‘The Internet is our Sword’

Aspects of Online Antisemitism
  • Mark Weitzman


In the introduction to his 1991 book, Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred, Robert Wistrich writes that the task of the historian of antisemitism ‘is to provide as lucid an account as possible of the path along which different anti-Jewish traditions have been transmitted “as well as to” be alive to its adaptability to new circumstances.’1 In the eight years since his book was published these words have taken on an even greater relevance. With the enormous growth of the Internet as a, perhaps even eventually the, prime means of transmittal of knowledge, we are seeing the truth of Robert Chazan’s recent observation that ‘every new stage in the evolution of anti-Jewish thinking is marked by dialectical interplay between a prior legacy of negative stereotypes and the realities of a new social context.’2 And so, no examination of the current state of antisemitism can be complete without due consideration of this new social context.


National Alliance Biblical Text Holocaust Denial Song Lyric Christian Identity 
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  1. 1.
    Wistrich , Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred (New York: Pantheon, 1991) p.xxvi.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Robert Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes and Modern Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p. 135.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Matthew Friedman, Fuzzy Logic:Dispatches from the Information Revolution (Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1998), pp.82–83.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Mike Godwin, Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age (New York: Times Books, 1998), pp.9–10.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    The standard work on Identity is Michael Barkun’s Religion and the Racist Right (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994). This important study is somewhat weakened by its omission of any reference to the Internet. Richard V. Pierard’s article ‘The Contribution of Brit-ish-Israelism to Antisemitism Within Conservative Protestantism’ in the volume Holocaust and Church Struggle — Studies in the Shoah XVI, edited by Hubert Locke and Marcia Littell (Lanham: University Press of America, 1996), pp.45–68, while containing an excellent short summary of Identity’s origin and theology, also does not address how Identity’s message is delivered. David H. Bennett’s history of right-wing activity in America, The Party of Fear (New York, 1995) in its second (1995) edition, does refer to Identity’s success in ‘effectively using the information highway to carry its message across the Internet,’ (p.441) but does not go into any detail. Bennett makes no mention of Odinism in his history. The documents collected by Lyman Tower Sarget, Extremism in America (New York: New York University Press, 1995) also omit Odinism and all come from print, not electronic sources. Kenneth Stern’s recent study, A Force Upon the Plain (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) does make mention of Internet use, including a good analysis of the basic issue of extremism on the Internet (pp.226–231), but almost all of his references are to militia use (see however, p.45, where Stern uses some of Pastor Pete Peters’ postings on the Internet to introduce a short summary of Identity). For a very clear and unmediated picture of Identity thinking, see the remarkable book by Raphael Ezekiel, Inside the Racist Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) where Ezekiel allows Identity (and other) extremists to speak for themselves. His interview with Richard Butler (pp.122–142) and vivid description and recording of an Aryan Nation Congress in Hayden Lake, Idaho (pp.37–57) flesh out the people who post this type of material on the Internet, as well as some of those attracted by it.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Gavin Langmuir, History, Religion, Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp.286–287. For an excellent collection of this theme, see the first two volumes of the three volumes edited by E.P. Sanders on Jewish and Christian Self-Definition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980–1981). Jane Gerber has summarized this aspect of the Islamic—Jewish relationship thusly: ‘Islamic ambivalence regarding Jews derives from the earliest history of Islam, a religion that did not seek to sever its ties with Judaism completely’, Gerber, ‘Antisemitism and the Muslim World’, in D. Berger (ed.), History and Hate; The Dimensions of Anti-Semitism (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), p.77. Gerber’s valuable summary of this issue can be found on pages 76–83.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
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  8. For the translation of this idea into an American context see Robert Singerman, ‘The Jew as Racial Alien: The Genetic Component of American Anti-Semitism’ in David Gerber (ed.), Anti-Semitism in American History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), pp. 103–128.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (London: Penguin Press, 1995), p.123.Google Scholar
  10. 32.
    Turner, ‘Why We are Known as The Women’s Frontier’, See Kathy Blee ‘Reading Racism: Women in the Modern Hate Movement’ in Blee (ed.), No Middle Ground: Women and Radical Protest (New York: New York University Press, 1998), p. 182 andGoogle Scholar
  11. Blee , ‘Becoming a Racist: Women in Contemporary Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi Groups’ in Gender in Society 10/6 (Dec. 1996): 441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. and also Abby Ferber, ‘Reconceptualizing the Radical Right’ in Conspiracies: Real Grievances, Paranoia and Mass Movements, ed. Eric Ward, (Seattle: Peanut Butter Publishing, 1996), p. 117.Google Scholar
  13. 39.
    Carlo Ginzburg, ‘Germanic Mythology and Nazism’, in his Clues, Myths and Historical Method (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 145.Google Scholar
  14. George Mosse, Toward the Final Solution (New York: Howard Fertig, 1978) andGoogle Scholar
  15. Leon Poliakov’s The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe (New York: New American Library, 1974), have both explored this connection in depth.Google Scholar
  16. 55. On Holocaust Denial in general see Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust (New York: The Free Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  17. 71.
    Isaiah Berlin, ‘The Pursuit of the Ideal’, in his The Crooked Timber of Humanity (New York: Knopf, 1991), p.1.Google Scholar
  18. 72.
    Gershom Scholem, The Golem of Prague and the Golem of Rehovot, in Scholem, The Messinic Idea in Judaism (New York: Schocken Books, 1972), p.340.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Weitzman

There are no affiliations available

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