Friday, 15 July 2016 13:41

The Israel-synecdoche

Our Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism teaches people how to spot and resist manipulation when they come across antisemitic speech. We use real-life examples, detected by Get the Trolls Out monitors, and reveal the subtle rhetorical tricks that are typically employed to brainwash the public into hating and discriminating against Jewish people.

the israel synecdoche large

By Anna Szilagyi

In antisemitic speech, the references to well-known, affluent and powerful individuals who are Jewish or thought to be Jewish, convey negative and abusive messages concerning Jewry. Speakers also identify individuals as “a Jew” or “the Jew” to attack Jewish people. 

When doing this, speakers use the rhetorical tool of synecdoche which allows them to refer to “the part” while meaning “the whole”. However, not only individuals can stand for Jews in antisemitic speech. Speakers also commonly replace Jewry as a whole with the state of Israel to foster anti-Jewish hatred. 

Any country can be criticized for its domestic or foreign policies. Nevertheless, in the case of Israel, a state of which majority of population is Jewish, the real purpose of the criticism of the country can also be the spread of antisemitism. This happens when instead of meaningful critique, anti-Jewish clichés are evoked in the context of the Jewish state.

As monitors of Get the trolls out unveiled, Israel has recently been falsely associated with terrorism by political figures and the media in Europe. Although speakers referred to Israel in the detected texts, they were actually speaking about Jews. Instead of the legitimate criticism of Israel, the false accusations merely expressed and triggered hostile feelings towards Jewish people.

In Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and the UK, these false accusations primarily evoked the stereotype of Jewish world conspiracy: 

On 15 November 2015, the nationalistic AnemosAnatropis.blogspot in Greece published an article, asking: “What is so hard to understand, after all? That the Zionist State is behind the Islamic State?” 

A day after the suicide bombings in Belgium, an activist of the British Labour Party said on Facebook: “How many more attacks have to take place before the world fully understand that ISIS is run by Israel?” 

Oftentimes, the stereotype of Jewish world conspiracy was accompanied by other antisemitic clichés as well:

During a civil council committee hearing on 16 November 2015, the representative of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and the mayor of the Hungarian city Szentgotthárd said about the terrorist attacks in France: “What happened in Paris is clear evidence that certain business circles, dare I say business circles which are likely backed by the Jewish state, are trying to pit Christian Europe against Islam.” In this statement, besides Jewish world conspiracy, the Hungarian mayor also evoked the clichés of Jewish business-mindedness and cruelty.

In France, a blog on “white Europe” argued that “An Israeli rabbi says that the attacks of Paris are a revenge for Holocaust.” In this case, the false accusation reinforced the stereotypes of Jewish world conspiracy and revengefulness at the same time.    

On 20 December 2015, the former member of the Belgian parliament, Laurent Louis posted this message on Facebook: “The more ISIS cuts heads and the more that Israel enlarges its hold on the region. ISIS keeps going for Israel and its Zionist allies.” In this Facebook post, the reference to Israel, besides the stereotype of Jewish world conspiracy, also evoked the myth of Jewish bloodthirstiness that dates back to the Middle Ages. 

Replacing Jewry with Israel, speakers can simultaneously voice and deny antisemitism. They may claim that they are speaking about Israel and not about Jews. Nevertheless, it is pivotal for listeners and readers not to be misled and distinguish between the actual criticism of Israel and the antisemitic representation of the country. 

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Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism

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