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  • Writer's pictureIlan Morgenstern, Bass Trombone

A Smorgasbord of Crazy: How Swastikas and flags of Israel coexist in far-right utopia

The mob takeover of the Capitol exposed again how strange the bedfellows can be on the extreme right. Blue Lives Matter protestors attacking cops, law-and-order-type Republican legislators participating in a riot, vets attacking the government, self-proclaimed freedom fighters trying to take away others' rights by force, constitutionalists committing treason, etc etc etc.

There were also the usual anti-semitic signs: Auschwitz hoodie with 6MWE (6 million weren’t enough), swastikas, Kekistani flags (a green stand-in for the red Nazi flag), and crusader flags to name a few. But there were also some Israel flags (that may or may not have been flown by American Jews or Israeli immigrants) at the rally preceding the riot, and after the fact some blamed the riots on, you guessed it, “The Jews”. Here’s a little overview of it all:

I don’t think it’s news to anybody that if one were to stop and think about it logically, this would all make about as much sense as the plot of a Wagner opera. I think it’s also important to mention that living amongst complete morons isn't a uniquely American experience. The American feeling of being the greatest country in the world, with the best form of government, best education, best economic system, a world leader (or free world leader), is no different than how every other country feels about itself. People in my three countries all share beliefs in how they are better than others. The US is the greatest, some israeli’s believe it is “a beacon to gentiles'', a pretty dumb saying on so many levels, and of course Canadians feel very strongly about how especially nice they are, conveniently forgetting the founder of the Proud Boys movement being, you guessed it, Canadian ( Besides, did anybody say Ted Cruz? Anyway, all this to say that being unstable and uneducated to the point of supremacy isn’t unique, new, or especially american.

But there is an oddity to being Jewish and watching all this unfold. It seems either “the Jews” or “Israel” are part of every political perspective’s thought process and can be used interchangeably to justify a host of contradictory positions. It’s both unsettling and bewildering. Now, I can’t speak for every person’s experience and opinions, but I think there are some themes. So using broad generalizations, that will be completely unfair to many thinking people, and likely offensive to some, I’d like to share my non-expert perspective on how this all adds up. After all, what’s the Internet for if not for unfair generalizations made by non-experts?

Why do the far-right dislike the Jews?

It seems there are a few reasons to dislike the Jews if you subscribe to far right ideology, of its many ilks. First, well, they’re Jews, and if you’re a white-supremacist you might be biased in that regard. Second, good-ol anti-semitism is always popular with such people. For instance, the blood-libel descriptions of George Soros, an American-Jewish philanthropist as the boogeyman in the middle of so many conspiracies has all the familiar tropes that add up to something like this: using the power of media and big money, the socialist Jews run the world. If you’re interested in more about this brand of crazy, you might check this out:

Why do the extreme far-right like Israel?

This really isn’t complicated either. If you’re a racist, you might see in this context (only) Jews as being white, and Muslims are not.

Why do some Evangelical Christians like Israel?

Put far too simply, it seems some evangelicals love Israel for a basic reason: in their mind the state of Israel was foreseen in the bible and therefore must be the first sign of the second coming of Christ. Through that lens they see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a fight of good vs evil, that will bring with it the end of the physical world as we know it. Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee, you name it: all these men and many more had words about Israel. More importantly, Israel’s leaders as of late have done very little to distance themselves from these dangerous relationships.

Here’s some reading on this intersection of faith and politics:

Why super-ultra religious Jews NOT like Israel?

The state of Israel is seen in some extreme Jewish circles as going against the prophecies in the old testament, where the state of Israel can only be reestablished by god, through the coming of their messiah, and without human intervention. When you see hasidic Jews meeting with Iranian officials and the like, this is literally who you’re seeing:

Why some of the mainstream and most of the far left turned against Israel?

This might seem a bit counter-intuitive: a mostly democratic-socialist society with collectivist roots, a liberal democracy surrounded by dictatorships, private-public healthcare, and a developed welfare system and judiciary don’t seem incompatible with liberal thinking, especially in the US.

That said, there are a few reasons for why Israel has found less and less support within the liberal side in the US. In reverse order of importance, I’d say that first, because the mainstream right seems on average pro Israel (whatever that means), second, because Israeli leaders especially as of late have been shortsighted in how they approach US internal political calculations, and third is the palestinian issue, complete with civilian casualties, poverty, and white and brown skinned people. Issues that from an outsider can seem simple, resolvable, or racially motivated.

It saddened me a lot to overhear a friend refer to a Jewish colleague as a “racist Zionist”, or to have a college professor equate the Palestinian West Bank with South African Apartheid in a private conversation. Let me be very clear, the Palestinian people deserve to determine their own future. That’s not just my personal opinion, but it’s also Israeli consensus and official policy. The breakdown of political talks is a failure with plenty of blame to go around. If you’re liberal there might be plenty of reasons to be wary of Israel’s policies, and criticism of any country’s policies is legitimate and important. On the rare instances I have these discussions I often request that when one engages in the important act of political criticism and discourse, to work to apply their standards to all involved. With that said, frankly, don’t mind seeing my countries held to a higher standard as long as we’re all aware of what is going on.

I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds on all this, and there's plenty of reading on the Israeli-Palestinian conflic, not to mention strong opinions formed already. Nevertheless, here you are, from the racism desk at Qatari State-Owned Al Jazeera, a perspective on this issue from an absolute monarchy:

So there you have it, my non expert perspective on a small, and frankly, given the stakes of all that is happening, pretty unimportant aspect of this past month.

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