Israel ‘from hero to villain'; debating anti-semitism 2003
This posting has 5 items:
1) news report EU poll sees Israel as peace threat;
2) news report Sharon warns of anti-Semitism;
3) Mark Mazower Anti-Semitism is not the real danger to Jews today;
4) BBC Viewpoints: Anti-Semitism and Europe
5) Following above Open Comments on anti-semitism
Chris McGreal, Guardian
A European commission opinion poll that claims 60% of Europeans see Israel as the greatest threat to world peace has drawn outraged denunciations of anti-semitism.
The poll surveyed 7,500 people in 15 EU countries who said Israel was a bigger threat to world peace than Iran, North Korea and the US.
The public in the Netherlands, Austria and Luxembourg were the most fearful. France, which Israel views with the greatest suspicion of any EU state, did not rank the Jewish state as the greatest danger.
Israel’s diaspora affairs minister, the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, said the poll was further evidence of why Europe is not to be trusted to play a role in the peace process.
“The fact that the majority of Europeans sees Israel as the main danger … is additional proof that behind the ‘political’ criticism of Israel stands pure anti-semitism.
“The EU, which shows sensitivity on human rights issues, would do well to stop the rampant brainwashing against and demonising of Israel before Europe deteriorates again to dark sections of its past.”
But a former head of Israel’s foreign ministry, Alon Liel, said Israelis would be wise to consider why Europeans might think that way. “Do they hate us or are they truly frightened? Our natural predilection is to pull out of the drawer our usual weapon of self-defence – the weapon of anti-semitism – but this is probably the wrong place to do so.”
Prime minister warns of anti-Semitism
By The Associated Press
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned Jewish leaders in Rome on Monday that “a great wave of anti-Semitism” is confronting Jews and told them the best way to combat it is to move to Israel.
The Israeli leader began a three-day visit Monday to Italy, where he will also sit down with Premier Silvio Berlusconi — a firm supporter of Sharon on a continent where Israeli policies are often strongly criticized.
“If Israel is weakened … the Jews worldwide will not be able to live the lives they live today,” Sharon told the crowd at a Rome hotel. “We are witness to a great wave of anti-Semitism, and apart from the usual anti-Semitism against Jews, there is today the added hate of the collective Jew, which is Israel.”
Sharon added that “the best solution to anti-Semitism is immigration to Israel. It is the only place on Earth where Jews can live as Jews.”
Jewish groups have worried that threats to Jews in Europe may be growing, with numerous anti-Semitic episodes in the past two years — most recently, car bombings that killed 24 people at two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday.
“The terror that has been hitting the people of Israel for years is now hitting Jews outside Israel in the same violent way,” Amos Luzzatto, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, told Sharon during Monday’s meeting.
Milan Jewish community spokesman Yasha Reibman said earlier Monday that the attack in Turkey had hit his constituents particularly hard because many Milanese are of Turkish origin. “Many of us have friends, relations, grandparents, uncles there,” he said.
On Monday, France’s President Jacques Chirac announced a tough new policy to combat anti-Semitism, following a weekend arson attack on a private Jewish school in a Paris suburb.
Italy’s relatively small Jewish community of about 30,000 has not suffered as many anti-Semitic episodes as some other European countries recently. But many here remember a 1982 terrorist attack on Rome’s main synagogue, in which a toddler was killed.
“We have been living in fear for 20 years,” Reibman said. “For three years, it has increased because of the second intefadeh,” or Palestinian uprising.
Sharon said the issue of anti-Semitism would be “central” in his talks with Italian leaders. He is due to meet with Berlusconi on Tuesday, followed by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday.
The conservative Berlusconi, who holds the rotating European Union presidency, has been more sympathetic to Sharon’s policies than have many other leaders on the continent. Sharon said Monday that Italy was Israel’s best friend in Europe.
Berlusconi and Frattini have tried to build warmer European-Israeli relations. The premier has suggested that Israel might become part of the European Union, while Frattini has called for a larger EU role in the Mideast peace process. Both Italian politicians decried a recent EU poll in which more than half the Europeans questioned said Israel is a threat to world peace.
In Brussels, Belgium, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the European Union on Monday it must take a “more balanced attitude” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it wants to be a major Middle East peace broker.
Shalom’s comments ahead of talks with his EU counterparts reflect long-standing Israel concerns that the European bloc is too pro-Palestinian.
Mark Mazower, The Times
Is anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe? Ariel Sharon, Israel’s Prime Minister, this week gave warning of the re-emergence of “an anti-Semitism that has always existed”. Attacks on Jewish targets in France and the bombing of the two synagogues in Turkey look like straws in the wind. And when a German MP assigns the Jews responsibility for the crimes of Bolshevism and the commander of the German special forces publicly agrees, then it is worthwhile addressing the question.
No historian would want to deny the extent of European anti-Semitism in the early 20th century. However, the Holocaust led to a profound transformation of attitudes in Europe. After the war the commonly-held belief in scientific racism fell into disrepute and Unesco issued its famous declaration that race was a social myth. The basic law of Konrad Adenauer’s West Germany explicitly outlawed racial prejudice.
The Holocaust itself has become the single most-studied episode of the war, if not of the 20th century, and today there are Holocaust monuments, memorial days and museums — even in countries where it did not take place — and laws which criminalise Holocaust denial. So, contrary to what Sharon has indicated, only a few oddballs regard expressions of anti-Semitism as politically or culturally acceptable.
Over the past 40 years there has been a huge generational shift in attitudes, and even the genteel prejudices of an earlier generation grate on the ears of the young. If a few echoes linger farther east, these too are dying away with the transformation of post-communist societies.
But if the Holocaust eradicated anti-Semitism as a political force in Europe, it had another far-reaching consequence as well: it gave birth to Israel, thereby linking Europe, the Jews and the Arabs in a new way. If Israel looms large in the European political consciousness, it is not because Europeans are anti-Semites but because Europe itself is in many ways the architect of the present imbroglio.
At a time when most Jewish emigrants were heading to the United States, Argentina and Western Europe, the British — for their own reasons — gave the green light for the creation of a Jewish national home in an Arab province of the Ottoman Empire. The British, the French, who successfully fought to prevent a Hashemite Greater Syria emerging in 1920, and the Nazis, who drove huge numbers of Jews into Palestine, between them turned out to be indispensable for the success of Jewish nationalism.
Zionism, which brought “the people without land to the land without people”, in fact implied the dispossession of Palestine’s Arabs. Previously, anti-Semitism had been a negligible factor among the Arabs; there was little trace of it in the Ottoman world, where Jews and Muslims coexisted harmoniously.
But even as European anti-Semitism dwindled, so it seemed to grow in the Middle East, fed by racial and religious myths imported from the defeated European Right.
What has emerged is not at heart a racial antagonism but a political one — an anti-Zionism which takes Israeli rhetoric at face value by conflating Israelis and Jews. This is very different from the old inter-war European variety. The Nazis were not much bothered about Jews’ political opinions; what counted was race.
If anything, Zionists were the one kind of Jew that right-wing Europeans were prepared to deal with, since both sides desired the same thing — the departure of the Jews from Europe. Precisely the opposite is true for Arab opinion: conspiracy theories flourish, and so does Holocaust denial, but the real target is Zionism as a political doctrine.
Israeli spokesmen, however, are now focusing not on sentiment in the Arab world but on signs of old hatreds in Europe. By doing so, they badly distort what is happening. When a German MP is forced to resign after comparing the Nazis with Jewish Bolsheviks, we are learning more about German frustrations over how the world deals with the Holocaust than about the dangers facing German Jews.
Recently there has been a remarkable increase in the number of Israelis settling in Germany: so much for anti-Semitism there. Neo-Nazi and far-right groups continue to target synagogues and cemeteries. But this has been going on for years and has not pushed them into the mainstream — quite the contrary.
What is new in the present equation is the violence mostly in France by young Arab youths against Jewish targets, a spill-over into Europe of the kind of anti-Zionism already described.
Before we turn to the old catch-all labels of the past, we need to take a good look at the singer as well as the song. “The best solution to anti-Semitism,” Sharon said in Rome last week, “is immigration to Israel.”
As Jewish migration from the former Soviet Union dwindles, the spectre of depopulation looms large among Israeli officials who fear Jews may before long be outnumbered by the fecund Arabs in their midst. Sharon is the man, after all, who entered office vowing to bring a million new settlers to the country in order to reverse its alarming demographic deficit.
There has always been a debate among Jews about the importance of anti-Semitism in Europe, and Zionists for obvious reasons have tended to emphasise the threat it poses. But today Israel itself looks more like a source of danger for Jews worldwide than a refuge, and even Israelis — though the emigration statistics remain a closely guarded official secret — are voting with their feet.
If Sharon is seriously concerned about anti-Semitism, there is no one better placed than he to do something about it by changing his Government’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Mark Mazower is currently the director of the Center for International History Columbia University. He is the author of, among many books, “Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe”, 2Dark Continent: Europe’s 20th century” and “Salonica City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950″. He was a professor history at Birkbeck college, London when he wrote this article, which can also be accessed at http://forums.skadi.net/archive/index.php?t-6223.html
Israel’s prime minister says anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, citing attacks on Jews and Jewish interests. His remarks followed an EU poll which showed many believe Israel is the greatest threat to world peace.
Is anti-Semitism really increasing? Is hostility towards Israeli policy in the Middle East becoming anti-Jewish? BBC News Online asked 12 experts on Jewish affairs from Europe and Israel to reflect on the charge. Click on the quotes below to read more.
Robert Wistrich, director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem:
There was outrage and shock over the recent EU poll. Many Israelis regard this as anti-Semitism of sorts. Even if there were other factors involved, people feel there must be a lot of general prejudice around for such results to occur.
There is a clear feeling from the Israeli point of view that what is at stake now is the very legitimacy of the state of Israel in a moral, historical and political sense.
When we get to a point when it is becoming acceptable in many places in Europe and even in mainstream opinion to label Israel as a Nazi state, or, in more diplomatic language, an apartheid state, the Israeli citizen feels that their very right to exist in any form, whether politically or as a nation, is being challenged.
Israelis feel that their country, whatever criticisms they have of it – and Jews in Israel are gold medallists where it comes to criticising their own government – is being made into a pariah.
People here have a sense of systematic stigmatisation and even a demonisation of Israel.
I think that one of the more hopeful signs in recent months is a growing realisation by governments, however reluctantly, of the need to come to grips with anti-Semitism.
President Jacques Chirac and the French Government were in denial for a long time. Mr Chirac was saying there was no anti-Semitism in the French republic. Now, there has been a complete turnaround. I fear it is a bit late, but better late than never.
Henri Wajnblum, former president of the Union of Progressive Jews in Belgium:
It is certainly true that we have seen more incidents of anti-Semitic violence in the recent past: graffiti, arson attacks and the like, which are indeed worrying. But it is wrong to talk about a new wave of anti-Semitism gripping Europe.
What we are seeing is mounting hostility towards Israel – particularly among Arab immigrants who feel solidarity with the Palestinians. It is Israeli policy in the Middle East which is fuelling this to a large extent, and in that sense, the government of Ariel Sharon itself must take a share of the responsibility.
The idea that we are seeing a new wave of anti-Semitism is in part stirred up by those Jewish communities in Europe who ally themselves closely with Israel, but also the Sharon government.
Mr Sharon wants more Jews in Israel, he wants to gain the demographic advantage. He is, in part at least, exploiting fears of anti-Semitism to persuade Europe’s Jews to emigrate.
Peter Sichrovsky, Austrian MEP and former general secretary of Joerg Haider’s right-wing Freedom Party:
It is not that Europe has become more anti-Semitic, it is simply that, over the past few years, people have felt much more at ease in expressing their prejudices. In part this is to do with the situation in the Middle East.
Obviously people must have the right to criticise Israel, but it frequently appears to be the case that a standard is applied to Israel that isn’t to the rest of the world. The US is also a victim of this kind of hypocrisy – thousands will turn out to protest against President Bush and yet they’ll be silent when it comes to a genuinely bloody dictator.
It’s not the far-right that are the problem, as they have been brought under control in Europe. It is the politically-correct, centre-left which simultaneously condemns acts of anti-Semitism while defending regimes which support terrorism against Israel.
We’re not seeing naked hostility to Jews, but the line between valid criticism and anti-Semitism is being crossed, and that is a threat for European Jews. At the same time we should not get this out of proportion. There is not an anti-Semitic vote in Europe, and no politician has anything to gain by trying to stir up hatred towards the Jews.
And we should also remember that anti-Semitism can come from Jews and non-Jews alike. I was described as Joerg Haider’s “court Jew” for my association with the Freedom Party. Jews are still expected only to have certain sorts of political beliefs, which is a ridiculous sentiment. We should be free to pursue whatever beliefs we want.
Yaron Ezrahi, professor of political science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem:
The right-wing in Israel describes every criticism of the country as a form of anti-Semitism. It is very convenient for the present government – which is the most right-wing in Israel’s history and headed by a prime minister who has not taken the smallest initiative in the direction of a diplomatic effort in the peace process – to blame everything on anti-Semitism.
This way, they try to write off any criticism of their own policies.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has a long record in defining Israeli critics as disloyal. Any attempt to make the current government and its very questionable policies invincible to legitimate criticism should be wholly rejected.
When Yithzak Rabin was leading the peace process, there were extremely positive attitudes in Europe. It was very rare during that period to hear anti-Semitic voices.
Barry Kosmin, executive director of the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research
There has not been a rise in Nazi-style, racist anti-Semitism, although in certain countries, such as Belgium and France, there has been a rise in what we call anti-Semitic incidents – attacks on synagogues and individual Jews.
In Britain, this has not been the case. But, there has been a rise in other forms of anti-Semitism, so in the British context in particular, we came up with the term Judeophobia. We see it as extreme criticism of Israel and American Jews that moves over into bigotry against Jews as a whole.
One facet of the anti-Semitic mindset is to generalise. So there are the Jews, but you are not quite sure whether the Jews means a group of American politicians, the government of Israel, or Jewish people in general.
The current problem arises from a kind of fashionable prejudice in elements of what we might call the left-liberal media, who are asymmetrical in their outlook.
They give an easy ride to Islamists and Marxists but are hypercritical of Israel and America. This sort of fashionable political bigotry can move over into incitement.
Part of the problem is the Middle East situation, which is not as simple to understand as people like to think. For example, in Arabic you don’t talk about Israelis you talk about “the Jew” or “Yahud”.
Many of the media commentators or journalists do not speak Arabic or know much about Middle Eastern history and culture, so they uncritically repeat the discourse of the place by talking about “Jews” rather than “Israelis”. Criticism of the government of Israel thus becomes a criticism of the Jews.
This kind of dumbing-down of the media, as well as the fact that news stories have to be produced quickly, leads to a lack of care and attention, which can be manipulated to advance a propaganda that results in incitement to violence and even justification for terrorism.
Frank Furedi, sociology professor at the UK’s Kent University and a commentator on contemporary approaches to the Holocaust
It is unfortunate that when we think about the problem of anti-Semitism, we tend to invoke the spectre of the Holocaust and images of Adolf Hitler. That kind of danger simply does not exist today. If anything we suffer from Holocaust overdose.
Relatively insignificant episodes of violence and hatred are equated with the tragic events of the 1940s, thereby trivialising the significance of the Nazi experience.
While there is no need to worry about a Nazi revival we should be concerned about the emergence of disturbing public attitudes towards the Jews.
It is worth noting that opinion polls suggest that Europeans regard Israel as the biggest threat to world peace. No doubt many criticisms can be made about the role of Israel. But the biggest threat to world peace?
Negative perceptions about Israel do not necessarily mean that it is the Jews who are seen as the threat. However the reality is a complex one. Many find it difficult to distinguish between Zionism and Judaism.
And others with more sense are often too embarrassed to insist on the salience of such a distinction. Sadly, the view of Israel as the principal force of world evil has for some endowed anti-Semitism with a degree of legitimacy.
William Wolff, chief regional rabbi of the eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
I have just been away for a few days, and when I came back there were two rather unpleasant letters waiting for me, both anti-Semitic. I then went for a walk in the town – the manager of the launderette saw me and came out to greet me. He embraced me, asked how things were going.
This latter experience is what is representative of modern Germany, not the former. The anti-Semites are a tiny minority who are given far more attention than they deserve.
It is true that people feel less frightened of criticising Israel, but that is not the same as anti-Semitism. In Germany, because of what has happened here, one must simply be more careful about how one does this. Language must be chosen carefully.
Some people have pointed to the sorry affair of that conservative German politician who recently compared the Jews with Nazis as an example of rising anti-Semitism. If anything, however, this should be seen as just the opposite. The man was widely condemned, he was expelled from the party. It is in fact a positive story, not a negative one.
There are many Jews in my area who are from the former eastern bloc. They have come to Germany to escape anti-Semitism, and they have found a home here.
Diana Pinto, historian and author of The Wager: Reconciling Europe and the Jewish world in the 21st century:
The debate over Europe’s new anti-Semitism has an Alice in Nightmareland quality to it. Jews as well as non-Jews are trapped in a looking glass where the horrors of the past and the dangers of the present intermingle and where, as in Alice’s case, the proportions have been not only distorted but totally altered.
Let there be no misunderstanding. We live since 2001 in an extremely dangerous world where a new type of anti-Semitism among some Muslims has surfaced, whose tenets are worthy of the worst Nazi propaganda, and whose hatred is no longer aimed at Israeli “Zionists” but at the entire Jewish people.
Europe, and France in particular, have been hit by this type of anti-Semitism anchored in our globalised world.
This genuine and dangerous anti-Semitism should not be confused with the unsavoury critiques against Israel which can be found in the ranks of Europe’s left-wing or with the often unpalatable Holocaust “fatigue” which many Europeans, in Germany in particular, may be experiencing.
These three strands cannot come together to alter Europe’s face, to topple its democratic governments, and to isolate or eventually extirpate the Jews from their body politics.
Out of respect for the Jewish victims of the violent and all-encompassing European anti-Semitism of the 1930s and of the Holocaust, who found themselves utterly powerless in a world without hope, we must fight all the above dangers while ensuring that the ghosts of the past do not kidnap our present.
For this is a life-size battle in which we, unlike Alice, have neither shrunk nor mushroomed.
Anneke Mouthaan, one of the founders of the Dutch group Another Jewish Voice:
Until comparatively recently, Europe felt so guilty about what happened to the Jews during World War II that they were completely unable to raise any objections to what Israel was doing in the Middle East.
This taboo is gradually being broken as a new generation grows up. The latest EU poll shows this to be this case. I see it as a positive development that people finally feel able to voice their concerns, and something that should have happened years ago.
Many European Jews feel very uncomfortable with Israeli activity – not least because it’s counterproductive to achieving peace for Israel, which is what we all ultimately want, and to a certain extent because it is fuelling Muslim hostility towards Jews in Europe. However, many also worry about speaking out in public against Israel, because they believe they would be seen as treacherous.
This is something that we still need to overcome – we have to make clear that it is not anti-Jew, anti-Semitic, to express reservations about what Israel is doing.
I don’t think we can talk about anti-Semitism creeping back into Europe. This is a notion Israel has come up with in order to dismiss any criticism of its policies. It is nothing but propaganda.
That’s not to say Europe is prejudice free – the continent has simply found new targets. Last century it was the Jews, this time around it’s immigrants.
David Aaronovitch, columnist for the UK’s Guardian and Observer newspapers:
It is certainly true that some people close to the Israeli Government and people on the right of the Zionist spectrum will sometimes use the charge of anti-Semitism against people who they think go too far in criticising Israeli politics.
But it is also true that for historical reasons there are people in the Jewish community who are very sensitive to the possibilities of anti-Semitism. They may not see, say in Britain, what I see, which is that the greatest level of racism is directed towards asylum seekers and towards Muslims.
But, over the course of the past year or so, there has been an increased level of what I call anti-Semitic discourse – intensified criticism of Jews and the Jewish community as being uniquely powerful, uniquely wealthy, uniquely manipulative on behalf of themselves and on behalf of Israel.
There are people, both on the left, certainly on the right and sometimes among Muslims, who use the terms Zionist and Jews completely or more or less interchangeably.
It is now almost impossible to have a decent discussion with people on the left about Israel because it is regarded as being entirely responsible for everything that has gone wrong, as opposed to partly responsible.
However, some people in the US have the idea that this continent is somehow a hotbed of anti-Semitism. This is absurd.
Jean-Yves Camus, French political scientist and contributor to the annual report Anti-Semitism Worldwide
Very often, at least in France, the victims of Islamic anti-Jewish violence are the obviously observant: Orthodox Jews, their schools, synagogues and private property, while the anti-Semitism of the extreme right focused on secular Jews, who were accused of undermining the ethnic and religious identity of their country.
In any case, religious or secular, Jews are attacked because of their alleged unconditional support for the policies of the state of Israel in the Palestinian territories.
Criticism of the Israeli government’s policies is fully legitimate. But this is not what anti-Zionism means. It means refusing the Jews the right to have a state and as such, it is perceived with due justification by the Jews, today, as a far more preoccupying phenomenon than the traditional bigotry of the far-right lunatic fringe.
Almost 100% of the Jews think there should be no compromise over Israel’s right to exist as a state, even among those who, like me, support the existence of a Palestinian State.
The anti-Zionist prejudice of the anti-globalisation movement will probably hasten the process which, for at least a decade, has made the European Jews break their long-time allegiance to the left and support the neo-conservative political agenda because of its support of Israel.
Edward Serotta, director of the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation in Vienna (www.centropa.org), a web-based virtual institution that specialises in Jewish history in the region
As this debate on anti-Semitism becomes more and more shrill there is so much that paints the entire European continent as a cess-pool of hatred for Jews. One prominent Jewish leader recently said the climate was just like 1933 – this is absolutely absurd.
I have no doubt that anti-Semitism exists, but I’m not sure how much of it is new. I’m told that the new anti-Semitism equals a de-legitimisation of the Jewish state and, while some people believe this, I certainly don’t run into it in the education and cultural ministries that I deal with in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany.
Since 1989, there has been a remarkable rebirth of Jewish life. No one would dispute that it is a pale shadow of it pre-Holocaust self, but that does not take away from the dignity of the effort.
Many of the people who are savaging everything in Europe are people who have played no part in helping these small communities re-establish themselves. I read recently in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Jewish schools in Europe have been closing down. It is quite the opposite.
I am in no doubt that there is more interest in Jewish culture by non-Jews in this part of the world than there ever has been.
Interviews conducted by Clare Murphy and Kathryn Westcott
BBC [This is a continuation of the above article]
[Notes to help younger and forgetful readers when reading the comments:
Ariel Sharon was Prime Minister of Israel 2001-2006 when he suffered a stroke and has been in a permanent vegetative state since; Tony Blair was UK Prime Minister 1997-2007; Al Quaeda came to public attention in 2001 after the attack on the NY World Trade Center, 11.9.01, The Hohmann scandal refers to Christian Democrat MP Martin Hohmann who said Jews were involved in the crimes of the Russian Revolution as Germans were in the crimes of Nazis. He was expelled from the CDU. ]
The following comments reflect the balance of opinions we have received:
I just want to say that at least most of us in Israel stand behind our government and our prime minister. Don’t believe everything you see on TV. We tried to solve our problems in a more peaceful way, but of course it didn’t work. The Palestinians hate us. If they could, they would kill us all. But as opposed to what they want you all to think, we always try not to hurt the innocents . It’s a shame you can’t see beyond their lies. Do you really think that we would want to hurt little children? We’re not like the Palestinians… Instead of sending helicopters to shoot them (which is of course a lot safer for us) we use soldiers to find the terrorists that hide in their houses. We’re risking our own men so we wouldn’t hurt innocent Palestinians. They, on the other hand, use bombs against our civilians on purpose. But that doesn’t bother you… just a few less Jews in the world to annoy you.
Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism are not the same thing. However, the nation of Israel bears much responsibility for how Jews are perceived in the modern world. Israel must learn to be more tolerant of other peoples by allowing the settlement of non-Jews and backing off its uniquely Zionist view of a “Jewish State.” No other race or culture on this planet can do what Israel is attempting to do and NOT be considered anti-“something”.
Brad Stone, USA
I believe that anti-Semitism in Europe is very much increasing. Since it is not generally politically correct to espouse such sentiments against individual Jews, this anti-Semitism often hides behind extreme anti-Zionist pronouncements and positions. Israel is a democratic, and relatively humane society, which is a reason, in my opinion, to believe that the demonization of Israel in the United Nations (for which European countries share, through their voting, a significant responsibility) goes beyond the pale of civilised conduct, and is suggestive of a deeper and darker anti-Semitism). Meanwhile, in parts of Europe, the physical attacks against individual Jews and Jewish communities have increased at an alarming rate since the beginning of the second Intifada.
Mel Belin, USA
We in Northern Ireland shared many on the problems that currently face the Middle East. It was only when we realised that peace for our so-called enemies meant peace for ourselves. Eventually we learned that they were not our enemies, but our brothers and sisters. We still have differences, but we can now work, rest and play together. Life is not perfect, but it is very good. Peaceful you would say.
David Martin, N. Ireland
I am very much against the policies of the Israeli government. Obviously that does not make me an anti-Semite. What is evident is the chasm between the policies of earlier Israeli governments and the current one. It causes great concern and can only erode what goodwill remains in the world for the Israelis, who are increasingly perceived as aggressors, no longer victims.
A Stones, Cayman Islands
For all of those who believe anti-Semitism is not on the rise in Europe, go out and buy a kippah put it on your head and walk around town.
Paul Loewens, Belgium
In my view there are two streams of anti-Semitism. One is the “traditional” anti-Semitism which reached its evil climax in the Holocaust. I would like to think that this form of anti-Semitism is on the way out. The new anti-Semitism is largely fuelled by a re-assessment of the role of Israel – from “hero to villain”, if you want to characterize this change in a few words.
Jews worldwide are seen, justly or not, as supporters or even representatives of the present Israeli policy. The conclusion I draw is that much of the new anti-Semitism will disappear with a just peace in the Middle East the same way as anti-Muslim feeling in the West will subside with the disappearance of al-Qaeda or similarly sinister organisations.
Akram Mirza, UK
Anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. Many Jews are opposed to the policies of the Israeli government which discriminate against the Palestinians – a Semitic people. The tone of this debate sometimes gives the impression that the current Israeli government believes itself to be above criticism because of the Holocaust.
I think many people in the West, not only demonize Jews and Israel, but they also romanticize the Arab world. No matter how many terrorist attacks there are, every day, perpetrated by citizens of Arab countries, the Jews are somehow to blame in the eyes of many people.
If the Palestinians get what they want, which is nothing less than the entire country of Israel, the world will then see that terrorism will not end, but by then it will be too late.
Joan Stuchner, Canada
Anti-Semitism has always been around, the Israeli/Palestinian problem is only an excuse to bring it into the open. Ignorance thrives as never before.
David Nigel Braham, Italy
It is not Jews people are against. It is the racist Zionism that people in Europe do not like. I myself as a Semite have never felt anti-Semitism.
Karl Halmstrand, Sweden
I have also noticed that most people here are seeing Israel as the evil country. They all pity the Palestinians and don’t see any good in the Israeli actions. I don’t know how this comes about, perhaps the media are showing Israel as the one to blame because they have the army.
Let fair be fair. Let justice be justice. No country, regardless of its history, has an eternal free pass to moral supremacy: neither the US, neither the EU members, nor Israel. Honest and justified criticism by the EU on Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians is not anti-Semitism and for Sharon to so label such criticism is to ironically abuse to Israel’s advantage, the legacy of the Holocaust.
J P Barnard, South Africa
As a Jew I have noticed that in Europe (France mainly) I am known to be a Jew and it is pointed out. Although I haven’t experienced much racism. In America the misconception is of some Zionistic covert movement and what I have found is that Americans couldn’t tell a Jew apart from any one else. Americans simply don’t seem to care or notice at all but in Europe people either go out of their way to avoid you or go out of their way to point you out.
Harold Greenberg, USA/UK/Israel
Although there most certainly are real anti-Semites in Europe, I belief that some criticisms have been misrepresented as being motivated by ant-Semitism. Especially the irritating habit of most people to speak in general terms when they talk about political problems (‘THE Americans’, ‘THE Jews’, ‘THE French’, ‘THE Arabs) can be problematic.
Because of their history, people that are Jewish might be more sensitive to this kind of generalisations, which is quite understandable. Therefore, I think that intellectuals should be more disciplined and be more specific when they utter their criticisms (e.g., ‘the Israeli government’, Likud, the Bush administration, etc.).
Koen Vleminckx, Belgium
It’s amazing how polarised opinions become all round the world when such major but complicated issues as the Middle East conflict are debated. It appears to be the rule to take sides irrespective of the fact that you are thousands of miles separated from the hot-spot.
Those opposing your point of view HAVE to be dubbed as anti-Muslim or anti-Islam as the case maybe. It is so frustrating to see that killing of innocents by suicide bombers, instead of being criticised for the horrendous act that it is, is ‘counter-pointed’ with Israel’s many transgressions of human rights and vice versa. Why cant we see the wrongs of both the sides without having to ‘take’ sides ? Why does one have to be seen to be on one side or the other? Why does every wrong have to be ‘justified’ by ‘showing up’ another wrong ? Where has the logic of the human kind got lost?
Swaranjeet Singh, India
Some people view any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. This is rubbish. Some people view anything Israel does as being inherently Jewish. This too is rubbish. People have to draw the line between religion and a religious state.
Adam Salamon, USA
It seems that anti-Semitism is often being confused with being anti-Israel. While there is no doubt that anti-Semitism still exists, it has no more prominence than any other group being hated in the world today. Muslims, Christians, blacks, Asians, gays, Americans all have a large number of people against them or their beliefs. I think the confusion stems from people’s inability to separate Jewish culture from Israeli politics.
Are the Jews a nation, a race or a religion? I am a Jew and I see myself as Jewish by religion, British by race as my family have lived here for many generations and totally against the politics of Israel. It’s up to the individual as to how they would categorise me but unfortunately we are deluding ourselves if we think that this world is ever going to be rid of irrational hatred. As long as people are diligent, and aware of what is essentially right or wrong, hopefully these feelings will be kept in check. The stubbornness of the Israeli government is doing nothing to help matters.
Harry, London, UK
I am head of a Roman Catholic primary school and every year we take groups of children to visit our local synagogue, precisely to help break down the barriers of prejudice and ignorance and to promote positive attitudes between our two faiths. Our relationships with the local synagogue are excellent.
However, my respect, admiration and affection for the Jewish faith does not preclude me from being highly critical of current Israeli policy in the Middle East. It is vital not to confuse political differences with Israel and anti-Semitism (or Judeophobia) based on religious or racial. Criticism of Israel and more specifically of Ariel Sharon does not make me or anyone else an Anti Semite. I can criticise Tony Blair and still love my country
Bernard Fyles, UK
Instead of labelling valid criticism as “anti-Semitism” in Europe, Israelis must ask themselves, “why is there such anger against Israel’s policies in the Middle East since 2001″. And to help them I ask them to recall the huge world-wide support for Israel during Rabin’s time!
George Vekinis, Greece
In a recent poll here on favourability ratings for countries, Israel rated exactly the same as Saudi Arabia. The absurdity of equating a functioning democracy with a brutal theocracy shows how distorted people’s views have become. The NZ media pump out the same liberal-left dogma as they do elsewhere, applying asymmetric standards to Israel and to the Arab world. Evidently, most people do not have the critical wit to see through this and the results are depressingly akin to brainwashing.
Mario McMillan, New Zealand
That anti-Semitism is rising is a given, therefore the question should be: what are the causes for such a rise? One could cite historical, psychological or pseudo-scientific reasons – all without point. My opinion is that if anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is because Israel remains intractable in the face of the atrocities it perpetrates amongst the Palestinians. This may seem like a stock answer any talking head on TV would offer, but the bald fact of the matter is that Israel acts with impunity in the Middle East, while the rest of the Arab nations languish under the influence of the American Right. And to what end?
F. T. Michael, Malaysia
I’m not convinced that anti-Semitism is on the rise, I believe there is an inability among the public and press to articulate their sense of moral outrage at the Israeli government and it’s policy in the occupied territories.
Israel has sought to make being Jewish and being Israeli one and the same thing for decades – sympathy towards the Jews post-holocaust proved useful in helping establish the state of Israel. Now, having tied the two things together, Israel cannot be surprised when it’s unpopular behaviour spills over into outright anti-Semitism – they can’t have it both ways. If Europe is Anti-Semitic today, then Israel only has itself to blame for that.
Gareth Hitchings, Canada
What I dislike is the Israeli way of making politics, the aggression and hard hand with anything against their way. Which is sad, because a few give name to a rich and wise culture.
Alejandro Ruiz, Mexico, Mexico City
Anti-Semitism is a convenient label with which to write off criticism of Israel’s appalling treatment of the Palestinians
Chris Galloway, Australia
Unfortunately there does seem to be a clear rise in anti-Semitism. Liberal Europe has a clear anti-Israel stance and like Irish Republican propaganda, Europe has bought into the Palestinian and Muslim half truths. While Jews are no angels it has become apparent in this world that certain nations are allowed to defend their citizens without criticism other nations are vilified.
The hatred towards Jews is similar to that of Ulster Loyalists and in some cases white South Africans. It is clear an unbalanced trendy European liberal press help to fan the flames of hatred. What is needed is a fair and balanced portrayal of the role of Jews in society and the role of the State of Israel in the modern world.
I would not consider the debated negative environment of anti-Semitism in Europe to be in detriment of the Jewish people. But more specifically on the unbearable reality represented by the current actions and crimes committed by the state of Israel against an occupied Palestinian nation.
A. C. S., Italy
My Jewish relatives were murdered in Dachau and Theresienstadt. Because of this haunting experience and legacy, I 100% support Israel’s quest for security if it were in accordance with human rights. However, the strategy currently employed by the government of Israel is a ‘blood and soil’ strategy, which has made a ghetto out of the occupied territories. I 100% detest this. It corrupts the soul of Israel.
My view has been condemned as anti-Semitism – this is highly offensive. This type of denouncement is a powerful tool to erase any criticism however valid the critic is. But it back-fires. It helps to transform criticism of Israel’s conduct into real anti-Semitism, i.e. it contributes to transform hate against Israeli “Zionists” into a generalized hate against the entire Jewish people. Therefore, all those who are so fast in condemning any criticism of Israel’s current conduct in the occupied territories as anti-Semitism are actually fuelling anti-Semitism. This is intolerably sad and tragic.
Anti-Semitism has always been with us only now it doesn’t have to be hidden to be politically correct
Natalie Gilbert, Israel
I think Jewish nationalism has fallen into the same trap as the Germans did. Extremist nationalism always brings with it an undercurrent of racial supremacy. What is “preserving the Jewish nature of Israel” if not apartheid and racism? So I think it is very easy for people to attach a negative to “Jewishness”, when it has been done by Zionists already.
Misha Dellinger, Finland
We have just emigrated to Israel and we have found that there many European Jews are doing the same, especially from France because of the rise in anti-Semitism. Here in Israel you can walk down any street and not be racially abused because of your race or religion. There is no such tolerance in Europe.
Andrew Lerner, Israel
How is it that Islam is openly being linked with terrorism but even a tiny bit of criticism is attacked as being anti-Semitic?
M.Fayyaz Rafeeque, INDIA
Islamic militants attack the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, killing thousands of people. Islamic militant suicide bombers kill and maim hundreds of British, Turkish and Israeli citizens. A US warship on a goodwill visit to Yemen is attacked by Islamic militants and several young sailors are killed. Islamic militants kill hundreds of young people who are trying to enjoy their holiday in Bali. Bin Laden and his Islamic militant supporters preach hatred against all non-believers. Iran has a nuclear programme that may ultimately lead to its having nuclear weapons. Islamic militants in Iraq kill hundreds of soldiers who are trying to restore some sort of order to a country in chaos. AND ISRAEL IS A THREAT TO WORLD PEACE???
Mel Quick, UK
I grew up in North London, and have seen and even been subjected to much anti-Semitism. As a kid, I knew which roads to bike down, and which were unsafe. Which council flats to walk past, and for which to cross the road. It is so commonplace in the lives of religious Jews in North London, that incidents are rarely reported. It’s part of life. I feel far safer walking the streets of Brooklyn at night – esp. recently, – than I feel walking down Oxford St. in broad daylight!
Heim Sonim, London, England / NY
I think Israel’s current government must learn to accept criticism, and when it is wrong, change it’s policies to mitigate the critics, rather than claim all such comments are anti-Semitic. Many are anti-Sharon / Likud. One can be pro-Jewish and still think Sharon and his followers are completely wrong headed.
Graeme Buckley, New Zealand
Israel’s strong and excessive use of force against Palestinians is scorned by all across the world who are not afraid to talk out even though it may cause anger and backlash from the US. It is seen as a Human Rights violation and a Crime against humanity. Europe unlike America is independent from Israel’s influence even when it comes to implementing extreme policies against Palestinians and as a result opposition to Israel’s policies will be seen as anti-Semite. Israel and Judaism are beautiful and are of my belief but the current government is going about securing Israel in a manner that will only backfire and cause resentment against Jews not only in Europe but across the world. Peace in the Middle-East can be achieved in a day, leaders with insight into Israel’s current mode know this but seem to have different objectives.
Leslie Bothma, South Africa
Anti-Semitism is clearly on the rise in this country. It is not only measured in the number of defaced Jewish gravestones, but also in the underlying false assumption amongst many that there is a unified Jewish ‘agenda’, and that all of us support the current Israeli government. Telling Jewish jokes is now seen as so acceptable that non Jews seem happy to tell them – in al innocence to Jews!
Nicolas Werner, U.K.
Germans, you need help. Fear of offending Jews is a complex that is warping your national character. The Hohmann affair shows that saying negative things about Russians in the GDR was less dangerous criticising Jews in post-unification Germany. Had Hohmann been talking about, say, Albanians, there would have been no story, never mind scandal.
I also feel that the Israeli Government is trying to cover the terrible situation in Israel by spreading fear and anxiety. But, we shouldn’t forget that one needs a lot of integrity and I would even say common sense to differentiate between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism . Can we, all of us do that?
Irena Azov , Israel
Israel’s actions over the Palestinians is a reversal on the treatment they had in World War 2. Now they are trying to claim that their actions are justified and any oppositions are marked on the familiar “Anti-Semitism” grounds. Israel policy and Semitism are on two separate grounds. But to validate their policy, Israeli Hawks are quick to lump them together and decried any protest as “Anti Semitic”.
It is unfortunate that after 50 odd years of the Nazi era, and after gaining a huge amount of financial and political clout, the Jews think that they are still being persecuted. Its not anti-Semitism, its just persecution complex.
George Mabizela, Nigeria
In Holland, Moroccan parents teach their children to hate Jews. At school these children shout : “The Jews must all die, death to all Jews “. This has been well documented on Dutch television. Is this anti- Semitism? You bet it is !
N. Cohen, The Netherlands
I see no reason to believe that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe and I believe that references to the Holocaust are entirely misleading. What we are witnessing is opposition to the Israeli government’s stance on Palestine and other middle eastern countries. Israel is the recipient of significant financial aid from the US and to many people that makes them tarred with the same brush. When Israel is a partner of the US it gives rise to opposition but when Israel takes actions that even the US condemns as too extreme, that opposition escalates. I believe that if Israel was more conciliatory to its neighbours and would work towards mutually acceptable solutions then attitudes to Israel would change markedly.
John McLean, Switzerland
In Norway anti-Semitism hardly exists at all, whereas disgust at Sharon’s policy of oppression towards the Palestinians is the feeling of the vast majority. There is no connection, although both Sharon and anti-Semites try to establish one, between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israeli occupation and oppression.
Erling Outzen, Norway
Several people at my school has used the word “Jew” as a curse, or a bad-word. Even some of those who know I lost half my relatives in the holocaust have made fun of me because of my partially Jewish background.
These are not single isolated events, but something which occur frequently. That anti-Semitism in Europe is simply dismissed as the opinion of Israel critics is unacceptable. Therefore, when I read posts at these pages such as: “In Norway anti-Semitism hardly exists at all,” I am basically disgusted. When people debating in Norway consider it “a relevant problem” that the US has many Jewish inhabitants, it is complete hypocrisy to claim that there is only criticism of Israel in Norway.
Jonatan Ring, Norway
Until people learn to acknowledge the difference between anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli we will not know the extent of the problem. At the moment any criticism of Israel is labelled anti-Jewish even when it is criticism of political policy.
Here in Munich, the traditional Jewish Quarter where I live is welcoming back more and more Jews, including those who choose to live here rather than Israel. There’s a new vibrancy and confidence, a new Koscher cafe and we now need a second Synagogue in the area. Racism, including Anti-Semitism is a problem everywhere in Europe but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to discuss genuine concerns about Palestine.
Graham Thomas, Munich, Germany.
It is important to distinguish religion from State. It is wrong to say, because one is very sceptical towards Sharon’s / Israel’s Middle East policy, that one is an anti-Semite. I do actually, to some extent, agree with the mentioned poll, where the US and Israel rank high as perpetrators of world peace and stability (especially by breaking multilateral stability by ignoring / misusing the UN and bi- / multilateral agreements).
Simon Berdal, Norway
We must never forget the lessons from the past. The treatment of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis was despicable, which makes it even worse when the oppressed becomes the oppressor. After visiting Israel and seeing how the Israeli government has no qualms about applying similar laws to the Palestinian population, the phrase do as I say, and not as I do comes to mind. We must not confuse religion with basic human dignity, as they often don’t go together.
David Aaronovitch makes a very important point. The majority of racism in the west is directed at asylum seekers and Muslims. It seems that “Muslim bashing” has become the acceptable face of anti-Semitism. After all, Islam is a Semitic religion, the Quran is a Semitic scripture and the Arabs are the largest groups of Semites on this earth. The same vile insults that are directed at Muslims these days were also once thrown at the Jews. In order to justify wholesale slaughter the politicians and pro-War armchair pundits need to demonise the “other”;. The target has changed but the underlying xenophobia and nefarious agenda still exists in some circles.
It’s worrying to see the rise of a new tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. More worrying however, is the attempt to blame this on increasing Muslim extremism and immigration. Isn’t scape-goating minorities the exact point that Jews have been trying to get across for the last 58 years?
Ross Parker, UK
How can one measure that anti-Semitism is on the rise? Are there any legitimate figures? It’s easy to play the victim with the Holocaust propaganda. What is really rising in Europe is not an anti-Jewish attitude. Europeans are very frustrated to observe a regime that takes justice into its own hands and can get along with it!
Alexandra Gomez, Spain
Why ask experts? ask the Jew on the street. my children have been attacked twice on the streets of Belgium.
Europeans are mainly against the actions the state of Israel takes against its people and border countries. That has nothing to do with the Jews as a community. Jews and Israel are 2 different kind of things.
Stathis Stassinos, Greece
I don’t think there is a particular rise on anti-Semitism in Europe. The fact is that also countries like Russia are criticised with regards to Chechnya, the US and UK on their foreign policies, China on human rights abuses. Are we then anti-Russian, anti-American, anti-British, anti-Chinese or anti-anything-we-criticise? One thing is to be critical of the Israeli government policies and quite another thing being anti-Semitic. That is left for a handful of fanatics we all have to watch very closely.
Alfonso Salgueiro, Luxembourg
I, too, believe that anti-Semitism has increased in Europe in the last years, though not as dramatically as Ariel Sharon has claimed. People seem to turn back to old anti-Semitist stereotypes again. This development was strengthened by the radical policy of the current Israeli government. Still, the actual cause of anti-Israeli attitudes in Europe in my opinion is an underlying mistrust against Jews which is based on irrational stereotypes from the past, which only come to the surface at the moment.