Anti-Semitism is special, according to Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt.
“It has the unique distinction of coming from the right and the left. It’s the only prejudice that comes from both sides,” Lipstadt told an audience at Washington Hebrew Congregation on Oct. 24. “[Anti-Semites say] the Jew is smarter than, richer than, more conniving than [others]. The Jew was not just to be disliked, but to be feared.”
Lipstadt, a professor of history at Emory University, discussed how anti-Semitism has evolved to the point that that extremists on both the left and right use anti-Semitic stereotypes to further their agendas.
Her talk took place days after a Washington Hebrew Congregation security guard found anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli graffiti scrawled on the back door of the synagogue and the day and the same that the American Jewish Committee released a survey that found nearly 90 percent of those interviewed think that anti-Semitism is a problem in the United States.
Lipstadt did not discuss the survey or the graffiti incident and instead focused on how right-wing extremists use stereotypes to show that Jews are taking the power rightfully meant for white Christians. For left-wing extremists, stereotypes show that Jews are more the oppressors than the oppressed.
Both views on Jews are dangerous, Lipstadt said, even if the right wing is violent.
“One is dangerous from its violence and one is dangerous from its institutionalization of anti-Semitism,” she said. “And the thing is, people who only see the anti-Semitism from the other side of the political spectrum suggests to me that they’re using it as a political weapon.”
Denying anti-Semitism on one’s own side can lead to genocide, she said. No genocide began with action. she said. Genocide begins with words. And words led to the mass shootings at the synagogues in Pittsburgh, Poway and Halle, Germany.
The shooters left nearly identical manifestos, she said. They all got their mindsets from similar sources and all targeted Jews. White supremacists, she said, blame Jews for a conspiracy to replace “white Christian society with black people, with brown people.”
Lipstadt said white supremacists believe that people of color aren’t capable of elevating themselves in society, and therefore must have gotten assistance from the Jews.
The fact that many Jews were white and how that was used against them was also discussed. Lipstadt said that white supremacists see Jews “as devils,” who are able to disguise themselves.
“Unlike the racist who punches down,” she said. “The anti-Semite punches up.”
That is the case for left-wing anti-Semites especially.
Because they believe that Jews are wealthy and powerful, Jews cannot be a marginalized group. And if they’re wealthy, they’re part of the problem, she said, adding, “They see the Jew, who is to them a white person. A wealthy person. Ipso factor [the Jew] has power.”