Holocaust scholar to testify at Charlottesville trial


WASHINGTON – Deborah E. Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust scholar, was not in Charlottesville, Va. In August 2017 when neo-Nazi torchlight protesters chanted “The Jews will not replace us” and a young woman was killed in the violence. And yet, Dr Lipstadt is set to speak in the ongoing trial, where she will testify as a historian linking the anti-Semitism of the past to the politics of the present.

Dr Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, is scheduled to appear in Charlottesville on Wednesday for the plaintiffs in Sines v. Kessler, a civil case brought against two dozen neo-Nazis and white nationalist groups who organized the 2017 Unite the Right rally in college town. The nine plaintiffs include people who were injured when James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring at least 19 others.

Charlottesville plaintiffs are suing white nationalist groups under Virginia and United States laws Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which Congress passed to help protect once enslaved African Americans from mob violence. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that the groups illegally conspired to deprive the plaintiffs of their rights as citizens. The groups and their lawyers say they were exercising their right to free speech and their pre-planning focused on self-defense.

The plaintiffs, who seek unspecified damages, say they want to show Americans how protesters’ chants are linked to other forms of racism and have regained a foothold in US politics. Dr Lipstadt declined to comment for this article – plaintiffs’ attorneys forbade her from interviewing prior to her testimony – but in a 48-page report she prepared for trial, she wrote that “this fear of a active replacement by the Jew, stems directly from the historical foundations of anti-Semitism, is a central feature of contemporary anti-Semitism.

“Two animosities – racism and anti-Semitism – come together in the concept of a ‘white genocide’ or ‘white replacement’ theory,” Dr Lipstadt wrote in the report. “According to proponents of this theory, the accomplices or lackeys of the Jews in this effort are a range of people of color, including Muslims and African Americans. “

Dr Lipstadt, 74, has spent his career studying anti-Semitism, a 2,000-year-old prejudice “which has been correctly described as the longest or oldest group hatred,” she wrote in her report. . His scholarship was recognized by the presidents of both parties. In July, President Biden announced that he designate Dr Lipstadt as Special Envoy of the State Department to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. She is awaiting confirmation by the Senate for the post, which carries the rank of Ambassador.

In 2017, many Americans were shocked to see hundreds of their fellow citizens demonstrate against the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, carrying and displaying Nazi symbols, waving Confederate flags and chanting slogans associated with the Third Reich. But since then their animating ideology, their grand replacement theory – the misconception that religious and racial minorities are determined to eradicate white Christians or replace them in society – has grown from the fringes to the mainstream, say the Dr Lipstadt and civil rights groups.

“This trial can play a crucial role in opening people’s eyes to the crisis we are facing, how the ideology we are talking about here has become so normalized,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America. , the nonprofit group that brought the Charlottesville lawsuit. “We want to make it clear that there are consequences to this. “

The replacement theory is often expressed through conspiracy theories of electoral fraud, Jewish or foreign-born “globalists”, “invasions” and electoral domination of non-white immigrants, and has been adopted by commentators. from Fox News, Republican members of Congress and former President Donald J. Trump. In 2017, Mr. Trump drew a lot of criticism when he used the phrase “very good people on both sides” when referring to the neo-Nazi attack on counter-protesters in Charlottesville. The perpetrators of at least three mass shootings since 2017 have expressed their belief in the replacement theory.

In April, Fox News host Tucker Carlson replacement theory adopted on air. “The left and all the little Twitter gatekeepers literally get hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement’, if you suggest the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, voters are now voting, with new people, more voters. obedient third world, “Mr. Carlson said on the show.” That’s what actually happens. Let’s just put it: It’s true.

The white nationalists who organized the rally in Charlottesville praised Mr. Carlson’s comments, which were picked up by some Republicans in Congress. In a Foreign Affairs house subcommittee hearing on immigration that month, Rep. Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, said that “many Americans” believed that “we are replacing native Americans – native Americans to permanently transform the nation. political landscape of this very nation “.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, sent a press release to his constituents in April, with his quotes from an interview on Fox Business in which he said the Biden administration wanted “the borders to be completely opened, and you must be wondering why? Do they really want to remake America’s demographics to make sure they stay in power forever? “

“There is this kind of hate laundering taking place, where fringe ideas move from the margins to the mainstream whitewashed by pundits, political candidates or even elected officials as if it were some kind of legitimate speech. “Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.

Mr. Greenblatt requested the resignation of Mr. Carlson after his remarks in April. ADL and Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Mr Carlson when he invoked the replacement theory again in September, and after announcing that he was working on a series falsely presenting the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill as instigated by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Carlson’s claims in September were echoed by Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, who wrote on Twitter, “@TuckerCarlson is CORRECT about replacement theory as he explains what’s going on in America. ADL is a racist organization.

“You can draw a straight line from Charlottesville to the Capitol to the new Tucker Carlson propaganda article, which perpetuates this myth that there is a ‘cabal’ that does this,” Greenblatt said. “Nativist sentiment has been an ugly aspect of American history for centuries, but what we need to recognize and understand today is that these myths are not only damaging, they are deadly.”

In the article she prepared for the trial, Dr. Lipstadt writes that neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville united “under a specific theme, particularly emphasized in the song used during the August 11 night torch march. : “The Jews will not replace us. . ‘”

“This fear of active replacement by the Jew, derived directly from the historical foundations of anti-Semitism, is a central feature of contemporary anti-Semitism.”

Dr Lipstadt cites several examples of Unite the Right organizers extending the grand replacement theory to members of other races, including an online appeal from white nationalist Richard Spencer, accused in the Charlottesville case, who is representing himself. same. “Will you let them replace you?” Mr. Spencer wrote on his post online. “Do you want to just turn around and let them trample on white culture and white people?” Where will you join us?

Dr. Lipstadt received his undergraduate degree from City College, New York, and his Masters and Doctorate. from Brandeis University. She has written six books on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Holocaust denial.

In 1993, Dr Lipstadt published “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory”. English writer David Irving, who Dr Lipstadt described in the book as the most dangerous Holocaust denier, responded by suing her and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel in Britain, whose system differs from the American in that it reverses the burden of proof, putting the onus on Dr. Lipstadt to prove that the statements in question were true.

In 2000, Mr. Irving lost the case, his defeat being accompanied by a 349-page verdict that was a condemnation of his false beliefs and broad denial. The 10-week trial is documented in Dr. Lipstadt’s book “History on Trial”, which became the basis for a 2016 film, “Denial”.

But Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism have persisted on right and left, fueled and propagated by the Internet, often disguised as immigration concerns or Zionism.

“When expressions of contempt for one group become normative, it is virtually inevitable that similar hatred will be directed against other groups,” Dr Lipstadt wrote in “Antisemitism: Here and Now”, his 2019 book on resurgence of anti-Semitism in different forms. . “Even if anti-Semites were to confine their venom to Jews, the existence of hatred of Jews within a society is an indication that something is wrong with the whole society. “

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