Comment: Antisemitism is an ideology, not a grievance

Hatred of Jews is coupled with hatred of the freedoms that characterise modernity and secular democracies


The horrific terrorist attacks in Copenhagen over the weekend, following those in Paris last month, reveal the deep hatred of liberal modernity that lies at the heart of antisemitism.

In both cities, the murders of Jews followed violent assaults on free speech. In Paris, cartoonists were killed for having dared to depict Muhammad as they depict countless other people. In Copenhagen, simply the act of discussing the right to depict Muhammad in that way was sufficient to attract the terrorists’ bullets.

There is little value in trying to find a rational explanation for this murderous irrationality. Instead, true explanations lie in an understanding of irrational ideologies and their use of antisemitism.

As Martin Kramer wrote about a different terrorist atrocity against Diaspora Jews over twenty years ago, ‘only someone persuaded of the existence of a world Jewish conspiracy against Islam’ could imagine that killing Jews in the Diaspora will benefit Palestinians.

Similarly, only someone who sees a Jewish plot behind every perceived ill that befalls Muslims and Islam could move so smoothly from killing cartoonists to killing Jews.

There has been much debate over whether Europe is the arena for a ‘new antisemitism’, different from the old fascist or ultra-nationalist versions that arose in Europe from the late 19th century and gripped much of the continent during the 20th. In this theory, the new antisemitism emanates from minority communities rather than indigenous elites and is focused on Israel rather than individual Jews.

In fact, the jihadist murders in Paris and Copenhagen show that the new antisemitism is not so different from the old. Hatred of Jews is coupled with hatred of the freedoms that characterise modernity and secular democracies, all wrapped together by conspiracy theories.

Cambridge historian (and official historian of MI5) Christopher Andrew warned, correctly, that:

“We cannot understand what al-Qaeda think they are fighting against and what they mean by ‘Jews and Crusaders’ unless we explore their conspiracy theories.”

Andrew suggested a decade ago that intelligence agencies should appoint an ‘Officer for Fanaticism and Conspiracy Theory’.

We cannot understand jihadist murders of Jews unless we appreciate that antisemitism is an ideology, not a grievance.

It is easy to call the publication of Muhammad cartoons ‘provocative’, as Hugh Muir did for the Guardian, or to ascribe the murder of European Jews to anger over Palestine, as Seamus Milne did in the same paper after Paris.

Easy, and perhaps comforting, but also wrong.

This is ‘slaughter as political protest’,  Muir tells us. The idea that jihadist terrorism is simply an overheated, misguided expression of a legitimate or understandable ‘protest’ is too superficial an explanation for mass murder.

For sure, anger over Palestine is deeply held, but most who hold it do not attack Jews as a result. Similarly, many Muslims dislike depictions of their Prophet but few kill as a result.

Muir’s admonishment not to be ‘provocative’ by publishing cartoons of Muhammad is even more troubling. For by this logic, continuing to be Jewish in Europe, to visit synagogues or kosher shops, is also ‘provocative’. When faced with jihadist murderers bent on killing Jews, everyday Jewish life becomes ‘provocative’.

Better to recognise that jihadists have assaulted Europe’s core values and also highlighted the reluctance of some to stand by those values. “With rights to free speech come responsibilities”, Muir writes. Sometimes one of those responsibilities is the responsibility to defend the right of free speech against those who would remove it through the barrel of a gun.

Jews are often described as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ of Europe: the early warning of toxins circulating in society that will bring disaster for all. This is not a particularly edifying analogy. The miners’ canaries, after all, were supposed to die first in order to save the lives that really mattered.

There is a deeper truth to the analogy, though. Secular liberal democracy has proven itself to be the best guarantor of religious freedoms and the most hospitable type of society for minorities of all kinds. Jews have enough experience of all the various political systems in Europe’s history to know this fact better than most.

Free speech, with all the risk of offence that it brings, is essential for the protection of minority rights. It is part of the price we pay for our freedom. The best way to ensure that Jews have a future in Europe is to ensure that secular, liberal, democratic Europe has a future of its own.

Dave Rich is deputy director of communications at the Community Security Trust (CST)

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31 Responses to “Comment: Antisemitism is an ideology, not a grievance”

  1. Nabilam Nabilam

    israheili intel is running a worldwide propaganda op with

    its agents running stories about “rising tide of anti semitism”. but

    it is all a lie, just propaganda designed to get sympathy for the “poor

    jews, i.e. zionist thugs” who are committing mass murder in gaza. Just google:

    tide of anti semitism…………you can see the operation for yourself.

    Second, see the link below for an example of the zio mafia trying to turn
    legitimate ciritism of israheil into a crime. under their definition saying
    “that sure was horrible of israheil to mass kill all those kids last
    summer” or “israheil killng all those kids in gaza reminded me of the
    warsaw ghetto” would be hate speech and therefore a crime.


  2. Leon Wolfeson

    Thanks for helping prove the article entirely correct.

  3. Anthony

    I was very encouraged reading this article until I got to the end and saw who wrote it. I was encouraged because (it seemed) here was a non-Jewish writer with a clear understanding of antisemitism and the conspiracy-theory that underpins it. But of course I was wrong because again it falls to a Jewish organisation to make this point. I appreciate Left Foot Forward for providing a platform but why does it need a member of CST to make these points?

    Aside from leaving me feeling that Jews stand more or less alone on antisemitism there is another, more serious, reason to be disappointed. The truth is that the conspiracy lie that Jews secretly do or seek to run the world certainly lies at the heart of modern antisemitism. Yet essentially the same conspiracy lie is widely pushed couched in terms of Israel or Zionists. George Galloway got very upset on Question Time that people felt that he was responsible for antisemitism. Yet he was on Press TV giving his “theory” that when chemical weapons were used in Syria it was Israel that secretly supplied those weapons to Al Qaeda ( Once we recognise that belief in a ludicrous global Jewish conspiracy underpins antisemitism then let’s also recognise that belief in a ludicrous global Israeli/Zionist conspiracy is exactly the same!

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    Quite. For example, if there was that sort of conspiracy, I’d have a far higher paying job.

  5. sebbysteiny

    It falls to the Jews to speak out because at the moment, only Jews are dying as a systematic campaign against an ethnic group and facing the risk of widespread persecution via BDS.

    Until others start dying too, people don’t care and will simply go about their lives hoping the forces of hate don’t touch them.

    It will of course and they will either join in or be persecuted by it.

    At the moment, any Jew can be beaten up and the crowd will excuse it as long as the word “Zionist” or “Israel / Gaza” is mentioned.

    I don’t claim that legitimate criticism of Israel is not anti-semitism. But it has been a long time since I last heard much genuinely legitimate criticism of Israel. Blatantly racist anti-Israelism largely dominates the discussion now.

    This pattern has happened many times in history. So far, we Jews who die first have not been able to find an answer to prevent either the anti-semitism of the minoriity or the wide-spread tollerance of anti-semitism from growing further.

    But we must find an answer and we need it now.

  6. madasafish

    I suggest you get medical help and learn to use capital letters at the start of sentences.

    Your post reads like it’s written by a semi literate anti semite.

  7. Guest

    He’s an anti-Semitic fanatic.
    You’re a capitalist fanatic.

    Oh look, your glasshouse seems to be spraying fragments.

  8. Kenwood

    He only ever comments on articles to do with jews. But it’s people like him that makes me feel good again. If he typifies our enemies, we have nothing to worry about.

  9. David Lindsay

    Telling Jews to leave Europe? I mean, doesn’t that sound a bit, well, you know…?

    Most European Jews have been to Israel, so not moving there is a very conscious choice: the place felt completely foreign to them in cultural terms. But Netanyahu wants them because fewer and fewer born-and-raised, cultural Israelis would vote for him or for Likud.

    I don’t like intellectual and cultural boycotts, on principle. Economic ones are case-by-case, but intellectual and cultural ones are just wrong. The kind of thing that is now being advocated is contrary to the nature of art, science and scholarship.

    That said, the remarkable scientific and technological work in Israel would have happened anyway, because it is just what Jews, and especially concentrated Jewish communities, do. It constitutes a kind of philo-Semitic argument (although I don’t like that loaded term), but not necessarily a Zionist one (there’s another).

  10. Nabilam Nabilam

    and a ros kabob rafaranich to you too.

  11. Gary Scott

    Too often people of Jewish faith are conflated with the Israeli government’s policies on Gaza etc. This, it seems, is an effort to polarise those not involved ie pretty much everyone in Europe. In that respect it seems to be working. People are forming opinions, perhaps ill-informed or prejudiced, but opinions nonetheless. The terror campaign is lethal, frightening and random, affecting no one who has any influence on matters concerning the middle east. Sadly, as we know, terrorism works.

  12. Guest

    Roast Kebab Rasterfarian? I see.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    Sadly, clowns are not necessarily unable to be dangerous.

  14. damon

    ”I don’t claim that legitimate criticism of Israel is not anti-semitism.”
    You do or you don’t?
    Anyway, you don’t think any of the criticism of Israel’s bombing strategy last summer was legitimate?
    I thought they killed far too many innocent civilians myself.

  15. PeteCW

    “israheili intel” – when you can’t even spell the name of your enemy without desperately making it unintelligible via the use of dribbling, incoherent attempts at ‘wordplay’, you’ve got a serious problem.

    Is ‘israheil’ really supposed to mean anything to anyone outside of a small coterie of bug-eyed, hate-addled morons?

    Come back when you’ve learned to think for yourself.

  16. damon

    I’ve never been a big fan of the CST from what I’ve read about them, but it can not be denied that Jews across Europe are now in the front line of danger form some pretty sick people.
    This young man involved in the Danish attacks was of Palestinian origin I believe.
    He used to be a gang member and go driving around with his mates smoking weed and getting into fights.
    I’ve seen some young men like this in Copenhagen myself, and they look to be a total pain in the arse to everyone who has to cross their path.
    You’d have to wonder if you can have it all ways with the multicultural society.
    It’s very left wing to think that everyone can fit in together in harmony in ways that they can’t outside Western countries. Did no one think that Palestinian asylum seekers (or refugees or whatever they were originally to create communities like that in Denmark and Sweden) might not end up causing problems for those country’s Jewish populations?
    It’s hardly a revelation that antisemitism is rife in the weed smoking gang culture that the likes of this killer from Denmark was part of.

  17. sebbysteiny

    By what possibly measure? Do you even know how many innocent civilians died?

    So tell Mr ‘too many civilians’, how many dead innocent civilians would you have been happy and comfortable with?

  18. damon

    I’ve said this before elsewhere …. but how about a quarter? Something like that.
    Since only four people on the Israeli side were killed by the Hamas rockets, they obviously weren’t that huge a danger to civilian life in Israel.

    So for example, in one of the cases where a bomb exploded at the gates of a UN safe school refuge, killing and maiming several, the reason given was that the Israelis had spotted a couple of Hamas guys going past on a motorcycle, so they fired a rocket at them, and it landed right on top of them and killed them.
    That it also caused carnage at the gates of the refuge was said just to be unfortunate collateral damage.

    If those two Hamas guys hadn’t been fired at, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference to protecting Israel from danger, but the innocent civilians at the gate would have been spared.
    You understand my point? You don’t shoot ”through” innocents to get at the bad guys.
    Particularly when the danger you face is not acute.

  19. sebbysteiny

    Why a quarter? Why not half or double? Did you make up this number out of thin air?

    The exact number of civilians killed are also not yet known, so how is it you can legitimately criticise Israel for killing n civilians when you have no idea what number n is?

    Israel takes every effort to protect it’s civilians so simply counting the number of dead at the end of the day is a completely immediate way of determing the level of the threat. Have you done any actual research about what it is like being the victim of these bombardments are like? Have you looked into whether it was Israel’s military operation that was the primary cause of so few Israeli casualties? Is your legitimate criticism simply that Israelis were morally wrong because they refused to sit back and wait to die like good little Jews should?

    Re UN attack, how do you know that if Israel had not fired at the Hamas fighters, israeli soldiers would not have died? Do you know anything about the military circumstances of the incident in question?

  20. Stormbringer

    “It is easy to call the publication of Muhammad cartoons ‘provocative’, as Hugh Muir did for the Guardian, or to ascribe the murder of European Jews to anger over Palestine, as Seamus Milne did in the same paper after Paris”

    That’s Al Q’uardian alright.

    Hugh Muir was rightfully slaughtered BTL for his shameful stupidity and his truly cretinous attempt to compare like (the murder of Cartoonists by backward Dark Age loons) with completely unlike (the so-called “provocation” of someone exercising their non-negotiable right of free speech to draw a picture of anyone’s precious prophet).

    Serial Milne is little more than a widespread laughing stock, a rabid revisionist and a holier-than-thou hypocrite who will argue that the treatment of Jews everywhere is the fault of Israel but in the very same breath would insist that it’s “Islamophobic” to blame Muslims for IS.

    Most of the writers for Al Q’uardian are an appallingly bad joke that few readers take remotely seriously as demonstrated by the comments their Aunt Sally articles regularly receive. And outside of Al Q’uardian’s readership, no one remotely cares.

    If they can’t even convince those who are sympathetic to enough to actually read it then what possible hope do they have to influence others? Thankfully, none at all – no wonder no one buys it.

  21. Nabilam Nabilam

    ros kabob rafaranich, ooga booga.

  22. damon

    Yours is the unacceptable defence of Israel IMO. But it is the common one. The one that most Israel supporters seem to fall back on. One which leads to antisemitism I think because people who are as equally sectarian on the other side, see Jewish communities that are so pro Israel that they take your stance of seeing Arab lives as being worth little.

    I don’t need to know the exact number of dead to know that too many civilians were killed.
    I don’t know exactly how many died in lots of wars and bombing attacks – like the area bombing of Germany in WW2 for example. But in Gaza last summer, given the lack of potency of the Hamas rockets, anything from a quarter to a tenth of the civilian killings might have bee unavoidable if Israel was to try to defend itself. The Hamas leadership mostly survived as they were deep underground, so it was just the ordinary people who took the brunt of it. And the footsoldiers of Hamas – who are now ”sahids” and a grim inspiration to the next generation.

    Israel does not take every care to avoid civilian casualties. They follow the inhumane ”rules of war” which allow attacks on civilians if there are thought to be combatants hiding among them.
    And allows them to fire at and bomb enemy fire points regardless of civilians in the vicinity.
    And that includes UN safe refuges and hospitals. If there are thought to be weapons stored at any of these places, Israel will attack them and justify it with legalities.

    As for Israel’s intelligence about the people on the motorcycle and the urgency of killing them with a missile strike even as they passed the gates of a UN refuge, known to be busy with people coming and going – we know from the boys on the beach incident that they were pretty trigger happy and would shoot first and ask questions later. Did they ever give the explanation to why they shot at the boys playing football on the beach btw?

  23. Guest

    No surprise you want to denigrate Israel, and to talk myths about Likud’s support.

    YOU are a foreigner in Israel, I agree, as you talk nonsense about Jews.

  24. Guest

    Oh right. So because Israel spends large amounts of money to protect it’s civilians with anti-rocket interception systems, Israel is evil.

    And must not fire back against terrorists. Never mind the fact that there are other threats, like the terror tunnels, kidnappings, etc.

    Not “acute” to be terrorised, For PTSD to be *normal* among kids in the communities battered by rockets. Etc.

    You of course also oppose the Good Friday Agreement, right?

  25. Guest

    Unacceptable to kill terrorists, right.

    You then justify your anti-Semitism on that basis, as you lie about Israel’s actions in your support for Hamas.

    Did you explain why you backed each of the rocket strikes?

  26. Guest

    Yea, those evil innocent civilian Hamas rocket-firers. Hmm.

  27. Guest

    No surprise you want to purge Jews. That’s what your call for a Monoculture is, sick man, as you blame the left for your Jihad against other beliefs, and it’s never YOURS which are the problem oh no, as you talk about your personal habits and closeness to the ideology of the killer in question, in reality.

  28. damon

    Leon, you are a total joke. You go from being a hard core SWP type one minute, to being a supporter of a massacre of innocent civilians on this issue.
    The IDF dropped bombs and fired missiles into Gaza regardless of how many civilians were in harms way.
    Because they see an Israeli life as being worth more than a dozen other innocent people.
    That’s racism Leon.

  29. damon

    You’re not even worth replying to Leon.

  30. Guest

    That’s right, Lord Blagger, talk about how it’s not worth replying to the Jew.

  31. Guest

    Yes yes, call the Jew a racist, Lord Blagger, as you scream that not hating Jews makes people a joke.

    You spew hate nonsense about the SWP, then claim I support your policy of murdering Jews. As you make up nonsense about the IDF, whining that your beloved terrorists were killed.

    YOU see your terrorist lives as more valuable than others.
    YOU oppose Jews having a right to self-defence.
    It’s YOU.

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