How antisemitism fuels white nationalism

PBS NewsHour

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Four leading authorities joined me recently in an online forum to detail that connection.

    Racial justice activist Eric Ward, American University professor Pamela Nadell, former homeland security analyst Daryl Johnson, and former white nationalist Derek Black tackled extremist groups, the conspiracy theories driving their beliefs and the current and historic roots of antisemitism that underlie their convictions.

    This segment is part of our ongoing series "Exploring Hate: Antisemitism, Racism and Extremism."

    Derek, I want to ask, is anti-Semitism, a sort of binding agent.

  • Derek Black:

    Yes antisemitism is the fiber of white nationalism, it is the ideology that in many ways is absolutely at the core and motivates all of its organizing. All of its core ideology and its worldview.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Derek, I want to stay with you for a second. Tell me a little bit about that. I mean, the role of lore here, when you're a child, I mean, the stories we are told as children are there conspiracy theories that you remember hearing as if it was established fact.

  • Derek Black:

    I mean, absolutely. I think it's important at the beginning of this panel that people understand how white nationalists see the world is that more so than organizations for racial justice, more so than civil rights movements. White nationalists believe that all of their problems with society are created by an organized conspiracy of Jewish people who are motivating and pushing immigration laws, civil rights laws, And it's a belief system that in many ways disregards people of color so that it's not possible that that organizing is coming from actual racial justice organizations, but that it is a secret cabal, a conspiracy by Jewish people and therefore Jewish people are the main targets of white nationalists.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Daryl, I want to ask you from your work in the Homeland Security Department, can you help us see how this idea, or these ideas that Derek just rattled off binds both domestic terror groups, but also internationally? I mean, does it transcend white nationalism make for some sort of strange bedfellows?

  • Daryl Johnson:

    Yeah, I think it's an important aspect that your audience needs to understand is this anti-Semitism is not just limited to white nationalists, it spans the spectrum. We have sovereign citizens that believe in these conspiracy theories of this elite Jewish cabal, of people that are secretly manipulating government and infringing on our rights and things of this nature. It also bridges over into Black nationalism, as well as Muslim extremism and even some of the militia groups that we have here embrace some of this anti-Semitic belief systems like the new world order, gun legislation. All of this, they believe, is some sort of Jewish conspiracy to undermine their Second Amendment rights. So that's an important aspect is, you know, many hate groups and different types of extremists embrace anti-Semitism as a core belief.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Eric, you also say, you know, the antisemitism is an effective conspiracy theory that dehumanizes all of us. I mean, how do you say that based on your own experience as a civil rights leader?

  • Eric Ward:

    You know, one thing I've learned is you can't convince a person of something they don't already kind of believe. The first thing we have to understand is white nationalist or other politically violent movements are racially biased movements. They don't bring anti-Semitism or other forms of bigotry to our community. They merely organize the bigotry that already exists. Anti-Semitism exists in American society. White nationalists are tapping into it in order to build political power. It means we have to understand anti-Semitism, and one of the things we should understand about anti-Semitism is it doesn't just impact Jews. Non-Jews are just as vulnerable to the violence of anti-Semitism as the Jewish community.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Professor Nadal, I mean, we might be able to better understand these connections today if we're given a little bit more context about the past. I mean, some of the tropes that we are hearing from my guests here, they seem ancient. I mean, you can kind of, you can almost take this verbatim from biblical times to now.

  • Pamela Nadell:

    Exactly. Hari, even even though there is anti Judaism before the birth of Christianity, what we're really seeing is we're seeing a kind of line from the Gospels where John says to the Jews, in the gospel of John he says you, you are from your father, the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. And by the time we get to the Middle Ages, where Christendom is in power across Europe, we get these terrible images of the Jews who are seen as diabolical, that they murder children because they need them for ritual purposes. We have the image of the evil, greedy, wicked moneylender, and we also get the image of the Jews during the Black Death, the bubonic plague of 1348-49. We have the image of the Jews have poisoned the wells and that's why people are dying. And the result is across Jewish history is legislation restricting Jewish behavior, confining Jews to ghettos, but also outbursts of violence that run across history down until today.