— BirkbeckPsychosocial (@bbkpsychosocial) February 22, 2019
I was on France24’s “The Debate” with Francois Picard this week, talking about antisemitism in light of issues relating to the yellow jacket protests in France and the Labour Party in the UK.
Is France becoming more anti-Jewish? Or has hate speech become more uninhibited? After some Yellow Vests hurled abuse at Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, people are rallying in Paris against anti-Semitism. Last year, anti-Semitic incidents rose 74% in France. Is social media enabling hate speech and fostering a culture of violence? Is that violence born from a changing world order, with weaker institutions like trade unions that used to channel grievances and tone down extremes?
“We’re living in a time when there’s been a crisis of trust in sources of authority, sources of information, sources of knowledge, and so people seek alternative truths,” Ben Gidley, a senior lecturer in psychosocial studies at Birkbeck, University of London, said during the France 24 debate. “Once you stop believing in truth, almost anything can be true.”
Juan Branco, a lawyer for the yellow vest protesters, acknowledged during the France 24 debate that some protesters were guilty of anti-Semitism. But he blamed those incidents on people connected to the far right and said the movement’s leaders rejected anti-Semitism. He added that there was an intense effort to purge racist views from the protest movement.
Gidley said the rise of anti-Semitism was a troubling sign for Europe and does not bode well for the state of democracy.
“Jews are often one of the canaries in the coal mine,” he said. “It’s not just Jews, other minorities as well. You can take racist attacks as a kind of good indicator on the health of a democracy. Jews and other minorities are the first victims of a sickness in democracy.”