When it comes to anti-Semitism, everyone’s an expert. They know who is and who isn’t an anti-Semite. They know some countries are good for the Jews, and some aren’t. One political party is safe, the other is seething with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment. And they would never, ever be fooled by someone who faked an anti-Semitic attack.
The problems with being so sure about who our allies and enemies are is twofold. First of all, left-wing and right-wing Jewish partisans alike have, of late, been put in the uncomfortable position of explaining why their particular “team” has experienced a recent upsurge in anti-Semitic language and deeds.
But more importantly: the enemies of the Jewish people claim that we use the charge of anti-Semitism selectively, ignoring some slurs but not others, to further our own agenda. This is a ridiculous charge, to be sure – as the infighting between groups of Jews puts the lie to any notion of a singular “agenda” – but being able to call a spade a spade when it comes to anti-Semitism would go a long way towards taking the wind out of our enemies’ sails.
So how sensitive, and how accurate, is your anti-Semitism detector? I’ve selected 20 quotes that one could reasonably expect Jews to find offensive, if not clearly anti-Semitic. Five of the speakers come from the political left, and five from the right. Five are real quotes spoken by fictional characters, and five originated from real people who faked, or fraudulently downplayed, anti-Semitism. Can you tell who is who?
* * *
1. He called on ‘”Israelis to put their hand on their hearts…. Your grandparents were persecuted and the entire world rejects the persecution against the Jews and the Holocaust. Are you going to be quiet? (That would be) the negation of yourselves.”
2. The Jews “start off from the idea that good must happen here, not beyond the grave. Therefore, they work only for the conquest of this world.”
3. “You’re not going to be seen as criminal (if you) say that there were Polish perpetrators (of the Holocaust), as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as well as Ukrainian perpetrators – not only German perpetrators.”
4. “In America, you can criticize God, but you can’t criticize Israel.”
5. “They clearly have two problems: one is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, don’t understand English irony.”
6. “Apparently, Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt are more devoted to Israel than to their own prime minister and their own colleagues in the Liberal caucus.”
7. “There are millions of gentiles out there who have been circumcised under the erroneous medical assumption that you are better without a foreskin than with.”
8. “Also, is it really the fault of Christians that Jews are using the American government to send billions upon billions of dollars to Israel? After all, the real Israeli lobby is all Christians. Even if it is actually all Jews doing it, it is somehow the fault of Christians who watch John Hagee.”
9. “I am not aware of any animal that is so cruel as the Israelis – not even crocodiles. They bomb schools, hospitals, refugee camps, orphanages, UN feeding stations, water works, power plants, ambulances, kids playing on the beach. They put millions of people in siege. They shoot children going to school. They kidnap kids and harvest their organs. They inject prisoners with disease pathogens before releasing them. They murder by land, sea and air. And worst of all, they slander their defenceless victims as ‘terrorists.’ “
10. “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.…. I want to ask: why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the (National Rifle Association), or fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?”
11. “Whether the Russian attitude toward Zionism is right or wrong, good or evil, smart or stupid, is a matter of opinion. But to suggest that the attitude is motivated by bias against Jews is sheer fraud.”
12. “The Jew is nothing if not clever. He will see through hypocrisy and condescension. To destroy him, we must love him sincerely. If the Jews are strengthened by hate, wouldn’t this … destruction that you speak of, whether it’s by love or any other means … wouldn’t that make them more powerful than they are already? Yes, infinitely more.”
13. “I told you that I am fighting against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in my country.… Do you want to make my people anti-Semitic? (The people) will have a horrible hatred for them, envy them tremendously and loot their homes if, under such conditions, you seek to import kosher meat for the Jews. You yourself create the anti-Semitism that I have been stopping.”
14. “Well, I have an opinion that people will find offensive. Jews need to be sterilized. That’s my opinion.’”
15. “When Jewish people such as yourself come to see that Jesus is your long-sought messiah, you are not converting from one religion to another, no matter what anyone tells you. You have found your messiah, that is all.”
16. “There are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them. If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have (points to himself).”
17. “To demonstrate to Americans the reality of anti-Semitism, (the Jews) will advance, through new sources, large sums of money to outspokenly anti-Semitic elements in America to increase their effectiveness.”
18. “We repudiate with all our strength the persecution and genocide that in its time unleashed Nazism against the Hebrew people. But I cannot remember anything more similar in our contemporary history than the eviction, persecution and genocide that today imperialism and Zionism do against the Palestinian people.”
19. “We accept the numbers (of Jewish victims of the Holocaust), for there is nothing we can do, since it is guaranteed by law. However, we do not agree. Even if it (Holocaust denial) is prohibited, at least it should be researchable, and in the worst case, the results could be classified if the research team were to come up with different numbers.”
20. “We cannot blame (the Jews) for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we must also look out for ours … we cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.”
* * *
How do you think you did? The answers can be found below. But before we get there, a few points: First of all, these quotes come from all over the world, and yet the same themes keep coming up.
Jews as an alien people, Israel as a uniquely evil entity, attempts to minimize culpability for the Holocaust. Is that because we are focusing on particular countries, or particular people, or ideologies that we have individually, or collectively, decided are anti-Semitic? Do we not realize that anti-Semitism can come from anyone, or anywhere?
Secondly: did you find yourself rationalizing some, or all, of the quotes, even if you didn’t know who the speaker was?
And finally, now that you have probably looked at the answers: when you were wrong about the political leanings of a speaker, or whether the quote was real, did you take some time to think about why you were wrong?
* * *
Quotes 1, 5, 6, 10 and 13 were from left-wing speakers; 3, 8, 16, 18 and 19 were from right-wing speakers; 2, 7, 12, 15 and 20 were from fictional characters; and 4, 9, 11, 14, and 17 were hoaxes. Their identities are as follows:
1. Former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez
2. Simone Simonini, The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.
3. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
4. Tzeporah/Tziporah Menache, a fake “Israeli spokesperson” created in 2009. Anti-Semites who clicked on links on web pages containing this quote would find their computers infected with a virus.
5. U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn
6. Canadian lawyer and activist Dmitri Lascaris
7. Alvin Poliakov, The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
8. Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer
9. Quote falsely attributed to British actor Sir David Attenborough, when it was in fact written by an online commenter using the handle “David Attenborough.”
10. Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar
11. The Truth About Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, propaganda leaflet by Tom O’Connor
12. Ryan Gosling as Danny Balint in The Believer (2001)
13. Fidel Castro, former president of Cuba
14. York University Prof. Cameron Johnston, giving an example of an offensive opinion that would not be tolerated in his classroom.
15. Character from Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle For The Ages by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
16. Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines
17. “Our Race Will Rule Undisputed Over A World Of Dark Peoples,” fabricated anti-Semitic speech.
18. Horacio Sevilla Borja, Ecuadorean representative to the UN
19. Elod Novak, former deputy chairman for Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party
20. Charles Lindbergh in Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.