Antisemitism in Context
Reporting that leads to a greater understanding of antisemitism
For years, a one-dimensional view of Israel has poisoned the environment for Jews in Britain’s national students’ union. After an official investigation, will the situation improve?
Even in Sherwood
On July 19, 2023, an SUV in Sherwood, Oregon, was spray-painted with a neon green swastika. The owner of the vandalized vehicle, Tramaine Ivey, said that his car had also been egged recently. There is no additional information yet about the suspects or their motivations. Recent reports from the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest office show that antisemitic incidents are rising sharply in Oregon and Washington State. The ADL reported 40 antisemitic incidents in 2022 in these states and has documented a number of incidents in 2023, including graffitied swastikas at two elementary schools in Bend, Oregon, antisemitic flyers distributed in Lane County and antisemitic messaging scattered around Springfield, Oregon. The 2022 ADL audit shows that antisemitic incidents in Oregon have increased from 2021 in every category: vandalism, harassment and assault.
Sherwood is located in the Willamette Valley, historically one of the most liberal areas in the nation, and was recently named one of the 50 Best Places to Live in the World by Time magazine. Referred to as “Portland’s backyard,” it’s home to wineries, community centers, rolling hills dotted with horseback riders and berry farms—and sky-high housing prices. Incidents of hate, discrimination and prejudice may seem out of place in idyllic Sherwood, but according to Ivey, the town needs to focus its energy on educating its youth about the meaning of symbols like the swastika.
Hate can have a terrifying impact, even in communities with small Jewish populations. As of 2022, Oregon had a Jewish population of just over 40,000, making up approximately 1 percent of the state’s four million residents. The majority of Oregon’s Jewish community resides in and around Portland. Sherwood, approximately 16 miles south of Portland, does not have a synagogue, a Jewish Community Center or any other organizations for Jewish learning, activity or engagement. The lack of central spaces for Jewish life does not diminish the harrowing effect of the recent graffiti incident for the area’s Jewish community.
Ivey hopes that this vandalism is the result of youthful ignorance and poor choices, but he stresses that whoever is responsible for the vandalism needs to understand the deep harm that the symbol causes.
Australia, July 16, 2023
Public school students in Melbourne, Victoria, are experiencing an alarming amount of antisemitic comments, graffiti, slurs and violence. From slurs like “dirty Jew” to extreme bullying of Jewish students to memes honoring or lauding Hitler and the Nazis, the incidents in schools throughout the city have risen in severity and frequency. In at least three different Melbourne public schools, parents are choosing to pull their children out of school altogether after the administrations failed to take the antisemitic incidents seriously. One parent remarked, “in 35 years of experiencing schools in three different countries, this is the worst case of antisemitism I’ve come across.” The bullying remarks aimed at Melbourne’s Jewish students call for a return to concentration camps and total extermination, and they often include praise for Hitler. One of the schools involved in these antisemitic incidents was recently sued by five former Jewish students, all of whom left the school due to extreme antisemitic bullying.
United Kingdom, July 21, 2023
British bassist and lyricist Roger Waters, former member of the rock band Pink Floyd, has belonged to the Bertelsmann Music Group for years. Recently, a collection of Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International and the American Jewish Committee, asked the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) to drop the rock star entirely due to recent controversies surrounding the musician’s on- and off-stage choices throughout his 2023 European tour. At concerts in Berlin on May 17 and 18, Waters came onstage wearing an outfit reminiscent of a Nazi SS uniform—including a leather trench coat and a bright red armband. When asked about his clothing choice, Waters proclaimed, “it’s called satire!” Despite Waters’ attempts at defending himself, the German police opened an investigation into this trend in Waters’ appearances. In Germany, the punishment for people who celebrate or support the Nazi regime is three years in jail. A concert in Frankfurt scheduled for the end of May was initially canceled by the city council, but Waters took that decision to court and was ultimately allowed to perform. As of now, the Bertelsmann Music Group has only said that it will not “expand the scope of the contractual relationship.”
Germany, July 22, 2023
Journalist Fabian Wolff, Germany’s very own George Santos, has been lying about his identity for years, claiming that he has Jewish heritage. In mid-July, Wolff revealed that he does not have Jewish heritage. Wolff’s motivation for this farce seems to have been political—Zeev Avrahami of ynet wrote that his “Jewish identity was his ticket to the liberal left” in Germany. At the same time, Wolff has also loudly criticized Israel’s recent political changes and “bash[ed] fellow Jews” for not doing the same, wrote Avrahami. In May 2021, Wolff wrote a well-regarded essay for Zeit.de about what it means to be Jewish in Germany. Since his identity was revealed, Zeit.de updated the essay with a disclaimer, saying “we regret having published this article.”
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