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A Message From Your Jewish Comrade

Let’s just begin with a few easily accessible statistics from wikipedia:…/History_of_the_Jews_in_the…

Jews are a multi-ethnic group totalling only 14.8 million, 0.2% of the 8 billion worldwide population. Two countries account for 81% of those recognised as Jews: the United States with 51% and Israel with 30%. In the United States, Jews make up about 2% of the population, which is about 5-6 million people. Most of the Jews in the United States are ethnically Ashkenazi (something like 90%), with 12%-15% identifying as Jews of Color. Although Jews have been in the country since the times of Columbus, when Spain and Portugal were expelling them, most of the Jewish population arrived around the turn of the 20th Century.

Ok, so let’s talk about what these numbers mean…

First thing to note is that when we look at the number “6 million” that counts the Jews killed in the Holocaust, we’re talking about a number that totals the number of Jews currently living in the United States. We’re also talking about a number that was almost 40% of the world’s Jewish population at the time. When we talk about the number “2%” that counts the current Jewish population in the United States, we’re talking about a number that compares with people who have extreme personality disorders (borderline, antisocial personality disorder), LGBTQ+ demographics (…/LGBT_demographics_of_the… ), and other such things that we think of as fairly rare. All that is to say that when you think about the numbers in context, Jews are a small minority worldwide and in the United States whose populations were decimated in the 20th Century and who are still the target of a large percentage of growing hate crimes today.

Now, when it comes to how Jews have interacted in US society, there is a lot of history to talk about. As economic agents, Jews are known for their prominence in textiles, furs, and other needle trades, for finance and banking, for medicine, for law, and for entertainment. Mostly, these trades had been the few areas of the economy that Jews were not prevented from entering. Or in the case of the film industry, where Jews were at the forefront of inventing the industry. That is something easy enough for most people to understand, but what most people tend to miss is that as capitalism developed, wealth in land ownership, industrial manufacturing, and other traditional forms stagnated while wealth in finance and entertainment (among others) grew. One of the consequences is that Jews who were pushed into those industries due to prejudices against them became unexpectedly wealthy as capitalism developed into what we have today. This means that although the total population sizes of Jews have always been very small, Jews became prominent in the industries of the relatively new rich even though their forced exclusion from landownership and other forms of old wealth had prevented most of them from rising out of poverty in the past.

If that economic history itself wasn’t already enough to inspire animosity towards Jews, who weren’t kept in their designated place by those above them, this situation also inspired animosity towards Jews from other poor and working-class populations that struggled because of their specific histories in the United States. To make the public image of Jews even worse, Jews also rose to prominence in the anarchist and communist movements both in the United States and in Europe. And to make things even more complicated, the Enlightenment’s impact on European Jews, along with the more favorable conditions Jews faced in the United States inspired a tradition of zealous assimilation and patriotism amongst Jews.

The above provides some decent context for the situation of Jews today: here, in Europe, in Israel and elsewhere. However, let me add one more important thing to this context… there is a much older and enduring condition for Jews that is often downplayed and that is the hatred and persecution of Jews by Christians. If one listens carefully to Ye (Kanye West), Nick Fuentes, and many other antisemites, eventually one will realize that all of the stuff above ultimately doesn’t matter because their anti-Judaism is rooted in their Christianity. Many Christians, but certainly not all Christians, are taught to think of Jews as at the very least, deniers of Jesus Christ …if not taught that Jews killed their Savior. In the middle of the 20th Century, some attempts were made to tamp down this conflict between Christians and Jews with the invention of “Judeo-Christian Values” as a promotion of common cause against Fascism and Communist Atheism. At the turn of the 21st Century, this was often used again to exclude Muslims from the notion of Americanism as the West waged war in the Middle-East. However, the idea of Jewish and Christian similarity has always been tenuous and as Israel becomes more and more fundamentalist, Jewish particularity is going to put more and more pressure on this idea. We already see how Donald Trump uses this situation to strengthen the divide between liberal Jewish Americans and fundamentalist Jewish Israelis. Ultimately, what this does to Jews is that it creates more space for the Christian Nationalism that is already fueling so much of the hatred in US society to target secular and/or liberal Jews specifically as a problem. And that is very bad for Jews like me, who are not religious.

To make things just a little more clear when it comes to the Christian Nationalist angle, one has to look at the major accusations that are being fired at Jews in the United States. Although there are plenty of antisemites that hold onto the conspiracies about Jewish Bolshevism, International Jewish Banking, and the Zionist Occupied Government, the much more common claim targets secular Jews in entertainment industries. The theoretical problem put forward by these antisemites is that because Jews reject Christian values (especially secular Jews), their prominence in the entertainment industries has created a cultural landscape that destroys all of the things Christians care about: the nuclear family, right-to-life, heterosexuality, faith and religious practice, neighborly compassion and community, blue collar work and rural lifestyle, and so on and so forth. This makes the secular, American Jew …the Hollywood Jew, enemy #1 in the raging culture wars for the Christian Nationalists because it is supposedly these Jews who are pushing all of the filth onto the rest of the population. Of course, when you add the other antisemitic claims mentioned above onto this, Jews are just all the more seen as an enemy of Christian society.

All of this considered, this is a very lonely time for a secular Jew in the United States. As one of them, I can tell you from experience that it is also a frightening time. For as small as our population is, we are far from a cohesive group. Jews in the United States have many conflicts amongst themselves, not least of which is the poor recognition and representation for Jews of Color. What this means for me is that I have usually looked outside of Jewish milieus for solidarity. And while I do find it there, what I notice (that many other minorities notice) is that the poverty of historical knowledge in the United States is a huge hurdle. Most people really do not know much about Jews and Jewish history just like most people do not know much about the history of other peoples. And this ignorance is something systemic that leaves a tremendous hole in the way Americans understand the world that is always waiting to be filled with hatred, conspiracies, and lies. Unfortunately, for as much as Jews and other minorities try to educate, there just isn’t enough people doing that education and certainly not enough people interested in doing the learning to overcome this.

So anyway, that’s what I have to say about all this popular antisemitism lately. I feel obligated to speak out about it because of what the facts tell me… The facts tell me that if I’m not going to fuss about it, there isn’t many other people who will fuss about it for me. They tell me that it’s mostly a hopeless, losing battle. They tell me that I’m mostly at the mercy of others who can find it in their own self-interest to stand in solidarity. And they tell me that although things have been much worse before, even because things have been much worse before, there is plenty of room for things to get much worse now.

How can you help?

In general, I think that one of the best things any of us can do is to spend a few hours each week learning about the history and current difficulties of people from different backgrounds than ourselves. One way to do this is to start with where you live… Learn the history of where you live and the demographic events that have led to the unique mix of people you live with. I know we’re all on the internet now, but having a ready-at-hand knowledge of the place you sleep and wake up in every day is invaluable. And even if you are strongly individualistic, it is still important to understand that the Individual isn’t the be-all-end-all for everyone.

For this issue specifically, I think there are some standout issues to address as anarchists engaging with Jewish questions:

    1. Form a fairly well-researched opinion about Jewish indigeneity to Israel-Palestine. I’m not going to tell you to accept my conclusion, that all Jews (including Ashkenazim) are indigenous to Israel-Palestine; but, if you are going to come to a different conclusion I think it should be based on evidence. This is something that some Nation of Islam and Black Hebrew Israelite groups try to deny about Jews and it feeds into their claim that Ashkenazim are not “real” Jews. Others have used the lie about Khazarian mass-conversion towards similar ends. For the Left and anarchists, we support the Palestinian struggle against the State of Israel and this I think is the correct position. However, it’s all-too-easy to ignore the issue that makes the situation unlike most European colonial history: none of the other European colonies involve a group of people indigenous to a land returning to it. I think some of this is easy to ignore because 2,000 years seems like a very long time to Christians since their calendar only begins 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ was supposedly born. But Jews don’t think of themselves that way and our calendar goes back almost 6,000 years. This brings me to the second thing…

    2. Try to understand how Christianity shapes the world we live in and specifically how it impacts Jews. It is hard for Christians to notice how deeply Christianity shapes the world we live in. While the Federal government of the United States officially tries to separate Church and State, that is less true at the State level and when you get to the municipal level, Christian institutions become ever more significant. This doesn’t only impact Jews, but it certainly does impact Jews. The more you learn about this, the more it becomes clear that a Christian Nationalist movement has a lot of institutional power and the more you will understand that even without Federal approval, this can be a very bad situation nationally.

    3. Learn about the Christian Nationalist movement. The Final Straw recently did a podcast about this which is very much worth listening to:

    4. If you’re an anarchist, try to learn about Jewish anarchism, both secular and religious. There are some great books on this, but even a wikipedia article would be better than nothing:

      A Living Revolution:

      Immigrants Against the State:

      No Masters But God:

      There is Nothing So Whole As A Broken Heart:

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is much that can be done beyond education. I’ve watched this grow for my entire life (I’m 37 y/o) and for as much as I’ve seen antifa and anarchists generally beat back neo-Nazis and other White Supremacist organizers, the truth is that by the time someone joins an antisemitic group they have already gone through a long path of ignorance. The bulk of antisemitism is learned before anyone commits to a full-blown antisemitic ideology and it is learned in much more every-day places. And what makes it possible to learn antisemitism is the ignorance about Jews to begin with. Yeah, the Holocaust is important to know about so that Holocaust denial is easily disregarded, but that is only one piece of a much bigger ignorance in our societies.

Finally, I guess maybe next time Jews are murdered, anarchists could show up in solidarity with Jews. That would be nice. It’d be symbolic, but it’d be nice.