By Arlene Caplan Appelrouth | email@example.com
Talking about the nature and behavior of anti-Semites is like “opening a Pandora’s box of hatred,” Emory professor Deborah Lipstadt told more than 150 people Sunday, Aug. 14, during her annual Tisha B’Av speech at Young Israel of Toco Hills.
The Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies was introduced as “one of the great Jewish leaders of our time” by Rabbi Adam Starr of Young Israel, where she is a member.
Speaking on the topic “The Anti-Semite, a Typology,” Lipstadt based her remarks on a book she is writing about the taxonomy and typology of anti-Semitism today.
Lipstadt is pleased that this is her first book with prepublication contracts around the world. Her previous books include “Denying the Holocaust” in 1993 and its 2005 follow-up, “History on Trial,” about the libel case Holocaust denier David Irving brought against her in English court.
The story of that trial has been turned into the film “Denial,” making its premiere in September and arriving in Atlanta on Oct. 7. Starring as Lipstadt is Rachel Weisz, who Rabbi Starr joked is a “Deborah Lipstadt look-alike.”
Lipstadt divides anti-Semites into four categories: extremists; enablers; polite anti-Semites; and accidental anti-Semites. The demarcations are not strict, she said, and one person can be in more than one category.
What anti-Semites have in common is hatred of Jews, Lipstadt said, noting that the reasons for prejudice against Jews include “delusions about Jews” involving money, power and conspiracy theories.
The historical roots of anti-Semitism are planted in the New Testament with the death of Jesus, she said, and “while we like to think anti-Semitism is dead, it isn’t.”
Anti-Semites in the extremist category are usually on the right wing politically and often participate in organizations like white supremacist groups, including neo-Nazis.
But “they aren’t the ones who worry me,” Lipstadt said, adding that many people see extremists as strange but not dangerous.
Anti-Semitism’s enablers are savvy people who often use social media to promote their views. Lipstadt calls characterized them as “utilitarian.”
Lipstadt mentioned the Jewish conservative journalist Bethany Mandel, who posted a remark on Twitter referring to the anti-Semitic supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Shortly afterward, Mandel was the victim of an extreme social media campaign. The enabling anti-Semites barraged her with tweets and texts that were so threatening that the journalist purchased a gun for protection, Lipstadt said.
“People hide behind social media by making statements anonymously,” the professor said. “This behavior is done in a coward’s way.”
These anti-Semites also employ coded messages and dog whistles. They want to draw the attention of like-minded people to the Jews they are targeting with their hatred.
As an example, she said certain publications were using parentheses, called echoes, around Jewish names. At first, the code was not readily understood. When it became obvious that the signs were targeting Jews, some Jewish people put their own parentheses around their names in a show of defiance.
The polite anti-Semites, Lipstadt said, make comments such as “Some of my best friends are Jewish” and “We have a new partner, and she’s Jewish.”
The accidental anti-Semites,” on the other hand, have integrated and absorbed prejudicial attitudes to the point that they often are unaware that their views are anti-Semitic.
Lipstadt spoke of a friend who was the only Jew in a New York nursing school. When the friend went to a celebratory lunch with a group of non-Jewish nursing students, one of them talked about bargains and said to Lipstadt’s friend: “Now, Barbara, you would be interested in this.”
Barbara, who thought fast, replied that she didn’t know Jews were the only ones smart with their money.
The woman who made the remark about bargains probably thought she was paying a compliment, Lipstadt said. She added that most people usually don’t know how to respond to accidental prejudicial remarks.
Using an old, slightly comic definition, Lipstadt said in her concluding remarks: “An anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews more than necessary.”