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Anti-Semitism 2.0: Who are the modern anti-Semites?

by Noga Gur-Arieh

April 9, 2013 | 12:37 pm

The yellow badge, intended to be a mark of shame. Photo by Daniel Ullrich/Wikipedia.

On Sunday, our national Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel's Channel 2 aired a documentary about modern anti-Semitism. At some point, a man was interviewed, saying that the Jews are to blame for all the troubles of the world, and that "Hitler was too nice." This, like many claims of such, gave me the goosebumps, but what got me into a state of shock was the fact that this man was not a European skinhead with a swastika tattoo on his forehead, but your average Joe. An American, medium sized, wearing glasses, articulate, with a hint of shyness. At that moment I realized – this is the face of modern anti-Semitism: not criminals, but your next-door neighbor, your bus driver, your child's teacher…

I assume you, much like myself, encounter anti-Semitic comments and accusations online. They are few, but they're everywhere: in social networks, on news websites, in forums, comments or any other internet-age form. I receive such comments right here, or on Israelife's Facebook page, almost on a monthly basis, and although I got used to them, they still hit me right in the gut every single time. "What a shame Hitler didn't finish what he started;" "You stinking Jew; "It is all the Jews' fault. You are the cause of the world's sorrows." Those are all comments I received months ago, but I cannot get out of my head. I always assumed that the people behind such comments are minorities, violent European bullies whose grandparents were Nazis, who grew up on the values of hatred and terror.

This assumption kept me strong when facing these comments, because I knew that as long as I stay out of dark alleys and remember to hide my Judaism while traveling to Europe, I will be safe. I knew that they can't harm me, because the world will not let them. I knew I could trust the enlightened world to always keep those haters under control, so that the Holocaust will never happen again. I was sure that the world will remember and never forget, and keep reminding others. This assumption blew up in my face, after watching this documentary. At that moment, hope turned to fear. Certainty turned to horror. That man who said those things, he IS "the enlightened world." He is the one I counted on to not let the horrors of the Holocaust happen again. What's even more scary is that this man is not alone. There are millions like him worldwide. Normative people from normative families who truly and utterly believe that poverty, violence, the 2008 financial crisis – all the Jews' fault.

It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?! Absurd, even. But it's true. At the beginning of the 20th century, one man managed to convince a small group of people that the solutions to the world's problems is the mass destruction of people of a certain religion. That small group soon managed to convince a mass of people that were at times of trouble that what caused their problems is not the consequences of WW1, but the Jews. Soon, a nation was convinced that genocide, a mass murder of men, women and children, the Final Solution, is the best solution.

Up to this day, no one really knows just how all those people were convinced of such nonsense. How can normal people from normal families believe in this racial theory with no grip of reality. Maybe there is no logical explanation. Maybe this is simply what people do when they are in trouble- follow a charismatic man who has all the answers, ridiculous as they might be. In the beginning of the 20th century, it took this one man several years to convince a mass of people. Imagine how quickly it will take in the 21st century.

Now, in the Internet age, information passes more quickly than anyone could imagine 70 years ago. With time, Holocaust survivors are fewer, and allegations about usage of photoshop on pictures from the Holocaust become more common. Nowadays, just like in the beginning of the 20th century, the world struggles to recover from a grand financial crisis, and it seems like a major war is right around the corner. People are in trouble, and need someone to blame. That is the point where common sense disappears and the human mind is willing to absorb anything that can explain and provide a solution. That makes them believe that Jews CAN be the blame, and this belief gets constant support from online forums of Facebook groups, which also help in spreading the information to more people in no time.

Sunday's documentary opened my eyes, and left me with no hope. Only a few days ago I was positive that anti-Semitism will never rise again as the opinion of a majority. Now, after seeing that man, that American next-door neighbor, now I am scared. It was only a few years ago when anti-Semitism was something to be ashamed of and hide from the public. Now, it IS the public. I honestly don't know if we can stop this from spreading further, but we can certainly try. We must continue the vow from seven decades ago, to remember and never forget. But now, we can add another part to that oath, and not only remember, but also to share, so that others, who may already forget, remember yet again, and keep anti-Semitism where it belongs – in hiding.

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