Log in / Register
Home arrow Accounting arrow Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism Representation

Some Implications

In examining the theoretical implications of the research presented in this book, it is useful to recall some of the empirical research into antisemitism and antiZionism that was summarised in Chapters 2 and 3, respectively. The principal
theoretical approaches to social psychological research into antisemitism and anti-Zionism have included terror management theory, scapegoating theory, social identity theory and the authoritarian personality. Terror management theorists argue that antisemitism and anti-Zionism may function as a means of reducing the terror that ensues from one's awareness of one's own mortality, and recent empirical research appears to support this hypothesis. Scapegoating theory highlights the human tendency to blame vulnerable outgroups for social, political and economic upheaval. The authoritarian personality suggests that “hierarchical, authoritarian, exploitative” parent-child relationships can later induce an authoritarian personality in adulthood (Adorno et al., 1950, p. 482), thereby crystallising an antisemitic orientation in the individual. All of these approaches have considerable merit in explaining antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Over the years, they have generated much empirical support. It is true that some individuals have personality traits, such as authoritarianism, that render them more or less disposed to outgroup derogation. It is true that awareness of one's mortality is threatening and that it can induce defensive responses, usually directed towards outgroups with a distinct worldview from our own. It is also true that groups direct their frustration at vulnerable groups in times of crisis in order to obscure and conceal their own shortcomings and failures. These perspectives are all valid and make a contribution, but alone their explanation can only be partial. This is why an integrative approach that examines representation, cognition and everyday talk is so important.

This book takes a more holistic approach to antisemitism and anti-Zionism. In this book, threat is a core construct. It can be defined in two principal ways. Intergroup Threat Theory describes the nature of threats that can be constructed and perceived – realistic or symbolic. This is useful in identifying and describing group-level threats. Conversely, Identity Process Theory provides a more complex social psychological approach to threat, arguing that it occurs when identity processes cannot comply with the principles of self-esteem, continuity, distinctiveness and so on. As the model presented in Chapter 3 tentatively indicates, realistic and symbolic threats may affect particular identity principles and potentially induce identity threat. This book views identity threat as a key means of understanding antisemitism and anti-Zionism, since it is assumed that threat will evoke defensive responses such as outgroup prejudice (Jaspal and Cinnirella, 2010b). The data presented in this book suggest that Iranians and British Pakistani Muslims may manifest antisemitism and anti-Zionism as means of enhancing ingroup identity in an a priori manner, and as a means of coping with existing threats to identity. However, antisemitism and anti-Zionism may in turn render identity susceptible to threat due to the social representations that may emerge as part of one's anti-Zionist/antisemitic stance (e.g. the representation that the Israeli Jewish outgroup seeks to destroy the Muslim ingroup). It is noteworthy that threat also plays a prominent role in explaining Israeli and British Jews' perceptions of Muslims – contemporary antisemitism/anti-Zionism was almost exclusively attributed to Muslims. Threat allows for different predictions from
those that are offered by many other researchers of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. It is true that antisemitism is an age-old prejudice that has plagued the world for thousands of years. However, the threat-focussed approach does not suggest that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are in any way unique or “inevitable” (cf. Wistrich, 1991). Antisemitism and anti-Zionism will arise when these forms of prejudice are represented as being beneficial for identity processes. Crucially, in some contexts, such as the ones described in this book, they are indeed actively encouraged by governments, institutions and the media. This is why the level of representation must form part of any social psychological account of antisemitism and antiZionism.

In linking social representations and social action, it seems appropriate to recall that “[w]hen people believe firmly that they are on the side of good and are working to make the world a better place, they often feel justified in using strong measures against the seemingly evil forces that oppose them” (Baumeister, 1997,

p. 377). Crucially, social representations that construct Israel as a malevolent, oppressive, terrorist “regime” antithetical to the values of Islam and which construct mobilisation against Israel as a necessary duty for “good” Muslims are dangerous. They encourage acts of violence against those individuals perceived to be associated with Israel, namely Jews. Kelman (1976) states that dehumanisation serves to deprive individuals of agentic and collective aspects of humanness, which can result in their failure to evoke compassion among perpetrators of abuse and violence. Accordingly, dehumanised victims are seldom shown any mercy. Thus, dehumanising and demonising social representations may serve to construct Israelis and Jews as a legitimate target for discrimination, abuse and physical violence. The implications for intergroup relations could be devastating. This in turn is likely to encourage defensive responses from both the Israeli government and diaspora Jews (Bar-Tal and Antebi, 1992).

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are worrying phenomena in both the British Pakistani and Iranian contexts. Britain is a diverse and relatively tolerant country, in which overt prejudice and discrimination are socially stigmatised and, in most cases, outlawed. Anti-Zionism presents a new set of challenges, especially as it infiltrates social, economic, educational and other contexts in which diverse communities co-exist. It is not yet considered a form of hate speech, though it seems to fit the criteria for being considered in those terms (Klaff, 2010). It is perceived in antisemitic terms by many Jews, although many anti-Zionists deny that their intentions are antisemitic in nature, and this ignites tensions between groups and communities. Many of the Israeli and British Jews who participated in the interview studies manifested unfavourable attitudes towards Muslims, whom they held responsible for the perceived rise in antisemitism and antiZionism. Research with other British ethno-religious minorities groups shows that minority intergroup tensions can arise, persist and threaten social harmony, as they are ignored in favour of majority-minority relations (Jaspal, 2013e). Overt anti-Zionism can easily metamorphose into antisemitism, as demonstrated in this book, igniting the flames of intergroup tension and conflict. Iran is a perhaps a
more pressing context. The Iranian government has actively crushed the selfefficacy of internal Iranian Jews, who are subjected to scrutiny and forbidden from exhibiting any support for the Jewish State, a crime potentially punishable by death (Jaspal, 2014b). It is argued that the regime's ability to influence and control Jews in Iran enhances their own self-efficacy. This constitutes a worrying reality, in a country with tens of thousands of remaining Jews and amid the “war of words” characterising Iranian-Israeli relations. This book is testimony to the importance of exploring antisemitism and anti-Zionism, their continuities and discontinuities, their convergences and divergences and, crucially, their antecedents and consequences. It is testimony to the importance of considering the potential impact of prejudice for those who are targeted. It is testimony to our collective responsibility – as researchers, policy makers, community leaders and community members – to facilitate the basic social and psychological conditions necessary for positive intergroup relations so that diversity and identities can be celebrated, rather than threatened.

Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >
Business & Finance
Computer Science
Language & Literature
Political science