History, Department of


Date of this Version



Published as Chapter 7 in History in a Post-Truth World: Theory and Praxis, edited by Marius Gudonis and Benjamin T. Jones. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, pp 121-141.



Copyright © 2021 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Antisemitism, the negative stereotyping and hatred of Jews, has overshadowed Western history for 2000 years. In the 20th century, antisemitism led to the Shoah, the systematic state-sponsored murder of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany and its allies. In recent decades, antisemitism diminished significantly in the Western world, and there was hope that this plague would soon be consigned to the past. On the contrary, the past few years have witnessed a drastic increase of antisemitism in Western societies, often paired with far-right activism, racism, and xenophobia. In 2017 in Charlottesville, there were hundreds of marchers giving Nazi salutes, waving swastika flags, and shouting “white lives matter!,” “Sieg Heil,” and “Jews will not replace US.”1One of the white nationalists murdered counter-protester Heather Heyer and injured many others. One year later, in October 2018, an antisemite attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people. This was the bloodiest antisemitic motivated attack in the history of the United States. In 2019, there was a subsequent mass shooting targeting the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California, which left one dead and three wounded. The attacker was a declared white supremacist and an antisemite.

Research data show a strong rise of antisemitism in the United States in recent years. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the number of antisemitic attacks in the United States surged by 57% in 2017. With a total of 1986 incidents reported that year, this number represented the biggest single-year increase in reported anti-Jewish hate since the ADL began gathering such data 40 years ago. University campuses are not safe spaces either: The ADL reported 204 incidents on US college campuses in 2017, an 89% increase from the previous year.2 ...

These antisemitic conspiracy theories always needed a Jewish bogeyman, a face representing these dark forces allegedly at work. For antisemite and alt-right minds, this is George Soros. The Jewish Hungarian-American businessperson is blamed for almost everything: the refugee crisis in Europe, immigrant caravans in Central America, and the climate change “hoax.” In this alternative “truth” of antisemitism, the Holocaust is often downplayed to a minor event if not denied directly. The demonization of Israel remains common and can be found in many political parties on the right and the left. Recently, many far-right groups have attempted to make their brand more palatable by communicating a seemingly pro-Israel stance. While many of these trends are new variations on an old tune, the post-truth world is a world of mass media and the Internet. Distinguishing factual news from fake news is a challenge. The stakes are high in that fake news all too often leads to real hatred and even violence, as the events like the one in Pittsburgh have clearly demonstrated.