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Shinewald: The four strains of modern anti-Semitism

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British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at the No More War event in Parliament Square. (Flickr photo - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ )

Anti-Semitism is a virus and there are four main strains that are currently spreading around the world.

The first strain comes from the left. This is the strain spread by U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and campus activists. Left-wing politics revolve around inclusivity, tolerance and redistribution. At the extreme, however, left-wing politics harnesses anger and fosters self-righteousness to confront perceived oppressors.

In this worldview, Israel is seen as the powerful oppressor. These anti-Semites single out the Jewish state for condemnation and, as this strain mutates, they sometimes single out Jews, as well. As a result, left-wing anti-Semites deeply believe that they stand for diversity and inclusion, even as they espouse abject anti-Semitism.

Left-wing anti-Semitism is, therefore, the most deceptive strain, since some of its adherents actually believe they are not anti-Semitic, and many cloak their anti-Semitism in otherwise legitimate critiques of Israel.

The second strain of anti-Semitism comes from the right. This is the strain of political strongmen, and of the killers in the Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., synagogue massacres, who became radicalized after being exposed to such politics.

Right-wing politics used to revolve around a combination of capitalism, individualism and resistance to non-incremental change. Today, though, this has been largely displaced by exclusionary nativism, chauvinism and nationalism – call it Trumpism.

As a result, right-wing anti-Semites reject Jews because we do not fit into their nativist vision at home, but embrace Israel for fitting into their nativist vision abroad. Right-wing anti-Semitism is, therefore, the most insidious strain, since many right-wing anti-Semites hate Jews but love Israel.

The third strain of anti-Semitism is Islamist. This is the strain spread by Iran’s leadership and the terrorists they fund and direct. While Islam is an ancient religion, Islamism is a modern form of fundamentalist colonialism. It aspires to violently advance its own supremacy on non-Muslims and on non-conforming Muslims.

As a result, Islamists view both Jews and the State of Israel as mere obstacles in the path to Islamist hegemony. Islamist anti-Semitism is, therefore, the most overt strain, since Islamists don’t distinguish the Jewish state from the Jewish people, and place both high on their hit list.

The fourth and final strain of anti-Semitism is irregular. This is the strain spread by the attackers of the JC Kosher Supermarket in New Jersey and on the Rottenberg family’s Hanukkah party in New York. This variant of anti-Semitism is sometimes associated with cults or mental illness, but it is driven by many other factors, as well.

As a result, the irregular anti-Semite lacks rationality. These individuals, sometimes inexplicably, suddenly have an urge to kill Jews. Irregular anti-Semitism is the most unpredictable strain, since its sources are so scattered and decentralized.

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These four strains of anti-Semitism – the deceptive leftist strain, the insidious right-wing strain, the overt Islamist strain and the unpredictable irregular strain – do not sit in airtight containers. Anti-Semitism is a live virus and these four strains are not historical, they are just today’s variants and they are always mutating and mixing. And they never, ever remain dormant.

On the left, despite their humiliating loss in the recent British election, angry activists remain as energized as ever, searching for the next target of their vitriol.

On the right, the biggest strongman of all, U.S. President Donald Trump, keeps pushing the belligerent envelope, last month telling a Jewish audience that, “You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me, you have no choice.”

In the Islamist world, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stated that the recent American assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani “open(s) a new chapter in the path of anti-Zionism resistance.” In the Islamist view, if Americans kill Iranians, Jews must pay.

And as for the irregular strain of anti-Semitism, well, we are all just waiting for the next attack.

Right now, these four strains of anti-Semitism are mutating into some new variant that we can’t yet discern. Like many biological viruses, today’s anti-Semitism is mutating faster and faster and is becoming deadlier and deadlier. And like many biological viruses, there is no vaccination. 

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