The Link Between Anti-Semitic Violence And Far-Right Conspiracy Theories

Anti-Semitic violence has increased markedly over the past two years. So has the spread of far-right "anti-Globalist" conspiracy theories. This is not a coincidence.

Last Saturday’s attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which ultimately resulted in eleven dead and six injured and appears to be the worst attack on Jewish-Americans in the history of the United States, has brought to the forefront the fact that antisemitic attacks have been on the rise over the past two years after declining for much of the past twenty years.

The Guardian first took note of this fact in an article posted back in February:

Antisemitic incidents in the US surged 57% in 2017, the Anti-Defamation League said on Tuesday, the largest year-on-year increase since the Jewish civil rights group began collecting data in 1979.

Close to 2,000 cases of harassment, vandalism and physical assault were recorded, the highest number of antisemitic incidents since 1994, it said.

The rise comes amid a climate of rising incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in American society, according to ADL’s national director, Jonathan Greenblatt.

“A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community – from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, and children harassing children at school,” he said.

Rising numbers were in part attributed to the fact that more people were reporting incidents than ever before, the ADL said, adding that its staff independently verify the credibility of each claim.

Incidents were reported in all 50 US states for the first time since 2010, with higher numbers reported in areas with large Jewish populations.

Donald Trump’s administration has been accused of failing to condemn religious bigotry. Jewish groups scolded the president last year for not mentioning Jews or antisemitism in a statement about the Holocaust.

Following August violence at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists waved insignia from Nazi Germany and yelled “Jews will not replace us“, Trump was slammed for suggesting a moral equivalency between members of the far right and counterdemonstrators. “You had people that were very fine people on both sides,” he said.

The ADL’s report said US schools and colleges were particularly affected, with antisemitic incidents nearly doubling since 2016, often including swastikas drawn on school facilities or Jewish students’ notebooks. Sometimes vandalism included phrases such as: “Hitler was not wrong” or “white power”.

There were 204 incidents on university campuses in 2017, compared with 108 in 2016. A separate ADL study released last month found a more than 250% increase in white supremacist activity, such as distributing neo-Nazi fliers, on college campuses in the current academic year.

Jewish graves or cemeteries were desecrated seven times in 2017, the group said, contributing to a sense that the American Jewish community was “under siege”.

“One bright spot in this was the response of members of the Muslim and Christian faiths, who raised thousands of dollars to help repair the damaged tombstones,” it said.

Last year’s surge bucks a trend in which numbers have mostly declined over the past two decades, although there were moderate increases in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 the numbers started to rise significantly.

For the most part, we had been on a trend during which bias-related crimes had mostly declined over the past twenty years. There were small increases in such attacks in 2014 and 2015, but the numbers jumped significantly in 2016, especially when it comes to attacks against Jews and Muslims. According to the FBI, Jews and Muslims were by far the most targeted groups for religiously motivated hate crimes in that year, with offenses targetted at Jewish-Americans accounting for 54% of such reports and offenses targeted at Muslim-Americans accounting for 24% such attacks. By contrast, bias-related crimes against various Christian denominations accounted for less than 10% of such reported incidents. It’s worth noting, though, that the number of incidents related to religious bias (1,529) was significantly smaller than those motivated by race (4,229). Of those racially based crimes, roughly 50% were against African-Americans and roughly 10% were directed against Hispanic-Americans. All of these numbers are notable, though in that they largely exceed the percentage of the U.S. population represented by each of the groups mentioned.

Tara Isabelle Burton has more at Vox:

The FBI found that in 2016, the most recent year for which data was available, there had been an increase of almost 5 percent in hate crimes since 2015, and 10 percent since 2014. Of the 1,273 crimes for which the FBI found a motivation of religious hatred (about 20 percent of the total), half were against Jews.

In 2017, the last year for which complete data is available, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an advocacy group dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, found that there had been 1,986 reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States that year, including acts of vandalism as well as physical violence. That figure was a 57 percent increase from 2016, which itself had seen a 35 percent uptick in incidents from 2015.

The surge between 2016 and 2017 was the highest increase in incidents on record since the ADL started reporting on them in 1979. Between mid-2015 and mid-2016, as the 2016 presidential campaign reached a fever pitch, more than 800 journalists received a staggering 19,000 anti-Semitic messages on Twitter.

During events like 2017’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, right-wing extremists openly recited Nazi slogans and carried Nazi paraphernalia.

Incendiary rhetoric has remained intense throughout 2018. The verbal attacks against liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, and whose political against activities have become the subject of a number of far-right conspiracy theories, have hit a fever pitch.

This month alone, Donald Trump publicly blamed Soros for funding the activist opposition to the nomination of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of multiple instances of sexual assault. More recently, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) as well as Kelly Johnson, an executive vice president for Campbell’s Soup, blamed Soros for financially supporting the Honduran migrant caravan making its way to the United States border, accusing Soros of being in control of migrants and refugees.

George Soros, of course, was the first target of the pipe bombs sent through the mail last week. As I’ve noted before, Soros has been a popular figure to bash on the political right just as the Koch Brothers have been popular figures to bash on the political left. As Tara Lavin notes in The Washington Post, though, there has often been an anti-semitic element to the attacks on Soros:

The far right has ecstatically embraced the spectacle of elected political figures such as Trump and Gaetz theorizing about Soros. After Trump’s Soros tweet about Kavanaugh, the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer echoed and surpassed Trump’s assertion that anti-Kavanaugh dissent was a nefarious, paid-for plot.

“It is impossible to deny that subversive anti-American Jews were the primary force involved in a sinister plot to destroy Kavanaugh,” Lee Rogers wrote on the site a couple of days later. “These Jews do not represent the interest of America. They represent the interest of their diabolical and evil race first and foremost.”

In response to an Oct. 19 Trump speech in Missoula, Mont., in which Trump again suggested that protesters were paid by ”Soros or somebody,” a commenter on anonymous message board 4chan exulted, “TRUMP NAMED THE IMMIGRATION JEW.” (“Naming the Jew” is an anti-Semitic term that refers to pointing out purported nefarious Jewish influence on world events.)

The conspiracy theories around Soros, then, aren’t just expressions of bitter partisanship — and fact-checking-focused debunking that’s tempered coverage of the claims that he was involved in the caravan has skipped past an important subtext. Soros’s Jewish heritage is well known — his experiences in the Holocaust formed his identity as a philanthropist, in a decades-long effort to beat back a revanchist right. And his name has become a synonym for a well-worn anti-Semitic canard: the idea that Jews are malevolent fomenters of social dissent, agitators slyly funding and masterminding protest, seeking to undermine a white, Christian social order. It is a canard that resonates not just in European history, where the deadly consequences of anti-Semitic conspiracies are well-known, but throughout American history, and its renewed form draws on a long tradition of American anti-Semitism.’

Journalists who post simple, factual rebuttals to anti-Semitic conspiracies ignore their radical potency. The notion that “the Jew” — whether it is Soros or a more nebulous conspiracy — is behind expressions of social discontent serves as an explanation that casts protest as inherently “other,” caused by sinister forces that transcend ideological disagreement or authentic upset, and thus renders opposition inherently illegitimate. These anti-Semitic canards render Jews in America a permanently placeless “other,” perennially out to subvert the country they reside in.’


Journalists who cover the contretemps around Soros today — and in particular, those responsible for providing explanation and context for Republican remarks around him — must not shy from the anti-Semitism inherent in right-wing attacks on the philanthropist. It’s not even hidden, at least not to the people hearing the dog-whistle: Searching “Soros” on Twitter or Facebook brings up conspiracy theories ranging from the subtly expressed to the downright deranged. Soros is merely the latest Jew whose public perception has been distorted by anti-Semites. While researching this article, I searched the term “antisemitism in the civil rights movement.” Google’s auto-complete response filled in the rest: “rothschild funded civil rights movement,” it spat forth, an algorithm blossoming immediately with the conspiracy it had taken half a century to sow.

High-tech manifestations of anti-Semitism on social media belie the crude and ancient nature of the hatred. Anti-Semitism is a useful way to blame a hawk-faced, devious “other” for the rents in the social fabric that appear in tumultuous times. The attack is two-pronged: It renders authentic protest illegitimate, and it renders a tiny religious minority a seeking, devious force, whose vile otherness precludes tolerance. This kind of conspiracy theory is slick and burrowing, and it resists logic, casting itself as an undeniable truth. And it draws on a long history, in this country and elsewhere — one with the potential for incendiary violence in its clenched fist.

Jane Coaston at Vox, meanwhile, points out the connections between conspiracy theory politics such as what has become popular in the fever swamps of the right and anti-Semitism:

Anti-Semitism in America is a form of hate, but its motivations aren’t identical to other forms of prejudice.

For example, while anti-black racism or white supremacy revolve around on the (wrong) idea that black people or nonwhites are inferior, anti-Semitism, as practiced by many of its adherents today from a number of political and social backgrounds, is based on the idea that Jewish people have too much power, or even that Jewish people are secretly in charge — of the government, of culture, of the world in its entirety.

I spoke with Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project and an expert on far-right white supremacist organizations. “In general, racism against people of color tends to denigrate their abilities or ascribe criminality to them,” Beirich told me. “With Jewish people, it is more often the case that they are seen as nefarious connivers who engage in activities to harm the majority population, meaning white people, by bringing in nonwhite immigrants or refugees.”

The idea that Jewish people, or Jews in general, hold secret power over everyone else is widespread among anti-Semites. Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan (himself deeply anti-Semitic) put his views bluntly in February of this year: “The Jews have control over those agencies of government. When you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.” (Anti-Semitism on the left has its own very worrying history and legacy.)

In short, as writer John-Paul Pagano, who has discussed anti-Semitism extensively in his work, put it on Twitter, anti-Semitism is essentially a conspiracy theory. And in our conversation, Beirich agreed, telling me: “The whole anti-Semitic narrative is based on conspiracies. That is the thing that often sets apart anti-Semitism from other forms of hatred.”


The conspiracy theory that is anti-Semitism has many parts and works in many different ways. For one, the anti-Semitism of the white supremacist far-right argues that Jewish people secretly hate white people — or more generally, “everyday Americans,” generally conservatives — and are attempting to subvert them through politics or through the media, using nonwhite people to do their bidding.

Here’s a recent example. In 2016, Trump-supportive musician Ted Nugent a meme posted on Facebook containing photos of prominent Jewish Americans like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, each with Israeli flags superimposed over their photo and with the tagline, “so who is really behind gun control?” His answer, apparently: Jews.

Nugent’s point was clear: These people aren’t real Americans interested in gun control for their own personal reasons; rather, they’re trying to rob realAmericans of their rights through subversion and lying for selfish purposes — perhaps even doing so on behalf of Israel (as three figures in the meme are explicitly linked to either Israel or “Russian Jews”).

As Beirich told me, “Anti-Semites have for centuries accused Jews of being globalists who do not care about the countries that they live in and lack patriotism, instead favoring building up their own worldwide power. In today’s terms, that is called “globalism” and these unpatriotic Jews are seen as driving nations to extinction in favor of their own global power.”

“This is the same kind of conspiracy you find in the bogus Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is read to this day by white supremacists.” The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a fake document (likely created by Russian secret police in the late 19th century) that purportedly details the secret Jewish plan for world domination.

The term “globalism” has been used by self-described “nationalists” — like Trump — and by, say, anti-capitalist protestors, but the false idea of the “rootless” and “globalist” Jewish people who lack real ties to their home countries has a lengthy anti-Semitic history.

Anti-Semites view Jewish success as further evidence of the conspiracy theory that Jews are secretly in charge of everything, while arguing that Jewish Americans aren’t “real Americans” and that they are somehow disconnected from traditional American values.

In short, as writer John-Paul Pagano, who has discussed anti-Semitism extensively in his work, put it on Twitter, anti-Semitism is essentially a conspiracy theory. And in our conversation, Beirich agreed, telling me: “The whole anti-Semitic narrative is based on conspiracies. That is the thing that often sets apart anti-Semitism from other forms of hatred.”

Coaston goes into great detail in this post as well as a follow-up piece, both of which I recommend for those interested in background information on the links between the “anti-Globalist” conspiracy theories that are at the root of far-right politics and much of the criticism of people like Soros. Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin comments:

There are few Jewish communities that have not been touched by anti-Semitic vandalism. In Fairfax County, Va., where I reside, the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia was vandalized this month by 19 swastikas painted on the building. It was the second such incident in less than two years.

Social media has become a cesspool of anti-Semitic messages and symbols. I can say from personal experience that social media companies are less than responsive in addressing complaints and disabling accounts that traffic in such material.

Neo-Nazis marched in 2017 in Charlottesville, chanting, “Jews will not replace them.” The synagogue in Charlottesville was forced to remove its Torah scrolls for safekeeping as neo-Nazis shouted slogans across the street.

There is no single source of anti-Semitism in the United States; it comes from radical leftists bent on destroying the Jewish state and right-wing nationalists who consider Jews to be foreign invaders. Both are increasingly evident on college campuses. On Friday, coincidentally, Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote for The Post, “Campus anti-Semitism has come from across the political spectrum. For several years now, alt-right and neo-Nazi groups have targeted college campuses to spread their hateful ideologies and recruit young people for their movements. The ADL found that white supremacist propaganda on college campuses nearly doubled in the 2017-18 school year from the year prior.” He noted that radical left-wing as well as Neo-Nazi groups are no longer rare on campuses.


The Pittsburgh gunman reportedly focused his ire on the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), accusing it of funding the Central American caravan of refugees, which he dubbed “invaders.” Recently, Trump supporters and Fox News programming, following the president’s lead, have obsessed with escalating hysteria over the caravan — which is hundreds of miles from our southern border — and Trumpites have even claimed it is funded by Soros, whose name figures prominently in their conspiratorial rhetoric.

So when American politicians blame Soros for opposition to the administration, or celebrate “nationalism,” or declare the United States is a “Christian nation” (as opposed to a country in which a majority of people are Christian), they are consciously or unconsciously channeling and amplifying anti-Semitism.

No one other than the shooter is responsible for the mass murder in Pittsburgh, but there are many people — including those in public office and in digital media — contributing to the rise of the anti-Semitic sentiments the shooter allegedly shouted. If you think words — especially an American president’s words — don’t matter, think again.

This isn’t to say that everyone who criticizes Soros or his involvement in American politics is anti-semitic, of course. In fact, I’d argue that the vast majority of the conservatives who are critical of Soros are not anti-semitic. At the same time, though, there is no denying that many of the attacks on him have the same ring to them as anti-semitic tropes in the past do, bringing into question the patriotism of American Jews such as Soros and alleging that they are seeking to undermine American democracy via things such as trying to influence political debate or, to go with the current bizarre theory, paying for the caravan of Central American refugees currently making its way through Mexico, and this is just one example of the extensive list of alleged sins that Republicans from Donald Trump and Senator Chuck Grassley to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and several Republican House members have accused Soros, a naturalized American citizen who as a child was saved from capture by the Nazis when they invaded his native Hungary.

In any case, the issue here isn’t just George Soros, it isn’t even necessarily the victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, although we certainly need to remember them and the hatred that led to their deaths. It is the fact that, as we saw in Charlottesville, as we have seen in countless other examples, as we saw last week in the actions of a bomber who sought to kill critics of a President and an anti-Semite who killed eleven people who were doing nothing more than observing their Sabbath, and as we can see in figures from law enforcement noted above showing a depressing rise in hate-based attacks against Jews and Muslims in particular, there was has been a marked rise in hate-based rhetoric and attacks in this country in the past two years. This after a period of more than two decades when such crimes were on the decline, and that’s a period that includes the years after the September 11th attacks when one would have expected attacks on Muslim-Americans in particular to increase.

Why is this the case? What has changed over the past two years that has caused these numbers to increase markedly? To some extent, it may be the case that the numbers are increasing because people are reporting it more frequently, but that doesn’t explain it completely. Clearly, the element of American society that is responsible for these actions feels as though there is increased freedom to come out from the dark corners where they were hidden, and many of them point to the President of the United States as the reason they feel free to do so. This doesn’t mean that Trump himself is anti-semitic, or racially bigoted, however, the rhetoric he uses is clearly resonating with that segment of the public and at this point, he and his advisers would have to be blind and deaf not to notice the connections between his vile rhetoric and the tragedies in places like Charlottesville and Squirrel Hill. This doesn’t mean that Trump is responsible for the attacks, only the people who committed those acts are responsible for them. However, just as George Wallace’s racism gave solace to the men who bombed a Birminghman, Alabama church in 1963, killing five young girls, Donald Trump’s rhetoric is giving solace to the modern haters and their foot soldiers. The fact that he chooses not to tone it down only makes him more culpable.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, Race and Politics, Religion, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Ben Wolf says:

    Why is this the case? What has changed over the past two years that has caused these numbers to increase markedly?

    In fact, there was no type of background— of religious, cultural, or national tradition—that made a country immune to fascism, once the conditions for its emergence were given. Moreover, there was a striking lack of relationship between its material and numerical strength and its political effectiveness. The very term “movement” was misleading since it implied some kind of enrollment or personal participation of large numbers. If anything was characteristic of fascism it was its independence of such popular manifestations. Though usually aiming at a mass following, its potential strength was reckoned not by the numbers of its adherents but by the influence of the persons in high position whose good will the fascist leaders possessed, and whose influence in the community could be counted upon to shelter them from the consequences of an abortive revolt, thus taking the risks out of revolution.

    A country approaching the fascist phase showed symptoms among which the existence of a fascist movement proper was not necessarily one. At least as important signs were the spread of irrationalistic philosophies, racialist aesthetics, anticapitalistic demagogy, heterodox currency views, criticism of the party system, widespread disparagement of the “regime,” or whatever was the name given to the existing democratic set-up…

    What we termed, for short, “fascist situation” was no other than the typical occasion of easy and complete fascist victories. All at once, the tremendous industrial and political organizations of labor and of other devoted upholders of constitutional freedom would melt away, and minute fascist forces would brush aside what seemed until then the overwhelming strength of democratic governments, parties, trade unions.

    If a “revolutionary situation” is characterized by the psychological and moral disintegration of all forces of resistance to the point where a handful of scantily armed rebels were enabled to storm the supposedly impregnable strongholds of reaction, then the “fascist situation” was its complete parallel except for the fact that here the bulwarks of democracy and constitutional liberties were stormed and their defenses found wanting in the same spectacular fashion…

    Fascism, like socialism, was rooted in a market society that refused to function. Hence, it was world-wide, catholic in scope, universal in application; the issues transcended the economic sphere and begot a general transformation of a distinctively social kind. It radiated into almost every field of human activity whether political or economic, cultural, philosophic, artistic, or religious. And up to a point it coalesced with local and topical tendencies. No understanding of the history of the period is possible unless we distinguish between the underlying fascist move and the ephemeral tendencies with which that move fused in different countries.”

  2. Slugger says:

    Shelley Adelson,
    See what your money has bought!
    You do know that the prominent ones went to the ovens first. Us low-class ghetto Yidden were the survivors.

  3. Gustopher says:

    This doesn’t mean that Trump is responsible for the attacks, only the people who committed those acts are responsible for them. However, just as George Wallace’s racism gave solace to the men who bombed a Birminghman, Alabama church in 1963, killing five young girls, Donald Trump’s rhetoric is giving solace to the modern haters and their foot soldiers. The fact that he chooses not to tone it down only makes him more culpable.

    Just because you cannot draw an exact line between Trump and the killing doesn’t make him not responsible — and there’s no reason many people cannot share the responsibility.

    I’d liken it to global warming. Can we prove that this coal fired power plant over here cause the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico? No, but we know the earth is heating up, and that warm water means more and more powerful hurricanes, and we know the connection between carbon-rich fuels and global warming.

    Here Trump has been repeating the very same right wing anti-Semitic lie that was the cause of the attack — George Soros funding the caravan. Even though the shooter hated Trump because Trump is controlled by The Seven Jews Who Rule The World, Trump is giving the lie weight and credibility, and emboldening those who the killer would trust when they repeated it.

  4. Modulo Myself says:

    If you look at the recent terror attacks in Europe, the people involved are very similar to the people involved in Pittsburgh or Tallahassee. They’re just marginal figures without long histories of political violence. Right now, the ruling political party in America is deeply connected to the same grievances the terrorists in America cite. A terrorist who targets a yoga studio is linked to an idiot who wants to defend the nation’s sons from being falsely accused by women. It’s as simple as that. And the GOP supports both sides.

  5. Kylopod says:

    This doesn’t mean that Trump himself is anti-semitic

    On the other hand, it may well mean exactly that.

    First of all, Trump has made many individual comments suggesting, at the very least, a stereotypical view of Jews and money. He told the Republican Jewish Coalition that “I’m a negotiator like you folks” and that “I don’t want any of your money.” A former colleague quotes him saying “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

    Throughout the 2016 campaign, he repeatedly retweeted messages from white nationalists and neo-Nazis, including one from a user who claimed to be located in “Jewmerica” and another involving a graphic featuring “Crooked Hillary” next to a Star of David atop a pile of cash, which Trump continued to defend and to claim it wasn’t anti-Semitic even after it was traced to an anti-Semitic white nationalist.

    He also refused initially to disavow David Duke, claiming incorrectly never to have heard of him, before finally issuing a vague, anodyne disavowal. He applied the same treatment a year later to the Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, where one moment he was sort of condemning them after coming under pressure from advisors (in a decision that, according to Woodward’s book, he later described as the worst mistake he’s made) and the next he was praising the “very fine people” on “both sides” (a remark that reportedly disgusted–and motivated the eventual resignation of–Gary Cohn).

    On Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017, the White House issued a statement that didn’t even mention Jews, which bothered even some conservative groups like the Zionist Organization of America. Trump also openly backed French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who has proposed to ban the wearing of yarmulkes in public and kosher slaughter, and to revoke the Israeli passport of French Jews.

    Bill Pruitt and another producer have stated that Trump said vile things about both blacks and Jews on the set of The Apprentice, but that they’re prevented by NDAs from going into much detail. Jared Kushner claims his father-in-law has treated him and his family’s religion with love and respect, but this claim is contradicted by reports (in an extensive profile of Ivanka in 2016) that Trump was unhappy with his daughter’s decision to convert to Judaism. Besides, is it plausible that a man like Trump would react to strict Jewish observance (I speak as a strictly observant Jew myself) with patience and tolerance? I frankly don’t think Kushner (a shameless opportunist if I ever saw one) is putting all his cards on the table.

    Just a few days ago, shortly after the synagogue attack, Trump openly endorsed the Soros-caravan theory that was part of the shooter’s motivation:

    In other words, he just gave his stamp of approval to the shooter. That’s how it will be interpreted by those folks, anyway–and he damn well knows it. Let’s quit mincing words and stop saying “He can’t possibly be anti-Semitic… Javanka!” Yes, he can.

  6. Eric Florack says:

    His daughter and his son-in-law are Jewish, which would perhaps make him the world’s worst Nazi in history


  7. Kylopod says:

    @Eric Florack:

    His daughter and his son-in-law are Jewish, which would perhaps make him the world’s worst Nazi in history

    Then you know very little about Nazis. Goebbels, for example, was married to a woman with a Jewish stepfather, whom recent evidence indicates may have been her biological father. Recently, a major neo-Nazi figure in the “alt right” was discovered to be married to a Jewish woman. For that matter, there have been cases of actual Jews becoming neo-Nazis (the guy who started the “Skokie” controversy in the 1970s, another guy in the ’60s whose story loosely inspired the 2001 movie The Believer). Those cases are bizarre, I admit–but humans are pretty bizarre creatures.

    The fallacy in your argument is that you assume anti-Semites must always be absolutely consistent about their hatred toward Jews. That’s not how anti-Semitism works–in fact it’s not how any type of bigotry works. You guys are always into quoting Alan Dershowitz these days? Well, he once related the following anecdote which is a good illustration of the way anti-Semitism typically appears when we Jews encounter it:

    “[A] slightly eccentric Brahmin woman from Boston…came to see me about a legal problem. I concluded that her problem was not within the area of my expertise, so I recommended another lawyer. She asked whether he was Jewish, and I responded, ‘What difference does it make?’ She said that she didn’t ‘get along very well with Jews’ and didn’t know whether she could ‘trust them.’ I asked her why she had come to me, since I was obviously Jewish. I’ll never forget her answer: ‘The Jews I know are all fine. I have a Jewish doctor and a Jewish pharmacist whom I trust with my life. It’s those other Jews—the money-grubbing ones, the dishonest ones—that I’m not comfortable with.’ I pressed [her] about whether she had actually ever encountered one of ‘those’ Jews, and she responded, ‘Heavens, no. I would never allow myself to have any contact with such a person.’ The lawyer I recommended happened to be Jewish, and the two of them got along famously.”

  8. Kylopod says:

    @Eric Florack: Also, from the article you link to:

    It’s been a good election cycle for anti-Semites. From Illinois’ Arthur Jones to Wisconsin’s Paul Nehlen, the rise of neo-Nazis on the fringes of Republican politics has been ably chronicled by reporters like Jane Coaston at Vox and watchdog groups like the Anti-Defamation League…. Needless to say, Donald “Very Fine People” Trump and the Republican Party have not exactly passed this test with flying colors, and have repeatedly failed to ostracize bigots in their midst.

    The author complains about one Democratic candidate with ties to Farrakhan and anti-Semites, but makes it very clear that at present the GOP is far guiltier of that sort of thing. Indeed, Farrakhan himself has heaped high praise on Trump for standing up to Jewish power in America.

    “[Donald Trump] is the only mem­ber who has stood in front of [the] Jew­ish com­mu­nity, and said I don’t want your money. Any time a man can say to those who con­trol the pol­i­tics of Amer­ica, ‘I don’t want your money,’ that means you can’t con­trol me. And they can­not afford to give up con­trol of the pres­i­dents of the United States,” Farrakhan stated in his sermon.

  9. Kari Q says:

    “His daughter married a Jew and converted, therefore he can’t be anti-Semitic” is the equivalent of “I have black friends.”

  10. Kylopod says:

    @Kari Q: I think the phrase “Some of my best friends are Jews” is actually older. From a New Republic article a few years ago:

    The most infamous case, however, came in 1937. Hugo Black had been nominated for the Supreme Court, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had just uncorked a series of articles revealing Black’s past involvement in the Ku Klux Klan. Black’s defense memorably included the line “Some of my best friends are Jews,” which earned him no small amount of scorn from newspaper editorialists (that line, after all, had been the title of a book-length history of anti-Semitism by Robert Gessner the previous year). That line couldn’t stop Black’s confirmation—and he later made amends with his critics through his work on the Court—but the phrase stuck. In 1967, shortly before his death, Black repented and told The New York Times that he had no idea this was a favored weasel phrase of anti-Semites, adding, “In my case it was true!”

  11. Kari Q says:


    You may be right, but I don’t see that particular line offered as proof that Trump isn’t anti-Semitic. It’s always Ivanka and Jared who are offered as evidence.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @Kari Q: There are endless variants on this type of defense. There was Roy Moore’s wife insisting they couldn’t be anti-Semites because “One of our attorneys…is a Jew!” (and of course it turned out the lawyer she was referring to was a Jewish-born Christian–as if she couldn’t get any more tone-deaf). I found that especially hilarious since she was describing a strictly professional relationship rather than a personal one–and indeed, it’s quite common for neo-Nazis involved in free speech cases to hire Jewish ACLU lawyers (that was definitely true of the aforementioned Skokie case).

    Then there was the Lousiana judge forced to resign after refusing to marry an interracial couple. His defense against the racism charge has to be heard to be believed:

    “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell said. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

    Back when this story was reported at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog in 2009, from then on it became a running joke among the commenters that whenever there was a bigot who didn’t recognize he was a bigot, we’d say “He lets them use his bathroom.”

  13. Eric Florack says:
  14. Kylopod says:

    @Eric Florack: I don’t know what’s more ironic, the fact that the far-right conspiracy rag you’re linking to (it’s where the story about Bill Ayers ghostwriting Dreams from my Father came from, for the record) calls itself American Thinker, or the fact that you’re dropping a link to it as a substitute for doing any thinking of your own.

  15. Gustopher says:

    @Eric Florack: Fun Fact: While there may or may not be antisemitism on the left (is Farrrakhan even left, these days?), it’s only the Republican Party that has repeated antisemetic conspiracy theories that led to a synagogue shooting this week as if they were fact.

    Another Fun Fact: Not everyone who dislikes Trump is a liberal. The shooter was a white nationalist who thought Trump was too weak on the Jewish problem. That’s alt-right stuff right there. Except that half of it is repeated on Fox and by your President, and is now mainstream Republican antisemitic conspiracy theory.

    Third Fun Fact: Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism. Most of the folks I know who are for Boycott, Divest and Sanctions are in fact Jewish, and want Israel to remain a Jewish State — which won’t happen with the growth rates in populations, unless there is a two state solution, which the current Israeli government is working to ensure cannot happen.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Clearly, the element of American society that is responsible for these actions feels as though there is increased freedom to come out from the dark corners where they were hidden, and many of them point to the President of the United States as the reason they feel free to do so. This doesn’t mean that Trump himself is anti-semitic, or racially bigoted, however, the rhetoric he uses is clearly resonating with that segment of the public and at this point, he and his advisers would have to be blind and deaf not to notice the connections between his vile rhetoric and the tragedies in places like Charlottesville and Squirrel Hill.

    What’s it gonna take, Doug? Him standing at the podium screaming “I HATE JEWS!!!!”?

    Let me make it simple for you, if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, smells like a duck, maybe it’s because it’s not a zebra?

  17. al Ameda says:

    Mostly, Trump dog whistles his anti-semitic stuff.

    Remember way back in February 2017, when Trump and his staff left out any mention of Jews while marking Holocuast Remembrance Day? Later, Trump, when being asked questions about a spate of threats to Jewish centers across the country and rising anti-Semitism, brushed it off by saying, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”

    And his kids sometimes take after the dad:

    Eric Trump, the president’s youngest son, said of some of the claims in Bob Woodward’s book, that “It’ll mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels.” Yeah … the word “shekel” goes back to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the New Testament.

  18. Kylopod says:

    @al Ameda: I really have a sense that Trump has said worse things in private than we already know about. The Apprentice producers have strongly hinted at it; Michael Cohen just recently said it (granted his credibility problems), as did the guy who gave us the “black guys counting my money” quote above. I believe some of these recordings will eventually come out, and it’ll be the Nixon Tapes all over again. And yes, I believe it’ll include some truly vile quotes about Jews that leave anything we know about behind.

    I should mention for the record that I had suspicions about Mel Gibson long before virtually anyone else did, based on things he said in interviews going as far back as the ’90s (before even Passion of the Christ), but I initially dismissed these feelings on the grounds that he was too involved in Hollywood to be a Jew-hater. What more can I say? I have anti-Semite-dar and pick these things up.

  19. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Still, I have to look for signs of hope. Last Friday night, #showupforshabbat came to life in the small synagogue in my hometown. Standing room only, two Episcopal priests, one Catholic priest, an African-American pastor, and a Unitarian minister all spoke about the danger of casually dismissing anti-Semitic rhetoric.


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