Theater of Cruelty

To those who want to fight anti-Semitism

THE HOLOCUS CENTER / Anti-Semitism is no joke. It seems generally accepted that outbreaks of war and conflict in the Israel-Palestine relationship covariate with the frequency of registered anti-Semitic manifestations.


Jew-hatred has deep roots. Long before Hitler came to power, "Jew" was an insult in many cultures. That this is precisely related to Nazi Germany, is of course due to the industrial killing machine that degenerated in the 1930s and 1940s. But already Father Luther left behind texts that can be compared to Goebbels' propaganda machine, a legacy Lutherans have had to struggle with for hundreds of years.

Both Eastern and Western Europe cast deep shadows in the gruesome history of anti-Semitism.

I remember with an involuntary comic tinge that while traveling in Poland in the 1980s on one and the same day among communists I heard reference to the "Solidarność Jews" and a little later that Solidarność activists talked about the "Communist Jews"!

"Jew" seemed to have become an integral insult in the Polish language in line with genitals and other ugliness. That I in Warsaw and Gdansk, with Jahn Otto Johansens Poor Jewish mom (1980) as a guidebook, went in search of overgrown Jewish cemeteries, was overlooked with light smiles. A strange Norwegian – he wasn't even Jewish!

And I remember my own grandmother who had taken food parcels to the prisoners of war outside Lillehammer during the war, but who could easily talk about a person who was "stingy like a Jew". Our vocabulary was also infected.

Jeremy Corbyn and Jostein Gaarder

"Knowledge of the Holocaust is the basis for the entire activities of the HL-senteret", it says on the website of the Norwegian Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Minorities, the HL-senteret.

Jewish Voice for Peace strongly disagrees with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

A recurring theme for the work on anti-Semitism at the center is the relationship between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. In a European context, they find that "55% of Jews believe that Israel is an aspect of Jewish identity". And, as HL researchers say on the website, "for many years there has been a heated debate about the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attitudes". It is worth noting that a full 45 percent do not support the claim, it is explained.

Scientists Werner Bergman og Rainer Erb at the HL center believes that criticism of Israel today functions as a hidden anti-Semitism, since the negative reactions to criticism of Israel are milder than to undisguised Jew-hatred. Anti-Semites thus get away with their anti-Semitism more easily by criticizing Israel than by going directly at the individual Jew. But such an understanding leads to problems, Bergmann timely adds, when it is established that almost all criticism of Israel is understood as anti-Semitism.

The historian Daniel Brecher goes, according to Bergmann, one step further, by talking about "the Israelization of the understanding of antisemitism". Anti-Semitism is being Israelified.

But the debate is sometimes conducted with, at best, strange argumentation. As when Bergmann points out that in Great Britain "accusations were made" against the Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn that "he had ignored antisemitism in Labour". In the same way, Bergmann believes that the Norwegian author Jostein Gaarders stated something that "was seen as examples of how criticism of Israel went too far" and turned into anti-Semitism.

Jostein Gaarder

"Accusations" against Corbyn, and that Gaarder who "was seen as..." suddenly become truths, into "examples". Corbyn and Gaarder were no longer just accused of, but allegedly having carried out, anti-Semitic acts.

Star of David and apartheid state

It seems generally accepted that outbreaks of war and conflict in the Israel-Palestine relationship co-vary with the frequency of registered anti-Semitic manifestations. Vibeke Moe at the HL center stated on 9 May this year to the newspaper Vårt Land that "there is a connection between Israel and Jews in general, which means that Jews are held responsible for Israeli conditions". She believes that "this connection helps to justify anti-Semitic attitudes and actions".

The Holocaust Center

An under-communicated challenge is the question of the ties between Israel as a state and all the world's Jews. Many Jewish groups, including Orthodox groups, object to claims that all Jews have a duty to support Israel, no matter what. They do not like that the Star of David, to which so much emotion, so much suffering and pride is attached after the ravages of the Nazis and the atrocities of the concentration camps, has become the flag of the State of Israel. The term "The Jewish State of Israel" and the new laws that treat Jews and non-Jews differently are elements of human rights organizations' conclusions that the State of Israel is today an apartheid state.

It is irresponsible to regard these conditions as irrelevant if one wants to wage a credible fight against anti-Semitism. It is not without reason that growing Jewish groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, takes a strong stand against Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists and organizations, and that many leading authorities, media and organizations attempt to stifle such protests by using the "working definitions" of antisemitism (drafted by IHRA, see separate case) to identify anti-Semitism and anti-Semites.

In the UK, use of the IHRA definitions has degenerated. And academia protests against political interference in their academic freedom. Fortunately, we have been spared this in Norway.



But in Germany, large groups have risen up in protest against the use of anti-Semitic labeling on this basis. Inna Michaeli at the Open Democracy website reported on 20 May 2021 that a culture that uncritically demands that Jews support the Jewish state of Israel has led to, for example, solidarity demonstrations for Palestinians being registered as anti-Semitic. Michaeli herself determined that the demonstrations she investigated were completely devoid of anti-Semitism. She writes that these demonstrations had nothing to do with Jews at all. Rather, she says, the accusations of anti-Semitism are expressions of "racism towards Palestinians, Muslims and migrants across Europe".

"Jews are held responsible for Israeli conditions."

It is therefore appropriate, as Vårt Land writes in a leading position on 9 May this year, that "no Jew [...] should be held responsible for the actions of the State of Israel". And it is worthy of note that the newspaper continues by saying that society's responsibility "also involves clarifying the distance between the State of Israel's politics and Jewish faith and religion".

This is a good starting point to make it easier to distance ourselves from a sea of ​​abuses against Palestinians, theft of land, violations of international law and of UN resolutions that the state of Israel has been guilty of. Much remains to be done here.

Recognizing that these abuses affect the individual Jew in the form of anti-Semitic attitudes and actions directed at them is also part of the toolbox of those who want to fight anti-Semitism.

John Y. Jones
John Y. Jones
Cand. Philol, freelance journalist affiliated with MODERN TIMES

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