Reflections on anti-Semitism, at home and abroad

This spring, I took a long walk in a nature reserve near York with my husband.  As we approached the trailhead, I noticed an ugly yellow spray-painted swastika, marring a map depicting the protected area. I had never been under the illusion that the U.K., my expatriate home, was free from anti-Semitism – the rise of the far-right here and across Europe had made clear that the complex hatred surrounding white nationalism were alive and well in Britain.  But these seemed abstract, the stuff of Radio 4 debates and editorial commentary, not in bright yellow paint, staring me in the face.

I thought about that swastika a great deal over these past weeks. As we’ve all read, white nationalists in Charlottesville chanted “Jews will not replace us,” placing anti-Semitism at the heart of their ethnic ideology. Whether a part of a far-right political ideal, or just simple hatred, anti-Semitism has taken on new life – from Charlottesville to rural Yorkshire. White supremacists and their sympathizers have decided that Jews aren’t white, reminding us that our acceptance is always, always provisional.  Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but this was nevertheless a disturbing realization for me: anti-Semitism feels like such an old-fashioned brand of hatred.

Swastika image
Nazi vandalism in Skipwith Common National Nature Reserve, York UK.

How can we challenge it?  We need progressive candidates who can move past the fractured “identity politics” which has been so soundly rejected by voters. We need candidates who can craft inclusive policies that speak to all of us; who find ourselves outside the boundaries of the racists’ white ethno-state, and to the many men and women who find their ideals detestable. After all, there are more of us out here, and we are stronger in our diversity.

TAKE ACTION: Visit the Southern Poverty Law Center for US anti-hate resources

About the author: Dr. Erin Maglaque is a resident of York and a Teaching Fellow in History at the University of St Andrews. She is a (proud!) Massachusetts voter. To learn about her academic research, visit

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