For a people who make up a fraction of one percent of the world’s population, Jews sure do gather a lot of attention and get credit for an extraordinary amount of bad doings on the planet.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who evidence suggests directly meddled in American politics and is partly (if not entirely) responsible for Donald Trump’s election, said maybe it was “Jews” who meddled in the election.
Why wouldn’t he? It’s a strategy that has worked in Europe for centuries. In trouble? Look around. Find a Jew. Blame them.
About the same time, Trump was giving a farewell address to Gary Cohn, his erstwhile chief economic adviser, who resigned last week because of disagreements over tariff policy.
In his toast to Cohn, Trump said: “He may be a globalist but I still like him.” An untrained ear could hear the president’s remarks and assume Cohn is a free trade proponent in an administration filled with economic protectionists. But anyone familiar with alt-right radio broadcasts and white supremacist dialectics knows exactly what it means: Jew.
Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, says the term was adopted in extremist and white supremacist circles as a euphemism for a stereotype of someone engaged in a global conspiracy. And the president of the United States feels confident he can use it with impunity.
Also at the same time – because fighting antisemitism these days is rather like the carnival game Whack-a-Mole – the leader of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was found to have been an active participant on a hidden Facebook page called Palestine Live, where overt antisemitism, Holocaust denial and white supremacism were rampant. He even hosted an event at Westminster for the leaders of the secret group. Now, confronted with his past association with it, Corbyn’s response is, essentially, “What? I didn’t see any antisemitism. I don’t spend all day reading social media.” This comes as Corbyn’s supporters are being investigated for and purged from his party by the head office over seemingly incessant expressions of Jew-hatred and repetition of classical antisemitism. A glance at the evidence being presented online by anti-hate wings of the Labour party include every imaginable accusation against Jews – and plenty more that are beyond the imaginings of a healthy mind.
Then there is Louis Farrakhan. The head of the American-based Nation of Islam held his annual Saviour’s Day event in late February. There, Farrakhan declared Jews his enemy, “the mother and father of apartheid,” claimed that Jews have chemically induced homosexuality in black men through marijuana and are “responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behaviour that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women and women into men.” He added: “When you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.” Most chilling, and self-aggrandizingly, he declared: “Farrakhan … has pulled the cover off the eyes of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.”
Oddly, rather than holding Farrakhan to account for his words, perhaps because that is deemed a futile endeavour, most of the fallout has been around the association leaders of the Women’s March have with Farrakhan. Individuals like Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory have attended Saviour’s Day events and refused to condemn Farrakhan’s latest broadside on Jews. The march organization issued a statement, saying that his words were “not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles.” (By contrast, organizers of the Women’s March in Canada issued an unequivocal repudiation of Farrakhan and his remarks.)
Yet another notable incident happened recently. Residents of the Montreal borough of Outremont attended a public meeting to complain about a network of buses used by their Chassidic neighbours. Some of their complaints seemed justified. It appears the buses cause congestion on neighbourhood streets. But some of the residents appeared at the meeting wearing strips of yellow tape on their clothing. The allusion was obvious to anyone. This was meant to invoke the Nazi “Jude” star.
Some residents defended their choice, saying, effectively, “What? No! The yellow tape represents the buses that are disturbing our neighbourhood.” But one forgot to follow the script. “[The Jews] always bring up their painful past,” Ginette Chartre said. “They do it to muzzle us.”
In this month’s issue of The Atlantic, Armando Iannucci, an acute political observer who created the satirical TV program Veep and the recent film The Death of Stalin, noted: “Things are being said now that you wouldn’t have tolerated 10 year ago.”
As we approach Passover, we reflect on our history and celebrate our freedom. It is simplistic and insufficient to say that history and freedom have seen their ups and downs. But this time of year does invite us to put today’s events in a broader context. As much as the situation has worsened for us, we are not the only targeted minority, and oppressors to rival Pharaoh still abound. When we toast to next year in Jerusalem, we might also add wishes for the strength and wisdom to help bring about a tipping point at which people of goodwill say “Enough!” – and work even harder to ensure that our better natures win out.