Denying antisemitism

In July 2004 the Bolton Street Jewish cemetery in Wellington was vandalized – headstones smashed and swastikas graffitied on the ground. The day before, two Israelis, possibly Mossad agents, had been sentenced to prison for attempting to steal identities of New Zealand citizens. The attack on the cemetery was likely a response to the Israeli men’s crime, by antisemites who believe that all Jews should be held responsible for the Israeli state’s actions.

A few days later, a TV news program interviewed Nick Miller, a White supremacist and member of the National Front. Miller denied having anything to do with the vandalism at the cemetery. He suggested an alternative explanation, that Jews had vandalized the cemetery themselves, to generate “sympathy for their countrymen”.

The idea that Jews invent antisemitism, to make ourselves look like victims and thus deflect attention from our supposed control of the banks/media/entire world, is popular with antisemites. But I don’t expect to hear it from other Jews.

On Tuesday, The Australian published an article about protests against White supremacist Milo Yiannopoulos’ public talk in Melbourne:

Felicity Perry, a 33-year-old university administrator, was walking through the gathering Melbourne dusk towards the Flemington Railway station when she heard the chant. “Auschwitz–Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, -Buchenwald, Dachau.”

At first, she thought she’d misheard. Then she turned and looked at the faces of the men glaring at her, chanting in unison. “Auschwitz–Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau.” She hadn’t misheard. There was no mistake; only a hatred deeper than Perry, a woman readily identifiable as Jewish, could have imagined.

You’d think that Jewish supporters of Yiannopoulos would publicly condemn this sort of thing, but instead they’ve responded by attacking Perry on social media, accusing her of making up the entire story to fuel some kind of leftist political agenda.

I’ve known Felicity since we were 20 (we started a feminist collective in her bedroom back in 2004). I don’t always agree with her, but I’ve never known her to be a liar, and I definitely haven’t known her to be cruel. It would take immense cruelty to tell lies that make Jews feel unsafe in public.

Besides, antifascist Jews have no reason to make false allegations of antisemitism from right-wing extremists. For us, bigotry against Aboriginals and Muslims is enough reason to oppose the right. We don’t need to be the targets of racism to know that racism is wrong.

Felicity’s story is just one more example of what we already know: aligning ourselves with White supremacy will not protect us from antisemitism.

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