Antisemitism researcher Monika Schwarz-Friesel speech at the Austrian Parliament

Antisemitism researcher Monika Schwarz-Friesel speech at the Austrian Parliament on the occasion of the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp.

“In a poem, Nelly Sachs asked in 1961, “Why the black response of hatred towards your existence, Israel?” Although the state existed at that time, Nelly Sachs referred to Jewish existence in general with the word Israel throughout her life. And so, the question leads directly into the heart of my lecture. For hatred towards Jews and hatred towards Israel form an inseparable symbiosis.

I had been asked to speak about antisemitism after October 7, 2023. For 20 years, I have been researching the topic of anti-Jewish sentiment and am familiar with the depths and manifestations of this cultural hatred. Nevertheless, I have never found it so difficult to formulate a lecture on this topic. This is not only due to the brutality of the massacre but also because the reactions to this monstrosity were and still are monstrous. It drastically shows us that parts of humanity have learned nothing from history.

October 7th showed the quintessence of hatred towards Jews, its ultimate rationale, the unconditional desire to extinguish Jewish existence. Here, we encounter not the banality of evil, but the antisemitic evil itself in its most terrifying form. Just as the Nazis believed that Jews had to be eradicated as a world evil for the benefit of humanity.

On October 7th, this eliminatory antisemitism was celebrated and sanctified.
One scene illustrates this: a recorded phone conversation, where one hears the proud voice of a young Palestinian. Quote “Mother, your son killed ten Jews today! I’m calling you from the phone of a dead Jew. Tell father! Their blood is on my hands. Mother, your son is a hero!” The father joyfully shouts: “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!”

In line with this, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Imre Kertesz warned: “The antisemite of our time no longer wants to distance himself from the Jews, he wants Auschwitz.”

On October 7, 2023, over 1200 people of all ages were tortured, mutilated, burned. With jubilant cries!
Only by explicitly naming these atrocities can the extent of the moral failure of large parts of the world population be understood.

There should have been an international outcry!

Instead, there was the deafening silence of those who usually are the first to express outrage. The feminists remained silent about the mass rapes, the progressive academies and art scenes about the cruel murders of young people, the peace activists and anti-racists about the brutalities.
The politically correct moralists, who usually scream at every discrimination against minorities, mocked the victims and their families through antisemitic perpetrator-victim reversals, also – and particularly virulently – at universities. The “yes, but” rhetoric of pseudo-intellectual and political discourse (up to the UN level) reproduced under the slogan of “contextualization” the old antisemitic argument that Jews are to blame for their own misfortune.

Reason, decency, and compassion were abandoned in favor of ideological blindness, in favor of an anti-Israeli narrative.

And not only in Israel, but in Jewish communities worldwide, there came with force the re-traumatization and with it the bitter realization of how lonely one remained in the 21st century despite all assurances of the trite “never again.”

In social media, there was a post inspired by the famous quote from Niemöller, reflecting the bewilderment, especially of young progressive Jews, which I would like to read here (in translation): “They attacked lesbians and gays, and I stood up against it, they attacked the black community, and I stood up against it, they attacked migrants, and I stood up against it. Then they attacked me, but I stood alone, because I am Jewish.”

Surprisingly, empathy denial and eruptions of hatred did not come out of nowhere. The groundwork had long been laid, and we had already experienced similar phenomena during the Gaza crisis in 2014, when in the streets of Europe, “Hamas, Jews to the gas” was shouted, and verbal violence erupted on the internet.

In empirical research, we have long been warning – repeatedly and publicly – about an antisemitism that establishes a distorted image of the Jewish state in the media discourse.

The conclusion of our conference “Contemporary Antisemitism as a Phenomenon of the Center” was: “Israel-related antisemitism is today the most frequent form of contemporary anti-Jewish sentiment, yet it receives the least resistance in politics and civil society. This is where the danger of the expansion and habitualization of antisemitism in … society lies.” – This was 15 years ago!

Currently, we identify four politically-ideological forms of anti-Jewish sentiment: left-wing, right-wing, Muslim, and a middle-educated feuilleton antisemitism.

Despite all ideological differences, all four reveal synergies, form alliances, as leftist-extreme and Islamist movements have been doing for some time. All converge in the demonization of Israel.
The educated and morally upright antisemitism with its polished rhetoric, which comes as “concern for world peace,” fosters intellectual arson, as it implants ideas in the minds – the radicals, extremists, and ignorants act as accelerants.

After the pogrom, the well-known American gender icon Judith Butler interpreted the massacre as a “rebellion,” as “armed resistance,” she saw no act of terror and no antisemitism, and Hamas had once called it a “left-wing social movement.”

She does not explain how beheading and burning infants can be resistance. Instead, through her prominence, she brings the old anti-Jewish causal argument into collective consciousness: if violence is inflicted upon Jews, it is due to the behavior of Jews.

It should come as no surprise to find antisemitism among highly educated individuals. Think of the anti-Jewish statements of Augustine, Luther, Voltaire, Fichte, or Hegel. In the Bildungsroman novels of liberal-progressive authors Dickens, Wilde, Dostoevsky, the tropes of the evil, dirty, greedy Jew are firmly entrenched. Their writings dripped poison into the consciousness of millions of readers. Until the middle of the 20th century, the proportion of educated antisemites was higher than that of the uneducated. Because anti-Jewish resentment is not a prejudice, not racism, but a collective mode of thought and feeling, and unfortunately, education is not an absolute safeguard against it. For centuries, antisemites believed that the collective evil Jew slaughtered children and conspired with Satan, today, in direct reference to this distorted image, they believe that the Jewish state is a racist apartheid regime that murders children.

Educated and progressive individuals with Dr. and Prof. titles are dangerous because people listen to them without suspicion, because they carry the moral claim to be the good ones outwardly. Therefore, their texts and numerous lists of signatures carry weight in public opinion.

The woke Manichaeism fosters great tolerance towards the Jewish state and intolerance.

Published by the media are the most crude ideas, for example, in recent years, statements from the postcolonial approach that relativize the Holocaust and delegitimize Israel. This template not only provides criticism against Israel but also discredits Jews collectively, such as when Anne Frank is posthumously referred to as a “white colonial girl,” and her diary is burned.

The salient symbol for Jewish life and survival in the world is Israel and hence the thorn in the minds of all modern antisemites. Israel-related antisemitism is neither new nor politically motivated outrage antisemitism, and it is also not based on the Middle East conflict.

It has no other causal structure than anti-Judaism, with the conflict serving as a catalyst. It is therefore important to emphasize that hatred towards Israel – as a worldview – has continuously been articulated even without crises, wars, and settlements.

Anyone who believes that hatred towards Israel is fueled by the current conflict situation should read the hate messages received by Asher Ben Nathan, Israel’s first ambassador to Germany. Since its founding, the Jewish state has been hated because it exists, not because of its actions or inactions.

The “Israelization of antisemitic semantics” is characterized by projecting classic stereotypes (such as child murderers, land grabbers, nation destroyers) adapted to Israel, and Jews everywhere in the world are collectively attacked under the pretext of the conflict.

In our research, we see all the characteristics of classic antisemitism. Antisemitic concepts also permeate through the massively increased processes of defense and denial:

The much-discussed taboo on criticism is a crude invention because no country on Earth is criticized as vigorously and frequently as Israel; legitimate criticism and antisemitism are not equated, and due to clear criteria, there are no gray areas in our demarcation.

All these fantasies are produced to immunize themselves against the accusation of antisemitism. This is also nothing new: Wilhelm Marr, author of the most influential antisemitic pamphlet in the 19th century, claimed not to be driven by hatred of Jews, but he had to, in his words, “truthfully expose how harmful Jews acted.”

Here we encounter battles of interpretation that – as Franz Kafka once said – want to make “lies the order of the world.” The global lie about Jewish Israel is already well established. It is believed by too many and too often. And it has terrifying consequences. We all face the challenge of confronting this web of lies with facts.

Nelly Sachs wrote:

“Land of Israel,
now that your people
from the corners of the world
return home.

And she cried out, ‘Peoples of the Earth, do not (dis)sever with the knives of hatred!'”

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