Having spent decades studying, teaching, researching and fighting antisemitism, [Georgia Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor] Greene’s claims were familiar territory. All of them – space lasers, 9/11, school shootings, Trump’s election loss and so much else – shared a common theme: conspiracy.
In her QAnon-inspired worldview, behind them all was a small group of inordinately powerful people who had global – not national – loyalties. They conspired against the common welfare to advance their own interests. They mutilated babies. They amassed power and money in order to harm good, hard-working and, one can fairly assume, Christian folks. This is the foundation stone of classic antisemitism. There are certainly non-Jews in the swamp Greene wants to “drain”. But ultimately it is Jews who are the puppeteers.
Antisemitism is a prejudice, akin to so many others. Just like racism and an array of other hatreds, it relies on stereotypes and assumes that all members of the group share those characteristics. Antisemitism has unique characteristics that differentiate it from other hatreds. The racist “punches down” and loathes persons of colour because they are apparently “lesser than” the white person. They are, the racist proclaims, not as smart, industrious, qualified or worthy. In contrast, the antisemite “punches up”. The Jew is supposedly more powerful, ingenious and financially adept than the non-Jew. Jews use their prodigious skills to advance themselves and harm others. The Jew is not just to be loathed. The Jew is to be feared.
Every act of antisemitism – from shoving a Jew on the street to murdering them en masse – has this conspiracy at its roots. It was what prompted people in the middle ages to believe that Jews had poisoned the wells in order to spread the plague. It was at the heart of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a well-known forgery that purported to be the records of a meeting of powerful Jews who were scheming to control the world’s finances. Nazi antisemitism was founded on the notion that Jews were engaged in a deadly conspiracy against the German people. They had, the Nazis charged, “stabbed Germany in the back” during the first world war, thereby engineering its loss.
I don’t believe Greene is advocating physical violence against Jews. It was hard, however, not to be struck by her choice of words when she spoke on the House floor to argue that these were no longer her views. Rather than apologise, she condemned the attacks on her as an attempt to “crucify” her. Crucify?
Irrespective of her personal views about Jews, there is no doubt, however, that she is reinforcing and spreading a dangerous notion. She may not pick up the rock or gun to harm a Jew, but she is giving ammunition to those who will. And this kind of hatred and violence may start with Jews, but it never ends with them. And if it begins with others, it will eventually lead to Jews. History makes that clear. [Continue reading…]