Throughout history, hatred of Jews has been expressing itself in ever-changing forms. In their book Inside the Antisemitic Mind: The Language of Jew-Hatred in Contemporary Germany, German linguist Monika Schwarz-Friesel and American historian Jehuda Reinharz describe antisemitism as a “chameleon” that “changes its colors according to the social and political situations, but stays the same at its cognitive and emotional core.”
Reporting on the results of a study that extracted expressions of antisemitism from more than 15,000 letters, emails and faxes that have been addressed to the Council of Jews in Germany and to Israeli embassies all over Europe, Inside the Antisemitic Mind exposes the ideas, codes and figures of speech that communicate antisemitism in the 21st century.
The investigation shows how traditional antisemitic themes such as the blood libel, the idea of Jewish moral inferiority or the idea that Jews are money-grubbing usurers are transformed into interpretations of contemporary sociopolitical developments, such as the 2008 global financial crisis or the Middle East conflict.
The latter leads to a demonization of Israel, which, the authors find, is the most prominent and recurring among contemporary antisemitic schemes.
“Hatred of the Jewish state of Israel is at the center of the activities of antisemites no matter whether from the right, left, or mainstream… In fact, there is an ‘Israelization’ of modern Judeophobic discourse.” While this idea in itself is certainly not new, one of the great achievements of Inside the Antisemitic Mind is its scientific corroboration based on an extensive analysis of rich empirical data. The authors draw a clear distinction between criticism and antisemitic demonization of the Jewish state that applies classic anti-Jewish themes such as the blood libel, framing Israel as “a child-murdering criminal people who learned absolutely nothing after the Second World War!”
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