Up to us – part 2/3: the days before

** On January 2nd the far right marched the streets of Amsterdam under the guise of anti-corona sentiments, in a demonstration that was officially banned by the municipality. A group of Jews decided to lead a counter-demonstration at the Jewish resistance memorial. This blog is the second part of a trilogy bringing forward why this was so important, how it came about and how to take it from here. **

Moving within the field of antiracism and Jewish social justice, inevitably there comes a moment in which one is confronted by the existence of the far right, white supremacists and their rhetoric and public appearances. This moment presented itself a few weeks ago. The far right was organizing yet another ‘special appearance’ in the anti-corona demonstrations in Amsterdam. Not only are white supremacist organizations and elements present at the ‘anti-corona’ demonstrations, they are amongst the driving forces. And we are all watching. Any reminiscences of the past?  

The racist, white supremacist groups are spreading their ideology by being present in spaces where there is an above-average frustration with the status quo and a tendency towards conspiracy theory. Cloaked in concealing lingua franca of ‘brotherhood’, ‘freedom’, and ‘love’ they seemingly hide their racist and antisemitic ideology while sticking stickers everywhere saying ‘make white babies’ and ‘make Holland great again’ and waving the Dutch national-socialist (Nazi) flag – unadulterated references to white surpremacist ideology. This tactic of reframing and confusion works as it allows people to cherry pick what speaks to them (love, freedom, etc) and (willfully) ignore the rest. In a superb act of confused linguistics, they have even appropriated Jewish Holocaust victimhood and are spinning a story in which the perpertrators reframe themselves as victims. 

In previous editions, some Jewish activists joined in with some literal ‘cleaning up’ along the demonstration route after the event by removing the white supremacist, racist and antisemitic stickers that had been scattered everywhere. This time around we asked ourselves whether we felt up to the task of doing a little bit more: actually being visibly present at the demonstration as Jews against the far right. Since Jews and antisemitic tropes have been all over the place, right into Dutch Parliament, Jewish grassroot leadership felt more necessary than ever.   

Hence, we decided to make a visibly Jewish statement at the anti-corona demonstration. Something simple and effective: being present with a Jewish banner against fascism, at a location that speaks unequivocally to what happens if far right ideology becomes mainstream thinking. 

And then something happened that was both healing and empowering: solidarity from other activists. Once it became known that Jewish activists were organizing themselves, non-Jewish activists centered us, our needs and followed our lead. They showed up for us, not ‘just’ at the demonstration itself, but in the organizing leading up to it. This was a welcome break from earlier sentiments we have experienced in which our presence as Jews was often cause for doubt and debate, overlooking the fact that Jews remain a vulnerable target when far right organizations get the podium for spitting their venom. Realizing we were about to confront people who would rather prefer we would not exist is an obvious source of anxiety, but knowing that we are seen and supported in this by other activists made all the difference.

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