December 8, 2019

The New Anti-Semitism

“When France’s Yellow Vests began to protest weekly last November, it was about President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to raise fuel taxes. Within a few months, it also started to be about the Jews.

Signs that labeled Mr. Macron as a “whore of the Jews” and a slave of the Rothschilds, a reference to the president’s past employment with the investment bank, became a fixture of the demonstrations. In February, several Yellow Vest protesters—since disavowed by the movement—assaulted the Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the doorstep of his Paris home, yelling, “You will die,” “Zionist turd” and “France is for us.”

“When there is a world-wide economic and social malaise, people look for scapegoats—and the Jews have always served as scapegoats,” said Francis Kalifat, the president of CRIF, the council uniting France’s Jewish institutions. “Anti-Semitism creates bridges between the far right and the far left: They have such a hatred in common that they come together.”

In France and other Western societies, the proliferation of new political forces that challenge the established liberal order—from both the right and the left—has revived old patterns of vilifying the Jews as the embodiment of the corrupt elites supposedly responsible for society’s ills.

Meanwhile, unfiltered social media has pushed these anti-Semitic tropes, long confined to the fringes, into the mainstream of public debate. On any given issue—from economic inequality to the financial crisis to immigration and terrorism—old and new conspiracy theories blaming the Jews have gained new traction, abetted by the political polarization and general crisis of confidence permeating Western democracies.”

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