Multimedia on antisemitism, racism, and white nationalism

Livestream video: Antisemitism in America, with Eric Ward, Derek Black, and Dove Kent, moderated by Ilana Kaufman. Presented by the Marlene Myerson JCC in Manhattan, in conjunction with The Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility and in partnership with the American Jewish Historical Society and Facing History and Ourselves. (January, 2019)

Podcast: Eric Ward & Dove Kent — Antisemitism, White Supremacy and White Nationalism: Charting a Path Forward. IKAR event, March 2018

Video: Resisting Antisemitism: Past and Present, Global and Local, Swarthmore College Conference Presentation, September 2018

Video: Breaking The Antisemitism Cycle Through Solidarity, “Speak Torah to Power” series, presented by Avodah, 2018 (Password: Dove)

Booklet: Understanding Antisemitism: An Offering to Our Movement
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice

Full text of talk at Resisting Antisemitism Conference at Swarthmore College:

  • If there is just one thing that I want to offer to this conversation, it is this: Resisting antisemitism is fundamentally connected to resisting all oppressions. It is deeply connected to resisting fascism, resisting racism, Islamophobia and economic exploitation.
  • Any conversation about antisemitism that isolates it’s source from the fundamental building blocks of all oppression or isolates it’s resistance from the liberation of all peoples is misguiding us and confusing us.
  • We’re not going to be able to fight the rise of current day antisemitism in the United States or elsewhere without fighting the systems of white supremacy, Christian supremacy, and capitalism that underpin it.
  • And the only way that we will be able to take on these systems is through deep relationships of solidarity with other oppressed groups.
  • There is, unfortunately, a long history of Jews seeking safety by getting close to power and hiding under the wings of powerful white, Christian leaders. But this has never been a long term solution to our safety.
  • There is, however, also a long history of Jews building deep solidarity with other targeted communities, against facist regimes and economic exploitation. It is in this tradition that we must place ourselves today.
  • Building real solidarity is not easy. And it’s particularly hard when so many of us are confused about the nature of antisemitism. So why do we get so confused? Why do we think that antisemitism is somehow distinct and separate from other oppressions? How is it that we are are led to believe that resisting antisemitism can happen without dismantling white supremacy and capitalism?
  • One reason is that antisemitism serves as an explanation for power inequality. It is used to obscure social and economic power.
  • All oppressions function differently to keep power in place. They are not just about hate and bigotry. Each oppression tells a story about a people that dehumanizes them, sets them up for targeting or exploitation, and uses them to perpetuate systems of social and economic inequality. And each of the stories work together to reinforce each other and keep us separated and exploited.
  • Antisemitism tells the story that Jews are the ones really in power.
  • It offers a seemingly rational explanation for an increasingly irrational world. The system of global capitalism, the workings of the global economy are very complicated. The multiplicity of reasons behind people’s economic suffering is not particularly easy to explain. It is far easier to believe that a specific group of people are pulling the puppet strings behind your suffering.
  • In this way, antisemitism looks different from other oppressions in that it punches up. That’s confusing for people.
  • But it’s also how it antisemitism forms the backbone of far-right populism in our country and contributes to a right wing capitalist agenda.
  • Current far-right populist narratives claim Jews are in control of the U.S. government. This supports the right wing agenda of de-legitimizing government as a force. It leads to increased distrust of government and the subsequent defunding and hollowing out government services, thereby creating the reality of a government that doesn’t serve the people.
  • Capitalists are strangling the state. There is a structural arm and a vigilante arm. Antisemitism contributes to both.
  • The fact that antisemitism punches up makes all of this hard for many of us to see. And when these mechanisms are hidden, then our ability to organize together against them is threatened.
  • Another way that antisemitism looks different from other oppressions, and a reason that we are taught out of connecting antisemitism to other oppressions, is that antisemitism has been cyclical over time.
  • While racism has been a consistent social and economic force for well over 700 years, antisemitism flares up depending on the social and economic climate. Like I mentioned above, we particularly see it in times of increased economic suffering. This helps us to understand why we are seeing a flare up in today’s changing economic climate, in the US and in Europe.
  • Narratives we hear now — that say that Jews are behind increased immigration and job loss, that Jews are behind the neoliberal policies that have taken jobs overses — the story that was behind the chants in Charlottesville — “Jews will not replace us” — these are narratives we weren’t seeing much in public discourse a few decades ago when people were feeling more secure finanically or hopeful in their family’s economic futures.
  • The ebb and flow of visible, vocal antisemitism is confusing for many of us, particularly when so many other oppressions are consistently deadly. That’s why it’s important for us to see the ways in which it’s seeming “reemergence” plays a consistent role of targeting Jews in support of white supremacy and economic inequity
  • So many on the social movement left are confused about antisemitism, and we are seeing the reasons behind this and the impacts of that confusion. I want to turn now for a moment ot the threats that this poses to us.
  • The most threatening way that antisemitism is being utilized is by white nationalist movements, asserting these myths used for generations by far-right parties and governments that Jews are secretly plotting to undermine the fabric of society.
  • In this current iteration, white nationalist theories say we’re doing it through propping up Black and Brown people to cause unrest in the streets, creating porous, dangerous borders for violent immigrants to come, and creating an international financial web that is draining jobs from white, Christian Americans.
  • These stories about Jews are being used to support white supremacist policies against immigrants, refugees and people of color.
  • I’m going to leave more of the details of this area to the expert here, Eric Ward.
  • But what I want to note is the way that these ideas have spread out well beyond white nationalist inner circles, and are being used to buttress wider white supremacy and capitalist agendas.
  • An example over the last several years, is in the stories told about the Movement for Black Lives. Donald Trump and others have claimed that Black Lives Matter and other Black liberation organizers are in the streets as “paid protesters” supported by “Soros money” to “cause unrest.” An obvious way in which white nationalist ideas about Jews and about Black people are permeating out into wider culture and being used to undermine social movements.
  • Maybe just shy of the white nationalists, we’ve got Wayne LaPierre, chief officer of the NRA, who said in a speech earlier this year that the United States is under threat from socialism, particularly through the “social engineering of people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer.” It’s very common for Jewish billionaires, or billionaires of Jewish descent, to be referenced by name as the people plotting for the destruction of the United States. Notably, these three that are being blamed for a socialist takeover are unequivocally capitalists, and are also major donors to the Democratic Party. This is an example of antisemitism being used by the Right to take a punch at the Center, but under the guise of punching Left. And, this being a message from the NRA, it’s an example of the Right using antisemitism to put all of our communities in increased danger.
  • Connected to these dangers is another threat we must confront internally as a Jewish community — with the goal of building safety, some segments of the American Jewish community are aligning themselves with those people pushing a white supremacist and capitalist agenda.
  • Like I mentioned before, Jews have had a multitude of strategies for seeking safety throughout our history. Sometimes that looks like getting close to power and hiding under the wings of powerful white, Christian leaders.
  • In the current momen, that has led some American Jews into dangerous alliances.
  • Some segments of American Jewry are turning a blind eye to the blatant antisemitism of political candidates or elected officials who align with white nationalists because they express support for Israel. Some American Jews are happy to receive support from Christian Zionists who have antisemitism baked into their theology because they give finanical support to Israel. There are even some American Jews building alliances with Christian nationalists — people who believe that the United States should be a legally Christian country — because they are also pushing for privatization that serves their economic interests.
  • There are many dangers here. The one I want to focus on is that these segments of the Jewish community are building alliances that threaten our long term safety and the safety of other oppressed communities, and support the right wing movements that rely on and feed antisemitism, and ultimately undermine our solidarity with other targeted communities.

So what does resistance look like?

  • Returning to where I started, a devastating impact of oppression is the way it leads us to believe that our interests and our communities are at odds or in competition. In order to successfully fight the rise of fascism in the United States, we need to overcome this lie whenever it arises.
  • Racism and antisemitism exploit racial and ethnic differences, and promote class anxiety and fear of political persecution. Historically and currently, both have been used to prevent the emergence of multi-class, multi-racial and multi-ethnic mass movements.
  • We can look back and see how this was used very effectively during McCarthyism. Post WWII, during the start of the Cold War — McCarthyism was a push by conservative politicians to weed out Communists in the US that had a chilling impact on what was a robust Left and labor movement. It scared a generation of Jewish radicals into silence, and it also broke the ties between radical Jewish and non-Jewish Black organizers that might have been able to preserve alliances between Jewish and Black communities in the 1960s and 1970s. McCarthyism used political and economic persecution and state violence to destroy the organizations that could facilitate those relationships.
  • But we have always been building and re-building those relationships. Because the only way to combat these attacks and manipulations is relationships of solidarity. And these relationships take years to build.
  • Let’s be clear — solidarity is not easy. It is challenging, it is trying. It’s putting the time in together year after year after year and showing up for each other when we get targeted.
  • It is facing disappointments in each other and fighting to connect with one another again and again. It’s not leaving the table when things get hard.
  • Many of us don’t understand the inner workings of the oppression that each other faces. We have a lot of assumptions, but often we don’t fully understand. So that’s why this work is so long term. For us as Jews, building relationships of solidarity requires that we are able to discern who are the potential allies that we need to educate about antisemitism, and who are the people for whom antisemitism is so intrinsic to their ideology that its impossible to separate.
  • This is where there is a difference between the antisemitism of the right and antisemitism of the left. In the US at this moment, antisemitism animates the right, while it is an optional feature of the left. There is a fair amount of political education that we need to do to bring our non-Jewish allies in close with us. That’s part of the work.
  • When we put in that long term work of showing up for each other, all of us — Jews and non-Jews — we can be part of the project of forging a new story of collective safety, built on relationships and mutual solidarity that takes away the power of the right-wing to use our history against us.