"Translations of Antisemitism: Jews, the Chinese, and Violence in Colonial and Postcolonial Indonesia"

Speaker: Dr. Jeffrey Hadler,
Assistant Professor, Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A.
Date:16:00 -, May 24(Mon), 2004
Venue: Room 307, Common Building of CSEAS

Scholars have assumed that Indonesian antisemitism is a case of "antisemitism without Jews"; that current anti-Jewish rhetoric is borrowed from Middle Eastern anti-Zionist propaganda. This viewpoint is limited. I analyze the history and role of the Jewish community during the period of Dutch colonialism in the East Indies. I assess the position of both Dutch and "oriental" Jews in the economic and social life of the colony, discussing the role of Zionism and imperial antisemitism, and paying particular attention to the interactions of the Jews and the "native" Indonesians. Indies Jewry cut across official colonial categories, with Dutch, Arab, Chinese, and even native congregants. The community maintained a Zionist newspaper, "Erets Israel," that was published from 1926 until the Japanese occupation. Jews met in the one synagogue in Surabaya, and held services in Masonic Lodges and Theosophical Halls (two other groups reviled by conspiracy theorists today). In post-Soeharto Indonesia there has been a revival of antisemitism, an effort to equate political "reformasi" and Zionism and then fury at American (and therefore Israeli) actions in the Middle East. I attempt to trace connections between antisemitic discourse and anti-minority violence in Indonesia generally, reading antisemitic discourse as a veiled substitution for more familiar bigotries outlawed publicly by Soeharto's SARA laws.
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