Josh Glancy

Why America’s far-right is still obsessed with Jews

What the horrors of Charlottesville two weeks ago showed us is that the newly emboldened far right in America is still obsessed with the Jews.

August 25, 2017 14:27

Most American Jews were pretty pleased to find out Steve Bannon had departed the White House last weekend. There’s fairly scant evidence of Bannon being an antisemite but he’s a figurehead for a movement that contains all sorts of nastiness. The further he is from power, the better.

Bannon was the alt-right’s man in the White House; the ambassador from Breitbart. Now he returns to run the rancorous website and there are scores to settle. “We’re going to war,” he told friends. His first and biggest target will be the “globalists”, the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner chief among them.

“Globalist”, Bannon’s favourite insult, isn’t exactly a synonym for Jews, but it’s not a coincidence that many of the targets are kosher. It can serve a similar function to old antisemitic terms like “rootless cosmopolitan” or “elite”. To the right ears, it’s a loud enough dog whistle. And those ears are pricked in America right now.

What the horrors of Charlottesville two weeks ago showed us is that the newly emboldened far right in America is still obsessed with the Jews.

The torch-wielding morons of Charlottesville are white supremacists. Given America’s deep and toxic racial past, attention has rightly been focused on their neo-Confederate views about African-Americans and civil rights. This is a story about black and white. But a lot of them are also neo-Nazis, and so it’s also a story about Jews.

Many on the left today no longer see Jews as a minority in need of protection. They talk of Jews as “white”, “privileged” and “Zionist”. In the leftist world of intersectionality and identity politics, most Jews are on the wrong side of the divide: lining up alongside the neo-liberal oppressors.

But what Charlottesville showed us is that the far right never got the memo. For them, Jews are still the old enemy.

Their antisemitism persists because Jews play such a central role in their warped world view. Many were puzzled to hear the racist marchers shouting “Jews will not replace us”.

But the international Jew, often personified by George Soros, is how the white supremacists explain why they aren’t winning.

They can hardly credit what they perceive as the inferior black race for the march of civil rights. But the dastardly, cunning, globalist yid? That works.

From the American neo-Nazi perspective, the Jew seeks to subvert the natural order, elevating black over white to create a chaos in which they can wield power. They marched to express their rage at this “replacement”.

One of the reasons their antisemitism is so persistent is because it works on multiple levels. They deride the Jew, but they also fear and respect the Jew’s ability to get one over on them. Antisemitism’s versatility gives it real explanatory power. For dull minds yearning for a clear and simple explanation of why things haven’t worked out the way they wanted, it’s a seductive vision.

Richard Spencer, one of the leaders of the alt-right, explained this view to me recently.

Spencer and his cronies are seeking to establish a white “ethno-state” in America. Do Jews have any place in that nation, I asked him.

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “Jews have their own identity, it would be insulting to them to say that they are European. They have a different story to tell about who they are. They’ve been American citizens, but they’ve also had this other identity as Jews.”

He continued: “What you need to look at is Jewish consciousness. They do have a tremendous amount of power, it could potentially be benign, but when that power is used to diminish European identity because they see that as a threat to their own identity, then I have to be critical of it.”

So there you have it. Fortunately, although Bannon and President Trump have a nasty habit of encouraging the likes of Spencer, not least by failing to condemn them properly, most of America was horrified by what it saw and heard in Charlottesville. This remains a nasty and reviled fringe.

And perhaps those Americans who were watching events carefully did at least learn a valuable lesson about the far-right: they didn’t forget about the Jews. They never will.

August 25, 2017 14:27

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