The influx of neo-Nazi protests worldwide has made abundantly clear that anti-Semitism is not confined to the United States. In fact, anti-Semitic attitudes and neo-Nazi movements, such as the August 2017 Charlottesville attack, have emulated sentiments of nationalist groups across the globe.
The British neo-Nazi youth group National Action, which was founded in 2013, was classified as a terrorist organization last year, after the launch of a social media campaign that incited anti-Jewish violence. In Australia, there were 210 reported incidents of anti-Semitism in 2016, according to the U.S. International Religious Freedom Report for 2016. The report also found that anti-Semitic abuses have occurred in Russia, where several cases include attempted arson at synagogues, burial of pig heads at Jewish cemeteries, and defacement at eight Jehovah’s Witness buildings. In 2017, German neo-Nazi groups have reigned control within the country and communities abroad. According to a report from the Jerusalem Post, the German neo-Nazi organization The Third Way joined forces with the Syrian Bashar Assad regime and Syrian Social Nationalist Party in May to support the destruction of Israel. Whether through political parties, influence on internet platforms, or through small acts of violence, the new era of neo-Nazism has made waves worldwide and has shown no signs of halting.
In the European Union, Jewish communities have reported an increase in anti-Semitic attitudes. According to a 2013 survey of 13 EU member states by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, two-thirds of EU Jewish people consider anti-Semitism to be an issue. The report found that 76% of the Jewish respondents, from countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy, felt that anti-Semitism worsened in the past five years in their home country. The report indicated that overwhelming numbers of Jewish people fear harassment or physical violence, with nearly half of all respondents fearing ant-Semitic verbal assault and a third of respondents reporting anxiety over potential physical assault. In France, 70% of respondents expressed worry about verbal harassment and 60% of people surveyed stated they feared physical attack.
The reports of anti-Semitic sentiments in France and other countries could be explained by the revival of far-right groups with neo-Nazi roots. The National Front, a French Nationalist organization, was under scrutiny after a report revealed that Frédéric Chatillon, an aide to party leader Marine Le Pen, celebrated Hitler’s birthday and hosted parties where guests were instructed to wear Jewish death camp uniforms. Along with France, Russian nationalist movements have matched neo-Nazi and white supremacist attitudes. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported that thousands of white supremacists from the banned Russian nationalist Slavic Union group, which used a swastika as its symbol, rallied on the streets of Moscow.
Political parties and protests are not the only arena for neo-Nazi attitudes: the movement has adapted to online environments. The 2013 study of anti-Semitism in Europe also found that 75% of respondents felt that online anti-Semitism was a problem in their home country and 73% of respondents stated anti-Semitism in online environments increased over the past five years.
The threat of neo-Nazism in Europe is bolstered in America, where there has been a surge in followers on white nationalist social media accounts. The George Washington University study, Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter, by J.M. Berger found that American white supremacist Twitter accounts accumulated 22,000 more followers since 2012, a rise of 600%. Along with a spike in followers in neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in the U.S., hashtags have spread the sentiment worldwide. The hashtag #whitegenocide was used 6,589 times in Nazi twitter handles and 9,284 times in white supremacist Twitter accounts. Across the web, neo-Nazis are effective in utilizing Twitter to spread their message, more so than other terror organizations. The research found that Nazis have 22 times greater mean Twitter followers than ISIS. Neo-Nazi groups also produce more tweets, with more than double the number of tweets from ISIS affiliated accounts.
As groups launch internet-based campaigns, governments have called on technology companies to block Nazi websites and social media accounts. In Germany, a law was drafted to hold companies such as Twitter and Facebook accountable for illegal content posted on social media platforms in June 2017. If the legislation passes, the German government could fine social media companies if the companies did not remove anti-Semitic comments, Nazi propaganda or other illegal content within 24 hours.
Along with Germany, the UN has addressed the rise of anti-Semitism. In response to the rise of protests and sentiments of European Jewish communities, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power spoke at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Conference for Anti-Semitism in 2014 and called on countries to mobilize against anti-Semitism. “The truth is that every region, every country, and every community needs to be talking about this enduring problem, and working to confront it, both in places that have staggering levels of anti-Semitism, and in those where it is less prevalent,” said Power.
Power said that in order to combat anti-Semitism, countries need to investigate and charge perpetrators, raise awareness of the issue at conferences and educate their communities.
Despite government intervention, neo-Nazi attacks have persisted and often, one movement propels another. Nearly a week after the Charlottesville attacks in the U.S., neo-Nazis held a rally in Germany to commemorate the death a fallen Nazi leader, according to a report from Vox.
“There is an important lesson here: rising anti-Semitism is rarely the lone or the last manifestation of intolerance in a society,” said Power. “Quite the contrary, it is often the canary in the coal mine for the degradation of human rights more broadly. When the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Jews are repressed, the rights and freedoms of other minorities and other sectors are often not far behind.”
Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter via Unsplash.