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With China's Help, Antisemites of the World Unite
Discourse Power | November 14, 2023
With China's Help, Antisemites of the World Unite
The world is becoming a dangerous place for Jews, and the rising superpower is making it worse
by Tuvia Gering
On October 7, thousands of Palestinian terrorists invaded Israel, massacring more Jews in one day than had been killed since the end of the Holocaust. Even before the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) scrambled to respond to the intruders on Israeli territory, a malevolent undercurrent of antisemitism was sweeping the world.
In the days that followed, the strangest of bedfellows forged an unholy union in an orgy of hate. A Muslim mob in Sydney chanting "gas the Jews" was joined by American white supremacists who took online to express their joy at the dead "kikes."
As Stars of David were scrawled on residential buildings in Berlin and Paris to identify Jewish occupants, swastikas were emblazoned on Jewish tombstones in Nicaragua.
"Exhilarated" Ivy League students and professors - erstwhile beacons of human rights - were joined by Iranian Mullahs in celebrating “decolonization” through infanticide. Meanwhile, some of the biggest news organizations acted as outlets for Hamas' blood libels.
The numbers speak for themselves. Between October 7 and October 23, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 400% increase in antisemitic incidents in the United States, a 641% increase in the United Kingdom, and a 240% increase in Germany compared to the same period last year. The daily average of "violent messages mentioning Jews and Israel" on Telegram has increased by a factor of ten.
It was not long before Jews were targeted and murdered outside of Israel. Many more will surely follow, prompting some to wryly advise fellow Jews to “learn Cantonese or Mandarin," as China "might become the only safe place for Jews in 20-some years."
Unfortunately, this option might also soon become unavailable.
China turns away from a proud tradition
The idea of China as a hypothetical sanctuary is rooted in a historical precedent. Just ninety years ago, in pre-Communist, war-torn Shanghai, tens of thousands of Jews escaping the Holocaust sought refuge in the Middle Kingdom.
In contrast to the Western and Muslim worlds, organized state violence aimed exclusively at Jews has never been documented in China. On the contrary, the country is famed for its stereotypical apotheosis of the Jewish "genius."
As fellow victims of genocidal imperialists during WWII, the Chinese have generally sympathized with the Jewish plight. Even during the Cold War, when they were firmly aligned with the anti-Zionist Third World, they admired Israel's triumphs against all odds.
Although it is naive to think that a country of 1.4 billion people is exceptionally devoid of ignorant people and bigots, conventional wisdom led Chinese and Israeli officials to frequently proclaim that "there‘s never been antisemitism in China."
In fact, this wasn't the case even prior to the present war. Anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist discourse is as old as Chinese nationalism. In recent times, the steady trickle would occasionally surface from official party-state sources and academia, usually during fresh rounds of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Nonetheless, their voice would be lost in the wider cacophony of global Jew hatred.
Yet after what might be called history's first TikTok pogrom, as images of what happened on the 7th of October spread in this Chinese-owned platform and in other social media, antisemitism has surged in the PRC like never before.
As if on cue, Chinese voices have been working en masse to dehumanize Jews and demonize Israel in the propaganda equivalent of the Three Gorges Dam collapsing, inundating the minds of China with toxic waste.
Authoritative Chinese voices set the tone for what is now reverberating throughout the PRC’s echo chamber. It was made clear by China's top diplomat, Wang Yi. On October 13, he outlined a four-point plan, calling for the Palestinians' right of return, a cease-fire, and the two-state solution, as if Hamas was waiting eagerly at the negotiating table.
In fact, Hamas wasn’t even mentioned; nor was Israel's right to self-defense, or its enemies’ preferred methods of genocide; neither were mentioned the thousands of civilians butchered (at least four of whom were PRC nationals), kidnapped, tortured, gang raped, beheaded, maimed, burned, and blown to pieces in the most inhumane and barbaric ways, all proudly recorded live for the world to see by the perpetrators; there was also no mention of the tens of thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks, mortars, shells and RPGs that have now displaced over 200,000 Israelis.
"While the Israelis have ensured their own survival, who cares about the Palestinians'?", decried Wang. The hollow virtue signaling was exacerbated by the stabbing of an Israeli diplomat's partner in Beijing on the same day, an incident Wang ignored.
And while Chinese diplomats agree with UN Secretary-General António Guterres that the Hamas massacre "didn't happen in a vacuum," China's state broadcaster leads one to believe that Israel's counterattack certainly did.
Ever since it started covering the “conflict” on October 9, China Central Television (CCTV) has painted a bleak picture of Palestinian suffering on the one hand and Israel’s senseless aggression on the other.
Wu Sike, China's former special Mideast envoy and ambassador to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, conveyed this sentiment with the local press, "Do we have to wait for Israel to completely vent its anger before we can start talking about peace?"
Party-state sources and scholars like Wu who toe the party line never use the word "terror" or any of its derivatives. The aggressor is framed as the victim, the irrational is rationalized, the inexcusable is excused, and crimes against humanity are dismissed through false moral parallelisms.
Such a response was entirely expected. After all, China had almost two years to hone this skill while covering Russia's
invasion "special military operation" in Ukraine. The muscle memory kicked in immediately: The same talking points and conspiracy theories used by the Kremlin in Ukraine and repeated by their Chinese propagandist partners were used here almost verbatim.
Without missing a beat, the US was accused of "instigating the war" and "adding fuel to the fire" as part of a grand strategy to maintain regional hegemony and enrich its military-industrial complex.
The first of many conspiracy theories about the IDF was promoted on October 10 by the Propaganda Department's front organization, the China Internet Information Center (CIIC), alleging that Israel used white phosphorus bombs on Gaza. The baseless report most likely came from a news agency connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran, the terrorist state that backs Hamas.
On the same day, another viral post by state-run China Central Television (CCTV) read, "Jews, who account for 3% of the US population, manipulate and control 70% of the country's wealth." It went on to describe US presidential candidates' obeisance to Jewish capital in an effort to explain the Biden administration's unwavering support for Israel. Ambassador Wu concurred: “The Jewish bloc's influence is clear to all."
Chinese public opinion leaders heard the dog whistle and sprang into action.
"Hamas went too soft on Israel," opined award-winning online influencer Su Lin soon after. "Isn't Israel today a Jewish version of the Nazis?", she asked rhetorically.
"Beyond a shrinking minority in the West, her views are widely accepted," mused Andy Mok, a frequent contributor to state broadcasters and a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), China's top "private" think-tank headed by Henry Wang Huiyao.
Racist cartoons, Hitler memes, Swastikas, and quotes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are now ubiquitous in comments sections. The antisemitic outburst is best illustrated by Spilberg's Schindler's List, which Chinese users review-bombed, causing its score on the video-sharing website BiliBili to drop from over 9 points to a low of 4.1 points. One user commented, "The victims have long since become the perpetrators."
In an ironic twist, Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the CCP mouthpiece Global Times, cautioned his followers on Weibo, "Some of us should not be influenced by public opinion dominated by Jews and Americans." Two weeks later, Hu claimed that "there is no such thing as antisemitism in China," adding Holocaust inversions comparing Israel to modern-day Nazis.
Not everybody showed indifference to Israel's pain. Many Chinese academics and a small number of party officials have privately expressed their sympathies to the author and his colleagues. Others, such as Tel-Aviv-based professor Zhang Ping, have used social media to speak up for Israel. A group of Chinese nationals based in Israel have lent their voice to the hostages.
But despite their best efforts, one can't extinguish a forest fire with a garden hose.
Deflecting the Accusation of Repression in Xinjiang
The symbiotic relationship between America and the Jewish people is a recurring theme. Retired Major-General-turned-pundit Luo Yuan affirmed on October 14, “Israel is America's ironclad brother, a pawn it planted in the Middle East to implement its interests in the region."
According to this logic, Israel’s deeds reflect on its “big brother” and the West writ large. This has always been the argument, but it's become increasingly important since 2017, when the “US-led West” began to accuse China of imprisoning Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang concentration camps, and engaging in forced labor and genocide.
Hence, the more heinous and evil Israel's actions in Gaza are, the more "Western hypocrisy and double standards [are] on full display," as tweeted China Daily's EU bureau chief, Chen Weihua.
"No longer the descendants of survivors of Nazi concentration camps; they are the armed guards of Gaza's open-air concentration camp," wrote Yin Zhiguang, an international relations professor at the prestigious Fudan University. Arguments like these demonstrate that America's ostensible concern for Muslim human rights is merely a ruse to conceal its true motivation: the containment of China's rise.
Unwavering support for the Palestinian cause has another benefit: ensuring Muslim support for China’s “core interests,” most crucially Xinjiang. At a time when China is making inroads in the Middle East and Xi Jinping is promoting a post-Western vision of global governance, it is critical to isolate the United States and the West and assert the PRC’s ascendance in the global south.
They may even be able to sow the seeds of a trans-Atlantic divide. The EU's unwavering support for Israel against terrorism is nearing its limit. After all, Beijing hopes, old habits die hard - soon enough, the Europeans will return to pillorying the Jewish state, leaving the US and its clone all alone.
A Call for Action
Global Jewry is all too familiar with the different typologies of antisemitism, originating in the West and the Muslim world. With the rise of the Internet at the turn of the century came a new threat, allowing the darkest of forces to share, coordinate, amplify, and learn from one another in a vast poisonous web.
What's truly unprecedented is China's active contribution to this antisemitic bile. Since the start of the war, Chinese sources and platforms have developed into a safe haven for political, ideological, Christian, Muslim, leftist, rightist, and plain old racial antisemitism.
With one in every five global internet users being Chinese and the Chinese Communist Party in possession of one of the most sophisticated propaganda machines in history, they may be able to turn the Jewish state and its people into enemies of humanity. Whereas millions of social media accounts are deleted for the slightest sign of political dissent or moral transgression, antisemitism wrapped in state-sanctioned nationalism is freely distributed.
The chances of Beijing acknowledging and reversing this trend are slim. Despite a slew of reports from human rights organizations detailing racism against Muslims and Black communities in China, among other minorities, Beijing remains unmoved.
To make a political point, the CCP is unwilling to cooperate on global challenges such as fentanyl and climate change, so why would it go out of its way to protect the "embodiment of transnational capital" or America's "colonialist outpost" in the Middle East?
To combat the rising issue of Chinese antisemitism, national organizations such as the US Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and Israel's Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism should form a joint specialized task force, comprised of Chinese and foreign experts. Its task should be to -
Monitor, research, report, and raise public awareness of the steep rise in Chinese antisemitism. A clear distinction should be made between defamation, racism, and legitimate criticism of Israel.
Engage in diplomatic back channels with Beijing and Track II diplomacy, fostering a sense of shared responsibility to combat racism in all of its forms, including racism against the Chinese diaspora.
Encourage the incorporation of Holocaust education in China, and incorporate WW2 history of Chinese contributions to the Allied war efforts, and of victimization under Japanese imperialism in Western education.
Advocate for responsible internet regulation in China to curb the dissemination of antisemitic content online and discourage its spread, imposing fines on social networks that fail to remove antisemitic and defamatory content.
Collaborate with civil society organizations and NGOs that combat antisemitism to expand their "portfolios" to include China (and other major Asian countries as well). They can make a difference through advocacy, media campaigns, public reports, and public education.
Foster and allocate funding for cultural and educational programs, focusing on people-to-people exchanges between China and the Jewish communities, scholars, journalists and news editors to build bridges of understanding and promote tolerance.
An abridged version of this article was first published by the Jerusalem Strategic Tribune.
Playing in the Background
By Tomorrow, song and lyrics by Eviatar Banai
oh, so soon
a child would be running towards you
There's a breach in the fence
Among the vines, among the grapes of the vineyard
Foxes are terrorizing, howling
And then, they’re gone...