Poway reminds us the far right is active, violent and more influential than we believe

Our focus has been the left and radical Islamists but these attacks remind us extreme right-wing Jew-hate is alive and well, writes Marie van der Zyl

April 30, 2019 15:02

Anxiety levels about anti-Jewish racism have been steadily on the rise in our community for the past few years.

However, it is probably fair to say that, for most of us, the focus of our fears has been antisemitism from the left and from radical Islamists.

We know the far-right is still a threat but, certainly in this country, it has been assumed that the neo-Nazi rump is less relevant and has fewer supporters than in bygone eras.

Three murderous attacks – two against Jews at prayer in the United States and one against Muslims in New Zealand –  have reminded us that the far-right, while small in number, is active, violent and more influential than many of us would like to believe.

Conspiracy theories, ancient antisemitic tropes and Nazi racial theories are alive and well and living in the diseased minds of those such as the San Diego suspect, who wrote chillingly before the attack: “Every Jew is responsible for the meticulously planned genocide of the European race.

"They act as a unit, and every Jew plays his part to enslave the other races around him — whether consciously or subconsciously.”

There is a great irony in the fact that the victim, Lori Gilbert Kaye, in the heroism of her attempt to save her rabbi from harm, and in the charity and generosity of spirit with which she lived her life, demonstrated the true teachings of Judaism as a counterpoint to the suspect's genocidal rantings.

Of course, the killings of Jews and Muslims - who are seen as the enemy of the “European race” by the far right - illustrate the need for constant vigilance and attention to security by our community.

However, one of the greatest threats pinpointed by these attacks is the way in which the tropes, myths and buzzwords of the far right have bled into political discourse.

We have, on an increasingly regular basis, had to explain about terms with an antisemitic resonance, such as “cultural Marxism”, the “Zionist power over the media” or conspiracy theories involving George Soros or the Rothschilds.

In addition, there are those on the right who profess to admire Israel and the Jewish people but who will drop certain phrases into their speeches because these play well to their base support.

Now more than ever, politicians and those in the public eye need to take great care to ensure that their views do not appear to endorse the paranoid rants which, as we have seen recently, can lead to the murder of innocent people.

This week we will be mourning the death of Lori Gilbert Kaye and sending our sympathy to all those affected by Saturday’s atrocity.

On Shabbat I will be in synagogue to show solidarity with the Chabad of Poway community and to prove that our peaceful way of life will once again prevail over evil.

We, more than any other people know what the extreme right is capable of doing, and we must never let that happen again.

Marie van der Zyl is President of the Board of Deputies

April 30, 2019 15:02

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