• "As a Jewish woman, I’ve found the increased harassment on Twitter in the two years since President Donald Trump announced his bid simply shocking." (iStockphoto/Getty Images)
Anti-Semitism has never really gone away. But not since the dark days of the Holocaust have anti-Semites and racists been so emboldened, says Na'ama Carlin.
By
Na'ama Carlin

21 Mar 2017 - 2:20 PM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2017 - 4:40 PM

It seemed a Saturday like any other when I sat down to watch ‘Hannah Arendt’ (2012), a film about the Jewish philosopher’s famous reporting on Adolf Eichmann’s 1961 trial, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

Like the Nuremberg trials, this was a pivotal moment in history. As director of “Jewish Affairs”, Adolf Eichmann was a key architect of the Holocaust (or as Jews call it, the Shoah). Captured by Mossad agents in Argentina, Eichmann was taken to Israel to stand trial for his role in one of modern history’s most systematic, visceral, and heartless horrors.

And so it was that I came to watch the black and white testimony of Adolf Eichmann while, surreally, by my side my phone kept lighting up with one anti-Semitic tweet after another; my Twitter was being targeted by neo-Nazis. This is not the first time this has happened, but, given the context, it was particularly jarring. Here I was, watching a film that includes testimonies of those who barely survived the horrors of the Holocaust, even as others were wishing that same horror on me.

And so it was that I came to watch the black and white testimony of Adolf Eichmann while, surreally, by my side my phone kept lighting up with one anti-Semitic tweet after another; my Twitter was being targeted by neo-Nazis.

I’ve been active on Twitter since December 2012, but it wasn’t until Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States around two years ago, that I started to receive messages of an anti-Semitic nature. I believe my name gave my identity away, as well as my Twitter bio announcing me as an ‘Israeli standing against the Occupation’.

Anti-Semitism has always existed, but the rise of Trump has seen anti-Semites and white supremacists emboldened and legitimised like no other time in recent history. The Anti-Defamation League point out that white supremacists have supported Trump since he announced he was running for President. If, during Trump’s campaign, they responded to his Islamophobic remarks and attacks on Mexicans, now white supremacists feel validated due to his cabinet picks and the move to remove white nationalist groups from a federal counter-terrorism program. In response to the latter, the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer wrote “Donald Trump is setting us free”.

As a Jewish woman, I’ve found the increased harassment on Twitter in the two years since President Donald Trump announced his bid simply shocking. I wont forget an encounter I had with an anti-Semitic supporter of Trump on Twitter, his profile picture flashing a shiny smile beneath a now-familiar red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. This man did not know me, but it was important to him to make sure I felt unsafe and targeted.

Waking up to actual photos of the Holocaust and its concentration camps on their own would be bad enough, but these were coupled with messages such as, ‘Jews are a cancer to society’, ‘you’re an ugly Jew bitch’, ‘ugly kike slut,’ just to name a few.

Comment: Anti-Semitism is the ancient hatred that never goes away
More than 80 years after the Holocaust almost wiped out the Jewish population, it feels like anti-Semitism is making a comeback, again.

And though I try to put them out of my mind, their impact remains deep; a knot in my throat, shaking hands, and overwhelming sadness.

I am not alone. In the United States, hundreds of Jewish journalists have been the target of anti-Semitic attacks during the 2016 Presidential campaign. According to the New York Times, “The words appearing most frequently in the Twitter biographies of the attackers were “Trump,” “nationalist,” “conservative” and “white.”

The danger to Jews is real: Trump’s rhetoric of hate has inflamed, normalised, and validated anti-Semitism. In January 2017 alone, at least 30 Jewish centres across the U.S. were evacuated due to bomb threats. In the first days of February, a man shrieked “Hail the Hitler Youth!” on a crowded New York train before calling a young woman a “dirty Jew,” and knocking her off her feet. Also in New York – a city noted for its large and vibrant Jewish community – subway riders banded together to scrub anti-Semitic graffiti, complete with swastikas and exhortations that “Jews belong in the oven,” from their train.

And though I try to put them out of my mind, their impact remains deep; a knot in my throat, shaking hands, and overwhelming sadness.

Is any of this really so surprising when Trump’s White House releases a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that does not mention Jews? This attempt to write Jews out of the Holocaust is, in mine and others’ opinion, akin to Holocaust denial.

Whether Trump will be a president for “all Americans” as he promised in his acceptance speech is yet to be seen, but one rabbi is already warning that “Nazism is alive and well in America”. In my opinion, there is no moral ambiguity when it comes to racial hatred, and the rise of anti-Semitism and hate-crimes in the U.S. is troubling.

In Australia, things are also looking bleak. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s most recent Anti-Semitism Report has already found “a slight increase in incidents overall, notably in physical assault and vandalism, and a decrease in verbal abuse and harassment.” This indicates, in Australia, increasing anti-Semitism manifests not merely in rhetoric, but in tangible, violent action.

Trump's comments on anti-Semitism 'too little, too late' as threats spike globally
Physical assaults against Jewish Australians alone have risen by 50 per cent in the past year.

I am concerned about the prevalence of racism and anti-Semitism in Australian society. I fear that Trump’s discourse, legitimised in some U.S. politics, will seep into Australia’s. My main fear is that once one singles out a group (such as Muslims, especially in the Australian context), another group will soon follow (Jews). To be clear, these populist groups do not promote violence in their policies, but I worry that their rising popularity emboldens those who do genuinely believe that anyone foreign, anyone other – be it Muslim or Jew – is a legitimate target. The increase in anti-Semitic violence in Australia should serve as a warning sign.

My family knows the consequences of failing to do so all too well. They live in Israel, a country created out of the ashes of the Holocaust. It was there that my extended family recently came together to remember my grandfather, on the eighth anniversary of his death. My aunt had recently visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. There, in a back room, she put on some headphones and listened for hours to a recording of my grandfather – her father – giving testimony of his life in the Shoah. He was 13, a boy, fighting for his mother (who did not survive), for shoes, for food, for dignity, for life.

To be clear, these populist groups do not promote violence in their policies, but I worry that their rising popularity emboldens those who do genuinely believe that anyone foreign, anyone other – be it Muslim or Jew – is a legitimate target.

My grandfather was one of the lucky ones. He lived. History is written not only by winners, but through the testimony of survivors. But there is also the untold testimony of the six million Jews who died; stories of horror that were buried with them.

Back in the present, my phones flashes with another Tweet from an account that has Hitler as its profile photo. I wonder whether they truly know the implications of their words. Do they really know the history they are resurrecting? Have they heard the testimonies of those like my grandfather? Is their passion genuinely to strip me and my people of our humanity, our dignity, our Judaism, our life?

Comment: Why racism in Australia feels so ‘loud’
"The Internet has made racism more accessible, for both the racists and the victims of this hatred."

Hannah Arendt knew that Nazis weren’t monsters. They were people. No more and no less. That they did not reflect on the atrocities they committed was only possible because they dehumanised Jews; we were redefined as resources to be harvested, as vermin to be exterminated. Nazis followed orders. They did not need think about their actions because they did not think that Jews were, like them, human.

Arendt writes: “In the Third Reich evil lost its distinctive characteristic by which most people had until then recognised it. The Nazis redefined it as a civil norm.” Such is the banality of evil.

Today, we are once again normalising the abnormal. In defiance of anti-Semites, of neo-Nazis, and of white supremacists, we are all under obligation to ensure such evil does not return.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Naama @derridalicious

"Where are you from?" Why we should reframe this question
As we celebrate cultural diversity and inclusiveness on Harmony Day, there's one common question asked that we need to reconsider.
5 Aussie organisations that say no to racism
Want to help create a more culturally inclusive Australia but not sure where to start? There are plenty of organisations that are standing up to racism in 2017 that you can get involved with.
Why you should laugh at racism
Forget preachers, politicians or professors. Culturally diverse comedians who can make people laugh with a sharp joke and socially-charged statement are probably the biggest weapons in the fight against racism.
Comment: Racism in the theatre world is real and it is debilitating
If the Australian screen is dominated by white faces, the theatre is even more so. Candy Bowers, a mixed-race African, reveals the emotional and professional toll this takes on writers and performers of colour.
Comment: There's no such thing as reverse racism. There's only racism
Generations of migrants and their children are now successfully active in Australian society. Even though their achievements have made the fabric of our nation's society so much richer, some 'racist people' feel they are under threat.
Does racism make us sick?
While most people would assume being the victim of racism can’t be good for us, being a perpetrator of racism is also bad for our health.