Antisemitism is usually associated with the extreme right, for good reason: “alt-right” activists were literally chanting “Jews will not replace us!” in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia not too long ago. And while the current President may not be personally anti-semitic, he’s certainly shown no qualms about amplifying Jewish stereotypes and even neo-Nazis when he thinks it suits his purposes.
But antisemitism is a slippery and adaptable beast, and it has a foothold even among those who insist they’re against all forms of bigotry and hatred. Two recent examples:
First, a heartwarming viral photo from a Black Lives Matter demonstration in London showed a kindly-looking elderly man speaking to a young activist. Turns out that lovely old man is a veteran Holocaust denier:
Britain’s ITV News has been forced to retract a report purportedly about two anti-racism campaigners, one a young black girl and the other an elderly white man, joining forces across the generational divide, after it emerged that the man in question was known to attend antisemitic meetings where Holocaust denial was commonplace.The story was supposed to be a heart-warming one.
A photograph of Rosie Grace and Jim Curran in conversation, snapped by a student at a recent Black Lives Matter protest in London, had quickly gone viral, lauded across the internet as an illustration of the power of the anti-racism protests to bring people together in unity. Curran was particularly praised for a sign he was wearing, which read: “Racism is the virus and we are the vaccine.”
A report published jointly earlier this year by the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity which protects British Jews against antisemitism, and anti-racism charitable trust Hope Not Hate named Curran as a regular attendee of “Keep Talking,” described in the report as a “conspiracy theory organization” that meets regularly in north London.
According to the report’s authors, a meeting they attended included “open and unchallenged Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories about Mossad and the Rothschild banking family.”
A March 5, 2019 meeting was titled: “The loss of freedom of speech on Israel, thanks to bogus antisemitism claims.”
Grace, in a series of since-deleted tweets, made it clear she agrees with Curran:
The difficulty with the photo appears to first have been brought to light by Joanne Bell, an activist against antisemitism, according to CAMERA UK, which tweeted its opposition to the image being lauded. Bell commented in her tweet: “Racists can also wear suits and kindly elderly faces.”
Bell then put Curran’s record to Grace on Twitter, but the latter was unapologetic, defending Curran and his record. In a return tweet, Grace commented “I spoke with Jim and judge him on our convo and from his vibe and his work. The Jews are not innocent.” That tweet appears to have since been deleted.
In a separate tweet Grace added: “He is an activist and a beautiful man. Spoke some real deep truths. His words brought me to tears. He said the genocide the news [sic] went through, was nothing on slavery and what black people endured and are still enduring.”
Actress Chelsea Handler shared a video of Louis Farrakhan discussing racism on her Instagram page on June 14 and called it “powerful.”
The video is a clip of the nation of Islam leader taking questions from the audience during an appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” on an unspecified date. During the clip, Farrakhan discusses issues of racism and white supremacy.
“I learned a lot from watching this powerful video,” Handler wrote on her Instagram page.
One Instagram user responded in the comments section, “Based on this logic, if you find a video of Hitler saying something positive and powerful, will you feel equally compelled to share it? You gave hate credibility and a large platform today.”
In the comments section, Handler defended posting the video.
“Hitler was responsible for killing millions of lives,” she replied. “Farrakhan is just responsible for his own promotion of anti-Semitic beliefs. They are very different.”
Another commenter praised Handler for posting the video, stating: “Truth is truth, regardless of who it comes from and whether you like them.”
Handler responded, “Agreed. The message should stand alone.”
Writer Hazel Cills noted on the feminist website Jezebel that actor Sean Hayes and actress Lisa Rinna also praised the video, and that actress Jessica Chastain may have posted it to her Instagram page before deleting it.
“While he has denied being anti-Semitic, Farrakhan has previously called Judaism a ‘gutter religion,’ has referred to Adolf Hitler as a ‘great man,’ and has spoken about ‘powerful’ and ‘Satanic’ Jews as being his enemy, among many other statements condemning Jewish people,” Cills wrote.
None of these people have access to the nuclear codes, Thank God. But every really bad idea starts out on the fringe and gains currency because more mainstream people adopt it. We should be trying to snuff them out before they get that far.
John-Paul Pagano, a veteran observer of antisemitic conspiracy culture, puts it best: