Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

The New Religious Intolerance: An Interview with Martha Nussbaum

By Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

From Switzerland’s ban on minarets, to France’s ban on headscarves, and the controversy that raged over Park 51, the “Ground Zero Mosque” in lower Manhattan, religious fear is on the rise, writes Martha Nussbaum. In her latest book, The New Religious Intolerance, the University of Chicago law professor tackles the politics of fear, and lays out a roadmap for society to overcome its fear of the other, which she warns, “currently disfigure[s] all Western societies.” To learn more, Moment spoke with Nussbaum about religious fear, anti-Semitism, burqas, Mitt Romney’s Mormonism and more.

MM: You write, “We should be worried about the upsurge in religious fear and animosity in the United States, as well as in Europe. Fear is accelerating, and we need to try to understand it to think how best to address it.” Can you explain why you think religious fear is accelerating—hasn’t it always been with us?

MN: There are periods of high anxiety and lower anxiety, so when I say it’s accelerating, I mean from what it was 10 years ago. There’s a new upsurge of anxiety about Muslims. 9/11 was the catalyst, as well as the wave of Muslim immigration—Muslims are the fastest growing religious minority in America. Every time you have a new minority coming in, you often have an upsurge in religious anxiety, so this is nothing new. We saw a great deal of anxiety in the late 19th and early 20th century with the waves of Roman Catholic immigration from Southern Europe. In some ways today is not quite as bad as then, because there’s no national political party right now basing its appeal on a nativist agenda the way there was in the 19th century. But we have to watch out.

MM: How did the old religious fear, anti-Semitism, give way to today’s religious fear, Islamophobia?

MN: The treatment of the Jews in Europe is in many ways parallel to the current European treatment of Muslims. If you assimilate, dress like everyone else, marry with us, eat with us, then you can fit in. But if you don’t, then we’re going to regard you with great suspicion. That was the European approach to the Jews, wherever the Jews were allowed to be. The reason was that for many centuries, Europeans have based their idea of national belonging and nationhood on ethnicity and religion. It’s a romantic idea of solidarity, and the idea that if you’re truly one of us, you’re going to have the same language, culture and religion, and you’re going to fit in. America never had that conception of that national identity. We were fortunate to be a nation of immigrations where people came as refugees from various types of religious persecution. So many of the American religious minorities dressed oddly: Quakers wanted to wear their hats in the courtroom, and Jews, of course, dressed in a characteristic way and didn’t want to testify in court on a Saturday. So there were many occasions for Americans to get used to the fact that religion leads people to behave differently. The American conception of national belonging is one of sharing political values, so if you swear to respect our Constitution, that’s enough. Anti-immigrant politics has never really taken off in America. The closest was in the 19th century, when so many Roman Catholics were coming from Southern and Eastern Europe. Anti-Semitism in America was also quite real. But still, it was at the level of refined, polite discrimination in employment. There was social discrimination among elites, but it wasn’t the kind of systematic political discrimination you got in Europe.

MM: You say that fear is a “narcissistic emotion.” Why is that?

MN: Fear has this riveting character that it makes you exceedingly aware of your own body and its own processes. If you read descriptions of fear in combat, it means you’re very alert and alive, but to yourself. Often it blocks the view of other people and other things around you because you’re so focused on survival. It’s an evolved instinct for survival, and it gives the message that you’d better pay close attention to yourself. It can be good, and very helpful, but it also means we neglect the implications of our actions and our policies for other people who are in our area, and we become very focused on warding off threats to ourselves, our families and people like us.

MM: What are some of the inconsistencies in the arguments for the burqa ban?

MN: In general, it’s always a good idea when you make an argument against somebody else’s culture, to first look at your own, and if you have the same problem, to treat the two similarly. The first argument is about security risk of bulky clothing under which you could carry a bomb or a gun. Because Chicago is a very cold place, when I go out in the winter, I’m more covered than a woman in a burqa, even more. I have a floor-length down coat, a shawl over my mouth and nose, a hat pulled down over my eyebrows and sunglasses, so my whole body is covered. And nobody thinks that’s a threat because they’re used to this. So we have to ask ourselves, when do we think that there’s a reason for extra caution? I’m prepared to say that in airports, let’s have the full body scan, as long as everyone has it. I don’t think they should single out the Muslims for special treatment.

The other argument is that you can’t have a good human relationship unless you can see their whole face. I think that’s just wrong. For one thing, eyes are traditionally thought of as the windows to the soul and the main place you make contact. Also, think about all the people with disabilities who can’t see, yet they have rich human relationships. Human beings have many ways of making connections with each other–through the voice, for instance—without seeing each other’s faces.

And then there’s the argument that the burqa objectifies women. I think the fact that women are often treated as objects for male use and control is a real problem. But let’s also think about porn magazines, the treatment of women in advertising and in the media, where women are treated as consumer objects and are encouraged to package themselves for male use and control in a way that eclipses their individuality. If you go to a high school dance, girls are wearing identical micro-skirts and packaging themselves as objects for a simulated group sex ritual that takes the place of dancing. There are lots of practices in our society that objectify women, unfortunately. To complain about one that happens to be the practice of the minority religion and not to examine yourself and the many ways in which you participate in such practices is terrible, especially when the force of law is brought to bear. In America, fortunately we don’t have bans on the burqa and the headscarf. But the French would ban you from walking down the street in a burqa, while you could wear a micro-skirt and your 4-inch heels and they’d think nothing of that. I think it’s just an ugly inconsistency.

MM: You lay out several principles that can be used to overcome religious fear. These seem to be designed for well-intentioned people, but how can they be used to push back against those in power who use religious fear for political gain?

MN: The first of my principles, which is having good constitutional norms, is helpful here. Fortunately we do, because our constitution was written by people who were very alert to religious persecution and religious fears. You can see over time that minorities find relief when they go to court and practices that stigmatize them are found unconstitutional. Again and again we find minorities making law and prevailing because we have good constitutional principles. That’s something that even in bad times, when politicians are doing bad things, it’s a bulwark.

The other things I talk about are consistency and self-examination and the use of a sympathetic imagination. We still shouldn’t despair of these things even in our own political climate because we should keep trying to have a deliberative public culture and to appeal to sympathy. I found that in studying the Park 51 controversy, there was a lot of sympathy. Sometimes it was one-sided sympathy, sympathy for 9/11 victims and their families, and not the Muslims. But even Sarah Palin—who I don’t support politically—expressed a fair amount of sympathy with peaceful Muslims. There were very few people who demonized all Muslims. I think George Bush set a good tone when he said we’re not at war with Islam. Americans both left and right have tended to try to exercise some thoughtfulness and sympathy. I think that reminding people constantly of history and of parallels to anti-Semitism is a useful way to get them to remember what they’re saying and to get them to look at things in a more complicated way.

MM: One interesting aspect of this presidential campaign is that not much has been made of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Does this signal a change in the climate of fear in the United States, or is it something else?

We have heard a fair amount about it. I think that’s why there was so much resistance to Romney early on, and such a desperate search for an alternative. In my earlier book, Liberty of Conscience, I wrote about the demonization of Mormons in the 19th century, which is an unfortunate part of our history. Mormons were pilloried in a way that involved a kind of racism, oddly, because, of course, Mormons look like the dominant white-Anglo culture. But they were described in journalism as having African features, as an African race. There was great demonization and lies about Mormons and the link to polygamy, which at the time was not any worse than the conditions of women in monogamous marriages. Women in monogamous marriages had no property rights and couldn’t get divorced on the ground of cruelty. Women in the territory of Utah had the vote in 1874, which is way before any other Mormon in monogamous America. So there was no reason to think these women were slaves. Today polygamy has long been outlawed by the Mormon religion, so it’s ridiculous to try to link them to that. The thing that ought to be discussed is the fact that Brigham Young is a university that does not have genuine academic freedom because the Mormon elders have decided that it’s okay to fire people whose theology is dissident. I’d like to know if Mitt Romney takes issue with this, and if he speaks up for academic freedom. If he doesn’t, that’s a problem.

MM: What are the consequences if we can’t keep religious fear in check?

MN: What would be bad is to get to the point where there’s demand for laws that are genuinely repressive. Europe has already gotten to that point. Beyond that point, there’s a potential for real violence. We’ve seen this from isolated psychotic individuals such as Anders Breivik in Norway. He may be deranged, but he’s certainly functional and has a program closely linked to right-wing bloggers in America, who have denounced him, but nonetheless his ideas have a lot in common with them. That kind of situation—where unstable individuals are whipped up and violence takes place—that’s what we need to worry about. It has happened in our past; we have had a lot of violence against Mormons, who were murdered, which is why they kept moving further west. We also had Jehovah’s Witnesses who were lynched because people feared they were a threat to American security. Let’s hope we don’t get to that point again—I think we’re not near that now. Let’s just stay vigilant.

How Jerry Falwell Changed the Republican Party

By Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

Jerry Falwell “stamped out” anti-Semitism in the Republican Party, said Michael Sean Winters, a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter—and no Falwell sympathizer—at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC earlier this week.

By making Israel a concern for conservative Christians, Falwell ensured anti-Semitism “has no political currency,” Winters explained. “Although he himself and many people in his pews had some anti-Semitism, there’s no political oxygen for those kinds of attitudes to reach any expression—and I think that’s undeniably a good thing.”

Winters, author of the new book, God’s Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right, appeared at CAP on Monday with Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne to discuss how the controversial figure has shaped both Christianity and politics in America.

Falwell, who grew up in a non-religious household in Lynchburg, Virginia, converted to Christianity shortly after starting college, and six months later, enrolled in seminary. As a fundamentalist Southern Baptist, Falwell was initially resistant to politics. “Fundamentalists have a long tradition and teaching called the spirituality of the church, that the church should not be involved in moral reformation,” Winters explained. “This obviously has its roots going all the way back to the Reformation and the discussion between faith and works, but was also a direct response to the social gospel movement.”

Even though he condemned Martin Luther King, Jr. for “politicizing Christianity,” by the 1960s and 1970s Falwell had started to engage with politics—first with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, and later with gay and lesbian rights and the 1978 IRS guidelines that determined whether a school had sufficiently desegregated. The next year, in 1979, a group of Republican operatives came to Falwell, asking that he “galvanize the base” on behalf of the Party, and in the same year he established the Moral Majority, which became one of the largest lobbying groups for evangelical Christians.

With his jump into politics, Falwell created a new brand of Christianity, Winters said. “In the 1950s and 60s, as Jim Crow was being pulled apart, you see the first explicit ideas about Christian nationalism and American exceptionalism coming to the fore,” he explained. “If they were no longer going to be racially superior, they had to feel that need to feel superior elsewhere—and that gives rise to the real hyper-patriotism and the sense of American exceptionalism that you didn’t find in the South previously…Southerners were not always too proud to be part of the Union.”

Bringing fundamentalist Christianity also brought new attitudes to conservative politics. “Republicans now tend to view all issues in terms of this absolute, fundamentalist view,” said Winters. While politics used to be about competing interests, now “it’s about ideology, and if you disagree, you’re not just wrong or have a different interest or have a different perspective—you’re a heretic, you’re a Republican in name only. And you just don’t see that attitude before Falwell.”

This development has been evident throughout the Republican primary season. Speaking on Fox Business Network Monday night, Mitt Romney argued that he is even further to the right than fellow Republican candidate Rick Santorum. “Rick Santorum is not a person who’s an economic conservative to my right,” Romney said. “His record does not show that he has the fiscal conservative chops that I have.”

Santorum hit back just hours later, telling voters in Alabama—which handed Santorum a surprise win in its primary yesterday—“If you look at the state that just voted on Saturday, Kansas, there’s no more rock rib solid conservative state in the country than the state of Kansas, it’s about as red as they get. Oklahoma, about as red as they get. And who won Kansas and Oklahoma?”

“This really is his contribution to the Republican Party, and in that way, shaped it more than Reagan,” he said. “I do think that today’s Republican Party is more heir to Falwell than it is to Reagan.”

Although Falwell may have brought the notion of conservative orthodoxy to the Republican Party, he also helped “get evangelicals over the idea that they could not be ‘yoked’ with non-believers” if they were pursuing a common cause. It is this development, Winters added, that may actually be helping Mitt Romney with evangelical voters.

“I think that Romney not only relies upon the idea that it’s okay to do business with Mormons, who they would consider heterodox in religious matters,” he said. “But I actually think Romney’s Mormonism helps him with evangelicals, because without that, he’s just a moderate former governor of Massachusetts…What evangelicals know about the Mormon Church is it’s conservative and it underwrote the campaign in California against Proposition 8. I’m not sure that it plays the way current narratives sense that it plays.”

Winters, a self-proclaimed progressive Catholic, said studying Falwell was like “waking up in a photographic negative,” but also credited the late pastor for two important political developments—“stamping out” anti-Semitism on the right and enfranchising millions of Southern voters. “I do think Falwell gets credit for bringing millions of Americans into the political process,” Winters said. “I don’t like the way that they vote—but that’s a different issue.”

Katy Perry’s Father Clears Up Confusion Over What Jews Smell Like

Don't worry--you can still dress up as Katy Perry for Purim without guilt. (From MoviesPad.com)

Well, cross kabbalat Shabbat services off the list of things Katy Perry probably did last Friday night. The singer’s father, Keith Hudson–an Ohio preacher–recently gave a sermon at Church on the Rise in which he told congregants, “You know how to make the Jew jealous? Have some money, honey…You go to L.A. and they own all the Rolex and diamond places. Walk down a part of L.A. where we live and it is so rich it smells. You ever smell rich? They are all Jews, hallelujah. Amen.” Perry, famous for frothy songs like “I Kissed a Girl” and “Teenage Dream,” hasn’t yet said anything about her father’s remarks, but Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has: “Keith Hudson’s unabashedly anti-Semitic remarks to hundreds of worshippers in Ohio about Jews and money are a reminder that the age-old stereotypes are alive and well and continue to bubble up to the surface in many segments of society…Katy Perry is blameless for her parents’ behavior, and it is unfortunate that her good name is now attached to her father’s words.” Phew–giving up repeated plays of “California Gurls” would have been a real loss!

Yizkor Education

By Adina Rosenthal

British historian Sir Ian Kershaw famously wrote: “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference,” a sentiment that provides much rationale for solid Holocaust education today.

However, despite its clear importance, Holocaust education is not always the norm in schools. In 2007, a controversy erupted over Britain dropping required subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades from History curriculums due to fear of Muslim discontent. But the study citing Muslim opposition was debunked—only a small number of teachers at two schools involved in the study reported incidents—and the British have rebounded since the incident.

In a recent article, the Jerusalem Post reported that British teachers have been brought to Israel as part of a three-week course on making the Holocaust more accessible to students. Funded by the Holocaust Education Trust, a UK-based organization that aims “to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today,” twenty teachers from across the UK participated in this ten-day course at Yad Vashem that include seminars and workshops on anti-Semitism in Europe, Jewish life between the World Wars, and the Final Solution. Speaking on the importance of Holocaust education, one participant stated, “Historical truth has to be the foundation of what we do and facing up to the truth is the best defense against those who would deny it or passively accept that it happened without learning anything from it.”

Not all countries require Holocaust education as part of the curriculum. In the United States, the states, not the federal government, determine what is taught in public schools. According to a 2004 Holocaust Task Force report, while most states have created social studies standards for the classroom and about half the states have explicitly mentioned the Holocaust in these standards, only ten percent of states have a legislative mandate to teach the Holocaust in the classroom.  Though there have been some improvements, including Virginia calling for teacher manuals on the Holocaust and Maryland establishing “a Task Force to Implement Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights, and Tolerance Education in the state,” few states have updated their legislation since the report was issued. Even if imperfect, in the West, education on the Holocaust, genocide in places like Rwanda and Darfur, and other worrisome situations evolving around the world, has been largely admirable.  Not so in the Middle East.

According to Hannah Rosenthal, the United States’ Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, “One of my primary goals this year is to address the issue of intolerance in textbooks and in the media in the Middle East,” which included meeting with Saudi religious and education scholars about the importance of teaching the Holocaust. Most Middle Eastern countries do not teach the Holocaust, and, according to one article, “Some even include verses from the Quran that they use to justify intolerance and violence against non-Muslims, primarily Jews and Christians.”

In Gaza, the tension concerning Holocaust education has also been mounting. According to an Associated Press article, the United Nations is launching a plan to teach Holocaust education in Gazan schools this September, despite promises by Hamas to block such an initiative and the West Bank and PLO’s disapproval. According to the article, many Palestinians are loath to recognize the Jewish tragedy because they fear it will minimize their own suffering. “Views range from outright denial to challenging the scope of the Holocaust.” Schoolteachers also expressed hostility toward teaching about the Holocaust, with one teacher warning, “The [United Nations] will open the gates of hell with this step. This will not work.”

But proponents of such an initiative see the lessons from the Holocaust as an especially important educational experience for the Arab world. “Instead of pre-emptive accusations, it is important for Palestinians…to fully understand the tragedies and suffering that happened to all people through generations, without divvying up facts and taking things out of context.” Moreover, in a recent New York Times piece, the authors write, “If Arabs knew more about the Holocaust in particular and genocide in general, perhaps Arab voices would be more forceful in trying to stop similar atrocities.”

As Holocaust survivor Estelle Laughlin best stated, “Memory is what shapes us. Memory is what teaches us. We must understand that’s where our redemption is.”

Should Jews Play Wagner?

by Theodore Samets

Richard Wagner, the lauded 19th-century German composer of operas such asTristan und Isolde and Parsifal, had an anti-Semitic streak.

It was more than just a streak. He discussed Jews throughout his writings, most notably in an essay, “Judaism in Music,” which derided Felix Mendelssohn and other Jewish composers, as well as the Jewish people in general, for corrupting German culture.

“Judaism and Music” is troubling to read, with its claims that “Jewish music is bereft of all expression, characterized by coldness and indifference, triviality and nonsense,” and at the “harmful influence of Jewry on the morality of the nation.”

Long after his death, Wagner’s anti-Semitism continues to cause many to chafe at his music. This is particularly true in Israel, where for decades no group publicly played any of his music, as part of an unofficial ban.

Yet in recent years, some Israelis have tried to change this. In 2001, Daniel Barenboim, the renownd Argentinian-Israeli conductor, asked an audience if his Berlin Statskapelle orchestra could play the overture of Tristan und Isolde as a second encore – he had originally intended to perform a different Wanger piece before the organziers of the Israel Festival, at whose invitation the orchestra was performing, made clear that “Wagner should not be played.”

The audience debated Barenboim’s request; most in attendance made clear that they wanted the orchestra to perform Wagner. A few audience members left, but many more stayed and gave the orchestra and maestro a standing ovation. Yet even among those who stayed, not everyone agreed whether Barenboim was in the right: Haaretz wrote at the time that some “spoke about the ‘trick’ that Barenboim had executed, about ‘exploiting the festival stage and the auditorium for his own private obsession,’ and also about the breach of the understanding between him and the festival.”

Since then, no orchestra has performed Wagner again in Israel.

On Tuesday, however, the Israeli Chamber Orchestra performed one of Wagner’s compositions at the Bayreuth Festival, which the composer founded, in Berlin. The festival, where a veriety of Wagner’s operas are performed, is an annual occurrence, organized in part by Wagner’s descendants, many of whom have played an important role in addressing Wagner’s anti-Semitic beliefs. According to Fox News:

The piece, the “Siegfried Idyll,” is a symphonic poem lasting just 20 minutes that Wagner composed for his second wife Cosima after the birth of their son Siegfried in 1869. But the fact that it was played at all has scandalized many Jews, The (London) Times reported Wednesday.

Wagner was a hero of the Fuhrer, who admired and drew inspiration from the composer’s anti-Jewish essays, which raged against the “corruption” of the “German spirit” by Jews.

Playing Wagner is obviously a sensitive subject for many Jews, and increased acceptance of the composer’s music may be a sign of younger generations’ increased distance from the Holocaust.

Yet while Wagner’s views on Jews were unquestionably abhorrent, the opposition to performing his compositions only began after Hitler embraced his work. In the 1930s, the Palestine Orchestra (now the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra) performed works by Wagner, including during its first concerts.

The Philharmonic has intended to play Wagner since 1991, when member musicians voted to perform concert of his music in December, only to see Philharmonic officials cancel their plans.

Playing Wagner in Israel is an issue that arises complex emotions. Some claim that Jews and Israelis should be able to appreciate Wagner’s music, irrespective of his anti-Semitic beliefs, and others argue that Israelis should play Wagner as a way to show the strength of the Jewish people, who thrive around the world more than 65 years since the end of National Socialism in Germany. And many believe that Wagner’s operas, no matter how impressive they might be musically, should not be performed in a Jewish state.

Hopefully the Chamber Orchestra’s decision will reignite a debate that has lain dormant in recent years, which may someday allow more Israelis to realize that Wagner is much more than an idol of Hitler’s; he is a composer of great historical import who fundamentally altered the course of music. If Israel truly wants to consider its classical music scene among the best in the world, Wagner’s compositions ought to be a part of that scene.

Blame Canada (for Anti-Zionism)

By Adina Rosenthal

Canadian bacon isn’t the only thing that’s unkosher. Earlier this month, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA), released its report concluding that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially on university campuses. Since its inception in March 2009, the CPCCA, composed of 22 Parliamentarians from all parties in the House of Commons, has conducted investigations and hearings with the purported purpose “of confronting and combating antisemitism [sic] in Canada today.” Based on its findings, the committee made several recommendations to its government, such as training Canadian police forces on how to better handle anti-Semitic incidents, sponsoring conferences at universities to combat anti-Semitic events and establishing a clear definition for anti-Semitism. According to Former Liberal MP Mario Silva, Chair of the CPCCA Inquiry Panel that published the report, “We are calling on the Government of Canada to take our recommendations under serious consideration to combat the wave of antisemitism we are witnessing in our nation. Canada is founded on a set of shared values and antisemitism is an affront to all we stand for in this country.”

In their report, the CPCCA identified a “new anti-Semitism” prominent in Canadian discourse, that is “increasingly focused on the role of Israel in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.” The report further adds, “Jews are seen as supporters of Israel and are seen by some, who do not distinguish between Israelis and Jews, as a legitimate target in the fight to establish a Palestinian state or to eliminate the State of Israel.” Moreover, “anti-Semitism is being manifested in a manner which has never been dealt with before…Jewish students are ridiculed and intimidated for any deemed support for the ‘Nazi’ and ‘apartheid’ State of Israel, which is claimed to have no right to exist.” In short, anti-Zionist rhetoric has simply becomes a guise for anti-Semitic sentiment.

But not everyone is sold on the CPCCA’s report, with some critics arguing that the committee’s findings are being used to prevent legitimate criticism of Israel.  According to Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, “By referring to Israel as a ‘Jewish collectivity’ in the anti-Semitism definition, it means the state can’t be criticized…But Israel should be allowed to be criticized by the same standards of any state.” Last March, Bloc Québécois members dropped out of the committee, claiming the coalition had a pro-Israel bias. As Michel Guimond, the Bloc Whip, told a Quebec newspaper at that time: “We consider the coalition is tainted, partisan and presents a single side of the coin” in reference to the coalition’s alleged refusal to hear from pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian groups like Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and the Canadian Arab Federation.

In direct response to those who felt ill-represented during the CPCCA’s investigation, Silva argued that such groups “weren’t prepared at all, in fact, to even have any positive contribution, even state the fact that anti-Semitism is a problem…They’d rather just focus on attacking the work we were doing.”

The question of where anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism reaches beyond Canada’s borders. In Iceland, Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson announced he would support the Palestinians’ initiative to petition for state recognition at the United Nations this fall, a measure that would undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The foreign minister made this announcement after a trip to Gaza in which he concurrently called for an end to the Gaza blockade and avoided any contact with Israel. In response to criticism of the Foreign Minster’s slighting of Israel, writer Katharina Hauptmann of the Iceland Review insisted, “The fact that the Icelandic government may have issues with Israel’s treatment of Palestine has nothing at all to do with anti-Semitism.” In regards to Yale closing its initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, a recent Jerusalem Post article pointed out, “Given the widespread acceptability of anti-Zionism, some anti-Semites have insisted that they’re ‘only’ anti-Zionists, and that Israel and the Jews have become the new Nazis, perpetrating a Holocaust of their own.”

Essentially, it seems that whether anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are being melded is not the issue. Both sides agree that they are, and a new definition of anti-Semitism is now commonly accepted. Rather, the point of contention is whether such a conflation is legitimate. If you are anti-Semitic, you are probably anti-Zionist, but does the converse also hold true?  If you are anti-Zionist, are you also anti-Semitic? The answer is “not necessarily”; political discourse isn’t usually so black and white.

The CPCCA report evinces a global increase in anti-Semitism. According to the British Community Security Trust, the United Kingdom had 924 anti-Semitic incidents in 2009, finding that the main reason for this record spike was the “unprecedented number” of such incidents recorded in January and February of 2009, during and after the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The CPCCA report draws parallels with this data for Canada, noting 1,306 anti-Semitic incidents in 2010, up from 1,264 the year before. According to the CPCCA report, “As in other jurisdictions [of Canada], antisemitic incidents…tend to be tied to the situation in the Middle East.” Though the report doesn’t provide concrete numbers of anti-Zionism resulting in anti-Semitic acts, the qualitative evidence, particularly on Canadian campuses, should raise some eyebrows. Math might not provide a definitive answer here.  But if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…well, you be the judge.

Prussian Blue Sings a New Tune

By Steven Philp

It has been five quiet years since Lamb and Lynx Gaede stepped out of the national spotlight—ending a short and controversial career as the neo-Nazi pop duo Prussian Blue—yet this month they came out of their self-imposed solitude to give an interview with The Daily, singing a different tune. “I’m not a white nationalist anymore,” Lamb explained. “My sister and I are pretty liberal now.” Lynx confirmed their change of heart. “Personally, I love diversity,” she added.

Delivered with such earnestness, it is difficult to believe that these opinions come from the same young women who had spent several years singing at small venues in North America and Europe, spreading messages of white supremacy and Nazi ideology. Prussian Blue was formed under the guidance of their mother April Gaede after the twins were well received at white nationalist events between 2001 and 2003. In 2004 the duo recorded and released their first album Fragment of the Future under Resistance Records, a label closely tied to the National Alliance; this white supremacist organization was founded in 1974 by William Pierce, an outspoken Nazi-sympathizer and—among other forms of bigotry—anti-Semite. Although not widely distributed, Fragment of the Future brought national media attention to the twins for its white nationalist content—including the song “Hate for Hate: Lamb Near the Lane,” penned by Lamb and David Eden Lane. Lane—who passed away in 2007—was a member of The Order, a terrorist organization that precipitated the murder of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg in June 1984.

When interviewed by ABC Primetime in October 2005, the twins eagerly parroted the ideology of their mentors. “We’re proud of being white, we want to keep being white,” explained the thirteen-year-old Lynx. “We want our people to stay white…we don’t want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race.” In the same interview their mother April admitted to adding white nationalist themes to the twins’ home education curriculum. “They need to have the background to understand why certain things are happening,” she explained. It was the need to make white nationalism more appealing to a younger audience that drove Eric Gliebe, operator of Resistance Records, to sponsor the twins. Their saccharine melodies provided a pop alternative to the harder genres of his other acts, and allowed his label to access a new market. “Eleven and 12 years old,” he explained of his decision. “I think that’s the perfect age to start grooming kids and instill in them a strong racial identity.” And it was this combination of innocence and hate that made the twins a gross fascination for such a large number of people. Even the name of the band embodies this uncomfortable juxtaposition. According to a 2004 interview with Vice Magazine, Prussian Blue refers both to their German heritage, the color of their eyes—a “really pretty color”—and Zyklon B, the preferred toxin used in WWII concentration camps. Blue discoloration is caused by Zyklon B residue; according to the twins, the lack of substantial “Prussian blue” patches in the remains of Nazi gas chambers “might make people question some of the inaccuracies of the ‘Holocaust’ myth.”

Now 19 years old, the twins claim they have moved away from their white nationalist roots. Lynx attributes their prior ideology to a sheltered childhood, specifically their home-based education. “We were these country bumpkins,” she explained. “We spent most of our days up on the hill playing with our goats.” Lamb concurred with her sister, explaining that in their songs and interviews they emulated the adults around them rather than expressed their own opinions. “I was just spouting a lot of knowledge that I had no idea what I was saying,” she said. The initial change occurred during their 2006 European tour with the Swedish white supremacist act Saga, when the twins decided to add the song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” to their set; the audience reacted negatively, given that Bob Dylan—born Robert Zimmerman—is Jewish. Still Lynx and Lamb persisted, singing the song at all subsequent concerts. When they returned to the States, they decided that the gig was up. The girls have passed the last five years attempting to lay low and avoid further controversy; recurrent health issues—Lynx underwent treatment for cancer and Lamb suffers from chronic back pain and scoliosis—also prompted them to seek a semblance of normalcy in their lives. Once lauded as the new face of white nationalism, their change in heart has garnered a fair share of criticism within the movement. According to Lynx, they have been labeled as “race traitors.”

Yet despite the evolution of opinion that the twins have demonstrated, it is still possible to identify elements of their white nationalist education within their worldview. The Daily points to their continued denial of the Holocaust; when asked if genocide has occurred, Lynx responded, “I think certain things happened. I think a lot of the stories got misconstrued. I mean—yeah—Hitler wasn’t the best, but Stalin wasn’t, Churchill wasn’t. I disagree with everybody at that time.” Lamb agreed with her sister, expressing frustration with what she perceives as a societal obsession with the events of WWII. “I just think everyone needs to frickin’ get over it,” she argued. “That’s what I think.”