'The actual truth'
Antisemitism is rising, but not in entirely straightforward ways
This week, Elon Musk surprised no one when he made a full-throated endorsement of a baldly antisemitic tweet. The post, by a paid X user of course, claimed that “western Jewish populations” were “flooding their country” with “hordes of minorities”—the baseless conspiracy theory that has fueled a series of neo-Nazi massacres, including one at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. “You have said the actual truth,” Musk replied, boosting the otherwise forgettable tweet to X’s entire worldwide audience.
Both the tweet and Musk’s response are part of the wave of global antisemitism spilling out of Israel’s war on Gaza—a war whose Palestinian death toll is nearing 12,000. In press accounts, many of them written by prominent Jewish voices, the mechanism is usually described like this: Israel was attacked on Oct. 7 by Hamas, and Israel is now asserting its and Jews’ rights to exist, stirring up latent (or not so latent) antisemitic cultural currents. The factions whose antisemitic elements usually get the focus are accordingly pro-Palestine and anti-Zionist, especially in Muslim communities and on the left; the signature acts generally praise for Hamas (real or imagined), or tearing down one of the ubiquitous “Kidnapped from Israel” posters that have appeared in U.S. cities over the course of the war.
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But if you look any closer, that simple narrative starts to fray. The tweet that Musk endorsed, by a poster calling himself “The Artist Formerly Known as Eric,” had a twist: he was backhandedly chastizing the alleged “hordes of minorities” for their antisemitism, saying that they “don’t exactly like [Jews] too much”—while also getting a dig in at “western Jews” ourselves (about whom, “Eric” said, “I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest shit”). In other words, in his mind, he was engaging in a little Islamophobia and general xenophobia on the Jews’ behalf, then circling back to express his disdain for certain Jews.
Which Jews does Eric like? He made that perfectly clear in another tweet just a few days ago: “I support Israel, but domestic Jews can kind of go to hell.” (That tweet was in response to a post by the internet neo-Nazi Keith Woods, as quote-tweeted and mildly rebuked by “friend of The Racket” Richard Hanania.) You might think that sort of sentiment is weird or confusing, but it is far more common among actual Western antisemites than you might think. Nazis like Richard Spencer have often been outspoken in their admiration for Israel as an ethnostate; check in on actual white supremacist circles online these days and you will often hear clucks of support for what they recognize as an ongoing Israeli genocide against the Palestinians. The underlying notion is that Jews are tolerable, for now at least, as long as we are over there.
And these sentiments are not limited to circles where no Jews are present, either. This week’s March for Israel in D.C. featured a speech by televangelist John Hagee, the founder of the powerful lobbying group Christians United For Israel. Hagee is a prolific antisemite, whose greatest hits include declaring that Hitler was a “half-breed Jew,” that the Anti-Christ is also “at least going to be partially Jewish” (and gay), and that Hitler was sent by God for the purpose of driving the Jews to Israel—which, Hagee argues, is “the only home God ever intended for the Jews to have.” As recently as last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Hagee an “extraordinary friend.”
Supporters of Israel might want to believe that messages like Hagee’s—and Netanyahu’s outspoken support for him—pervert the roots of the Jewish state. But antisemitic Christian Zionism has been intrinsic to the project since the beginning. As historian Jonathan Schneer has written, the British leaders who first promised a Jewish “national home” in Palestine