On August 29, Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay reposted a video on Twitter of George Soros being interviewed by Chrystia Freeland when she was still a journalist. The tweet implied that Soros was controlling Freeland and the Liberal party, as well as the media. A few days later, on CBC’s Power and Politics show, there was a panel regarding Erin O’Toole’s recent ascent to the conservative leadership being connected to the rise of the social conservatives within the party. One of the questions asked during the panel was whether or not Findlay’s tweet should be taken seriously. Two of the panellists said no. They believed that since it was a tweet, it was harmless. Only one panellist acknowledged the severity of the social media platform and it’s rise of hateful speech.
These two actions stood out to me as a Jewish woman living in 2020. The panellists’ flippant reactions to the tweet represent the normalization of anti-Semitism today. This acceptance of anti-Semitism undertone messages can be linked to QAnon, that capitalizes on an old anti-Semitic myth once used by Hitler in his rise to power and in the Holocaust.
QAnon is a right-wing conspiracy theory that promotes the idea of the “Elders of Zion,” a myth that is drawn from a fraudulent document, titled Protocols of the Elders of Zion, made in 1903 that dictates the world is being run by old, rich, white, Jewish men who control the cabal of the Liberal parties. QAnon’s theory is often portrayed as President Donald Trump waging a war against pedophiles in the government, business, and media. However, this is based on the theory of Jews being pedophiles who eat children, which can also be found in Hitler’s propaganda. The theory, started in 2017, also dictates that Hollywood actors and democratic politicians are pedophiles who run a sex trafficking ring in the U.S. This QAnon theory, however outlandish it seems, has become a staple in far-right politics. The belief has adapted to fit into 2020’s political landscape, where President Donald Trump is seen as the only person brave enough to stand up against this liberal cabal.
Unfortunately, this stereotype of Jews controlling the world is much more nuanced than its promotion by right-wing groups. The left has a problem with anti-Semitism too. The silence from the left when Nick Cannon made anti-Semitic comments, which implied the Jewish people controlled the world, was palpable. The severity of those remarks suggested that even QAnon’s theories are reaching the left. It might be coming in the form of Israeli politics and accusations of media control, but the left is not immune to hate speech. The left party criticizes the Israeli policies that discriminate Palestinians, the annexation of the West Bank, the illegal settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption, the oppression of Muslims in Israel, and the racism that Black Jews face within Israel. These are all significant human rights issues within Israel that are warranted of political criticism. However, the criticism turns anti-Semitic when it runs along the lines of all Jews having a kinship to Israel, associating the two, and assuming that all Jews support Israel and the government.
The impact of normalizing anti-Semitism by living in silence as these despicable myths are normalized, furthers the idea that being Jewish is to be a supporter of Israeli politics. And frankly, it didn’t surprise me. A survey published in September 2020, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that “almost a quarter of respondents [Americans aged 18 to 39] (23 per cent) said they believed the Holocaust was a myth or had been exaggerated, or they weren’t sure. One in eight (12 per cent) said they had definitely not heard or didn’t think they had heard about the Holocaust.” These findings are extremely disturbing, given the Hitler-esque politics of Trump.
Furthermore, QAnon promotes the assumption that Jews, who are mainly of European descent, capitalize on power and money. This stereotype is anti-Semitic. It has its origins in the Catholic Church, which forced Jewish people to work with money. This myth stretched far back into the renaissance and can even be found in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Hitler and many other leaders, capitalized on this stereotype and used it to justify the violent expulsion of Jews from Eastern and Western Europe, including some of my family members. This stereotype has prevailed in modern times and is present in Harry Potter through the goblin caricatures with their big noses and stinginess. This build-up of Jewish stereotypes formed through centuries gave ammunition to the idea that Jews are stingy, money-loving people. However, this stereotype remains strong today.
By not acknowledging the role that Jews have played in abolitionist movements and, instead, creating the narrative that Jews control the media, Western society is normalizing a notion that should never be normalized. One cannot preach to standing up to injustices yet remain silent on anti-Semitism. The association between Jews and Israel has become a justification for anti-Semitic slurs from both the left and the right.
While many Jewish people are successful today, it is not an understatement to say that Jewish people face hardships and discrimination too. In this age, Western society strongly opposes hate speech and hate crimes. Every day, on Instagram, I see people supporting victims of injustices, as it should be. Yet, when an anti-Semitic event happens, the silence stings. Keeping quiet about these injustices and minimizing hate speech to “just a tweet” fails to uphold society’s modern ethics. Twitter spreads conspiracy theories, using anti-Semitic language. Trump is a large symptom of this. He did not create this theory but has normalized it into American politics. He promotes the idea of Jewish people having dual loyalty to Israel. He uses anti-Semitic language, such as using the term “Shifty Schiff,” which invokes the old Jewish stereotype of Jewish people being manipulative money-lovers.
In 2020, young adults have begun speaking about the injustices faced by minority groups, influenced by the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racism seen in politics and in the daily lives of many people in the global North and South.
However, the responsibility seems to stop when anti-Semitic comments or actions take place. This might be due to the assumption that Jewish people and Israel are linked; thus, making all Jews responsible for the horrific human rights crimes committed by the Israeli government against Palestinians. Yet, one must learn to criticize Israel politically without being anti-Semitic. Israel and the Jewish people are not one entity, but rather separate entities. This might be shocking, but most Jewish people do not support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s annexation of Palestine, nor do they engage in Israeli loyalty above one’s country. This not to say, however, that people can engage in hate toward those who are Zionists or that supporting Israel is to equate it with Jewish people. These are both anti-Semitic tropes and can further endanger the life of Jewish people.
In an age where hateful rhetoric and injustice are being called out, we can not be silent and allow anti-Semitism practices to continue.