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Anti-Semitism and Denial

Denial is a key piece of anti-Semitism. I’ve experienced how deep it is whenever I’ve let people (both RCers and non-RCers) know that their behavior has been anti-Semitic.

In my experience not only Gentiles deny anti-Semitism but Jews as well. Actually, it’s not that Jews deny anti-Semitism but rather that we occlude it after it happens, or we don’t recognize it as anti-Semitism, or we’re afraid to trust our perception that it is. For example, in my work outside of Co-Counseling, when I ask Jews about experiences of anti-Semitism, they often say they’ve had none, and then later say, “Oh, you mean when someone called me a dirty Jew?”

As for non-Jews, denial and amnesia (or revisionist history) keep them from really looking at, acknowledging, and remembering the existence and depth of anti-Semitic distress recordings. I’ve had exchanges with folks, mostly in Co-Counseling, in which they deny that they’ve targeted me with anti-Semitism. Even when they finally look at it, the denial occurs again in later instances of anti-Semitism. But, in fact, I rarely raise the issue—I am either too scared, or not sure it was anti-Semitism.

In reference to anti-Semitism in Western and Eastern Europe, it is important to remember that the people there are good people who have suffered much oppression and trauma. It is also important to understand that for centuries Jews have been set up to be the group that is targeted and scapegoated when people notice and are outraged about their own oppression. The anti-Semitic recordings are old, deep-seated, and virulent, and also confusing and repeatedly “believable.” They need loving but firm (not liberal) attention and interruption. The pull to deny the recordings and blame Jews is a powerful piece of anti-Semitism.

It’s important to understand how anti-Semitism is installed and how people are manipulated and made vulnerable to the recordings. However, we Jews don’t need to hear what people exhibiting anti-Semitic behaviors really meant, or how we did wrong things that drew their responses. Non-Jews need to discharge the pulls to deny their anti-Semitism and argue with a Jew about it. When a Jew has the courage to call an ally on [tell an ally about] their anti-Semitism, I’d like the ally’s first response to be “tell me more” or “thank you for telling me” or “I’m sorry; I’ll keep cleaning this up.” It’s also important to be aware of and discharge on “bystander collusion”—that is, watching an occurrence of anti-Semitism and going silent and passive.

I’ve always loved the comment by Barbara Love (the International Liberation Reference Person for African-Heritage People) that racism had a start date, so there can and will be an end date. This is also true of anti-Semitism.

Dvora Slavin

Seattle, Washington, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion listfor RC Community members

(Present Time 191, April 2018)


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00