Why We Probably Shouldn’t Worry About New Pogroms by the Forward

Why We Probably Shouldn’t Worry About New Pogroms

In his article “6 Jewish Historians Tell Us What To Expect in 2017 — and Beyond,” Philip Eil spoke to historian David Biale about how anti-Semitism was granted legitimacy in 2017. Here’s the full text of his remarks:

David Biale

Professor of Jewish History at University of California, Davis

Author of “Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought”

This election has been an incredibly rude awakening. Myself, I grew up in Los Angeles, and I never encountered anti-Semitism. I‘ve never had a personal experience of anti-Semitism. I mean, I’ve gotten into debates around Israel where the people on the other side were skating close to anti-Semitism — in that sense, maybe, yes. But not the kind of anti-Semitism we’ve seen emerging around this campaign. The old tropes — “The Jews control the world”; the use of Holocaust imagery, “Too bad Hitler didn’t kill you,” et cetera, et cetera — all of that stuff is, in my experience, entirely new.

I think that if you go back and you look at the polls over the last several decades, they show a decrease in anti-Semitism: Maybe 10%–15% of the population has anti-Semitic attitudes. We knew it was there, we knew that there were these sorts of fringe groups [and] fringe websites. But what we thought was: “Let the Southern Poverty Law Center take care of that. They’re not really a significant threat. They don’t really impinge on the national discourse, even though they’re there.”

But what happened in the campaign is that they were given legitimacy. They were given a soapbox. Trump retweeted them. He used the same kinds of tropes in a number of his speeches that they use. And these guys have now been empowered.

Does it mean that we’re going to have pogroms here? No, I don’t think so. But I think that the civic culture has been attacked in a way that is very, very damaging. It may never recover, or it may take a long time for it to recover.

Why We Probably Shouldn’t Worry About New Pogroms

Why We Probably Shouldn’t Worry About New Pogroms


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