Opinion |

How Dead Jews Became a Valuable Political Commodity

For the Jews barricaded in a synagogue in Halle, it made no difference if the shooter was a neo-Nazi or a soldier of the Caliphate. But for the left and right in Europe, the U.S. and Israel, Jewish bodies are political capital

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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The Star of David on the dome of the synagogue in Halle, Germany October 10, 2019, after two people were killed by a far-right extremist who tried to enter the synagogue
The Star of David on the dome of the synagogue in Halle, Germany October 10, 2019, after two people were killed by a far-right extremist who tried to enter the synagogueCredit: \ FABRIZIO BENSCH/ REUTERS
Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

Sometimes it makes sense to go back and read Mein Kampf.

Our collective memory of the way genocidal hatred of the Jews was whipped up in Germany of the 1920s and 1930s is largely framed by the crude racist stereotypes of Der Sturmer, the drawings of avaricious and hook-nosed, dirty and bearded Jews debauching pure Teutonic maidens.

Those images make it easy to forget that there was a deeper and more ideological form of racial theory, which wasn’t just based on the demonization of Jews as degenerate creatures. One that could appeal to more cerebral and intellectual Germans and could apply itself to assimilated Jews who looked nothing like those cartoons.

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler makes it clear that his particular obsession with Jews was not based on their being one of the inferior races. There were plenty of those, and the Germanic and Aryan races would fight them for domination of scarce natural resources and living-space.

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For Hitler, the Jews were a threat to the human race because they had brought to earth the notion that there was a way for humans to share the earth instead of killing each other for it.

The Jews, according to Hitler, had imposed their values on the natural order and were a force working against humanity. "All world-historical events are nothing more than the expression of the self-preservation drive of the races," he wrote. "It is Jewry that always destroys this order," and "murders the future."

It didn’t matter how the Jewish ideas were translated and transmitted. Whether by religion or liberal thinking or Communist atheism. "Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew." Any attempt to constrain the innate struggle of the races for their preservation was a version of the Jews’ obstruction of history and nature.

Hitler failed in removing this obstruction. But in murdering nearly six million Jews, he created a new political resource: Dead Jews. A valuable commodity.

Mein Kampf is clearly referenced in the video manifesto of the 27 year-old German man who tried to enter the Humboldt Street synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur (Wednesday) and murder the Jews praying inside. Having failed to shoot open the armored door, he fled, killing two passersby.

"Feminism is the cause of declining birth rates in the West, which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration, and the root of all these problems is the Jew," he declared, livestreaming himself before arriving at the synagogue.

The chain-reaction leading from feminism, to dropping birth-rates and mass immigration to Germany, all originates from the Jew. And since mass immigration in today’s Europe is a by-word for Muslims, then we are all in the firing-line together.

The ideological manifesto of the Halle shooter is virtually identical to that of the mass-murderer of Christchurch who massacred 51 Muslims at prayer in New Zealand and of the shooter who murdered eleven Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh a year ago.

The updated version of Mein Kampf’s natural order of races fighting each other, to the death, is today’s "replacement theory," the conspiracy theory popular on the far-right with echoes on the less radical but more populist right-wing, which sees the hordes of Muslim immigrants invading western countries, depopulated by plummeting birth-rates, and replacing their white Christian majority. The liberal elites responsible for welcoming these immigrants have been contaminated by the Jews and their ideas.

Anti-immigrant far right protesters in Chemnitz, Germany, after a German man was stabbed. August 27, 2018Credit: \ Matthias Rietschel/ REUTERS

Unsurprisingly, not one of the mainstream Israeli politicians releasing statements at the end of Yom Kippur about the Halle shooting could bring themselves to call the hatred by its name. How could they?

Their ideological allies, from Donald Trump in the U.S. to Viktor Orban in Hungary, regularly spout watered-down versions of the "replacement" theory. As do those very same Israeli politicians, when they talk of Israel’s own Muslim communities and the African asylum seekers who have found shelter here.

Instead they spoke of the "new anti-Semitism," the code-word for anti-Semitism which comes in the form of hatred for Israel. So what if it the attack in Halle, as the other ones which are motivated by white supremacist hate has nothing to do with Israel? Dead Jews are too good to waste. Even if in this case they survived.

It’s not that the left is much better. Statements from left-wing politicians and commentators about how Jews and Muslims are now both targets of the far-right are just a bit too convenient. They obscure the fact that in the last eight years, all the Jews murdered in Europe for being Jews, were killed by Muslims. Because they represented something to them as well.

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If the attacker on Yom Kippur had successfully broken down the door, then we would have more dead Jews in Halle to add to the twelve murdered over the past year by white supremacists in Pittsburgh and Poway. But the interesting thing with left-wing condemnations is that they tend to be much more eloquent when the perpetrator is white and comes from the far-right.

Because a dead Jew is never just a dead Jew, it depends who killed the Jew.

Anti-Semitism is binary, just not in the way that word is usually used in these situations. The left has long categorized Jews as being white and therefore privileged oppressors. We lose our privileged status only when the shooter is from the right, and proposes, as the Halle shooter did, to "kill as many anti-whites as possible, Jews preferred."

The mother and sister of Yoav Hattab, killed in an ISIS attack on a kosher Paris grocery store, mourn beside a coffin near Tel Aviv before his funeral. January 13, 2015Credit: \ REUTERS

In the 20th century our parents and grandparents were killed for being both rapacious capitalists and godless communists. In this century we are killed for both encouraging Muslims to emigrate to the Christian West and for being the vanguard of the imperialist Christian West dispossessing Muslims in the Middle East. Either way we are the targets.

Facing the far-right, both Muslims and Jews are targets. And in the wave of Islamist attacks in recent years, Jews weren’t the only targets either. There were plenty of non-Jewish targets, including satirical cartoonists and pop concert-goers and people eating at restaurants and many bystanders.

But in the Venn diagram of these two waves of terror, Islamist and neo-Nazi, Jews are the only targets who overlap in the crosshairs of both sets of attackers.

The man and woman murdered on Wednesday have yet to be identified as of time of writing and when their names are released, will remain significant only to their families and friends. Not being Jewish, their deaths are not politicized.

For the 80 Jews in Halle, praying on Yom Kippur that the shooter would not break in, they had no idea if he was a neo-Nazi or a soldier of the Caliphate.

And if those had been their last moments alive, they would not have known how their deaths would be exploited by the politicians, framed by the media, and claimed by Israel - or by multi-cultural Europe.

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