Both statements are true, but they also seem insufficient.
As the postwar liberal order crumbles, we are witnessing a radical shift in the structure of anti-Semitism. It is, instead, the result of one world order collapsing, and another struggling to be born. Both the liberal and radical left have long been troubled by anti-Semitism, not least because Zionists have deftly mobilized claims of anti-Semitism to deflect criticism of Israel, like some kind of discursive Iron Dome. Yet even beyond pro-Israel hasbara, the concept of anti-Semitism remains complicated, upsetting frameworks relied on to understand race in the United States.
The charge of anti-Semitism can now be applied, it seems, to white nationalists and left-wing anti-racists alike. The defect in the liberal view of anti-Semitism is the same as the defect in the liberal view of all forms of racist and ethnic oppression: construing it as a matter of personal psychology rather than structural or institutional injustice, the likes of which can be fixed through education and legislation. Where the liberal is blind to all structural oppression, the leftist only denies that it operates against Jews. While one might point out most forms of structural racism in the U.
Far from contradicting Sarsour, most of the scholarship on Jewish-American identity by progressive Jewish authors has underscored that a firm line can be drawn between the structural racism faced by people of color and another variety of racism faced by European-descended Jewish Americans.
Whatever historical trauma Jews may collectively bear, this line of thinking goes, they still generally live among white people, and they are seen as just other white people by African Americans. As useful and necessary as this work is, it has limitations, and Hanebrink helps to give a fuller picture. Much of the work of critical race theory that informs this scholarship, as well as contemporary anti-racist practice, emerged in the years following World War II—a time when anti-Semitism was at an historic low. To many on the left, it appeared that the new liberal order was the inevitable future: the terminus where history would end, a presumption Francis Fukuyama finally made fully explicit in The far right, though still violent, was politically marginalized.
Most leftist analysis was directed against the postwar liberal order, articulating critiques of a society that embraced a colorblind logic of power. This situation put Jews on the left in a bind, as discussions of anti-Semitism appeared to minimize the racist economic and political structure of U. One could be a Bernardine Dohrn, thrown wholesale into the struggle against imperialism, or a Philip Roth, ironizing how deeply American Jews had assimilated into mainstream society, if only too well.
It would be very easy from that vantage point to say that anti-Semitism was a problem of an earlier generation. My incredulous Jewish seatmate seemed an emblem of this type. Whatever historical trauma Jews may collectively bear, this line of thinking goes, they still generally live among white people.
The eruption of anti-Semitism into public life today troubles this neat and orderly narrative of Jewish progress in the United States. But it is not only the present that poses a problem for this argument. A major flashpoint of anti-Semitism arose at the very time when Jews were rapidly assimilating into white, middle-class American life—the Red Scare of the s.
From the late s to the mids, over half of Americans associated Jews with communist espionage. Six members of the Hollywood Ten were Jewish. Two-thirds of those questioned in the McCarthy hearings were Jewish, despite Jews accounting for under 2 percent of the American population. My point is not that anti-Semitism is a transcendent force in U.
If Jews are simply other white people, we might imagine anti-Semitism would have gone the way of anti-Polish and anti-Italian racism—still alive in corners, but no longer a political force. How, then, are we to understand a term that on the right has come to mean any criticism of the state of Israel, and on the left complicated by Ashkenazi Jewish whiteness? And perhaps more importantly, how do we understand its reemergence into public life, from the European far right to Trump?
After all, anti-Semitism often expresses itself in charges not of inferiority, but of superiority: Jews are portrayed as clever and powerful. Unlike other racial ideologies that focus on the seizure of bodies and the maintenance of a hierarchy based on physical appearance, anti-Semitism is a theory of society, how it is constructed and for what ends. The eruption of anti-Semitism into public life today troubles the neat and orderly narrative of Jewish progress in the United States.
Indeed, anti-Semitism may not even need actual Jews to function, as we are learning from the rebirth of radical right in Poland —a land so thoroughly ethnically cleansed, old Jewish gravestones have been used to pave streets.
For the right, Jews are understood as a uniquely political threat. Thus the Soviet Union did not appear to the far-right governments from Spain to Hungary to Germany as merely an ideological enemy, but a state in which the Judeo-Bolsheviks took power and could bend the inferior Slavic masses to their will. To divert popular discontent at appalling living conditions and autocratic control, Russian authorities encouraged antisemitic violence.
Jews were blamed for the assassination of Czar Alexander II in Pogroms, murderous rampages against Jews, erupted in Russia many times during the next three decades. The second half of the 19th century saw the emergence of yet another kind of antisemitism. Antisemites believed racial characteristics could not be overcome by assimilation or even conversion. These ideas gained wide acceptance. The devastation of World War I, the demeaning peace of Versailles, the hyperinflation of the s, and the depression of fueled mass discontent. Enter: Adolf Hitler.
Hitler viewed world history as a racial struggle for survival of the fittest. He saw Jews as the source of all evil: disease, social injustice, cultural decline, capitalism and all forms of Marxism, especially Communism.
Nazi racism victimized many groups of people, but it was against the Jews that the Nazi state mobilized all its resources for terror. After the Nazi takeover of power, anti-Jewish measures were put into effect one after another: Jewish businesses were boycotted, then seized. Jews were defined, separated from non-Jews. Jews were excluded from professions and studies. Jewish children were barred from schools.
Jews were subjected to public humiliation. The changes—whether gradual or sudden—were incomprehensible. Few could imagine what would happen. Even Jews.
The Nazis took antisemitism to an unprecedented level of violence. Genocide: the systematic murder of millions of people deemed inferior. Six million Jews.
These are some of them. Many denominations are continuing to address the role played by centuries of Christian antisemitism in contributing to circumstances that made the Holocaust possible. Antisemitism did not end with the Holocaust and is a global problem today. Hatred of Jews based on religious, political, or racial ideologies continues among ordinary citizens, people of influence, and even under state sponsorship.
This hatred often echoes the same falsehoods used by the Nazis. Efforts to distort or deny the Holocaust are among the ways that antisemitism is currently expressed. The history of the Holocaust shows that targeting an entire group has far-reaching consequences. It leads to an increase in xenophobia, racism, and extremism throughout society, with potentially devastating consequences for individuals, communities, and nations.
Antisemitism—prejudice against or hatred of Jews—did not end with the Holocaust. It remains a global problem today, continuing among ordinary citizens, people of influence, and even under state sponsorship. It often echoes the same falsehoods used by the Nazis. It prepares high school and college students for a discussion of why Jews have been targeted throughout history and how antisemitism offered fertile ground to the Nazis.
This effort was also defeated. Refugees had an ally in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who supported liberalizing immigration laws, wrote about the refugee crisis in her weekly newspaper column, and worked behind the scenes to effect change. Breckinridge Long, the State Department officer responsible for issuing visas, was deeply antisemitic. For example, the application form for US visas was eight feet long and printed in small type. Louis in May when the German ocean liner sought to dock in Florida after the refugees were denied entry to Cuba.
Following their deportation back to Europe, many of these people perished in the Holocaust. Consider how nations around the world responded to the Jewish refugee crisis created by Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria. Add or Edit Playlist. Once they had left their homeland they remained homeless, once they had left their state they remained stateless; once they had been deprived of their human rights they were rightless, the scum of the earth. What does this reading suggest about the way the United States defined its universe of obligation during this period? What do nations consider when making their decisions?
Who in the United States advocated for Jewish refugees to be allowed into the country? Who wanted to keep them out? What arguments did each side offer to support its position? What did each side believe was at stake?