Ger­ma­ny always prai­ses its­elf for the way it has clea­ned up anti-Semi­tism. But it’s a struc­tu­ral pro­blem; cri­mes with an anti-Semi­tic back­ground are still on the rise.

In 2019, the­re whe­re an average of 5.5 hate cri­mes tar­ge­ting Jewish peop­le per day in Ger­ma­ny. With 2032 inci­dents, Ger­ma­ny reached a new high point in reli­gious­ly moti­va­ted offen­ses towards Jewish peop­le in 20 years.

 Alt­hough we are exten­si­ve­ly taught about the holo­caust and its hor­rors, the­se num­bers men­tio­ned are still emer­ging in some way or ano­t­her. Ger­ma­ny pri­des its­elf with put­ting its dark histo­ry behind, but anti­se­mi­tism still seems to exist. This clear­ly pro­ves that anti­se­mi­tism is not a pro­blem of the past, it is a cri­sis of the present.

Prejudice, conspiracies and hatred

To ful­ly grasp the com­ple­xi­ty of this topic, one first of all must under­stand anti­se­mi­tism. The first dis­tinc­tion that must be made is bet­ween anti­se­mi­tism and anti-juda­ism. While anti-juda­ism is the distain of the Jewish peop­le, on the base of the hat­red against the Jewish reli­gi­on, anti­se­mi­tism is the aver­si­on of Jewish peop­le becau­se of their cate­go­riz­a­ti­on as a racial group. This dif­fe­rence is par­ti­cu­lar­ly important to under­stand the nuan­ces. The con­cept of anti-juda­ism dates back way lon­ger than the idea of anti­se­mi­tism, as one exis­ted alrea­dy in the anci­ent empi­res of Rome and Greece and the other only deve­lo­ped with the rise of Christianity.

Anti­se­mi­tism is mul­ti-facet­ted, but the basis is the dehu­ma­niz­a­ti­on and redi­rec­tion of all type of hardships on Jewish peop­le. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the­re are many ste­reo­ty­pes and tro­pes sur­roun­ding Jewish peop­le, such as greed, dis­loyal­ty, hat­red of Chris­ti­ans, but also things like world con­trol and actual­ly being liz­ards (remem­ber when I men­tio­ned dehu­ma­niz­a­ti­on?).  Some of the­se tro­pes are roo­ted in the histo­ry of Jewish exis­tence. One of the most pre­va­lent tro­pes, greed, exists becau­se of past discri­mi­na­ti­on against Jewish peop­le. In the midd­le ages, Jewish peop­le were limi­ted by Chris­ti­an laws to own land or be part of guilds, which for­ced them to be invol­ved in the ban­king trade. 

This also leads to various harm­ful con­spi­ra­cy theo­ries that Jewish peop­le con­trol the world and eco­no­my. Through this tro­pe it is easy to bla­me all the very real pro­blems of capi­ta­lism on Jewish peop­le. In this hind­sight, anti­se­mi­tism frames the func­tion of capi­ta­lism as a pro­blem of inherit (Jewish) greed, rather than capi­ta­lism its­elf. But cur­r­ent­ly, Jews only hold 1.1% of the world wealth, while Chris­ti­ans hold 55%. While the tro­pe of gree­dy capi­ta­list Jews exist, Jewish peop­le are also seen as cor­ruptors of capi­ta­lism, who stri­ve for communism.

Not only for the sake of anger

One can con­clu­de that anti­se­mi­tism in many ways seems irra­tio­nal and con­tra­dic­to­ry. All theo­ries have in com­mon that the­re are no jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­ons nor evi­dence for the­se ide­as. This leads to the ques­ti­on: What is the actu­al rea­so­ning behind antisemitism?

Antisemitische Gewalttaten nehmen zu
Anti-Semi­tic vio­lence has reached a new peak.

In his essay “Anti-Semi­te and Jew: An Explo­ra­ti­on of the Etio­lo­gy of Hate”, Sart­re famous­ly wro­te: “If the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semi­te would invent him.” This quo­te hel­ps us under­stand anti­se­mi­tism is not as a belief but rather a tool of some­thing. It can also help com­pre­hend the inef­fi­ci­en­cy of deba­ting bigots, as it is not simp­le hat­red, but more of a com­ple­te under­stan­ding of the world.

Alt­hough the reco­gni­ti­on of anti­se­mi­tic indi­vi­du­als is important to under­stand it, one must also look at the big­ger pic­tu­re. By only loo­king at hard­core anti-semi­tes, who admit their hat­red, one still can not exp­lain anti­se­mi­tism as a who­le. Becau­se even though the right wing is open about their pre­ju­di­ce, anti­se­mi­tism is also per­pe­tua­ted by libe­rals and lef­tists. And one thing every per­son should have lear­ned from 10th gra­de histo­ry is that not ever­yo­ne was a con­vin­ced Nazi, but many were “just” com­pli­cit collaborators.

The big­ger pic­tu­re men­tio­ned is not only pre­sent in the issue of anti­se­mi­tism, but also miso­gy­ny. Whe­re­as we all know that miso­gy­ny is the acti­ve enfor­ce­ment of sexism, the gran­der sche­me, the big sys­tem if you will, is the patri­ar­chy. This descri­bes the sta­te of the world in which miso­gy­ny is just a tool. While anti­se­mi­tism is a tool, the big­ger sys­tem is, sur­pri­se sur­pri­se, white supre­ma­cy. In case you won­der, white supre­ma­cy is the sys­tem which con­tri­bu­tes to white peop­le having more liber­ty, pri­vi­le­ges and power than “the rest” of humanity.

Now the ques­ti­on comes up what the actu­al link bet­ween the­se two are. The workings of white supre­ma­cy have to be hand­led with cau­ti­on and nuan­ce. As we have estab­lis­hed, anti­se­mi­tic tro­pes lead to the con­clu­si­on, that Jewish peop­le con­trol the world. This for one hel­ps to ser­ve the idea that they are to bla­me for all pro­blems that are cau­sed by capi­ta­lism, impe­ria­lism, colo­nia­lism, etc., which can fur­ther­mo­re divi­de mar­gi­na­li­zed com­mu­nities. But on the other hand, white supre­macists belie­ve that Jewish peop­le mani­pu­la­te the unse­en hap­pe­nings with the objec­ti­ve to des­troy “white” and “Chris­ti­an” cul­tu­re. Accord­ing to the­se obses­si­ve ide­as, Jewish peop­le are the true hin­der­an­ce of the ulti­ma­te goal of a white eth­no-sta­te. So, in con­clu­si­on anti­se­mi­tism is the tool for white supre­ma­cy to bla­me all pro­blems on.

The complex world of the imaginary race theory

One now might won­der why white supre­macists tar­get Jewish peop­le, becau­se are they not white? This train of thought has three faults. One being that not all Jewish peop­le are of Euro­pean-Ash­ken­azi-descent, ano­t­her that whiteness is con­tex­tu­al and the last that Jews were and are not cate­go­ri­zed by Nazis and white supre­macists as white, but rather as a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent race.

In order for white supre­ma­cy to work, whiteness has to con­stant­ly be exten­ded and that defi­ni­ti­on of whiteness is and has to be con­stant­ly chan­ging. Mea­ning that cer­tain groups were not con­si­de­red white a while ago, but now get to enjoy the cur­rent pri­vi­le­ges of whiteness. But one has to remem­ber that pri­vi­le­ge is not the same as power. Alt­hough this liber­ty of whiteness might be cur­r­ent­ly a part of Ash­ken­azi-Jewish iden­ti­ty, the­se advan­ta­ges are very con­di­tio­nal by the actu­al peop­le in power.

This giving and taking of white pri­vi­le­ge is some­thing very evi­dent wit­hin Jewish histo­ry, lea­ding for it to be descri­bes as cycli­cal. One can obser­ve this phe­no­me­non mul­ti­ple times in histo­ry, when Jewish peop­le are giving some pri­vi­le­ges, which leads to a cer­tain extent of power, but as soon as any pro­blems ari­se, they are bla­med for them. So, while Jewish peop­le have aspects of pri­vi­le­ge and power this is pro­vi­sio­nal and also the­re is always a con­si­de­ra­ti­on of otherness.

In total, anti­se­mi­tism acts as a jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­on and as a tool for what white supre­macist alrea­dy want to belie­ve, which then hel­ps to uphold a sys­tem in which white peop­le and cur­r­ent­ly some Jewish peop­le can bene­fit from.

One problem can not be solved without the other

We can now see that anti­se­mi­tism is not an iso­la­ted issue, that star­ted in 1933, and ended in 1945. It is not some­thing that ran­dom­ly came into the head of a fai­led Aus­tri­an art stu­dent. It is roo­ted in the depths of white supre­ma­cy. Which is why as long we live in a sys­tem groun­ded in white supre­ma­cy, we can­not even think of sol­ving and ending anti­se­mi­tism. This know­ledge must be app­lied to almost all cur­rent issu­es of pre­ju­di­ce. Most of the pro­blems in our world do not exist as sin­gle issu­es, but they are con­stant­ly over­lap­ping, uphol­ding each other and can­not exist without each other.

We have to ack­now­ledge the­se inter­sec­tions in order to ensu­re a bet­ter future. We can­not think of them to be sol­ved by arres­ting a cou­p­le peop­le. The­se are not wrong­doings of a hand­ful of peop­le. This is injus­ti­ce by a who­le sys­tem. One can­not fight the­se issu­es alo­ne, but one must stand together!

Der BR und der SWR ver­su­chen in einem Insta­gram-Pro­jekt, die Geschich­te Sophie Schol­ls näher zu brin­gen. Das For­mat erlaubt span­nen­de Ein­bli­cke in das Gedan­ken­gut ein­ge­fleisch­ter Nazis.

Bil­der: cottonbro/Pexels und Sta­tis­ta
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