Thursday, 11 July 2019

Anti-Semitic images considered: the 'facehugger' on the Statue of Liberty

An occasional series where I will ponder allegations of anti-Semitism directed at the British Labour Party and its members.

In this case, we are thinking about an allegedly anti-Semitic image shared by a Labour Party member. Its origins appear to be a far right site which revels in anti-Semitism. Rather than reproduce the image itself, I will link to it. For those not wanting to sully their browser, it shows the Statue of Liberty with one of the 'facehugger' aliens from Alien attached to it's face. The alien has a Star of David on its back.

The image was shared by a Labour Party member. It's origins appear to be a far right site which revels in anti-Semitism.

It has been described as anti-Semitic because the Star of David identifies the alien with Jews, and thus Jews with the alien. Anti-Semitic discourse regularly describes Jews as sub-human, alien and parasitical. The idea that Jews are corrupting their 'host' culture (just as the alien implants an embryo in the host) is very common. The reading here is that Jews are the enemies of freedom (hence the host is Lady Liberty).

BUT there are two factors that have to be taken into consideration. First, the Star of David is blue, associating it with the Israeli flag rather than Jews in general. This could change the message slightly - it is probably more about free speech and the perception that Israel is trying to stop criticism of it (ironically by claiming anti-Semitism at every opportunity!).

That's a 'legitimate' message, though I find the image abhorrent for the reasons outlined above. it is to crude and easily read as applying to all Jews rather than a political criticism of Israel.  It is far worse than the mural in that regard.

I think the mural was intended as a critique of capitalism that was too easily interpreted as anti-Semitic due to the crudity of its execution; whereas this image seems too much like it is an anti-Semitic dog whistle - an image that is essentially anti-Semitic but which is trying to give itself a veneer of acceptability which fools people into thinking it is not poisonous. The woman who re-posted it probably naively saw it as a legitimate criticism of Israel, but it is far more than that.   She should have known better.

Also, it is not clear if the woman who posted it knew it was from a far right site. These images slosh around the internet, are passed on from one person to another, or show up in Google searches and the provenance may not be clear.  On this aspect, I am willing to give the woman in question the benefit of the doubt in that regard.  Of course, if it could be proven she visited the site and was aware of the sort of place it was, that would be another matter.

The woman in question was suspended and investigated.  The investigation concluded the image depicted "a monster with the Star of David printed on it on the face of the Statue of Liberty suggesting that Jewish people control America.” and that, though distasteful "these are generally distasteful cartoons about the perceived relationship [between] Israel and the US." I think they were probably a bit generous in their interpretation there.  I think she was very thoughtless and foolish.

She was given a formal warning about her posting; hoepfully, she shows better sense in the future.

I haven't gone away. Neither has this problem.

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