If there exists a phrase that can possibly account for the nature of antisemitism in a way that showcases all of its contradictions and insecurities to the fullest, it is this piece of propaganda:
“We must first kill the Jew within us.”
As disturbing as the statement is, it presents antisemitism in all of its ideological glory. Here, ‘the Jew’ isn’t a reference to a person but the label for a vague entity. ‘The Jew’ in question is some set of characteristics that an entire chunk of population supposedly represents. The idea is to dehumanise Jews and reduce them to base features which in the form of flexible alien entities can infect any individual, even a ‘pure’ non-Jewish soul.
Thus, ‘the Jew’ is our thoughts, feelings, and doubts which are not in line with the right way of thinking, feeling and asserting. Once this way of thinking seeps into the collective consciousness of the populace, it’s only a matter of time before the two conflicting entities are ‘properly’ defined. The right way of thinking is to follow and propagate the strand of thought that the administration is dishing out while any doubt (not necessarily just in action) cast against the existing status quo is akin to being ‘the Jew’, or in other words, them.
The apparatuses that churn out propaganda for the creation of ‘us v/s them’ very often use this mechanism of hatred. Hence, for a large chunk of the Indian populace, a liberal who opposes the ruling ideology or a communist who makes a case against ‘bourgeoisie structures’ inhabit the same league and incur the same wrath albeit with different slurs. However, instead of ‘the Jew’ as in the case of antisemitism, the alien, in this case, is the much hated ‘anti-national’. An ‘anti-national’ plays the same role as the idea of a Jew: it is some vague set of characteristics that don’t fit the current idea of nationalism.
So an ‘anti-national’ is anyone who opposes any policies of the Government (even bullet train), who eats meat, who conforms to secularism; comedians who mock the establishment and its ways, moderate neocons, and anyone who supports artistic freedom. The beauty of the ideology is that this label gets attached to anyone willing to dissent even if they were once a part of the same body. So any party member or supporter who speaks out against the Budget, former party members like Sinha, or students who dare to have opinions all are clubbed by default under this saffron umbrella. This pseudo-introspective (‘…within us’) ideology is the sledgehammer that pounds on any strand of criticism, regardless of context or intention or even legitimacy. Mock those in power and you have mocked the nation; mock the nation and the hammer will crush you.
While India is still far from being like Germany under the Third Reich, the ideology of hatred remains constant. The same is true in the case of the United States of America or much of Europe which seems to be under the spell of right wing populism. A look at Twitter feeds of influential intellectuals would suffice. The name-calling and vitriol being spread reaches insane levels. The cyber assault isn’t just by a few individuals with differences of opinion but a bloodthirsty mob fed with cynicism.
One of the most important steps towards dispelling the atmosphere of paranoia that seems to have descended over much of the world is to understand the nature of the hatred that keeps it in place. Both, the hatred and the paranoia are absolutely necessary for the propagation of the ‘iron-willed’ ideology. Both the elements are essential to building imagined battlefields in the collective conscious. If we reach the stage where the mentality of the statement quoted in the beginning is mainstream thought, critical thinking itself will disappear. The challenge before our society is to re-humanise those who are being marginalised through words, thoughts, and actions. The point is, therefore, to nip the dehumanising in its bud and present people as beings with experiences, emotions, and ambitions rather than entities that deserve nothing but our hatred.