Anti-Semitism Without Jews: The Case of Marjorie Taylor Greene
On February 4 Marjorie Taylor Greene told members of congress that she no longer believes in some of the bizarre conspiratorial fantasies that have recently placed her in the spotlight. She admitted that the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings really happened, as did the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. She even claimed to have stopped believing in what she now calls “lies” and “misinformation” of the Q-Anon cult, although she did not specify which of these claims she regards as false.
As is well known at this point, the central dogma of Q-Anon is an updated version of the medieval myth of a shadowy Jewish conspiracy that tortures, murders, and consumes the blood of Christian children—but this time around, the villains are celebrities, Democratic politicians, and billionaires. In addition to buying into all of this, Greene has also endorsed of the view that "Zionist supremacists" are engineering a “White genocide” by promoting non-white immigration. She has claimed that George Soros is a Nazi who plotted against Trump, and that the Rothschild banking firm may have operated a “space laser” to ignite wildfires in California.
Should we take Marjorie Greene at her word that she has put this anti-Semitic nonsense behind her? Should we forgive and forget, absolving her of the charge of anti-Semitism?
No, we shouldn’t.
Listening between the lines of her most recent communications, it seems to me that Marjorie Greene has simply transferred the old poison into new bottles.
To see this, one must revisit the major themes in the history of Christian antisemitism, starting with texts that predate the blood libel by more than a thousand years. The Gospel of John has Jesus berating Jews who do not accept him as the Messiah. “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
This passage grounded the longstanding belief that Jews are literally demonic. They are liars and murderers who do Satan’s bidding, which sits very well with the Gospel of Matthew’s depiction of Jews as the enemies of God--a lynch mob baying for Jesus’ blood.
These Biblical texts set the stage for much of the horror that followed. By the late eleventh century, at the time of the First Crusade, the old image of the Satanic Jew grew into myth of an international Jewish conspiracy bent on destroying Christian civilization. In the ensuing centuries, this fantasy ballooned into accusations of ritual child-murder, vampirism, host-desecration, and orchestrating the bubonic plague.
All of these themes persisted and were revivified and weaponized by Nazi ideologues. Some, such as the accusation of child sacrifice and the blood libel, and the idea that Jews posed an existential threat to European civilization, remained virtually unchanged in Nazi propaganda. Others mutated into new forms. For example, the Jews’ purported betrayal of Christ became the “stab in the back” causing Germany’s defeat in World War I, and the idea of a diabolical Jewish conspiracy dedicated to the destruction of the Aryan race merged seamlessly with the menace of communism (“Judeo-bolshevism”). The idea of satanic character of the Jewish race was secularized as their irredeemable depravity and essential criminality.
Today, outside of neo-Nazi and hard-core White supremacist circles, overt antisemitism is generally regarded as socially unacceptable in the United States and much of Europe. However, the old themes, which are so deeply entrenched in Christian civilization, still simmer away beneath the surface, finding new, covert forms of expression.
That’s exactly what we find in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s most recent comments.
Greene’s speech on February 4th was ideologically framed by her statement of Christian faith “I believe in God with all my heart and I’m so grateful to be humbled, to be reminded that I’m a sinner and that Jesus died on the cross to forgive me for my sins.” On the face of it, these comments seem irrelevant to the occasion. What does the image of Jesus dying on the cross have to do with the charge brought against her: her promotion of what Mitch McConnell called “loony lies and conspiracy theories” that are “a cancer on the Republican party”?
Quite a bit, actually.
Greene’s invocation of the crucified savior is placed between two references to the murder of children--a theme that resonates with her Q-Anonism and its deep anti-Semitic roots. First, she says, “our country has murdered over 62 million people in the womb” and that “some of my friends have had their children murdered by illegal aliens.” And then she returns to the infanticidal theme almost immediately after invoking Jesus, saying “And if we’re to say in God we trust, how do we murder God’s creation in the womb?”
Notice how the images line up: child-murder promoted by leftists and executed by racialized, criminal aliens, with the crucified savior in the middle of it all. Anyone acquainted with traditional anti-Semitic rhetoric will recognize the implications.
As Greene moves forward, she strikes another xenophobic chord. She tells her colleagues, “I want to work with all of you for our people. It should be America first, always, always and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Who are “our people”?
This is no mere circling of the Republican wagons. The expression “our people”—a common phrase in far-right racist discourse—implicitly contrasts “us” (real Americans) with “them” (the alien child killers and their radical leftist enablers).
Next, Greene identifies herself with the abused and murdered savior, saying “if this Congress…wants to condemn me and crucify me in the public square…then I think we’re in a real big problem….” She is being condemned and crucified by the bloodthirsty mob—the mob who murdered Jesus. The implication is clear. She does not need to spell out who the Christ killers were. In this rhetorical logic, Greene is Jesus, and the democrats are Jews.
You may think that this reading is far-fetched. If so, consider the message that she posted on twitter less than a week before. Entitled “A message to the mob,” Greene wrote “Here’s my message to the radical, left-wing Democrat mob and the Fake News media trying to take me out.” Presenting herself as a martyr, sacrificing herself for the salvation of America, she continues “I take all of these slings and arrows gladly for you. I take them for our America First movement so that we can save our country and stop socialism.” And, like Christ contemplating his fate in the Garden of Gethsemane, she writes, “I knew this day would come, it was only a question of when.” Presenting the socialist menace as an existential threat to her people, she writes “If the Republicans cower to the mob, and let the Democrats and the Fake News media take me out, they’re opening the door to come after every single Republican, until there’s none left.”
What’s going on here? Most democrats are not Jews, and some republicans are.
Historically, the notion of Jewishness has oscillated between referencing a biological race, a religious minority, and a form of life, in the gentile mind. To the Nazis, Jewishness was not limited to real flesh-and-blood Jews. It included everything that they deemed to be depraved, corrosive, perverse, or malevolent. That’s why communism, and modern art, and jazz, were all regarded as Jewish, and were all to be despised, condemned, and eliminated. For them, just as for present-day Q-Anon cultists and their ilk, there can be anti-Semitism without Jews.
The ideological texture of Marjorie Greene’s remarks is unmistakable, even though she never once uses the word “Jew” or singles out Jewish individuals for opprobrium. This makes her discourse all the more seductive and toxic. Its plausible deniability makes the standing ovation given to her by a substantial number of her republican colleagues, and the refusal of the majority of them to condemn her, all the more dangerous and reprehensible.