1) “Jews will not replace us”. This was the scream of the fascist hooligans marching with pitchforks last summer through Charlottesville. Their reference is to an all-American yet simultaneously ancient conspiracy theory, the idea that the Jews were conspiring to bring in immigrant populations, empower people of colour and of course, themselves, to “replace” an amorphous “white America”. This is the theory of “White genocide” that got the irascible George Ciccariello-Maher in shit with Drexel University. The very top of the ontological totem pole for this dangerous delusion are Jews. Jews like George Soros. Jews like the people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. These Jews were working, so goes the fevered dream of the fascists, to “replace” Americans – Soros and the Synagogue were both long known for a commitment to the best of liberalism, to human rights and the assistance of refugees – including the feared Muslims and Latinx.
2) Among the dead in Pittsburgh was a 97 year old, originally, if erroneously reported as a holocaust survivor – but at the very least someone who lived through a time in which masses of Americans were Anti-Semitic, even holding Nazi rallies at Madison Square Garden. The youngest victim was 54 years old and most were in their sixties and seventies. These were all what some Jews affectionately call, in the Yiddish vernacular “alte kakers” – old shitters, literally. It is hard to imagine the unbelievable horror of specifically targeting the elders of a community, people who lived through and may well have thought they’d seen the end of organized anti-Jewish violence. Like the victims of the Mosque attacks, notably in Quebec City, or Dylan Roof’s attack on a black church in the American south, these people were killed both because of who they were and what they represented. And what they represent was and is a challenge to whiteness.
3) Jewish whiteness has never been so contingent. This may well be a bold claim, and in no way can the situation of Ashkenazi Jews worldwide or in North America in particular be compared to that of Black people, or other people of colour. Yet it must be understood that the very mechanism that ties together the Anti-Semitic violence that we’ve seen is the secularization of the Christ-Killer narrative. Instead of killing Christ, Jews are killing white America. Thus white America has to oppress those beneficiaries of Jews, such as Black people, migrants, queer folks (liberal Jews are, in the main, more queer positive than most religious communities); Muslims; Indigenous people. It doesn’t matter if, in reality, politically Jews are all over the map. The signifier “Jew” now once again stands in for those working as “enemies of the people”, in Hollywood, the media, the labour unions, the Left. All of the institutions that can be surrounded in triple parentheses. Thus, to those enemies, true enemies of people of colour, Jews are not white. Nor have we ever been.
4) Jewish cultural producers were the most visible targets of McCarthyism. We were well represented among the disappeared in Argentina and in the murderous soccer stadium massacres in Chile, as Ariel Dorfman has pointed out. Jewish civil rights workers were killed with impunity in the south in the sixties. In the United States, while violent acts against Jews became – relatively – rarer in the last 40 odd years. Politicians – shamefully including Jewish ones – started to engage in what we now call “Dog whistling”. Indeed, this was first pushed by long-time anti-Semites like Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan. While Nixon could inveigh behind closed doors about Jews in the media, Hollywood, finance and so forth, the code in public had to be “the silent majority” against the “liberal coastal elites”. These “cosmopolitans” who dug “acid, amnesty and abortion” were enabling people of colour, queers, hippies, antiwar activists and so on to have too much influence. These Jews, Nixon hinted, were trying to “replace” the good white “silent majority” in America. Or let’s not forget Ronald Reagan laying a wreath on the tombstones of dead Nazis and making a comment that they were equally victims of the Holocaust as were Jews, prefiguring Trump’s Charlottesville “both sides” rhetoric.
5) Indeed, as noted, Jews, like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that was a central node in the Pittsburgh shooters’ wild-eyed fantasies, were doing precisely what was feared by these imbibers of the “Paranoid Style in American Politics”. As Masha Gessen points out in the New Yorker, the HIAS is one of the oldest refugee settlement projects in the United States, a precursor to the mutual aid societies that continually crop up by necessity in migrant communities. Their assistance is not at all limited to Jewish people; they helped Gessen’s family escape the Soviet Union in 1981, but also helped Gessen return to America due to her queerness, in 2013. And as the Pittsburgh shooter (who I am not naming, as to name is to humanize, and this man deserves all the dehumanization humanly possible) didn’t hesitate to point out on social media networks, they were helping Muslims – they were helping “invaders”. This echoed the talking points of the President over the last few weeks.
6) Some of the Left have been most unhelpful about all of this. One prominent “shit-poster” dirt-bag leftist made light of George Soros being targeted by a bomb, saying he was a “bad billionaire”. Others have declared their sympathy for the victims of the massacre while ostentatiously adding that they didn’t support Israel. For fuck’s sake! This isn’t about Israel. To make a point of solidarity contingent upon solidarity with “good Jews”, those who understand the settler-colonial nature of Israel, is akin to predicating one’s condemnation of a mosque-bombing with the ostentatious addition of not supporting Saudi Arabia or the Islamic Republic of Iran. As someone once said, “to everything, there is a season”. It is not the season to virtue-signal about Palestine/Israel or make fun of a rich Popperite who gave money to the Ruckus Society. It is no accident that the quarters of the Left making these points – “Tankies” or “Dirt-bags” or what-not – also didn’t have much to say about Trump’s slow genocide against Transgender folks that started the prior week, and have a long history of being TERFs or at least minimizers of the violence that all queer folks experience. These forces condemn the International Woman’s Strike, reduce Black Lives Matter to “identity politics”, side with Assad in Syria… These are not our comrades. We on the Left must recognize this tendency and firmly reject it.
7) “Every brother ain't a brother cause a color / Just as well could be undercover” says Chuck D in Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome”. And every Jew, right now, needs to make a similar decision as to whether they, like the black cops in Baltimore or the intelligence agents celebrated by Spike Lee, those who repressed black liberation organizations, those who participate in police murder, want to be part of the problem. Or they can be a part of the solution. Liberal Jews who refuse to understand that you can't vote this problem away, can't just “teach the world to be more peaceful”, that you need to defend yourselves and your communities and join a movement against all oppression – and capitalism – are enabling fascists right now. But this is partially due to the fact that this is just dawning on many of us, those of us who have lived with whiteness. Many of us have forgotten the credo of Never Again. Many more of us have supported movements of the oppressed but downplayed our Jewish backgrounds and assumed as second nature that Anti-Semitism was a thing of the past.
8) I grew up in a time in which I was told that this kind of thing was over. I’d go to the Christie Pits in my hometown of Toronto, and learn about how Jews like me, alongside our Italian comrades, got into a rumble with the local fascists and kicked their butts. But this was a thing of the past. Now my nephews and nieces are going to have to find out the world around them isn’t quite as safe as they may have been led to believe. A comrade who grew up in India told me, in hearing this, that this reminded her of growing up in a Naxalite household in India, always afraid for her safety and that of her friends and family. No one should have to live in fear. No holocaust survivor should be massacred. No Jewish financier like George Soros should be targeted with bombs. No Jewish presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders should be dog-whistled about by Hillary Clinton and even centrist and liberal Jews. No Jewish Anti-Zionist should be singled out by right-wing Jews and called “Jew boy” as once happened to me. No Jewish broadcasters like Wolf Blitzer should be emphasizing that “this must hurt the president” because of his son-in-law and grandchildren. The Forward and Canadian Jewish News should stop printing the words of the alt-right elements within the Jewish community itself. Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli state should not be endangering Jews worldwide with their embrace of Orban and backing of Anti-Soros conspiracy theories. Jewish people need to pick a side right now. Socialism or barbarism. Survival or perishing. A good start, as a comrade points out, is that they could start with just refusing to collaborate with right-wing Jewish organizations and individuals on anything, ejecting them from Jewish community spaces on the basis of basic safety and principles. These right wing Jews, stoned on Islamophobia, make common cause with our enemies. These right wing Jews basically imply “the holocaust was 70 years ago, today our enemy is the Muslims”. When it is objective truth that Jews are targeted by Islamophobes, and indeed, this Synagogue was attacked because it was seen as helping Muslim “invaders”. Socialism or barbarism indeed.
9) In the same week as these fascistically inspired bomb-threats against politicians, ex-spies and the media, starting with the ultimate “rootless cosmopolitan” Soros, and capped off with a shooting spree at a Synagogue, the White House Council of Economic Advisers put out an absurd report on the rise in popularity of socialism. This has evoked laughter far outside of socialist circles – the report is absurd. But is it so absurd if we think of it as a signifier? At the very least the ostentatious mention of Marx, and his two-hundredth birthday seems to give a nod to the “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory so beloved by so many on the right, and not just gun-toting yahoos. Of course, the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory, of the Frankfurt School’s secret plan to indoctrinate Americans or some such bullshit, is root-and-branch Anti-Semitism. Indeed, it is explicitly related to the original Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the modern age – those that blamed the Jews and their pawns in Freemasonry and the Illuminati for the French Revolution. This viewpoint became widespread in Europe in the 19th century, even among ostensible leftists like Proudhon and led directly to the Dreyfus affair in France. The modern instantiation, with Jewish scholars using the academy to “indoctrinate” the youth is just a modern version of the same theory, with universities as stand-ins for Masonic Lodges. In the classic days of Anti-Communism and Anti-Socialism, whether during the Paris Commune, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Spanish Civil war and anti-fascist struggles, if you scratched an anti-communist, you’d find an Anti-Semite. And these anti-semites didn’t care what your line was on the Moscow trials, if you were a Bundist or a Menshevik or a Trot or an Anarchist. All were rooted in the Jewish conspiracy. Indeed Stalin himself, in attacking the opposition and destroying the early dream of Soviet democracy, regularly called upon Anti-Semitic tropes when attacking Trotskyists, for example. But in the main, outside of the Soviet Union, many Jewish people were – and are – socialists of one form or another. This is why most Jewish people stood in solidarity with the persecuted Rosenbergs during the early days of the Cold War. And this is why, in the same week, the Trump White House declares themselves “nationalists” they also declare war on socialism. With assistance of course, from hofjudden (Court Jews) like Miller and Mnuchin, Capos the both of them.
10) So we are in an atmosphere in which the world view of the leadership of the United States, and thus a significant portion of its population, is informed by Anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. Is it any wonder they are attacking us?
Jordy Cummings is a Judeo-Bolshevik conspirator. He holds a PhD from York University in Toronto. He is a cultural critic, writer and labour activist and a member of the Red Wedge editorial collective.