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Far-right antisemitism in the United States

Expressions of Far-right antisemitism in the United States
The current rise in the power of the Far-right is not exclusive to Europe. Worrying developments have also been taking place in other parts of the world, including the United States. We’re all aware that on the extreme margins of American society white supremacist movements, strongly nationalistic movements, vestiges of the Ku Klux Klan, have existed but they really have been marginal to daily life in America. They’ve certainly not influenced policy, coming out of Washington DC. They’ve been more of a nuisance factor than a lethal factor. Now we seem to be entering a new political moment and a new social moment in American life.
I’m speaking to you in February 2017 just a few weeks after the recent elections at the presidential level in America, a movement called the Alt-right, which just about no one heard of before, has come to the surface in a pretty prominent way. Its leader, if that’s the right name for Richard Spencer, is a man who is outspoken in his antisemitic views and he and some others right now are feeling their oats. There’s a good deal of energy behind them. Their numbers are still small. They seem to be closely affiliated with others who are Holocaust deniers or at least Holocaust minimizers.
They’ve made a public appearance in a way that astonishes and troubles any serious onlooker into American life today and new thinking is certainly needed to understand where they come from; what their appeal is; how one contends with them and the like. That’s not an America that I or just about any other American recognizes and certainly disfavors strongly. We have to watch it; make sure it doesn’t grow. It’s akin to Far-right national movements in Europe. We’re living at a time when it’s clear that anti-democratic forces now are gaining political power. We have to make sure they don’t gain substantial political power in America. I think a concerted effort has to be made.
An example of the radical rights’ growing visibility in the United States was clearly seen in the ‘Unite the right’ rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. Its stated goal was to oppose the removal of a statue of general Robert E. Lee from a public park in the town. During the rally some of the marchers chanted racist and antisemitic slogans; carried semi-automatic rifles, swastikas confederate battle flags as well as anti-Muslim and antisemitic banners. As may be recalled, the events culminated in the running down of counter protesters by a man linked to white supremacist groups, killing one person and injuring 19.
Similar to the European case groups, associated with the Far-right in the United States advocate isolationism antisemitism - including Holocaust denial - racism, Islamophobia, and homophobia as well as other forms of hate. The history of these extremist movements is rooted in the anti-Republican, anti-Abolitionist and segregationist movements of the 19th century, which promoted white supremacy and particularly targeted African-Americans and the civil rights movement. Morphing over the years groups such as the white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis among others, mainly existed in the fringes of society. However, as we have seen and heard, these movements are now moving further into the spotlight, particularly following the rise of the Alt-right or Alternative right.
With a growing online presence, this new player in the far-right bloc includes several subgroups. The movement is highly decentralized in terms of ideas and opinions with various internal divisions. In contrast to the older far-right groups, the Alt-right members are primarily middle-class white males with higher education, some active in the mainstream of society. The basic common denominator of all groups belonging to the Alt-right is their opposition to political correctness and their willingness to voice ideas that are currently considered absolutely taboo in the West. Thus they reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy.
As part of this, antisemitism, in either overt or covert forms, holds a major place in the worldview of many adhering to their messages. Examples of their antisemitic activities can be seen in The Right Stuff Blog, which is full of derogatory language and ethnic slurs such as the triple bracket eco sign used to mark Jewish names or Jewish parties, or the antisemitic designations for Jews such “merchants” or “kayak” - a distortion of the old racial slur ”kike.”

Prof. Alvin H. Rosenfeld (winter-spring 2017)

The current rise in the power of the Far-right is not exclusive to Europe. Worrying developments have also been taking place in other parts of the world, including the United States, and movements villainizing a variety of groups, are on the rise.

What place does antisemitism hold for the Far-right political spectrum in United States and how is it expressed?


  • Atkins, Stephen E., Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism In Modern American History (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 201).

  • Baum, Steven K., Neil J. Kressel, Florette Cohen and Steven Leonard Jacobs, eds., Antisemitism in North America: New World, Old Hate (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

  • Hawley, George, Making Sense of the Alt-Right (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017).

  • Mudde, Cas, The Far Right in America (New York: Routledge, 2018).

  • Weitzman, Mark, “Antisemitism in North America,” in Naomi Kramer, ed., Civil Courage: A Response to Contemporary Conflict and Prejudice (New York: Peter Lang, 2007 ).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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