By Phyllis Chesler, New York Post, October 19, 2014
I love opera. For almost three years, I regularly contributed to NPR's "At the Opera." I attend the Metropolitan Opera House as often as I can. But the decision to stage "The Death of Klinghoffer" represents an abdication of moral responsibility, political sensitivity and gravitas.
Met Opera General Manager Peter Gelb has a constitutional and artistic right to produce whatever he wants. Yet showcasing this opera is equivalent to a college president's inviting a member of ISIS, Hamas, or the Taliban to speak on campus because "all sides must be heard" and "all points of view are equally valid."
As a feminist, I wouldn't boycott an opera because the female heroes are betrayed, go mad or are murdered. As in life, our great operas are tragedies in which the heroes die.
But, where there are heroes there are also villains.
The villain in Puccini's "Tosca" is unmistakable: He is Scarpia, the police chief of Rome who tortures political prisoners and attempts to rape the great singer, Floria Tosca. We don't get a backstory about Scarpia's dysfunctional childhood, nor do we sympathize or identify with him.
He is a heartless villain and the opera doesn't allow (let alone ask) us to pity or sympathize with him. We are meant to fear and despise him, perhaps even hate him.
"Klinghoffer" begs us to sympathize with the villains — terrorists. This is something new.
"The Death of Klinghoffer" also demonizes Israel — which is what anti-Semitism is partly about today. It incorporates lethal Islamic (and now universal) pseudo-histories about Israel and Jews. It beatifies terrorism, both musically and in the libretto.
Composer John Adams has given the opening "Chorus of Exiled Palestinians" a beautiful, sacred musical "halo," à la Bach. "Chorus of Exiled Jews," by contrast, is dogged, mechanical, industrial, aggressive — relentless, military, hardly angelic.
This opera treats 6 million murdered Jews of the Holocaust as morally equivalent to perhaps 600,000 Palestinian Arabs who left during Israel's founding. They were not murdered, not ethnically cleansed, but rather pushed to flee their homes by Arab leaders who told them they'd return as soon as the Jews had been slaughtered.
"Klinghoffer" does not, of course, mention the at least 820,000 Arab, North African and Central Asian Jews forced into exile between 1948 and 1972. Nor that many Arabs didn't flee. Today, Israel has 1.7 million Arab Muslim and Christian citizens, about 20 percent of its population.
Jews are willing to live with Muslims and Christians — it is the Arab Muslim leaders who want to ethnically cleanse Jews and other infidels from allegedly Muslim lands.
Contrary to all claims, the libretto is not even-handed. The villains have more lines.
And better lines: The Palestinians sing: "My father's house was razed / in nineteen forty-eight / when the Israelis passed / Over our street."For example, the terrorists command 11 arias — 12, with the "Chorus of Exiled Palestinians." The Klinghoffers have two arias each, toward the end of the opera; add the exiled Jewish chorus and you have five arias for the innocent victims versus 12 for their victimizers.
The Jews sing: "When I paid off the taxi, I had no money left."
Indeed, the obsession with Jews and money is reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. The terrorist Rambo sings: "But wherever poor men / Are gathered they can / Find Jews getting fat . . . America / Is one big Jew."
The terrorists tell us they are "men of ideals," and that "this is an action for liberation." Hah. In reality, they didn't allow Marilyn Klinghoffer, who was exhausted and in pain from colon cancer, lie down.
They forced the passengers to stand under the broiling Mediterranean sun for days and to hold live grenades.
Leon Klinghoffer had suffered several strokes. He lacked full use of his hands, his legs were paralyzed, his speech slurred — and this is whom Molqui murders and throws overboard with his wheelchair.
Only a dead and murdered Jew — "Leon Klinghoffer's body" — is allowed to sing his death with some measure of grace (although most of the lyrics are incomprehensible).
The hijacking of the Achille Lauro was a 14-man Palestine Liberation Organization operation ordered by Arafat and Abu Abbas.
Eight terrorists simply walked out of Italy, claiming a spurious diplomatic status. The rest received sentences that ranged from four to 30 years, with early releases. All were considered heroes across the Arab world.
Choosing to stage "The Death of Klinghoffer" at the Met automatically confers upon it a prestige it does not deserve. The opera betrays the truth entirely and, in effect, joins the low-brow ranks of propagandists against Jewish survival.
By Jim Yardley, New York Times, September 23, 2014
SARCELLES, France — From the immigrant enclaves of the Parisian suburbs to the drizzly bureaucratic city of Brussels to the industrial heartland of Germany, Europe’s old demon returned this summer. “Death to the Jews!” shouted protesters at pro-Palestinian rallies in Belgium and France. “Gas the Jews!” yelled marchers at a similar protest in Germany.
The ugly threats were surpassed by uglier violence. Four people were fatally shot in May at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. A Jewish-owned pharmacy in this Paris suburb was destroyed in July by youths protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany, was attacked with firebombs. A Swedish Jew was beaten with iron pipes. The list goes on.
The scattered attacks have raised alarm about how Europe is changing and whether it remains a safe place for Jews. An increasing number of Jews, if still relatively modest in total, are now migrating to Israel. Others describe “no go” zones in Muslim districts of many European cities where Jews dare not travel.
But there is also concern about what some see as an insidious “softer” anti-Jewish bias, which they fear is creeping into the European mainstream and undermining the postwar consensus to root out anti-Semitism. Now the question is whether a subtle societal shift is occurring that has made anti-Jewish remarks or behavior more acceptable.
“The fear is that now things are blatantly being said openly, and no one is batting an eyelid,” said Jessica Frommer, 36, a secular Jew who works for a nonprofit organization in Brussels. “Modern Europe is based on stopping what happened in the Second World War. And now 70 years later, people standing near the European Parliament are shouting, ‘Death to Jews!’ ”
This is not the Europe of 1938. French leaders have strongly condemned the violence. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany this month led a rally against anti-Semitism in Berlin at which she told Germans, “It is our national and civic duty to fight anti-Semitism.”
Europe has seen protests and outbursts of anti-Semitism whenever the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has erupted, and some analysts say this summer’s anger is a cyclical episode that like others will fade away. Some note that the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents this year in France, for instance, is well below some years in the 2000s.
Yet as European support for the Palestinian cause and criticism of Israel have hardened, many Jews describe a blurring of distinctions between being anti-Israel and being anti-Jew.
With Europe still shaking from a populist backlash against fiscal austerity, some Jews speak of feeling politically isolated, without an ideological home. Many left-wing political parties are anti-Israel. Many right-wing parties, some with anti-Semitic origins, are extremist and virulently anti-immigrant. And many Jews who have voted with the Socialist Party in France and Belgium worry that those parties are weak and becoming more dependent on fast-growing Muslim voting blocs.
Even among those inclined to condemn racism in any form, fighting anti-Semitism is no longer seen as a priority, with Jews often perceived as privileged compared with Muslims and other minorities confronted with discrimination.
Many younger Muslims often seem alienated in Europe. Struggling to find work and frustrated by their lack of acceptance, a small but vocal group of them has become inflamed by the politics of the Middle East, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
European officials are deeply concerned that radical Islam, nurtured in the Middle East, could take root in Europe. Mehdi Nemmouche, a French Muslim arrested in connection with the killings at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, fought as a jihadist in Syria. A French journalist who was held captive in Syria until April said Mr. Nemmouche had been one of his torturers.
“We are a microcosm of the Middle East,” said Philip Carmel, European policy director for the European Jewish Congress. “The Middle East is being imported into Europe.”
Visits to some of the flash points of the summer violence revealed a picture of what Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France has called a “new anti-Semitism.” In Sarcelles, the Paris suburb where pro-Palestinian protests spiraled into riots, the alienation of France’s immigrants and minorities lies just below the surface. In Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, some secular Jews described a changing atmosphere and questioned whether it was time to leave.
And in Wuppertal, Germany, a city proud of its commitment to religious and ethnic diversity, the attempted firebombing of a synagogue exposed underlying tensions that became even clearer this month when, unexpectedly, a group of Muslim men patrolled a neighborhood wearing makeshift uniforms that said “Shariah Police.”
The French Melting Pot
On the afternoon of July 20, a siege mentality gripped Little Jerusalem, the Jewish commercial district in Sarcelles. A crowd of young Jewish men had gathered at the synagogue as a pro-Palestinian protest was held a few blocks away. France’s Interior Ministry had tried to ban the protest, which spun into a riot. Cars were burning. Young men were throwing rocks as the police fired tear gas. A Jewish-owned pharmacy was set on fire.
“We were all concentrated here to defend the synagogue,” said Levi Cohen Solal, 21, who joined the human cordon outside the synagogue. “Everybody was scared.”
Blocked by the police, the rioters never reached the synagogue, but Sarcelles became a televised symbol of France’s new anti-Semitism — a depiction many local residents did not recognize. A working-class suburb where generations of immigrants are packed into government housing, Sarcelles is a melting pot of religions and ethnicities, where many people speak of a largely peaceful coexistence.
To many residents, the demonstration, which was organized by outsiders on social media, was an indictment not of Sarcelles, but of France. Youth unemployment is soaring, especially in immigrant havens like Sarcelles, and many French-born children and grandchildren of immigrants have become alienated from French society.
“They have a real hatred against the state,” said Bassi Konaté, a city social worker, who added that many of the protesters came from poorer districts nearby. “A big proportion of these people feel neglected. A lot of these people don’t know anything about Gaza. But they want to confront the police.”
An early sign that these broader resentments were morphing into more open expressions of anti-Semitism came with the emergence several years ago of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a French comedian who lashed out at Jews and played down the Holocaust. He has since allied himself with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 86-year-old founder of the far-right National Front, who this summer used an apparently anti-Semitic pun, which alluded to Nazi crematories, as a riposte to a Jewish critic. Many of the comedian’s shows have since been banned in France, but his popularity has continued to rise, unnerving many Jews.
“For the past four or five years, we have felt a growing insecurity,” said David Harroch, who runs a Jewish bookstore in Little Jerusalem. “My customers tell me how worried they are about the climate here, the situation. A lot of people have left.”
Israeli officials predict that as many as 6,000 Jews will migrate from France this year, a stark reversal from the 1950s, when Sephardic Jews, Arabs and others began arriving in Sarcelles from North Africa. A booming economy made work plentiful.
But during France’s recession in the late 1970s, the city’s ethnic groups became pitted against one another for limited public resources. Rahsaan Maxwell, a political scientist who has studied Sarcelles’s ethnic groups, said the Sephardic Jews had incurred resentment because they were better organized and able to mobilize politically to win certain perks from the elected local council: a special Jewish section in the local cemetery, widening of a road in front of the main synagogue, kosher offerings at an annual city dinner for the elderly, and segregated swimming hours for men and women at a city pool.
In his 2012 book, “Ethnic Minority Migrants in Britain and France,” Mr. Maxwell wrote that Sephardic Jews became so influential that “when Israel was at war with Lebanon in the early 1980s, Sephardic Jewish activists in Sarcelles were aggressive about using it as a litmus test for local politicians to see whether they supported Israel and the Jewish people.”
Yet many Jews and Muslims born in that era grew up together without rancor in government housing. Not far from one of the city’s storefront mosques is a small Superette grocery owned by a Muslim family. One of the owners, Abdel Badaz, recently stood behind the counter with a childhood friend, Mickaël Berdah, 36, a Jew whose family emigrated decades ago from Tunisia. They both criticized the riot as the work of young troublemakers.
“When you’ve grown up in the neighborhood, and you know everybody, there isn’t that kind of hate,” Mr. Berdah said. “When there is that kind of hate, it is at the roots, something about the way parents have educated their children.”
Later, near the grocery, a tall teenager pedaled his bicycle toward two journalists and shouted at them to leave, saying the media had lied about Sarcelles. The youth, Diakité Ismael, 19, the French-born son of Senegalese immigrants, soon calmed down and, like others, argued that there was no animosity in Sarcelles between local Muslims and Jews.
“Look,” he said, as a bearded Jewish man in a dark suit and skullcap walked by, “there’s one.”
But when asked about Gaza, Mr. Ismael became agitated, rambling and warning that the world was hurtling toward a catastrophe. He said he had seen video of an Israeli bomb hitting a funeral in Gaza. “Somehow, some Jews control politics, information, business and finance,” he said. “I’m not talking about the Jews here. I’m talking about Jews in general.”
“Jews, in general,” he added, “only let you see what they want you to see.”
In Brussels, Heightened Alert
Music rose from the center of Brussels on Sunday, with joggers and bicyclists moving freely down city streets as the seat of the European Union held its annual no-car day. It had the giddy air of a street fair, if less so for the city’s Jewish organizations, which the police had placed under heightened security since two recent incidents.
The first happened the previous Sunday, Sept. 14, which marked the European Day of Jewish Culture. As people gathered to dedicate a plaque at a Holocaust memorial, youths hurled stones and bottles until the police arrived. Three days later, a fire erupted on an upper floor of a synagogue in the city’s Anderlecht district; the authorities are investigating the incident as arson.
It was the May shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels — and the subsequent arrest of Mr. Nemmouche — that attracted international attention, as four people were killed, including two Israelis. But there have been smaller incidents that received less notice: a Turkish shop owner in Liège who posted a sign saying he would serve dogs but not Jews, a voice on the intercom of a commuter train that announced a stop as "Auschwitz" and ordered all Jews to get off.
“This summer, I started to see the world in a different way,” said Marco Mosseri, 31, a native Italian who works in the automotive industry in Brussels. “I was scared. I spent several nights without sleep. For the first time, I was thinking that maybe I could die from my religion.”
With its chocolate shops, Trappist beers and gray gloom, Brussels is the center of Europe’s sprawling bureaucracy, a symbol of the loathed policies of austerity. But Brussels also embodies the demographics transforming much of urban Europe, with generations of Muslim immigrants and their descendants now representing roughly a quarter of the population.
The Jewish community is small, about 20,000 people, most of them assimilated, secular Jews like Mr. Mosseri, who usually do not draw attention to their heritage. (A recent report issued jointly by two European Jewish organizations found that 40 percent of European Jews hide their Jewishness.) Now some secular Jews say they have stopped wearing a necklace with the Star of David, or allowing their children to wear T-shirts for a Jewish summer camp on public buses or trains.
And since the start of the conflict in Gaza this summer, many describe social media, especially Facebook, as a swamp of hatred.
“I have friends who are never political and they are posting things about Gaza every day,” said Ms. Frommer, the employee of the nonprofit organization. “It seems like an obsession. Is your obsession because you want to save children, or because you have a problem with Jews?”
In a city so devoted to politics, the issue of Israel can seem unavoidable to some Jews, even those who strive to be apolitical or tend to be critical of Israeli policy. Ms. Frommer grew up in Brussels, but then left for college in Britain, followed by a long stint working in Cambodia. When she returned to Brussels four years ago, she was struck by how much more polarized life seemed. Her Jewish friends were sticking closer together as office chatter now sometimes bore a sharper edge.
This summer, one of her Belgian colleagues repeatedly mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “He would often try to bring up the subject when I tried not to,” she said. “Then the subject would shift from Israel to Jews. Then it was, ‘Were there really six million Jews killed in the Second World War?’ ”
Nor was the comment isolated. There have been signs that anti-Jewish sentiment transcended the immediate backlash against the Gaza war. In Hungary, the rise of the far-right Jobbik party has brought concerns that anti-Semitic views are gaining mainstream traction.
In Italy, extreme right-wing activists were blamed for a flurry of anti-Jewish graffiti, including Nazi swastikas, on buildings in various cities. In Rome, fliers calling for a boycott of at least 40 Jewish-owned stores appeared last month with the signature of the far-right group Vita Est Militia. Italian investigators were also looking into whether such far-right parties were building alliances with extremist left-wing groups.
In Brussels, several pro-Palestinian marches were held this summer, most of which were peaceful, but a few bore an anti-Semitic edge, including shouts of “Death to Jews!” While Belgian politicians quickly condemned the shooting at the Jewish Museum, some Jews felt the response to the protests, including that of the center-left Socialists, was tepid at best.
“The Socialist Party is afraid, because of the votes here in Belgium,” said Dr. Maurice Sosnowski, an anesthesiologist and prominent Jewish leader in Brussels. “In Belgium, they are not willing to speak loudly, because there are a lot of Muslims.”
In the nonprofit world of Brussels, the politics of Israel, which some on the European left view as essentially the pursuit of racist objectives against Palestinians, have made it difficult to keep the fight against anti-Semitism high on the agenda.
“Some see it in conflict with the anti-racism movement,” said Robin Sclafani, director of the Brussels-based group A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe. The organization, also known as CEJI, provides anti-discrimination training to teachers, social workers and others. Ms. Sclafani said she now receives numerous requests for training sessions to combat discrimination against Muslims, yet there is little interest in workshops on anti-Semitism.
“Nobody comes,” she said, adding that she has started pairing the sessions together.
Michaël Privot, director of the European Network Against Racism, said that blaming only the Islamic fringe for anti-Semitism discounted academic studies that show how deeply ingrained it remains among all Belgians — as well as other Europeans — and risked giving a free pass to right-wing extremist groups.
“You have, basically, a golden opportunity for the right fringe to blame it on Muslims and claim innocence,” Mr. Privot said.
On Sunday, as much of the city enjoyed the car-free streets of Brussels, a group of secular Jews gathered at the headquarters of CEJI with a visiting journalist to discuss ordinary life for them. Because of the heightened security alert, three plainclothes police officers were stationed in the lobby.
Like others in the room, Ms. Frommer described a growing sense of isolation. As a teenager, she participated in left-wing Jewish youth groups, but she said some of her friends were now attracted to the extremist right-wing party Vlaams Belang. The party is led by Filip Dewinter, an outspoken critic of Muslim immigration who has been courting Jews, despite his party’s past links to anti-Semitism.
“I would never be able to vote for someone like that,” Ms. Frommer said. “But some people are now. It is more and more legitimate to vote right wing.”
She and others said that many friends were talking of moving to Canada or to the United States, if not Israel, even though they are uncertain whether their anxieties are fully justified.
“These are people with good jobs,” she said. “And life is comfortable here. The big question is: Should we be paranoid or not?”
Anxiety in Germany
The news spread quickly in the early morning of July 29 among the Jews of Wuppertal, Germany. Someone had tried to firebomb the city’s synagogue. The devices had failed to ignite, leaving the building with little damage, unlike the collective psyche of its members.
“For Jews in Germany, especially for us, this has very, very deep meaning,” said Artour Gourari, a local businessman and synagogue member. “Synagogues are burning again in Germany in the night.”
Nowhere in Europe has the postwar imperative to fight anti-Semitism been more complete — and more intertwined with national redemption — than in Germany. In Wuppertal, a manufacturing center, the city’s synagogue was burned in 1938 during the two-day rampage known as Kristallnacht, when an anti-Jewish pogrom swept across Nazi Germany.
After the war ended, Wuppertal’s Jewish community had no synagogue and, with only 60 members, seemed destined for extinction. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the German government opened the country to persecuted Soviet Jews, and soon refugees from Uzbekistan, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia had settled in Wuppertal. The local Jewish population reached 2,500. The presidents of Germany and Israel attended the 2002 inauguration of the new synagogue.
Now a police van is stationed around the clock in a small park across from the synagogue. The police have arrested three suspects in the firebombing attack, all Palestinians, including one from Gaza, as well as a 17-year-old refugee. The refugee has lived in Wuppertal for two years, among the different Muslim communities of Turks, North Africans and asylum seekers from Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Until the synagogue attack, Wuppertal officials had taken pride in the peaceful coexistence of so many religions and ethnicities. Many of the older Muslims had arrived in the 1960s for work but assumed they would eventually return to their home countries. Now a third generation, born in Germany, is growing up with different expectations, as well as a sense of alienation.
“They have to justify why they don’t fully belong to the society,” said Samir Bouaissa, a local Muslim leader.
One of the local high schools is named after a famous Jewish poet, Else Lasker-Schüler, and is commonly called “The School Without Racism.” Yet two recent graduates described rising tensions in the multiethnic student body, including resentment by some Muslim students over a sister-school arrangement with a school in Israel. This summer, during the Gaza crisis, several Muslim adolescents began circulating anti-Israel posts on social media.
This one “got shot yesterday,” said a Facebook post from Gaza shared by a student. It showed a photograph of a female Israeli soldier and added an obscenity. The student added his own postscript: “You get what you deserve.”
Antonia Lammertz, 19, a recent graduate, said only a small minority of students were extreme but that a softer bias was common even among the mainstream. “In my school, to be called a Jew was to be cursed, or insulted,” she said, noting a problem that officials have tried to root out at many German schools.
City religious leaders reacted quickly after the synagogue attack. Imams and Christian ministers rushed to the building to pledge support. More than 300 people came to a hurriedly organized peace meeting the next day.
“People were shocked,” Mr. Bouaissa said. “A threat against one of our religious houses is a threat against all of us.”
Earlier this month, the city’s religious leaders, including many Muslims, got another shock: a small group of men, one only 19, spent an evening walking through a Muslim neighborhood, lecturing young people about vices like gambling (while apparently not mentioning Jews). They were wearing orange jackets that read “Shariah Police.” The leader was a Salafist, Sven Lau, who called the event a one-time publicity move to stir more “Islamic discussion.”
That, it did. Local prosecutors filed charges. German officials, including Ms. Merkel, reacted with a blend of shock, indignation and alarm, while mainstream Muslims also protested. And local neo-Nazis responded with their own patrol, dressing in red pullovers and pledging to protect the public from Islamists.
For Leonid Goldberg, the community leader of the Wuppertal synagogue, the emergence of a radical Islamic fringe is less a surprise. Just four days before the synagogue attack, someone had spray-painted “Free Palestine” on the front wall of the building. In recent years, Mr. Goldberg has used a celebration of Rosh Hashana at the synagogue — an event attended by elected officials and religious leaders of the city, including Muslims — to warn about rising anti-Semitism among extremist Muslims in the city.
“No one wanted to hear that,” he said.
By Yascha Mounk
Foreign Affairs, September 17, 2014
In many European countries, including France and Germany, the number of anti-Semitic crimes committed this year already exceeds the total for 2013. It would be an exaggeration to say that Europe is no longer hospitable to Jews. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel had good reason this week to publicly fret about “young Jewish parents who wonder whether they can raise their children in Germany.” Europe’s political climate is more hostile to Jews now than at any time since the second intifada.
Rising anti-Semitism among Europe’s Muslims is one reason for this change. Some protests against the latest war in Gaza, such as a recent march in Gelsenkirchen that culminated in calls of “Jews to the gas!” prominently featured anti-Semitic imagery or slogans. Others, such as the attack on a synagogue in Paris’ Marais district this past July, ended in outright violence.
But to claim that the rise of Muslim anti-Semitism is the main culprit for the changed climate -- as the German journalist Jochen Bittner did this week in The New York Times -- is to pin the blame on a small minority while overlooking that anti-Semitism has also grown among the majority. According to a recent Pew Research Center study conducted in Germany, although around 6 percent of the population is Muslim, 25 percent of people readily express unfavorable views of Jews; meanwhile, in Spain, where less than 3 percent of the population is Muslim, close to 50 percent of the population do the same. Although levels of anti-Semitism may be higher among Muslims than among Christians, a European anti-Semite remains far more likely to be Christian than Muslim.
Tensions between Muslims and Jews are a real problem, and one that has been swept under the carpet for too long; but an even greater problem is the tendency of wily politicians to play Jews and Muslims against each other for purposes of their own. The real question of Europe’s future is not whether Muslim immigrants will learn to tolerate Jews, but whether, in countries such as Sweden, Italy, and Poland, the majority can learn to think of Muslims and Jews as true members of the nation.
THE POPULIST PIVOT
Most Europeans are reluctant to believe that somebody of Turkish or North African origin can qualify as truly German, Belgian, or French. Indeed, even many Europeans who consider themselves open to immigration tend to demand that immigrants abdicate their prior identities and assimilate entirely into local customs. For a long time, right-wing populists tried to exploit these attitudes by mounting a frontal attack on the idea of a liberal, diverse society: their opposition to immigration was but a launching pad for a musty vision of national purity, which harked all the way back to fascism.
The appeal of this form of populism always remained limited. Most Europeans like to think of themselves as secular, modern, and tolerant. Although they reject the idea that their homelands should accommodate the cultural and religious priorities of new arrivals, the version of that homeland they seek to defend is, in its own way, rather open-minded and diverse. They may grow defensive when immigrants seek to leave a cultural mark on the country, but they are personally open to many of the world’s cultural offerings, from sushi to yoga.
A new generation of far-right leaders, such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, have taken this lesson to heart. They haven’t stopped exploiting resentment against Muslim immigrants. But they have dressed up that resentment in new clothes. Instead of calling for an assault on modern, liberal society, they argue that Muslim immigrants -- through their supposed rejection of free speech, their insistence on sharia law, or their intolerance of Jews, women, and homosexuals -- imperil that very order. European right-wing extremism has transformed into what one might call liberal Islamophobia.
To signal how different they are from their predecessors, liberal Islamophobes also embrace Jews. There is a clear logic to this strategy. Because of their past persecution, Europe’s Jews have become the continent’s moral arbiters -- mainstream society’s litmus test for tolerance. To ward off accusations of racism, populists across the continent -- from the British politician Nigel Farage to the best-selling German writer Thilo Sarrazin -- have thus learned to preface their incendiary remarks about Muslims with a marker of tolerance and enlightenment: lavish praise of Jews and Judeo-Christian civilization. For the same reason, Le Pen and other populists take every opportunity to shine a spotlight on instances of anti-Semitic violence perpetrated by Muslims. Doing so allows them to claim the mantle of tolerance even as they sow hatred.
Populists’ repeated invocation of Jews has proved effective. By paying lip service to tolerance and an open society, parties such as France's Front National have managed to move from the political fringes to the mainstream. But their philo-Semitism remains insincere. European populists -- and their supporters -- are not only eager to speak their minds about the Muslim immigrants they had long disliked; they are also growing impatient with what they perceive as the desire of Europe’s Jews to pass judgment on the majority. The very same revival of nationalism that has been fueled by their invocation of Jews can, in this way, quickly turn into anti-Semitism.
EUROPE'S MORALITY PLAY
In many European countries, Jews have long represented an irksome reminder of the blemishes on the nation’s moral standing. This is most obviously the case in Germany, where Jews are widely seen as flesh-and-blood embodiments of the darkest hour in the nation’s history -- a chapter that a younger generation of Germans, impatient with the ubiquitous memorials attesting to their nation’s past crimes, is determined to make a less prominent part of public life. But the same goes for countries that once saw their own history in unambiguously positive terms: whether in Poland, Sweden, or France, past treatment of Jews complicates long-standing narratives about heroism in World War II.
Given the strange role Jews have been assigned in Europe’s societal morality play, it gives nationalists special comfort to claim that Jews are ultimately no better than the fascists and collaborationists of the continent’s past. By showing that Jews are themselves capable of perpetrating violence, they hope to lighten their nations’ heavy historical burdens. When Israel began bombing Gaza this summer, European nationalists seized the opportunity to do just that.
As a result, the composition of the populists’ coalition has shifted once again. For much of the past decade, the dominant tendency was for such groups to seek an alliance with Jews. In recent months, by contrast, Jews have been kicked out and replaced with Muslims. Increasingly, both populists and Muslim immigrants blame -- and punish, sometimes violently -- European Jews for the actions of the Israeli government. This tendency has long been a feature of Europe’s left; witness the cinema in London that recently canceled a Jewish film festival to protest the bombings of the Gaza Strip. Over the last several months, it has also reared its ugly head among Europe’s right; a well-known columnist in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, for example, wrote that events in Gaza explain why Europe’s Jews “have so often been expelled.”
But this constellation, too, is likely to remain short-lived. As the Gaza conflict fades from memory, talk of Europe’s Judeo-Christian roots is likely to make a comeback. Since it is so tempting to play Muslims and Jews off against each other, and the millions of Muslim immigrants pose a far more numerous threat to European identity than the continent’s remaining Jews, liberal Islamophobes will soon rediscover their insincere philo-Semitism.
The only way to prevent these endless and destructive pendulum swings is to convince Europeans to broaden their conception of national identity. They need to accept that a true Austrian can hail not only from Innsbruck but also from Istanbul and that imported practices that can enrich local culture include not only sushi and yoga studios but also halal meat and minarets. Whether Europeans are able to change their self-conception in this way remains a decisive -- and still undecided -- question for the continent’s future.
Far from being mere playthings in the majority’s shifting priorities, Jews and Muslims can try to reclaim some agency of their own in shaping this future. To do so, they will have to keep in mind that their interests overlap to a surprising degree: a nationalistic Europe that maintains a homogeneous conception of the nation will wind up being inhospitable to both groups. So far, Muslims and Jews have been surprisingly successful at working together. Jewish federations habitually defend Muslims against racist attacks by right-wing politicians. Even as parties, including Le Pen’s Front National, have disavowed anti-Semitism, they have refused to cooperate with right-wing populists. Similarly, most Muslim federations in Europe have, in recent months, remained unequivocal in their condemnation of attacks on Jews.
But there are also warning signs that Muslims and Jews could become willing participants in the political games of populists. Anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants is real and growing; the number of violent attacks on Jews perpetrated by Muslims is on the rise. Meanwhile, a few well-known Jewish intellectuals, including Alain Finkielkraut in France and Henryk Broder in Germany, have been flirting with increasingly Islamophobic positions; the German Jewish writer Ralph Giordano even condemned plans for a large mosque in Cologne as a “declaration of war.” In light of the ugly confrontations of recent months, it’s conceivable that these voices will ultimately prevail, setting Jews and Muslims against each other at a crucial moment in the development of European identity.
It is the majority, however, that faces the most consequential choice. For all the seductive rhetoric of liberal Islamophobes, an open society cannot be built on a foundation of exclusion. If ordinary Europeans and their political representatives give in to the temptation of lauding Jews the better to exclude Muslims -- or, for that matter, lauding Muslims the better to exclude Jews -- they will wind up with a society that is a lot less tolerant and diverse than they wish for.
Resolution against Boycott and Discrimination of Israeli scholars and research institutions
This resolution was passed unanimously by the Research Network board and conference participants at the mid-term meeting of the RN in Vienna, September 5th 2014:
In view of recent calls for boycott of Israeli scholars and research institutions, Research Network 31 “Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism” of the European Sociological Association (ESA) calls on our colleagues in ESA and scholars around the world to oppose such boycotts and condemn this discriminatory practice which contributes to creating an antisemitic climate. Any such boycott violates academic freedom and discriminates against individuals and institutions on the basis of their national background.
By Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Forward, August 28, 2014
The status of Holocaust survivor, let alone the status of the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other assorted relatives and friends of survivors, carries no special entitlement to superior ethical insight or elevated political awareness.
Given Hitler’s voluminous rants about Jews, it is not surprising that one aspect of his obsession is less known: the pleasure he took in the spectacle of Jews deriding and defaming other Jews. Hans Frank, one of Hitler’s top aides, quotes him as saying:
“I am an innocent lamb compared to revelations by Jews about Jews. But they are important, these disclosures of the Jew’s most secret, always totally hidden qualities, instincts, and character traits. It isn’t I who say this, it is the Jews themselves who say it about themselves, about their greed for money, their fraudulent ways, their immorality, and their sexual perversions.”
Hitler’s words about the denigrating things Jews say about themselves came to mind as I perused an ad published in the New York Times on August 23 by IJSN or International Jewish Solidarity Network. Tellingly, the very same ad appeared in the British Guardian on August 15, under the imprint of IJAN, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. For an American, and especially the New York readership, the crafters of this hostile statement must have figured it best not to make explicit their true credentials as anti-Zionists. Its signers display no interest in the misdeeds that Hitler ascribes to the Jews but focus their anger on today’s target-of-choice for Jew-haters everywhere: Israel.
Most Holocaust survivors, like most Jews, are Zionists and are strongly devoted to the welfare of the State of Israel. The IJSN/IJAN group is exceptional in its fierce opposition to Israel and is hardly representative. That fact, however, did not keep the BBC from quickly publishing a story with the title “Holocaust survivors condemn Israel.” The impression conveyed is seriously misleading.
Headlined “Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza,” the Times ad lashes out at Israel from the first sentence to the last, repeatedly condemning the country for acts of colonialism, racism, and genocide; it associates unnamed “right-wing Israelis” with Nazis; and, in a full-throated voice of protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza, it angrily calls for a “full economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel.”
It aims, therefore, not just to censure but to punish. And as a special touch, it attacks a fellow survivor, the most famous one of all: Elie Wiesel. Why? Because Wiesel recently published an ad of his own in American newspapers, including the New York Times, criticizing Hamas for some of its brutal ways. IJSN pulled out all the stops in going after Wiesel, expressing “disgust” and “outrage” over Wiesel’s “abuse of our history” and “manipulation [of] the legacy of the Nazi genocide” to justify the unjustifiable: “the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people.”
Israel’s war with Hamas has exacted many casualties, but nothing remotely like “genocide” is taking place in Gaza. Why, then, charge Israel with a crime of this kind and magnitude? Those who are on to the rhetoric of “anti-Zionism” will instantly recognize this language for what it is: a collection of familiar political clichés employed time and again by the purveyors of anti-Israel vilification.
What makes the IJSN statement noteworthy, therefore, is not the litany of emotionally-charged accusations against Israel but the identities of those making these accusations. They present themselves as “Survivors,” “Children of survivors,” “Grandchildren of survivors,” “Great-grandchildren of survivors,” and “Other relatives of survivors.”
They total 327 people. Who are they, and what importance, if any, should attach to their proudly proclaimed pedigrees?
If we take their self-descriptions at face value, some (a small number) had been in the Nazi ghettos and camps or claim to have been resistance fighters. Others had been children spirited out of Europe on the Kindertransports or were hidden by Christians during the war. Some say they are “cousins of survivors,” or “friends of survivors,” or “relatives of victims,” or “relatives of many victims,” or the “spouse of a hidden child,” or grandchildren and great-grandchildren of “refugees.” One identifies herself as “the great niece of an uncle who shot himself”; another as a “3rd cousin of Ann [sic] Frank and grand-daughter of NON-survivors.”
The distance from Auschwitz and Treblinka grows as the list grows and, with it, the credibility of those on the list plunges. Nevertheless, all claim some special connection, however remote, to Jewish suffering during the Hitler era, and they expect others to recognize their anti-Israel diatribe as the product of unique insights they now possess by right of such suffering. Invoking the historical and moral weight of the Holocaust by speaking “as Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors,” they apply their presumed authority to the present war between Israel and Hamas and “unequivocally condemn” Israel.
Two thoughts come immediately to mind: Whenever someone begins a sentence with the words “as a Jew…,” what follows is likely to be full of political posturing and should be met with skepticism. The same often holds true when someone opens a sentence with the kindred formula, “as a Holocaust survivor….” On hearing those words, one no doubt is inclined to pay attention to what follows; but as IJSN’s ad demonstrates, the status of Holocaust survivor, let alone the status of the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other assorted relatives and friends of survivors, carries no special entitlement to superior ethical insight or elevated political awareness.
The signatories to IJSN’s ad, however, invoke just such an entitlement as they ostentatiously pull rank as Holocaust survivors in condemning Israel. In inflating and exploiting a status they regard as privileged, they are guilty of doing precisely what they falsely accuse Elie Wiesel of doing: “manipulating the legacy of the Nazi genocide to justify the unjustifiable.” Their abuse of Jewish suffering for contemporary political ends comes especially to the fore whenever they proudly parade forth their pedigrees as survivors to defame Israel. Some have been doing so for years — way before Gaza. To reflect briefly on just two of them:
Hajo Meyer, whose signature is the very first on the list, is the author of a book entitled “The End of Judaism: An Ethical Tradition Betrayed,” which argues that Zionism and Judaism are radical opposites and incompatible with one another. Meyer equates Zionism with “fascism” and “criminality” and believes that Zionists “have given up everything that has to do with humanity.” “As a confirmed atheist,” he boasts that he “has never been a Zionist.” And as a Holocaust survivor — he was in Auschwitz for 10 months as a young teenager — he is certain that Israelis “have no idea about the Holocaust. They use the Holocaust to implant paranoia in their children.”
In innumerable speeches and interviews (the words quoted here are from interviews on the websites “Intifada: The Voice of Palestine” and the “Electronic Intifada”), he charges Israel with all of the sins that are now part of the standard package of anti-Zionist accusations: the carrying out of willful massacres, ethnic cleansing, racist and apartheid policies, and other “blood and soil” nationalistic actions (“just like the Nazis”). He is so convinced of Israeli wickedness that he can “write up an endless list of similarities between Nazi Germany and Israel.” And what if other Jews object to his smearing the Jewish state with the Nazi brush? Meyer considers it a “high honor” to be put in the company of Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and other prominent opponents of Israel and even jokingly says that he is “very proud” to be called an anti-Semite.
Hedy Epstein, who has also signed on to the Guardian statement, likes garnering public attention as a “survivor,” although whether she is one is debatable. Like Meyer, she was born in Germany in 1924, but she left the country in 1939 on a Kindertransport and spent the war years in Great Britain. Since coming to America in 1948, she has thrown herself into political activism, often on behalf of such celebrated Palestinian causes as the 2008 “freedom flotillas” that were meant to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the “Gaza Freedom March” in Cairo in 2009, and various anti-Israel activities on the West Bank and elsewhere sponsored by the radical International Solidarity Movement.
Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who inevitably show up at high-profile rallies organized by others, Hedy Epstein “marched” in St. Louis in mid-August, 2014 to demonstrate her solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. When stories broke headlining “Holocaust Survivor Arrested in Ferguson Protests,” it was a foregone conclusion that it was Hedy Epstein. She seems to thrive on flashing her dubious credentials as a “survivor” and, even at age 90, will step forward to join protests, especially if they are against Israel.
It’s hardly new that there are Jews who lend their endorsement to causes that prove harmful for most other Jews. There is a long history of such betrayal and the damage it has caused within Jewish communities, so what we are seeing today has an unhappy lineage that dates back over many centuries. One thing, however, is new:
The endorsement of the most reckless charges against Israel — e.g., Israelis are like Nazis and are carrying out a genocide against Palestinians — by members of a people who themselves were victims of the twentieth century’s most determined attempt at genocide is unprecedented and can be hugely harmful unless it is seen for what it is: an unseemly exercise in the spread of propagandistic lies.
Sanctioning such propaganda by stamping it with the moral authority that supposedly belongs to Holocaust survivors does not turn these lies into truth. What it does instead is expose as fraudulent the claims of certain Holocaust survivors and their kin to possessing an enlarged moral and political consciousness. In fact, it is unlikely that many people emerged from Hitler’s camps ennobled or enlightened. To believe otherwise and to arrogate to oneself as a “survivor” or a relative of a “survivor” some special access to wisdom and virtue is, as IJSN’s ad shows, little more than moral pretense.
Alvin H. Rosenfeld is a professor of English and Jewish Studies and director of Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University.
To download the executive summary of the new survey click here
CNN, May 14, 2014
One in four adults worldwide are "deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes," the Anti-Defamation League announced, in releasing results of an unprecedented global survey. Nearly half have never heard of the Holocaust, and only a third believe historical descriptions are accurate, the survey found.
Carried out by First International Resources and commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League, the survey included 53,100 adults in 102 countries representing 88% of the world's adult population.
In native languages, it asked people whether certain traditionally anti-Semitic statements are probably true or false, including that Jews have too much power over international markets, global media, and the U.S. government; that they "don't care about what happens to anyone but their own kind," and that "Jews are responsible for most of the world's wars."
The survey then calculated how many believed that at least six of the 11 stereotypes were probably true. In the Middle East and North Africa, 74% did. In Eastern Europe, one in three did, and in Western Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one in four believed most of the stereotypes.
Overall, 26% believed at least six of the stereotypes -- a figure representing an estimated 1.1 billion people.
The most widely believed stereotype was that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the countries in which they live.
Anti-Semitic fliers are 'provocation' Schama on Arab anti-Semitism French comedian accused of anti-semitism "For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world," ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement.
"The data from the Global 100 Index enables us to look beyond anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric and quantify the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes across the globe. We can now identify hotspots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is essentially nonexistent."
In Laos, only 0.2% of the adult population holds anti-Semitic views, the survey found. Also at the bottom of the list were the Philippines, Sweden and the Netherlands.
In the United States, 9% of respondents believed the majority of the stereotypes.
The highest levels were found in the Palestinian territories at 93% and Iraq at 92%. Yemen, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia were next.
In Asia, less than a quarter of respondents had heard of the Holocaust and believed historical accounts are accurate. In sub-Saharan Africa, that figured dropped to 12%; in the Middle East and North Africa, 8%.
Three quarters of the people surveyed said they've never met a Jewish person. That figure includes most of the people who believe a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes are probably true.
By Deborah Lipstadt, Table Magazine, May 6, 2014
The assignment materials cited Holocaust deniers, and represent a gross failure of judgment—and historical awareness.
After decades spent in the sewers of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, I don’t horrify easily. But yesterday I learned that a school district in Rialto, California, assigned 2,000 8th-grade students to write an essay on whether or not they believe the Holocaust was “an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme.”
Put simply, this is the greatest victory for Holocaust denial in well over a decade, if not more.
The language of the assignment is worth reading in full:
When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. You will read and discuss multiple, credible articles on this issue, and write an argumentative essay, based upon cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim.
When you ask a Holocaust denier why Jews would go to such great efforts to create the myth of the Holocaust, nearly all have the same ready answer: Jews have created this myth in order to deviously exercise political power and enrich themselves. They will cite the two things it is commonly said Jews “got” out of the Holocaust—reparations, and the State of Israel. It’s classic anti-Semitism founded on the notion that Jews deviously access power and do virtually anything for monetary gain, an idea that can be traced to the New Testament’s depiction of Jews in relation to the death of Jesus: The Jews sold out the Messiah and caused great grief to billions of his future followers all for a few pieces of silver. (Never mind the fact that everyone in the story is Jewish, with the exception of the Romans—who were the ones who actually did the killing.)
Along with entries on the history of the Holocaust from About.com and the History Channel, they offered the students supporting “material” titled “Is the Holocaust a Hoax?” that was taken from a Christian site. The document cites the execution technology “expert” Fred Leuchter, a leading denier, and presents a “theory” that Anne Frank’s diary was forged. “Israel continues to receive trillions of dollars worldwide as retribution for Holocaust gassings,” the document continues. “Our country has donated more money to Israel than to any other country in the history of the world—over $35 billion per year, everything included. If not for our extravagantly generous gifts to Israel, every family in America could afford a brand new Mercedes Benz.”
Unbelievably, district officials initially defended the assignment. “One of the most important responsibilities for educators is to develop critical thinking skills in students,” one school-board member wrote in an email to the San Bernardino Sun. “Teaching how to come to your own conclusion based on the facts, test your position, be able to articulate that position, then defend your belief with a lucid argument is essential to good citizenship.” Administrators subsequently backtracked and said the assignment would not be repeated. “The Holocaust should be taught in classrooms with sensitivity and profound consideration for the victims who endured the atrocities committed,” spokeswoman Syeda Jafri wrote in a statement to the Sun.
What this assignment shows is that, at best, the teachers and so-called educators who took part in writing this question have been duped into thinking that there is a legitimate debate about whether the Holocaust happened. At worst, they knew better and looked the other way. The Los Angeles chapter of the Anti-Defamation League believes the school district meant no harm. “ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda,” the group said in a statement yesterday. But truth be told, I would feel much, much better if we discovered that there were Holocaust deniers among the teachers, because then we could attribute this bizarre assignment to simple nefarious motives. But there don’t seem to be, which means these educators are instead profoundly naive and have accepted the view that Holocaust denial is “another” side of the argument and something to be debated. This is the dangerous legacy of a strain of academic thinking that says there are always two sides to every issue, when in fact some things are true, and others are false.
According to the district, the draft documents were distributed to teachers in February, and no one complained. The teachers who created this assignment and the administrators who passed it on helped fulfill exactly what deniers have been trying to achieve for the past 30 years. Before the creation of the Institute for Historical Review—in Newport Beach, California, an hour or so from Rialto—in the late 1970s, deniers, who have been around since the end of World War II, were closely associated with neo-Nazis. Their publications were plastered with swastikas and Third Reich imagery. The institute, intent on having denial be taken seriously, shed anything that smacked of sympathy for Hitler and his cohorts. Their aim was to appear as if they were scholars anxious to “revise” any mistakes in history. That’s why they called themselves “revisionists.” In fact, they were nothing more than anti-Semites and neo-Nazis who use Holocaust denial as a tool—which is why I call them “deniers,” and think it’s important others do, too.
These people persist despite the fact that Holocaust denial is a “tissue of lies,” in the words of Cambridge University Professor Richard Evans. In the words of Judge Charles Grey, who presided in my trial against the denier David Irving, deniers “distort,” “pervert,” and “mislead” about the historical record. Their findings are, he insisted, “unjustified,” a “travesty,” and “unreal.”
Despite my personal encounters with the deniers, I remain someone who believes that Jews often overreact to threats of anti-Semitism. For the past decade, I have often stressed the fact that Holocaust denial is not a clear and present danger: There are, today, far more people engaged in study of the Holocaust than those engaged in or attracted to Holocaust denial. To the extent that I worry, my concern—which I laid out as recently as this week, in a speech I gave Monday night at King’s College, Cambridge—has been that that denial is a future danger, one that it might eventually enter the conversation as a legitimate “other side of the conversation” the further away we get from the event itself.
But this episode in California shows that perhaps I’ve been too optimistic. The Rialto school district says it plans to respond by offering sensitivity training and even quoted George Santayana: “Those who cannot learn from history are bound to repeat it.” But these teachers don’t need sensitivity training. Sensitivity is not what was missing here. These teachers were not “insensitive” to the victims of the Shoah or to Jews. They were just wrong. Critical thinking and a basic understanding of what happened in Europe 70 years ago are clearly in very short supply throughout the ranks of teachers and administrators involved in this fiasco.
What they really need are history lessons.
Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of Nextbook Press’ The Eichmann Trial, is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University.