The duality of antisemitism

Taylor Levy
June 28, 2022

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks cited antisemitism as the world’s oldest hatred. Antisemitism alters its mask to fit the current era, with old tropes are dug up and rebranded to fit the current social environment. These tropes are often contradictory in nature; in the modern era, Jews are accused of being world-controlling oppressors while painted as weak subhumans.

Der Strürmer, a Nazi-era paper, was full of these tropes. A publication from February 1944, “The World Bank,” depicted a hook-nosed Jew playing the flute, surrounded by a dollar sign and a hammer and sickle. The cartoon suggested Jews seek to control the world through money and communism. Other publications from Der Strürmer depicted Jews as serpents or rodents.

Der Strürmer, Germany. A hook-nosed Jews plays the flute with a dollar sign and hammer and sickle in the background, suggesting that Jews controlled the Communist institution through money.

Over 70 years later, the same trope from Der Strümer was deployed against Canadian Jews. In 2019, the Edmonton Journal published a cartoon depicting a hook-nosed man inside of a wallet. The caricature is reminiscent of antisemitic cartoons, which depicted Jews as dirty with large noses and ears.

Edmonton Journal, Canada. A Jewish caricature with a hooked nose and black beard sits inside a wallet, hacking and leaking data from Capital One.

Though decades apart, the Der Strümer and Edmonton Journal cartoons are remarkably similar. Through the use of hooked noses, serpents and rodents, these cartoons suggest that Jews are creatures which have caused them to be controlling, oppressive individuals. Both publications imply Jews are money-hungry and seek to control others through finances while being othered. As a result, Jews are portrayed as weak and oppressed while simultaneously slandered as controlling masterminds.

The dual trope of antisemitism isn’t limited to Jews being both inhuman and oppressors of the world. It can appear as Jews being deceitful criminals who are able to control the world, often through barbaric acts. This trope suggests that Jews are low-life felons who are able to manipulate the world through their global power. The crimes are unpunished as Jews are at once controlling the law and breaking it.

Accusations of greenwashing and pinkwashing leveled against Israel make use of this trope. Instead of asserting that Jews are subhumans who control the world, Jews turn into the criminal offenders who are capable of evading punishment due to their grip on society. Rather than being subhuman, Jews commit inhumane acts, while still controlling the world.

These allegations claim Israel celebrates its environmentalism and LGBTQ+ community to project a progressive image and cover human rights abuses against Palestinians. This argument suggests when Israeli Jews do good, it is only to conceal their supposed crimes; Jews are able to get away with these crimes because of their world influence.

This trope isn’t limited to progressive circles. Far-right conspiracies suggest American Jewish members of Congress lobby on behalf of the Israeli government. Majorie Taylor Greene accused Jews of creating the California wildfires with space lasers. Again, the cruel acts perpetrated by Jews suggest that they seek to oppress the world by creeping their way into American politics.

Both the far-left and the far-right have branded Jews as unable to face discrimination because Jews are oppressors who control the world. Right-wing conspiracy theorist David Icke praised the writings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion extensively in his book, And the Truth Shall Set You Free. His book holds that the protocols are authentic, suggesting a global Jewish conspiracy to destroy the white race by controlling the world. Writer Alice Walker has praised Icke’s book and upheld these conspiracy theories. All the while, there are record-setting increases in antisemitism in the US and Canada.

Israel’s neighboring countries have frequently posted Jews as both subhuman and in control of the world. Because these cartoons are political commentary on US-Israel relations, they demonize both Israeli and American Jews.

Al-Watan, Oman. A US representative says “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” while a Jewish man with a large nose stands behind him with the thumbs up, suggesting that he is controlling the US-Israel relationship.
Al-Raya, Qatar. A caricature of a Jewish man drinks from goblets that read “massacres” and “the Palestinian people,” alluding to the age-old blood libel where Jews drink the blood of those they murder. Cartoons of this nature frequently appear in Qatari media.

The inherent contradiction makes these tropes difficult to spot. It is challenging to comprehend the fallacy that Jews — 0.2% of the world’s population — are able to control the world, especially if they are seen as a member of a different, lesser race as these two beliefs appear mutually exclusive.

The universality of this trope has enabled both the far-left, far-right and anti-Israel bodies to deploy this conspiracy through the use of cartoons, political statements and accusations. In order to combat antisemitism in its various forms, we must first be able to recognize it — including when the different forms target Jews.

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