Recent calls from the usual neofascist suspects to monitor Muslims using databases and ID cards and to only admit Christian refugees (who can prove it because, I mean, they can prove it) have drawn the more obvious Holocaust parallels (the yellow star, the “J” stamp on the passport, etc.). Fewer have noted the parallels between the “menace” represented by Muslim radicalism and that represented by Jewish radicalism in the 1930s. As Lee Fang explains:
During congressional debate in 1940, John B. Trevor, a prominent Capitol Hill lobbyist, argued against a proposal to settle Jewish refugees in Alaska, claiming they would be potential enemies — and charging that Nazi persecution of the Jews had occurred “in very many cases … because of their beliefs in the Marxian philosophy.” Trevor had notably helped author the Immigration Act of 1924, a law designed to curb Jewish migration from Eastern Europe, in part because of anarchist Jewish Americans of Russian descent including Emma Goldman.
Rep. Jacob Thorkelson, a Republican from Montana, warned at the time that Jewish migrants were part of an “invisible government,” an organization he said was tied to the “communistic Jew” and to “Jewish international financiers.”
William Dudley Pelley, a leading anti-Semite and organizer of the “Silver Shirts” nationalist group, claimed that Jewish migration was part of a Jewish-Communist conspiracy to seize control of the United States. Pelley, whose organization routinely used anti-Semitic smears such as “Yidisher Refugees” and “Refugees Kikes,” attracted up to 50,000 to his organization by 1934. James B. True, an anti-communist activist affiliated with the Silver Shirt movement, coined the term “refu-Jew” to mock refugees, according to researcher David S. Wyman, the author of Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis 1938-1941.
Indeed, the Nazi regime’s deployment against what it referred to as “Judeo-Bolshevism” exposes the means by which criticism of “Islamofascism” currently operates.
Arno J. Mayer has characterized “Judeo-Bolshevism” as a “politically contrived charge” that the Jews “invented Marxism” in order to advance their own interests at the expense of European (i.e. Aryan) culture. Opposition to “Judeo-Bolshevism” was an integral, politically necessary element of the Nazi regime’s authority both at home and abroad, since it united those who shared Hitler’s quasi-religious Weltanschauung predicated on the demonization of Jews who lacked the “sacred” elements of Aryan blood and culture with those who were merely passively unsympathetic towards Jews but actively hostile towards Communism and feared the spread of the Bolshevik Revolution beyond Russia’s borders. By conflating Jews with Communists and by extension with those left-wing elements behind the failed Weimar Republic, the Nazi regime was able both to consolidate its political strength domestically and to moderate the most extreme elements of its anti-Semitism for western audiences who shared its anti-Communist outlook. As Saul Friedländer explained:
[T]he world peril as presented by Hitler was not Bolshevism as such, with the Jews acting as its instruments. The Jews were the ultimate threat behind Bolshevism: The Bolshevik peril was being manipulated by the Jews.
Two sets of apparent oppositions nonetheless needed to be reconciled in order for the Nazi regime to effectuate successfully its deployment against “Judeo-Bolshevism”: the oppositions between the Jew as Communist and the Jew as capitalist, and between Jews as a race and Judaism as a religion. It is through the resolution of both of these apparent oppositions outlined by Hitler himself in Mein Kampf that contemporary deployments of “Islamofascism” can most closely be tracked.
1. Jews were equated by the Nazis with Bolshevism and Communism on one hand but also with capitalism and international finance on the other hand.
In his autobiographical manifesto, Hitler argued that the Jew “invented Marxism” in order to gain control over the workers, who would then fight against and eventually overthrow national capital, thus ultimately and unwittingly benefitting international capital. “The internationalization of our German economic system, that is to say, the transference of our productive forces to the control of Jewish international finance, can be completely carried out only in a State that has been politically Bolshevized,” Hitler explained. The common element between the two apparent opposites was internationalism, the threat of a foreign enemy infiltrating Germany from within to which the Nazis opposed their version of “National Socialism.”
In their fear of and mobilization against what Zygmunt Bauman has described as the “unique universality, ex-temporality and ex-territoriality” of the Jewish “race,” the Nazi regime thus foreshadowed current fears of the Islamic Other. To opponents of “Islamofascism,” this modern Other embodies its own set of opposites, namely radical tolerance of difference (for example, grade school curricula that promotes Islam in the name of pluralism) and radical intolerance of differences (the imposition of Sharia law in America in the name of Islamic supremacism). The common element in this case between these contemporary opposites is also foreignness, namely any culture or beliefs falling outside the American comfort zone. As Reza Aslan has suggested, many opponents of President Obama believe he is a Muslim simply because they disagree with him, “because [they] think Islam means other, it means different, it means not us.”
2. Jews as a “race” were opposed to Aryan purity and therefore intolerable to the Nazis, but Jews as a religious group among other religious groups could conceivably be tolerated.
Hitler also noted that “ingenious trick” of “sailing the Jewish ship-of-state under the flag of Religion and thus securing that tolerance which Aryans are always ready to grant to different religious faiths,” when in reality Jews are a race and do not deserve to be tolerated. The apparent paradox—Jew as both racial and religious term—therefore wasn’t a paradox because although Judaism is nominally a religion, the Jews themselves constitute a race.
Perversely, this logic is inverted by contemporary opposition to “Islamofascism,” which argues that tolerance extended to Muslims on the basis of race is both unwarranted and suspect, since Islam is actually a religion and does not deserve to be tolerated. Sam Harris for example has lamented that
[p]olitical correctness and fears of racism have rendered many secular Europeans incapable of opposing the terrifying religious commitments of the extremists in their midst…It is time we realized that the endgame for civilization is not political correctness. It is not respect for the abject religious certainties of the mob. It is reason.
Where the Nazi regime was determined to expose the inherent destructiveness of certain racial differences from beneath a proto-politically correct tolerance of religious pluralism, the contemporary movement against “Islamofascism” is determined to expose the inherent destructiveness of certain religious differences from beneath a politically correct tolerance of racial pluralism. This, it appears, is supposed to represent progress.
By providing broader popular support for his anti-Semitic policies and precipitating Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler’s deployment of “Judeo-Bolshevism” ultimately led to the exterminationist final phase of the Nazi regime. We’re not there yet, of course. We’re only at the reaction phase. And it’s at 48 percent.
Image: “Bilderbuch der ‘Guten alten Zeit’” (Picture Book of the Good Old Times)
from Die Brennessel, January 1934. Available at http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/brenn1.htm.