the upcoming elections, oversees the ministry and the compilation of the 112-page account of the frightening new trends in antisemitism around the world.

The picture emerging from this in-depth analysis is that incidents of antisemitism are increasing, and in many countries are reaching record levels. Worldwide, 2018 was a record year for the number of victims of antisemitic attacks.

Unlike years in which Islamist antisemitism was the central and most dangerous threat to Israel, 2018 was a turning point. Now antisemitic incidents originating from right-wing extremists are the main and most dangerous factor for Jewish communities, especially in the United States and Europe.

The year began with the horrific murder of the American Jewish student by a member of a radical right-wing group and continued with the Etz Chaim Synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, perpetrated by an extreme nationalist opposed to immigration and advocating white supremacy.

The background to these trends is diverse and includes: polarization in the political discourse, the continuation of the immigration crisis, globalism, Euro-scepticism, the strengthening of nationalism, and the counteractions that these trends provoke.

Jews were accused by right-wing radicals of encouraging immigration to Europe and the United States. Jews are seen as part of a progressive global attempt to mix races and create a "unified society." On the other hand, they are accused by the radical left of strengthening nationalism, colonialism and even Nazism with reference to Israel as the main stumbling block to the creation of a new world order that will replace nation-states.

The distance between these ideological opposites cannot be bridged, except in one instance – Israel-hatred. This is the glue that enables feminist leaders to support the Islamists, and Muslim immigrants to join forces with European nationalists who espouse white supremacy.

In the United States, in light of the political polarization and the ongoing crisis of immigration, alternative right-wing movements have joined forces with traditional right-wing politics. The shooting event at the Etz Chaim synagogue in Pittsburgh is the climax of this trend and constitutes the most severe antisemitic outburst experienced by the Jewish community in recent decades. The massacre undermined the sense of personal security and demonstrated that antisemitism is having a deadly impact on personal and community life in the United States.

On the other side of the political map, radical left-wing antisemitism is disguised as anti-Zionism and a concern for Palestinian rights. Antisemitic statements by left-wing leadership have recently been exposed. Two leaders of the infamous 2017 Woman’s March, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, refused to sever contact with Louis Farrakhan, a known antisemite who called the Jews "termites."

This atmosphere also prevails on many campuses, where incitement against Israel and Zionism continues and Jewish students are excluded, or else threatened not to identify with their Jewishness or with Israel.

In Western Europe, against the background of the refugees crisis, rightwing parties continued to accumulate public support and are becoming bolder. Parades of neo-Nazi activists are becoming more common, and the general feeling common to the Jews of Europe is that antisemitism has become widespread and of little concern to authorities. A survey conducted by the European Union shows that 85% of Europe’s Jews believe that antisemitism is a problem in their countries, 89% believe antisemitism and 38% are considering emigrating. The survey also showed that 80% of the incidents were not reported.

France, which has the largest Jewish community on the continent, recorded a record number this year of antisemitic incidents following a downward trend in previous years. In the UK, a new normalization of the antisemitic discourse in central politics has begun, this time on the left. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of the Labor Party, and his candidacy for prime minister, represents the new antisemitism, posing as criticism of Israel. Others like Corbyn are finding a place in the center of the political debate. This trend became of such a concern that the European Union appointed a commission to accept responsibility for the safety of Jewish communities and help finance their security needs.

Finally, in Eastern Europe, for the first time in years, the use of antisemitic motifs was used to promote internal political and social goals. Here the Jews are portrayed as examples of foreign and hostile elements throughout history and as a negative factor in the local social discourse. Some governments attempt to glorify the national ethos that was part of World War II while distorting, or even rewriting the memory of the Holocaust.

Despite the above, there is room for hope, Bennet’s report suggests. More and more governments are declaring their commitment to fight antisemitism. The struggle against BDS movement is in a positive trend, and successes in that arena are growing.

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