By Catherine ChatterleyThe Huffington Post, January 27, 2015
Writer Karen Armstrong recently made the following statement in a Dutch interview: "The supermarket attack in Paris was about Palestine, about ISIS. It had nothing to do with antisemitism; many of them are Semites themselves. But they attempt to conquer Palestine and we're not talking about that. We're too implicated and we don't know what to do with it."
The Germans have a wonderful word that means nonsense, or bullshit, depending on the context: Quatsch.
The criminal terrorist assault on the kosher grocery in Paris on January 9, 2015 had everything to do with antisemitism, which is now unfortunately exacerbating an already complex and intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Arabs are not Semites and neither are Jews. Semites are a fictitious product of the European racial imaginary, and one would have hoped that a popular and opinionated writer like Armstrong would know that very important historical fact. Jews and Arabs are speakers of Semitic languages, Hebrew and Arabic respectively. It was this linguistic categorization that European thinkers racialized in the 19th century. Antisemitismus, a German word popularized by Wilhelm Marr in 1879, was used to modernize the more traditional Judenhass (Jew hatred), and it was never applied to anyone but Jews.
To disconnect the murders of French Jewish customers in a kosher grocery store from the antisemitic ideology of ISIS, to which their murderer Amedy Coulibaly pled allegiance, is a serious error. To try to connect these murders to Palestine is not fair to Jews or to Palestinians, and does nothing to improve the chances for peace in the region. Who exactly is conquering Palestine in Armstrong's words is not clear, but I think it's fair to assume that she means Israel. Again, this appears to have Armstrong justifying the violence against those same French Jews, buying milk at the corner store, as somehow retaliatory and therefore logical.
Denying the Jihadist roots of the recent antisemitic violence in France is not helpful to anyone, because it is fundamentally untrue. The intention of this denial is to shield the Muslim minorities among us in Western societies from a backlash of hostility and criticism, and to avoid feeding the Jihadist propaganda machine that promotes war between Western civilization and their imagined global caliphate. These are noble and respectable intentions but they cannot override or replace an honest and principled confrontation with today's reality, however complex and upsetting.
Just as Nazism grew out of German history and culture, and then hijacked a respected cultural heritage for its own nefarious purposes, strains of Islamic thought likewise inspire the growing variety of Jihadist movements that perpetrate horrendous violence on Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and other "infidels," as well as women, girls, and gay people, in the name of Islam.
Jihadist Islam is as much a hate-filled supremacist ideology as was Nazism, except that it uses religion instead of race as its organizing principle. Crucifying Christians, raping and enslaving women and little girls, throwing gay men to their deaths off buildings, massacring whole towns and villages, Jihadist Islam is as ruthless and barbaric as Nazism, and all decent people should condemn it in the same vociferous terms. Just as we condemn Nazism today as a dangerous form of racial supremacism, we should all condemn and isolate Jihadist Islam as a dangerous form of religious supremacism.
Denials of reality about the Jihadist roots of this violence are already feeding frustration in Western populations who know better. The well-intended strategy of protecting Muslims in the West will actually do the opposite -- it will very likely guarantee a backlash against Western Muslims by a growing right-wing movement. We already see an expansion of right wing support on this issue across Europe and even the UK, which has no well-established fascist tradition of which to speak. Here, we have a case of the West bringing about precisely what it seeks to avoid, and this must be stopped immediately.
If the individuals leading society were to begin an immediate and honest confrontation with the problem of Jihadist religious supremacism, in the West and throughout the world, we may see a reduction in support for right wing reactionary solutions. This would be a step in the right direction as it might actually build a genuine multicultural unity in Western societies, based upon our commitment to democratic principles of freedom and equality, which is what we all desire. It is in our common interest that we all vow to disassociate ourselves from ideologies, both religious and racial, committed to the destruction of others.Follow Catherine Chatterley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drchatterleyFollow CISA on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tweetcisa
Link to UK Survey
The Annual Antisemitism Barometer is the largest study of its kind. It reveals both the scale of antisemitic sentiment in Britain, and its effect on the increasingly-threatened British Jewish population.
Whilst antisemitism in Britain is not yet at the levels seen in most of Europe, the results of our survey should be a wakeup call. Britain is at a tipping point: unless antisemitism is met with zero tolerance, it will continue to grow and British Jews may increasingly question their place in their own country.
The year 2014 saw a record-breaking number of antisemitic incidents perpetrated against Jewish people and Jewish property in Britain. Antisemitism is usually most visible in Great Britain during crises involving Israel, but the sentiment behind it does not simply disappear when the crises end.
The Mayor of London’s office recently revealed that in July 2014, when fighting between Israel and Hamas peaked, the Metropolitan Police Service recorded its worst ever month for hate crime in London, 95% of which was antisemitic hate crime directly related to fighting between Israel and Hamas.
It was in response to this record-breaking wave of antisemitism that in August 2014, the Campaign Against Antisemitism organised a grassroots-led movement dedicated to identifying and combatting antisemitism of both a classical ethno-religious nature and also a political nature related to Israel.
Some antisemitic views may be totally unintentional but are no less offensive for it. Many people in the UK have simply never met Jewish people, and might have stereotypical ideas of them. This is a smaller problem which simply needs better education and discussion so that people can appreciate that, as with any minority group, Jewish people are not defined only by their religion or race. ‘Unintentional’ stereotypes should be highlighted more often, and those espousing them will be able to better understand that they are offensive.
To effectively fight antisemitism we must examine both its origins and its consequences. It is our hope that this study will shed light on both of these aspects of this pernicious form of racism, in order that we can reduce its presence in British society. Antisemitism is not a problem only for Jewish people, but for all of Britain, which must uphold its tradition of tolerance and pluralism.
By Catherine Chatterley
Antisemitism presents a serious challenge for the global community today. The last decade has seen a shocking growth in antisemitic rhetoric and agitation, and routine acts of violence against Jews have returned to European cities 70 years after the Holocaust.
The battle between Israel and the Palestinians has become intractable, and the idea of a "peace process" that might finally resolve the issues is not taken as seriously as it was years ago. This fact does not bode well for Israelis or Palestinians, and given the obsessive focus on this conflict by the media and by both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel activist organizations, the lack of resolution and mounting frustration is an ongoing concern for all of us.
Today, we face a major impasse in our discussions about antisemitism: Where many Jews see a new or resurgent antisemitism, non-Jews are more likely to see political protest or a backlash against Israeli actions and policies. In truth, both characterizations can be accurate depending on the specific circumstance. Increasingly, however, this chasm in perception between Jews and non-Jews about the nature of antisemitism is widening, and it is one reason why there is a distinct lack of concern about the problem on the part of the world community today.
Along with news and debate about the conflicts in the Middle East, the Internet, satellite television, and social networking via cellphone allow people across the planet to share an enormous amount of explicit antisemitic material that is, quite frankly, poisoning the relationship between humanity and the Jewish people, making an intractable conflict even more difficult to resolve. This new reality is enormously threatening to a tiny people whose parents and grandparents survived being slated for extermination in Europe 70 years ago.
Antisemitic incitement breeds fear and anxiety in Jews and it destroys trust and goodwill, which makes authentic peacemaking between Jews and Arabs impossible. Anyone who claims to want to build peace between Jews and Arabs, especially those who want the Palestinians to build a positive peaceful future in their own state, should also commit to working against the problem of antisemitism and to help retard its growth, in the West and in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Antisemitism is one of the most serious impediments to peace in the Middle East, and that is why it should concern all of us.
Jews are an extremely small community of people on this planet, and non-Jewish attitudes and perceptions about Jews and Israel really do matter, especially in an increasingly globalized reality. In a world population of over 7 billion people, there are approximately 14 million Jews, and almost all of them live in only two countries: Israel and the United States. This means that Jews constitute 0.002 percent, or one fifth of one percent, of the entire human population on planet earth, which in turn means that while Jews know and interact with non-Jews, the vast majority of non-Jews will never meet a Jewish person. If this is our human reality, then what does it mean when 24 percent of the planet holds opinions deemed to be antisemitic, as reflected in the ADL's recent survey of 100 countries?
Obviously we have a phenomenon that is not based in reality or in actual human experience but is communicated and circulated through libel, rumor, mythology, and imagination, as it has been for 2,000 years. Given this, the new media presents a very significant challenge for those of us working to combat the lies and libels of antisemitism. Jewish existence is by necessity dependent upon, and determined by, relationships with the non-Jewish world. Antisemitism is a real and present danger to those relationships, and therefore it remains a threat to Jewish existence.
Our challenge for this new year is to clearly identify antisemitism as the conspiratorial and libelous phenomenon it in fact is so that people might consciously separate themselves from it and help mitigate the damage it does to Jews, their neighbors, and human societies.
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.
Memorial for those murdered at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
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.
Riot policemen stand near a "Star of David", thrown by pro-Palestinian protesters, outside the Israeli embassy in Athens, May 31, 2010. (Yannis Behrakis / Courtesy Reuters)
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.