Yesterday I came across anti-Semitic graffiti near my home in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. Someone had scrawled a Star of David and the words “money over love” on a poster for lovehandleradio.com, a Toronto-based podcast of boogie, funk, and soul. “Money Over Love” is a song, featuring Kendrick Lamar, from Bilal’s 2015 album In Another Life. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about the song, or the video – and the graffiti artist made a smart connection between the podcast and Bilal’s music, which has been dubbed “neo-soul,” although Bilal musical style is capacious and hard to define. But the Star of David transformed the title of a work of art into a hateful slogan.
There’s been a lot of chatter over the past few days about Donald Trump’s retweeting of a poster featuring a picture of Hilary Clinton, piles of cash, and a star of David with the words “most corrupt candidate ever” on the inside of the star. The Trump campaign finds nothing sinister in the image’s prior appearance on a white supremacist web site. Their response is that the star is just a star, or maybe a sheriff’s badge, but certainly nothing more sinister than the six-pointed star on a children’s colouring book based on the Disney film Frozen.
This kerfuffle is not an isolated incident. Trump has flirted with anti-Semitism throughout his campaign. Trump is probably not an anti-Semite in any conventional sense of the word. He doesn’t seem to bear any animus against his daughter Ivanka, an Orthodox convert to Judaism, or against Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner. But he attracts antisemites, who have hurled abuse at trump’s Jewish critics.
There is more anti-Semitic rhetoric bouncing around American cyberspace than at any time since the intervention of the internet. For the past fifteen years, Jews have worried about a new anti-Semitism that was couched as hostility to Israel. The idea was that the old anti-Semitism, replete with associations between Jews and avarice, or presenting Jews as wielders of vast and hidden powers, had become socially unacceptable. According to many Jewish activists, anti-Semitic wine was now being poured into an anti-Zionist bottle.
Whether you believe that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are identical, totally dissimilar, or overlapping, the fact is that the “old” anti-Semitism is making a comeback. It is not nearly as powerful or noxious as the anti-black,, anti-Hispanic, and anti-Muslim hatred that the Trump camp either tolerates or actively propagates. But it’s there, it’s bonded to the Trump camp like a pilot fish and a shark, and it’s astonishing that Trump’s Jewish supporters don’t see it.
Not that Trump’s supporters will listen to someone attempting to be reasonable, but here is an interview I gave to the Wharton School of Business about myths and realties of Jewish economic life. It may come in handy in a political argument.