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History | Geography | RE | PSHE

The stubborn roots of modern anti-Semitism

Will the world ever be free of it? A new report into anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party has led to the suspension of its former leader – but some see a much more intractable problem. Heads rolled at the very top of the Labour Party yesterday as the row about anti-Semitism in its ranks raged on. The former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has now been suspended, following the publication of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into Labour and anti-Semitism. Corbyn's suspension came not because of the findings of the report, but because of his response that the scale of prejudice in Labour was "overstated for political reasons". The problem of anti-Semitism, however, is far larger than one politician or one political party. A poll by the American Anti-Defamation League suggests that up to one billion people around the world may harbour anti-Semitic views. In Britain, anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise every year for the last four years. America saw its worst ever incident of anti-Semitic violence in 2018, the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The shooter, who killed 11 people, believed that Jews, and in particular the billionaire George Soros, were responsible for encouraging immigration from Central America. Soros is also regularly attacked by anti-immigrant politicians around the world. Hungary's Prime Minister Victor Orban, for example, has passed a series of harsh anti-immigration laws colloquially referred to as the "Stop Soros" laws. Turkey's PM Tayyip Erdogan has likewise attacked Soros. The image of Soros and other rich and powerful Jews as sinister puppet masters echoes baseless claims about the Rothschild family that have been repeated since 1846. The roots of this particular form of racism run deep around the world. While Europe's most murderous bout of anti-Semitism culminated in the Holocaust, and the killing of six million Jews, the wide-spread hatred existed long before Hitler. Some argue that it will persist as a permanent part of European cultural DNA. In the middle ages, Jews in Europe were often falsely accused of monstrous crimes, now commonly referred to as blood libel. Some say that prejudices against Jews simply mutate, so each generation of anti-Semites creates the Jewish conspiracy that serves it. Jews have even been blamed for the pandemic. Fears of disloyal Jews working to undermine national identity are also eerily continuous throughout history, driving the Dreyfus Affair in 19th Century France, and the execution of the physician of Elizabeth I, Roderigo Lopez, in 1594. Many argue similar prejudices inform modern-day left-wing criticisms of Israel and of others' support for the Jewish state. When American congresswoman Illhan Omar tweeted in 2018 that US support for Israel was "all about the Benjamins", for example, her critics argued that she was repeating a version of the same tropeA recurring theme, especially in fiction. Damsels in distress, for instance, are a common trope in fairy tales and old-fashioned romances.. Some fear that all it takes is another crisis to make gentiles look to their old scapegoatA person who is made to take the blame for the wrongdoings of others. The term originates from a ceremony during the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur, in which the sins of the people were symbolically placed upon a goat. The goat was then sent into the wilderness.. Will we ever be free of anti-Semitism? Old habits We are making progress, say some. The kind of action taken today by Labour leader Keir Starmer shows a serious commitment to fighting anti-Semitism in Britain. Many people are becoming more aware of the way certain tropes emerge from the long history of anti-Semitism. The rise in anti-Semitism can be fought if people are vigilant about keeping toxic ideas and narratives out of public life. And yet there is no shortage of anti-Semites, say others. When politicians on the right repeat arguments about "cultural Marxism", as they have done in the UK, US and Australia, they are drawing on anti-Semitic tropes, even as they criticise anti-Semitism on the left. The rise of anti-Semitism is entwined with intractable global problems, for which prejudice provides easy answers that will be hard to root out. KeywordsTrope - A recurring theme, especially in fiction. Damsels in distress, for instance, are a common trope in fairy tales and old-fashioned romances.

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