European anti-Semitism

by Chris Bertram on January 31, 2004

It is a great pity that so much of the media is disappearing behing subscription-only walls. This includes the Financial Times where the estimable Simon Kuper has a subscription-only article debunking the common American perception of a rise in European anti-Semitism. Some facts from the article. Kuper reports on two opinion polls conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in Western Europe in 2002. These found that roughly a quarter of Europeans had some anti-Semitic attitudes. This compares with a similar ADL survey in the US in the same year which has 17 percent of Americans espousing anti-Semitic views. Not a great difference, and one brought further into perspective when we learn that most anti-Semitic Europeans are over 65 whereas age is not a good predictor of such views among Americans. True, there has been a significant increase in anti-Jewish violence (especially by young Muslims in France), but in the US the FBI recordes 1039 hate crimes against Jews in 2002. There also doesn’t seem to be a very good correlation between attitudes to Israel and anti-Semitism: 7 per cent of the Dutch population are judged to be anti-Semitic by the ADL which is a lower figure than anywhere else in either Europe or the US, but 74 per cent of the Dutch view Israel as a threat. Attitudes to Israel are pretty mixed though, with Europeans more likely to blame Israel than the Palestinians for the current situation (but only by 27 per cent to 20, with the rest presumably “don’t knows” or distributing blame equally). 86 per cent of Europeans see no justification for suicide bombers. None of this is reason for complacency, of course, but the view peddled by US-based commentators such as Thomas Friedman and their blogospheric echo-chamber of Europe as a seething cauldron of ancient Jew-hatred is plainly garbage.

{ 76 comments }

1

steve 01.31.04 at 1:13 pm

I don’t mean to make excuses for the likes of Thomas Friedman – he can make his own – but this reveals a sloppy tendency to generalize. Thus, a rise in anti-semitic events in France is categorized as a growing “European” problem.

You would think someone like Thomas Friedman would understand that Europe and its member countries is no more monolithic than the U.S. and its States.

2

Conrad Barwa 01.31.04 at 3:10 pm

None of this is reason for complacency, of course, but the view peddled by US-based commentators such as Thomas Friedman and their blogospheric echo-chamber of Europe as a seething cauldron of ancient Jew-hatred is plainly garbage.

I think this is quite true; fears of some resurgence of anti-Semitism in European quarters has been somewhat instrumentalised for obvious purposes. What saddens me more, is how some who should know better uncritically buy in to this notion of recurrent racism peculiar in some way to various aspects of European nationalism. Apart from anything else many types of anti-Semitism are compatible with a respect for some of the more robust aspects of Israel and its state policy. Some of the shock of TF et al. may stem from the different parameters of debate that exist in Europe over the ME-related conflicts; which tend to be a priori less in favour of Israel on many counts and a bit more even-handed (though in terms of foreign policy this is probably less true). I have noticed this difference in observing how Europeans and Americans view the conflicts, in many cases certain starting points and assumptions are quite different. From an American point of view, I can understand, given how events in the region are usually framed, that the European attitude can be disturbingly callous; of course how the Nazi genocides and history of anti-Semitism is seen is also an important factor. Having said that, I would think there is a large amount of self-censorship in many sections of the former.

What perhaps is of great concern, and what TF and others in their mangled way, I think are trying to get at; is that there does seem to be present in some senses a particular bias against Israeli, or Jewish nationalism, for lack of a better description. This relies almost completely on anecdotal evidence, but I do note on occasion a particular attack or vilification of many aspects of political Zionism; which are very often not accompanied by any informed knowledge of many of the wider issues involved. It also militates into rather dubious posturing about how foreign policy is conducted and how to view the legitimacies of various nationalisms. There is also a rather worrying tendency to escalate the rhetoric and impart an accusatory tone to any criticism generated; which leads quite often to sloppy stereotyping. I remain profoundly unhappy with the way much of this cast and articulated; without trying to imply that it is due to some sort of primordial anti-Semitism or that the general thrust of its criticisms are not valid. Much Liberal/Leftist discourse is also frequently unhelpful in this regard, I remember the LRB seminar in honour of Edward Said last year, where one of the panel quoted Said approvingly to say that “today if one is not thinking of Palestinian human rights, then one is not thinking of Human rights” or sthg to this effect. This struck me as quite troubling as the elevation of anyone single group to this position of universal position is something I would have thought should be avoided; and in this particular case, I would have thought that it should have been more so; given the political implications it has. Insisting that universalist concepts of human rights must be intrinsically bound up with or start from the particularist rights of select groups is what leads to so many conflicts in the first place; and if one is to proceed from a humanitarian angle, I can’t see how anything is to be gained by going down this direction.

3

Michael B 01.31.04 at 4:04 pm

France and to a lesser extent England have formed the core of my own perceptions where there has been significant increases in anti-semitism, perceptions formed via news and opinion pieces. This piece seemingly confirms the French aspect of that core, together with its Muslim influence. To the extent it has been indicated more widely, throughout Europe, I have not seen supporting evidence and have refrained from forming much of an opinion or set of assumptions about its wider occurance.

Vastly more significant than anti-semitism per se are the anti-Israel biases and perspectives in Europe, largely informed and largely misinformed imo by sundry Leftist leanings, presumptions and calculations. That these two sentiments are sometimes conflated may be understandable, even though statistical or other academic/abstract forms of analysis might regard such a conflation as undesirable. E.g., people who might be embarrassed to admit of an unvarnished anti-semitism (in the wake of WWII) may feel no qualms whatsoever talking of anti-Israel sentiments, however poorly founded or unreasoned those sentiments are. In fact they might feel entirely supported in voicing such a view.

Too, that 86% of Europeans see no justification for suicide bombers may reflect something substantive, though not at all necessarily so. (For one, does this mean 14% positively do favor this tactic? Perhaps a portion even actively so?) In the immediate aftermath of WWII, late ’45 and ’46, it was difficult to find any surviving German national who admitted to having been a member of the Nazi party or who admitted to any anti-Jewish sentiments or activities. Do we simply take people at their word? Still further, how many of those 86% are, as activists, working against the practice that they see “no justification” for? Close to zero? Perhaps it is in fact 0%? That is my own impression, though it is an intuition and impression only, formed without any statistical support and without the support of any other abstract analysis.

A passively held opinion, one might even use the phrase “apathetically held opinion,” hardly represents much that could be called very substantive. An ethonographic survey further encompassing social, political, moral and historical views, biases, etc. would be far more informative and telling. Far more difficult to conduct as well, and there’s the rub.

I can’t echo your own dismissiveness. Trite as it might sound, it’s far more complex than this single set of abstracted statistics would indicate. And anti-semitic vs. anti-Israel sentiments (and activities) may very well not be such discreet phenomenon as some analysts would like to believe, especially so when investments in various Leftist ideological beliefs are so numerous or widespread and form so much of the a priori framework within which more abstracted analyses take place.

4

BP 01.31.04 at 4:26 pm

michael b:
To lump the entire gamut of European public opinion under the category “Leftist” reveals more about your own biases than anything else.

Insofar as a dislike of Jews has any correlation with a preference for public ownership of means of production, it would behoove you to note that the European right has displayed xenophobic and anti-semitic sentiments in the past and present as well.

5

Robert 01.31.04 at 4:40 pm

I believe that the undue emphasis on European anti-Semitism serves two purposes:

1. It is a transparent attempt to discredit European critics of the state of Israel.

2. It serves to remind Jews of the importance of the state of Israel, by allegedly demonstrating that they can never be safe from anti-Semitism when they exist as a minority.

6

Eve Garrard 01.31.04 at 5:43 pm

Complacency about anti-semitism: Jewish school-children in France have been told by some of their religious advisers not to reveal their Jewishness in public places, for fear of being attacked. Chris thinks that it’s ‘garbage’ to see this in terms of a recrudescence of ancient Jew-hatred in Europe. So how are we to think of it? Perhaps as new Jew-hatred, completely unconnected with the old kind? But the EU certainly doesn’t want us to think of it like that, since it’s tried to suppress its own commissioned report on the rise of anti-semitism in Europe, because the report claims that this rise is partly due to Islamic Jew-hatred. (Perhaps the EU thinks, like Robert, that we shouldn’t say things which might discredit critics of Israel.) So are we to think of the warning to children as an isolated incident, of no cultural significance, and unconnected with the rest of what’s going on in France, or elsewhere in Europe? Yes, I think I *would* regard that as a complacent view.

7

Michael B 01.31.04 at 5:53 pm

bp,

As accused, did not do so. Was speaking in rather general and also qualified and tentative terms, with phrasings such as “seemingly” and “may be understandable,” etc. Hence I was probing other possibilities, not declaiming about sum certain truth with finality (which, ironically, is precisely what your own sweeping dismissiveness does represent, as does robert’s for that matter).

Further, I opened by essentially agreeing with the idea that was introduced (assuming one keeps to the conception of anti-semitism as a discreetly different phenomenon reflected in such statistical evidence – which I don’t dismiss though I do very much qualify what it might reflect). I did so by acknowledging my own views or impressions did NOT encompass Europe as a whole, but France and to a lesser extent England only.

Finally, to delimit the term Leftist to reflect upon the means of production only is strikingly odd. We’re not living in the latter part of the 19th century or very early 20th century but rather are dealing with varied and sundry forms of derivative Leftisms and amalgams with other investments and interests, for example pomo and multi-culti strategies, themes and initiatives.

And again, was using it as a general assignation, which seems to me entirely fitting even though I don’t expend ten or twenty thousand words to more fully detail all that might indicate. E.g., the mass protests prior to the initiation of armed conflict in Afghanistan and then moreso in Iraq was hardly simply informed by a concern about the means of production. Almost to the contrary, it’s interests encompassed a broadly based zeitgeist that I chose to abbreviate with the term “Leftist.” That could be refined, certainly, but I don’t regret the use of the term as an admittedly general assignation or label.

Hence in terms of revealing ones biases, my own (admitted) generalizations and tentative, if also penetrating probings are fairly tame compared to your rather unqualified, sweeping dismissiveness and set of assumptions.

8

BP 01.31.04 at 5:57 pm

“Perhaps the EU thinks […]”

Institutions don’t think.

“So are we to think of the warning to children as an isolated incident, of no cultural significance, and unconnected with the rest of what’s going on in France, or elsewhere in Europe?”

While we are indulging in fuzzy thinking, why don’t we go one step further and agree that the warning to children in France is deeply significant not only to the rest of the EU, but to the US, and in fact the rest of the world. There’s no such thing as tarring with too broad a brush when it comes to global perceptions of anti-Semitism.

9

bp 01.31.04 at 6:16 pm

michael b:
Your posts decry the lack of nuance and subtlety in the survey Chris cited. Astounding, therefore, that without a trace of irony you proceed to tar the whole of Europe with the broadest of brushes. (I quote: “Vastly more significant than anti-semitism per se are the anti-Israel biases and perspectives in Europe, largely informed and largely misinformed imo by sundry Leftist leanings, presumptions and calculations.” – you wisely do not limit yourself merely to England and France in this brilliant piece of analysis. )

Astounding, too, that you choose to use the term “Leftist” to describe the nascent emergence of European anti-Semitism; despite your belated disclaimer. I will remind you that anti-Semitism has historically been the provenance of the European Right – stalwarts such as Haider, Le Pen, and Flip DeWinter come to mind. I will further remind you that, whatever you may think of conservative Muslim fundamentalists, when they become an active force in French politics -as they will, it is merely a matter of time – I think you will concede that they will not be Liberals, Leftists, or Humanists in outlook.

I charge that you are playing that silly game beloved of the blogosphere, in which all political opinions are divided into pro- or con- Operation Iraqi Freedom, the con side being the “leftists”. People who think exclusively in such terms are people also inclined to breathlessly assert that “after 9-11, everything changed”. I am not impressed by such analytical prowess. History does not suddenly start when newspapers decide to pay attention, nor does it exist merely where CNN focuses its cameras.

Come back with a little more nuance in your analysis, you might find that your opinions on anti-Semitism in Europe (a non-phantom phenomenon) will be taken more seriously.

10

Chris Bertram 01.31.04 at 6:29 pm

Eve, I take it, then, that you don’t agree with me that the view of of Europe peddled by many US commentators is garbage?

Here’s a key para from Simon Kuper’s article

bq. “In Europe it is not very safe to be a Jew,” wrote Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post. “What we are seeing is pent-up anti-Semitism, the release – with Israel as the trigger – of a millennium-old urge that powerfully infected and shaped European history.” George Will added in the same newspaper that today’s anti-Semitism among Europeans and Arabs “has become the second – and final? – phase of the struggle for a ‘final solution to the Jewish question’.”

You don’t think that such views are absurd?

11

Michael B 01.31.04 at 7:01 pm

Actually, my posts did not decry the lack of subtlety or nuance in the study per se, it did decry the summary and facile (brilliant?) interpretation that Chris reaches, with entirely dismissive terms such as “garbage” and “seething cauldron.” The remainder of your post reflects similarly exaggerated misinterpretations, assumptions and misconstruals. For example I don’t claim an assertion is equivolent to an analysis, much less a “brilliant analysis,” as your sneer pronounces. Nor am I “playing the game” you indicate – the reference to the Iraq initiative was a secondary example, not the central point.

Clearly my own views are not worthy of a more sober or temperate interpretation – hence you ease into exaggeration and presumption like one eases into an old, comfortable shoe. After all, you’re clearly right, I’m clearly wrong; clearly, at least, that’s the comforting position you maintain. That’s nothing new though, much to the contrary.

12

Eve Garrard 01.31.04 at 7:48 pm

No, Chris, I don’t think these views are absurd, nor do I think they’re garbage. I wish I did. They may of course be *false*, and naturally I very much hope they are. But what kind of sunny picture would we have to have of European attitudes, to hold that such views are mere ‘garbage’? I can’t share your optimism about the death of so long and deep-rooted a hostility as that towards Jews in Europe, nor do I think the evidence suggests that it’s a thing of the past, the moral equivalent of flat-earthism. (And as for Islamic hatred of Jews, I’m sure you’re familiar with the presentation of Jews in the press organs of the Middle East. I don’t see how that can fail to influence Islamic attitudes in Europe, and there’s plenty of evidence that it does.) Jews may be very ready to see danger in every throwaway insult, not to mention beating-up of children, but then they’ve good reason to do so, don’t you think? And the perfectly genuine worries I see around me in my Jewish friends, about their children’s futures in the present climate of opinion, don’t seem to me to be adequately summed-up as garbage.

13

John Smith 01.31.04 at 8:31 pm

The purpose of the ‘campaign’ by the Sharon government and its friends – so obviously beneficial to the cause as to need no conspiracy to organise it, thus obviating the production of a paper trail – is not, I think, to influence governments or public opinion in Europe: I don’t believe that the survival or national life of Israel depends to any material extent on the goodwill of European governments; nor that European public opinion is greatly susceptible to the sort of moral blackmail implicit in such a ‘campaign’.

(The Swedish experience shows that European governments may buckle under direct attack for actions allegedly in support of anti-semitism – such as the art exhibit in that case. But Israel obtains no lasting benefit from such petty victories.)

The purpose of the ‘campaign’ is, I believe, to maintain, at all costs, the unwavering support, military and (most vitally) political, of the US for Israel. Without this support, Israel will perish; so what is being waged here is a (propaganda) war of national survival.

There is no doubting the continuation of that support for the moment, whoever is US President this time next year; but the ‘campaign’ is intended to nip in the bud the slightest wavering of mainstream American opinion on the matter.

Europe is therefore a counter-example for American opinion-formers: where weak support for, or neutrality towards, Israel amongst governments is reflected in, and bolstered by, the growing anti-semitism of their peoples. The link between the two is vital (as reflected in Ariel Sharon’s contribution to the the ‘campaign’ last November).

The ‘campaign’ is aided by the extreme opprobrium in which are held those American opinion-formers ‘convicted’ of anti-semitism, in however mild or tangential a form. (The Gregg Easterbrook saga is only one, infamous, example of that.) Mere allegations of anti-semitism may have severe repercussions on the accused person’s career.

An American journalist looking at an accusation of antisemitism against the BBC, say, or the Guardian, naturally imagines himself as the object of such an accusation; thinks of the consequences of such an eventuality; shudders; and vows never to go within a country mile of providing fuel for such an accusation,

It’s meant as a an educational experience. And it seems to work.

14

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.31.04 at 9:02 pm

I hate to sound harsh but this is a typically leftist confusion about intentions and actions. In this instance it is revealed in a number of what I hope are unintentional slips in statistics usage which compound to give a different picture from what you seem to argue. I can’t get to the article but note the following: Roughly a quarter of Europeans had anti-semetic views while compared to 17% of Americans. According to the primary cited document, here that is the number for ‘most Anti-Semetic’. But 40% agreed with what I think of as what I think of as two of the more dangerous indicators: “Jews have too much power in the business world” and “Jews have too much power in international finance markets.” These two statements are the foundation of nearly all the Anti-Semetic conspiracy theories. The analagous statements from the US survey : “Jews have too much power in the business world” and “Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street” recieve only 24% and 20% agreement respecitively. That is no small difference.

Also notice that the ADL didn’t survey current hot-spot France.

You mention age is a good predictor of anti-semetism in Europe and not so good in the US without mentioning that Europe has a much older population so that skew is more significant i.e. doesn’t help your case.

But for me, the key is a mention of an increase in European anti-Semetic violence and then say “but in the US the FBI recordes 1039 hate crimes against Jews in 2002.” (Empahsis mine). You fail to note that hate crimes include many acts which do not fall under the rubric of ‘violence’. It includes recorded cases of anti-Semetic graffiti on Jewish synagogues and a wide variety of harrassment claims that were not violent. If you want to compare those types of incidents I find here that 330 such incidents took place in Paris alone, which I believe is somewhat smaller than the entire United States of America.

In short you hang your ‘things are wrong but it isn’t so bad’ thesis on the mistaken idea that the US holds similar views, and on the mistaken idea that similar intentions equal the same level of action. There is an increasing tide of VIOLENT ACTION against Jews in Europe. Even if you believe that anti-semetic views are not particularly high in Europe, who cares? The actions of those who hold anti-semetic views are more violent and are not being stopped in Europe.

15

Ralph Wedgwood 01.31.04 at 9:13 pm

Chris is clearly right. He was *not* saying that anti-Semitism does not exist in Europe, or that it is not at least slightly worse in Europe than in the USA, or that it is not a thoroughly pernicious evil wherever it exists (although I very much doubt that anti-Semitism is the worst form of prejudice or ethnic hatred in Europe today).

Chris’s point was simply that many Americans have quite seriously exaggerated views of the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Europe today. George Will’s claim that (in effect) Europe is on the brink of a second Holocaust is surely quite simply absurd — there’s no other word for it.

I agree with Robert that the Israeli government and their sympathizers in the USA have been harping on about European anti-Semitism in order to delegitimize European criticisms of the Israeli government’s policies.

Unfortunately, these comments have by now been so endlessly repeated that they seem to many Jews in the USA and Israel as simple common knowledge. This even includes many who are not supporters of the Israeli government (including some American and Israeli friends of mine). It is all too intelligible, after all, that many Jews who do not currently live in Europe associate Europe primarily with the Holocaust and the appalling history of pogroms and the like which preceded it.

16

eszter 01.31.04 at 9:46 pm

Chris, I also do not think these views are absurd or garbage.

I think an important difference between anti-Semitic acts in European countries vs in the US is that different mechanisms seem to exist to respond to such acts. In the US, with the ADL and the ACLU (just to name a couple), there are some very established and potentially very loud voices that can and do respond to incidents. It seems that critical reactions to problematic comments or acts of violence of the sort are less common in European countries. Moreover, at least in some European countries (although the one with which I have the most experience likely isn’t even part of what people in this discussion call “Europe”) anti-Semitic comments and actions sometimes come from important public figures including politicians. I would argue that is different from a random person on the street because the comment/action is more public and may seem to carry more legitimacy due to the position of the source.

Any chance that one may view the threat differently as a Jew? If one is a member of the group targeted with comments and violent crimes one may notice such instances more often than others.

Finally, do you think it’s okay that even “just” 20% of people hold such views especially on a continent that was involved in those autrocities of just 60 yrs ago? I realize you are not saying that is okay, but you seem to be suggesting these are trivialities and people shouldn’t be drawing attention to them. I disagree.

17

chun the unavoidable 01.31.04 at 10:16 pm

Eszter,

The ADL has also helped expose self-hating Jews such as Chomsky and Finkelstein for what they are, when more innocent sorts thought they were mere critics of various Israeli policies.

18

GT 01.31.04 at 10:28 pm

I hate to sound harsh but Sebastian likes to play fast and lose with numbers himself.

Sebastian tells us that the poll numbers we should look at are the responses to “Jews have too much power in the business and financial world”.

Why are those better indicators?

Wouldn’t “Jews have too much power in our country today” be a much better indicator?

Maybe Sebastian missed that one because the US is MUCH worse than ANY other polled EU nation?

And how in the world does EU’s older population change Chris’s point? Chris is saying that that anti-semitic views are concentrated among the old so as time goes by the younger generations will take their place and the overall level will drop. In the US the poll data shows that won’t happen. The relative size of young and old is IRRELEVANT to this analysis.

If Sebastian has good data about anti-semitic incidents in the EU and the US I’m interested in reading them.

Also interesting would be how we should adjust the data for the fact that anti-semitic incidents in the EU seem to be the work of recent Muslim immigrants while in the US they are from people whose families have been here for generations.

Bottom line? There is much to debate but the silly right wing idea that the EU is mired in anti-semitism while the US is pure is plainly garbage.

19

Michael B 01.31.04 at 10:34 pm

Clearly, the cultivated art of studied avoidance is alive and well. For one, the George Will opinion piece, in its entirety, may be found here. He is locating the root of the current complex of anti-semitism in the Arab/Muslim world, while indicating Europe is serving as an echo chamber for that anti-semitic content. The final two paragraphs, containing the referenced quote, follow. He is asking probative questions and the context within which the quote is formed is all important.

“Today many people say that the Arabs and their European echoes would be mollified if Israel would change its behavior. People who say that do not understand the centrality of anti-Semitism in the current crisis. This crisis has become the second — and final? — phase of the struggle for a “final solution to the Jewish question.” As Wisse said 11 years ago, and as cannot be said too often, anti-Semitism is not directed against the behavior of the Jews but against the existence of the Jews.

“If the percentage of the world’s population that was Jewish in the era of the Roman Empire were Jewish today, there would be 200 million Jews. There are 13 million. Five million are clustered in an embattled salient on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, facing hundreds of millions of enemies. Ron Rosenbaum writes, ‘The concentration of so many Jews in one place — and I use the word ‘concentration’ advisedly — gives the world a chance to kill the Jews en masse again.'”

Hence many on the Left evidence a hand-wringing concern with an Israeli campaign, such as the Wall, to defend against homicide/suicide tactics and other terrorist tactics (which are never mentioned by Leftists as a “campaign”), even to the point of bringing Israel before the ICC for this wall under the imprimature of formal charges that the wall is simply an anti-apartheid styled device. These types of procedural formalities, legalisms, etc., would no doubt be of little concern to Leftists as instances of anti-semitism, even though they serve to aggravate and forward the terrorist threat in Israel and to some degree serve to forward the question of Israel’s very existence as well, as has recently been commented upon from various quarters.

So when a homicide/suicide bomber engages in the maiming, mayhem and murder that they most recently engaged in just two days ago, the attitude is ho hum, time to look in the other direction. Not, of course, that such ho hum apathy has the least bit to do with anti-semitism from a highly selective statistical point of view; thank goodness for that.

20

Chris Bertram 01.31.04 at 11:35 pm

What to say?

I seem to have managed to upset both Eve and Eszter, and I don’t like doing that. But I’m afraid that Ralph has it pretty much right. Of course anti-semitism is disgusting, and every incident of anti-semitism is to be deplored, and there have been some alarming incidents of anti-Jewish violence in France in recent years. Obviously, I agree.

But the view of Europe as some kind of cesspool of anti-semitism teetering on the brink of a second Holocaust is absurd. That isn’t the current condition of Europe or anything like it, but the view that it is is part of a fevered fantasty on the part of some right-wing commentators in the US. Maybe they believe it, maybe it is simply a matter of them getting carried away with their own rhetoric. But that view is _false_ .

It seemed (and seems) germane to the matter of pointing out the falsity of that view, to mention that anti-Jewish sentiments in the general public are about the same in Europe in general (and less in countries such as the Netherlands) as they are in the United States. After all, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Thomas Friedman et al aren’t warning that the USA is like Germany in 1934, even though opinion in the US is similar to opinion in the place (Europe) that they are asserting is like that.

21

Conrad Barwa 02.01.04 at 1:14 am

Chris,

Of course anti-semitism is disgusting, and every incident of anti-semitism is to be deplored, and there have been some alarming incidents of anti-Jewish violence in France in recent years.

I think the problem is more located around the fact of what the state and public institutions do to combat this; I am afraid to say much of the reactions in this line tend to be somewhat weak and opportunistic when they do happen. There doesn’t seem to be enough attention directed at the fact that since the Al-Aqsa Intifada, incidents of violence against Jews in some EU states has risen rather markedly; by attention I mean not media focus but steps to deal with these incidents effectively and put in place mechanisms to defuse inter-communal tensions.

But the view of Europe as some kind of cesspool of anti-semitism teetering on the brink of a second Holocaust is absurd. That isn’t the current condition of Europe or anything like it, but the view that it is is part of a fevered fantasty on the part of some right-wing commentators in the US. Maybe they believe it, maybe it is simply a matter of them getting carried away with their own rhetoric. But that view is false .

I would agree with this but this is not to say that there is no widespread institutionalised racism present within Europe some of which has uncomfortable connotations to the Nazi genocides. The abysmal treatment and occasional attacks on the Roma populations in the Continent serve as an indication here. It is remarkable given the history how blatant some of this is, as in discriminatory education systems, housing patterns and employment prospects; as well as the lack of follow-up to violence. While the relative lack of outrage has various reasons here, it is an important reminder about how one can’t rely on a complacent history to expect that certain kinds of racism will simply fade away.

It seemed (and seems) germane to the matter of pointing out the falsity of that view, to mention that anti-Jewish sentiments in the general public are about the same in Europe in general (and less in countries such as the Netherlands) as they are in the United States.

Well, one would perhaps need to be more careful in distinguishing what exactly is meant by “Europe” here. My impression is that in the Western EU states, outside the segments of the Muslim community radicalised by religious fundamentalists and the organised Far Right this would be true. However, I think things maybe somewhat different in Eastern Europe, where one can still come across fairly strong anti-Semitic discourse, even in everyday encounters and the older peasant anti-Semitic tropes. In certain regions and settings, it might well be a much more serious problem than in metropolitan Western Europe. One of the problems about the EU project is that given internal differences, a large part of the impetus comes from Europe is deemed not to be, rather than what it is. The ease and rapidity with which immigration systems and restrictions have been harmonised and used as a base for drawing EU members closer to together, combined with the recurring crypto-racist rhetoric of many mainstream politicians towards ‘asylum-seekers’, ‘refugees’ etc. is troubling racism thrives in this kind of atmosphere and makes it harder to build cross-cutting constituencies against it. Some residual unease is also to be expected, given the historic failure of European states to embark on their Nation-State building-projects without recourse to anti-Semitism and exclusionary racism of de-territorialised minorities as an integral part of this process. Which is not to say that the EU project will replicate this, but that unpleasant ways to think and deal with more unpalatable aspects of nationalism have not exactly been the forte and recent/current policy does not fill one with immediate confidence.

After all, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Thomas Friedman et al aren’t warning that the USA is like Germany in 1934, even though opinion in the US is similar to opinion in the place (Europe) that they are asserting is like that.

Well, their analysis is somewhat mis-directed. Anti-Semitism in and of itself is not the problem here, given its presence in the US as well; what is the really serious concern and (potential) problem is the attitude and willingness of the rest of society and the state to deal with it. The fears being expressed here, I see are sublated ones that are concerned not so much with the absolute level of racism present but the greater ability to close one’s eyes to it or to not take it as seriously as it merits. The problem is that this kind of sentiment and phenomenon is very hard to measure in any quantitative sense (except for perhaps state policy) one attempt to do so can be found for the UK at least in Barry Kosmin and Paul Iganski’s “A New Anti-Semitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain” which has quite a comprehensive collection of statistics wrt Britain. It also contains some illuminating essays on the links between anti-Semitism and other types of racism and very interestingly makes some cogent interlinkages between the racism towards minorities as a whole which in turn plays a role in generation racism by them in turn. However, while rightwing and aggressively partisan ones seek to distort the problem by looking for something that doesn’t exist; it doesn’t mean that there are not serious problems of a different kind that exist. Of course balanced analysis is not generally the rule when this is considered.

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J-M 02.01.04 at 5:21 am

I come from a long line of socialists and had until recently rejected out of hand any suggestion that the “left” could be congenial to anti-semitism. Personal experiences at academic conferences over the past couple of years have changed my mind. I have been privy to outrageously judeophobic comments from seemingly rational academics on both sides of the Atlantic, but where in North America such opinions are confided privately, much as one would share an obscene joke, Europeans seem to show little or no embarrassment in expressing their prejudices openly to a fellow (gentile) left-winger. The typical train of such conversations would begin with a comment about the Bush administration, then proceed to “Jewish influence” on its foreign policy, often dispensing entirely with “neo-con”, “likudnik” or “zionist” euphemisms. Israel, in these conversations, is the new (apartheid-era) South Africa and Jews everywhere are its devious co-conspirators according to a new Protocols of the Elders of Zionism. This isn’t the old right-wing anti-semitism my father fought. That strain is still around, of course, but this fresh mutation seems to have found fertile ground in the shadows of the ivory tower, a new socialism of intellectual fools.

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Andrew Boucher 02.01.04 at 9:02 am

Is it fair to name Thomas Friedman as calling Europe a “seething cauldron of ancient Jew-hatred”? In the comments section Christ quotes others and not Friedman. Perhaps he could quote Friedman so that others could decide whether his description is accurate or excessive?

Also to remark 25% (“roughly a quarter”) is almost 50% more than 17%. “Not a great difference” seems to be a little too minimalizing.

24

John Kozak 02.01.04 at 10:18 am

The euroclastic right wing echo chamber falls upon attacks on Jewish people with such glee that charges of anti-semitism there wouldn’t seem to be misplaced.

25

Eve Garrard 02.01.04 at 11:04 am

Chris, I understand that you deplore, and are disgusted by, every manifestation of anti-semitism. But your original charge was that the views of Krauthammer et al are ‘absurd’, they’re ‘garbage’. ‘Absurd’ and ‘garbage’ are not the same as ‘false’; they express a much deeper charge of irrationality, perhaps of a morally objectionable kind. It’s that view which I’m questioning. Maybe you think that if the Krauthammer view is false (which I hope it is) then it *has* to be garbage, since it’s so strong, and for you so counter-intuitive. I can understand a person feeling like that – looking round Europe today, especially the part closest to home, such an apocalyptic future doesn’t seem very likely. But then, if we’d looked around in 1928, descriptions of the Holocaust would have seemed ludicrous, obscene, the stuff only of antisemitic fantasies of unimportant social forces. Fifteen years later it was reality. There’s quite a lot of anti-semitic fantasising going on in Europe (and beyond it) today, and some of it is more than fantasising. Whether the Krauthammer view turns out to be false will depend in part on whether we think such things are insignificant with respect to the shape of our future, or whether we’re prepared to treat with some seriousness the darker possibilities available to those who hate Jews (and also to those who, while not themselves hating Jews, don’t really mind or even notice others doing so). Such seriousness is not, I think, compatible with regarding the worst-case fears as ‘garbage’.

I mentioned the worries of my Jewish friends, not to show that I’m upset, but more to suggest that there are reasonable people who feel that matters are becoming alarmingly like a re-run of the 1930s, and to whom the Krauthammer view isn’t garbage or even absurd, but a prediction which has to be taken seriously since their children’s future is at stake. Their intuitions in the matter should carry some weight, for the kind of reasons Eszter has given.

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Anthony 02.01.04 at 11:29 am

I have noticed that whenever I discuss Israel these days, that rather than justifiable concerns about Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, those I am discussing the issue with quickly move onto statements like “Israeli should never have existed” or that “of all the nations in the world Israel has the least justification for it continued existence”. The worst is “Israel has lost the right to exist, since they are doing to the Palestinians exactly what happened to the Jews in Europe”. It is usually accompanied by some reference to the Neocons influence over George Bush. These are not stupid people, most of them I would class as part of the progressive left.

About 4-5 years ago I would have bought into the anti-Zionism isn’t anti-semitism meme, but over the last 2 years it seems to me that there has been a discernable change in tone. I think that to ignore this, presumbly because the holocaust was a unique event and modern society would never let this happen again, is foolish in the extreme. In fact, instead of arguing about the actual situation as it stands, I find I have to explain to people how Israel was formed and other issues, such as the holocaust and how post-war Europe treated Jews. One person, confidently stating that Israel should not exist at the very start of the discussion, seemed to be under the impression that Israel was formed by a joint American and Jewish invasion of Palestine in 1948 and compared this to the invasion in Iraq! Where do you start?

That this “Israel should not exist” meme is being propagated by those from the left, rather than the rather marginalised far-right, is disturbing in itself.

There was an interesting comment in The Guardian:

Israeli artists and academics face increasing difficulties in finding international platforms for their work. Castel-Bloom is as savage about cultural and academic boycotts abroad as she is about the Israeli media, and particularly those Israelis who publicly support or even call for European academic and cultural institutions to cut off ties with their Israeli counterparts: “We have a few people here who are collaborating with this boycott, they have the Kapo gene,” she said, referring to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis, often out of a desire to do something to help fellow Jews.

Sobol argues: “The collapse of communism has meant that too many people have lost their god so they become aggressive and full of hate,” he said. “There is no element in the world that is going to help the Israeli left. The right in Israel tells us, you leftists have no friends in Europe, look, they’re boycotting your academics. Anti-semitism has a certain character, it starts with anodyne symptoms and because it is taken as a common cold no one deals with it at that stage and it erupts as a deadly disease later on. The de-legitimisation of Israel’s right to exist is a preparation of the minds of Europe to accept a genocide of us. The anti-Zionists and the Jewish left who collaborate with this de-legitimisation are playing with fire.”

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Chris Bertram 02.01.04 at 11:33 am

Eve,

As I’m sure you know, anti-semitic views were far more common and, indeed, respectable in mainstream European (and indeed American) opinion in 1928 than they are today and indeed there was widespread institutional discrimination. The fact that the Holocaust was unimaginable in 1928 should not be given the weight in an argument that you give it, precisely because we live after 1945 and we know what can happen and it is reasonable to adjust our view of what is imaginable in the light of that.

I’m perplexed by your insistence on treating attack-dog commentators like Krauthammer as if they are people who are taking a dispassionate look at what is happening in Europe and then coming to an extreme but not unreasonable opinion. That is not, imho, what is going on here. Rather, what is happening is an attempt to exploit the ignorance of many Americans about what Europe is actually like in order to delegitimize European opinion (both governmental and public) in the eyes of the US public. After all, if those Europeans are all raving anti-semites, there is no need to take seriously their views on such subjects as the Middle East. (On Friedman, by the way, as cited by Kuper he writes of “a European press that increasingly reads like the worst Arab press” to which the only appropriate response is “wtf?!!”)

Simon Kuper’s article (and my humble attempt to draw attention to it through this blog post) constitutes an entirely reasonable attempt to counter this poisonous attempt to villify Europeans in general by pointing to some facts.

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Antti Kauppinen 02.01.04 at 11:56 am

Looking at the current “new anti-Semitism” hysteria from a European perspective, it seems to me that one of the main problems with the thesis is a failure to distinguish between the various etiologies of the phenomenon. For one thing, there is what we might call _core anti-Semitism_, the ancient prejudice that seems to be decreasing rather than increasing (judging by the fact that such attitudes are held by the old rather than the young). Then there is what could be called _spillover anti-Semitism_, which is an illegitimate generalization of the (arguably legitimate) anger felt toward Israel’s occupation policy, in particular during the second intifada.

There is no denying that spillover anti-Semitism exists and has increased in recent years (though incidents seem to have peaked during Israel’s West Bank offensive in April and May 2002). If anything deserves to be called “new anti-Semitism”, it is this. It is as deplorable as any other form of anti-Semitism – no matter what Israelis do, they don’t do it _because_ they are _Jews_, nor are all Jews implicated in the actions. But, crucially, its causes are different. It is not, as American critics like to present it, a ghost of the past returning to haunt Europe (ie. Krauthammer’s “release of pent-up anti-Semitism”). Those who are guilty of it are different kind of people and fall into it for different reasons than before. It is parasitic on anger toward Israel, and can hardly be cured with mere education, ie. trying to make people see the rather self-evident fact that Jews are not by nature murderers, liars, and so on. There is every reason to believe that it will die out when (if ever!) there is a roughly just peace deal in the Middle East. (It is obviously not the mere existence of Israel that is behind this – during the Oslo years, for example, a lot less anti-Semitism spilled over from attitudes toward Israel.) This is one reason why the situation is so completely different from what it was in the 1930’s.

Although serious insofar as it involves violence and rekindling old stereotypes, the new, spillover anti-Semitism remains a marginal phenomenon – most Europeans, though critical of Israel, are perfectly able to distinguish between particular Israeli policies and Jews as such – and comes with a sell-by date. (It might be noted that France, in particular, has taken forceful steps against it under Sarkozy, efforts that have been lauded by Jewish organizations.) Ten years from now it will be ancient history and remembered, if at all, only for the opportunistic finger-waving from the other side of the Atlantic.

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j-m 02.01.04 at 2:45 pm

I don’t often agree with George Will but, following the link to his opinion piece provided above by Michael B., I came upon this comment in it that accurately reflects the heaviness my heart has acquired over the current campaign to delegitimize Israel as a nation state:

“Israel holds just one one-thousandth of the world’s population, but holds all the hopes for
the continuation of the Jewish experience as a portion of the human narrative. Will Israel be more durable than anti-Semitism? Few things have been.”

Annti Kauppinen comments: “Ten years from now it will be ancient history and remembered, if at all, only for the opportunistic finger-waving from the other side of the Atlantic.”

That is a risk I am increasingly willing to accept.

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eszter 02.01.04 at 3:26 pm

most Europeans, though critical of Israel, are perfectly able to distinguish between particular Israeli policies and Jews as such

I am not so sure. I would love to see some data exploring this question. I suspect no such data are available though.

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Michael B 02.01.04 at 3:49 pm

“…you proceed to tar the whole of Europe with the broadest of brushes.”

It’s a patently absurd charge, but to be clear as regards this type of construal, I did not do so nor was it my intent to “lump the entire gamut of European public opinion…” in the manner indicated.

Nonetheless. It has largely been European institutional frameworks that have funded (for one strikingly telling example) Arafat and have helped to advance the perduring pretense, the risible charade, that Arafat has been and continues to be a representative who sincerely seeks peaceful solutions.

Similarly it is a European institution, the ICC, that has continued to forward the blatant casuistry and farcical initiative that the security fence, the wall currently being built in Israel to protect against homicide/suicide terrorists and similar initiatives, should be formally prosecuted at the ICC as an anti-apartheid initiative.

The topic was widened to include anti-Israel biases and interests, and to question to what degree anti-semitism might find at least some cover within or collusion with anti-Israel initiatives. Thus it was entirely condign to use the term “European” within that broader, though still qualified context. To raise that question is not the same thing as to answer it, though it certainly does suggest it is a perfectly valid question within the overall European framework of anti-semitism.

“Europe” is a richly textured, highly variegated, even fathomless (and on-going) enterprise, a dynamic. For example, having recently read Remi Brague’s “Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization” (2002, tr. from the french title), and for other reasons as well, I would never presume such a simplistic, categorical reduction and wanted to make that much clear, at a minimum, given the tactics evidenced herein to evade, deny, categorically dismiss, use ad hominem inferences, etc.

Brague’s work represents the most thoughtfully astute and comprehensive attempt I’ve read to somehow come to terms, in all its depth and breadth, with what the term might indicate. For example, noting the first instance of the term appears in Herodotus, he also traces etymological origins (likely Semitic/Arabic) and a host of other influences. Though that example only serves to indicate his mode of questioning and initiating his thesis. It is largely Socratic with its suggestive tone, though he advances his own, more positive, thesis as well, certainly.

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joshua 02.01.04 at 3:50 pm

Full disclosure: I am an American Jew, a supporter of Zionism, and if I lived in Israel I would have voted for Amram Mitzna over Ariel Sharon in the last election.

I agree with Chris that to compare current European anti-semitism with the Nazism is a misdiagnosis and a great exaggeration.

That being said, I agree with anthony that the de-ligitimization of Israel is a cause for concern, and is both functionally anti-Semitic and a harbinger of worse things to come.

It is functionally anti-Semitic because there is no justification for Israel being singled out for more criticism and more condemnation than any other nation on earth. There is no reason European protestors should remain silent when Russia kills 200,000 Muslims in Chechnya in 13 years, but fill the streets with posters comparing Sharon to Hitler when Israel kills 2800 Palestinians in 3 years. There is no reason for the UN to be silent when Putin refuses to grant Chechnya independence, while piling on Sharon even as he becomes the first Israel Prime Minister ever to say, point blank, that the Palestinians will have their own state.

It was only in the mid-80s that the Palestinians signalled that they would be willing to accept the existence of Israel. 5 years later was the Madrid Conference, 7 years later was Oslo, 15 years later was Barak’s offer of a Palestinian state.

Israel hasn’t acted perfectly in that time, but neither have the Palestinians. There is plenty of blame to go around. But why is the tiny state of Israel, one state for the Jews compared to 60+ Islamic states and the 20+ Arab states, is the only country in the world that regularly has its right to existence questioned? Why do settlements delegitimize Israel but suicide bombings do not deligitimize Palestine? Why does the Wall delegitimize Israel, but the truly vile and widespread anti-Semitism of the Arabs not deligitimize Palestine? Why does Sharon deligitimize Israel but the fundamentalist, anti-gay, anti-women ideologies of the Arab world not deligitimze Palestine?

So, in my view, the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is not so thick. It is true that not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, but I believe it is also true that some criticism of Israel is functionally anti-Semitic.

So what accounts for this functional European anti-Semitism? I would identify three causes: 1) the old, cultural anti-Semitism; 2) leftist views that instinctively side with the weaker party; and 3) the new anti-Semitism of the Muslim immigrants (which has very nasty Nazi overtones).

Well, Chris is right that #1 is not a problem. #2 is a problem in that it biases Europe against Israel, but I don’t believe it’s such a problem that Europe would allow Israel to come to serious harm, because only a minority of Europeans are so extreme that they let their leftist advocacy for the Palestinians come to advocating an end to Israel.

(In their bias, I think America and Europe mirror each other: America dislikes the Palestinians, but won’t allow Israel to carry out ethnic cleansing and wants Israel to give the Palestinians a state. Meanwhile, Europe dislikes Israel, but won’t allow the Palestinians to destroy it.)

But the combination and interplay between these three causes of European anti-Semitism is worrisome. Imagine France in 50 years, where a greater percentage of the native population is rural because of differential birth rates and native flight from the cities, and where 25% of the population are Muslim immigrants.

The rural population tends to hold anti-Semitic view #1, because it is culturally more conservative. Meanwhile, the leftist, urban native population holds view #2, which has been reinforced for 50 years. Finally, the huge Muslim ghettoes hold anti-Semitic view #3.

Well, that’s a country at risk of falling apart between the countryside and the cities, and between the ghettoes and the suburbs. Hell, LePen is the first signs of this kind of national breakdown in France.

And wouldn’t it be natural for some smart politician to try to use anti-Semitism to hold the country together? To use the Jews as the scapegoat again?

Again, I agree with Chris that this problem can be exaggerated through misdiagnosis. But I do believe we should be aware that the potential for a real problem exists, and that it really is a much bigger threat than exists in the US.

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Michael B 02.01.04 at 3:54 pm

Oops, rather than “anti-apartheid” it should have read “apartheid” (in terms of the casuistry being advanced).

34

Mark 02.01.04 at 4:01 pm

Exaggerrating, or shall I say sexing up the “new anti-semitism” serves many purposes. It undermines “European” opinions regarding Israel and Iraq, it helps raise money for Jewish organizations, and it sells magazines and newspapers.

I’m troubled by the surge in anti-semitic violence, in particular in France. I have no reason to disbelieve reports that it is primarily perpetrated by young, recently-immigrated Arab men, but I sense in this description a defensiveness and distancing that worries me. I don’t percieve the kind of outrage from fellow countrymen that can dampen this trend. The French government now seems to be making an effort and I hope to see positive results. We’ll have to see.

One more thought-the availability Arab media. Watching Jews slit the throat of a Christian child and collect the blood in a bowl for making matzah may disinhibit the vulnerable few.

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silly me 02.01.04 at 4:46 pm

I support the UN.
I support the goals of the EU and thus the policies of the EU commission.
I oppose ideologies influenced by religion including zionism.
I don’t call occupied territory ‘disputed territory’.
So I’m supposed to be a anti semite according
to you lot here, the WJC and the EJC, the government of Israel, ML King, and many others.

That’s fine by me, but it doesn’t mean much to me anymore. If the UN and the EU are antisemitic, if opposing an ideology is anti-semitism, yes anti-semitism is rising, fast.

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Michael B 02.01.04 at 4:54 pm

With minor quibbles only, I can only heartily agree with and doubly emphasize Joshua’s post above; incisive, trenchant and thoughtfully revealing. Could add several similar and similarly telling questions, but will settle for one:

How can the contemporary variations of frontal assaults and other, more subtle and more covert, initiatives take place – as attempts to undermine or question Israel’s very existence, while the Arab/Muslim ideology of dar al Islam vs. dar al harb fails to receive the least bit of scrutiny by the Left?

What enormity of denial, evasiveness and head-in-the-sand logic or dismissiveness and ho hum apathy must such a huge imbalance of inquiry imply about the facades and posturings of the Left in Europe and elsewhere?

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Sebastian Holsclaw 02.01.04 at 6:29 pm

“Also interesting would be how we should adjust the data for the fact that anti-semitic incidents in the EU seem to be the work of recent Muslim immigrants while in the US they are from people whose families have been here for generations.”

Good heavens, GT do you read the actual sources I provide or do you scan for a minor ‘inconsistency’ and then shut your brain off? The US poll specifically shows a prevalance of anti-Semetic views among “…Hispanic-Americans who were born outside of the US.” Which would be pretty much an exact match for the recent Muslim immigrants problem which you misrepresent since many Muslim ‘immigrants’ are third generation in places like Germany, or so unassimilated as to not even speak French in places like France.

You might also note that the ‘too much power in our country’ question level in the US is fully half of the European answer to ‘too much power in international finance’. The fact that people in Europe tend to ascribe distant power as opposed to ‘in-country’ power helps conspiracy theories but not your case.

“My impression is that in the Western EU states, outside the segments of the Muslim community radicalised by religious fundamentalists and the organised Far Right this would be true.”

This is said while implying that the US and Europe have similar levels of anti-semetism. First of all I provided the source documents which Chris merely alluded to in the discussion, and they suggest that the US and Europe DO NOT have basically the same levels. Second, if you take out the Muslim immigrant population in Europe you get about the same level of anti-Semetism as the US ONLY by not excluding similarly anti-Semetic population of recent Hispanic immigrants.

I also repeat that the ‘European’ study excluded France. Which is silly considering the hugely anti-Semetic population of French Muslims, and which is silly considering France’s tepid response to acts of violence against Jews. “Don’t wear identifiable signs of your Jewishness”, indeed.

Sheesh, I’m getting worked up about this and I’m not even Jewish.

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Conrad Barwa 02.01.04 at 6:52 pm

“My impression is that in the Western EU states, outside the segments of the Muslim community radicalised by religious fundamentalists and the organised Far Right this would be true.”

This is said while implying that the US and Europe have similar levels of anti-Semitism. First of all I provided the source documents which Chris merely alluded to in the discussion, and they suggest that the US and Europe DO NOT have basically the same levels. Second, if you take out the Muslim immigrant population in Europe you get about the same level of anti-Semitism as the US ONLY by not excluding similarly anti-Semitic population of recent Hispanic immigrants.

Er, this was said by me, I think you might be mixing different comments here from someone else. Mine was a specific response to Chris’s points about anti-Semitism in Europe; I made no comparison or even reference to anti-Semitism in the US of which I have frankly no direct interest or knowledge of. As I have only a very limited experience of Europe – that too of a relatively small part of it; this is the only thing I can speak about with any degree of confidence. I should add being a non-European, my account is probably not worth all that much since I haven’t spent much time here. Not having been to the US, I am not in a position to imply anything at all about it, one way or another in this regard.

Sheesh, I’m getting worked up about this and I’m not even Jewish.

Well, uh, good to see you get worked up about racism. One thing I have been repeatedly told, and which has surprised me, by American students and colleagues studying in the UK is the degree of open racism they have seen or encountered here. Interestingly all of these complaints, however, were concerning racism displayed toward other minorities and this led me to revise my estimation of racism in the US of which I have only a vague and very rough idea.

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joshua 02.01.04 at 6:56 pm

I must disagree with the comments by “silly me.”

Again, my little full disclosure: I am Jewish and I support Zionism.

But I’m also an atheist. How can I be Jewish, Zionist, and atheist? Because Zionism wasn’t a religious movement. It was a socialist movement founded primarily by Jews who rejected the clericalism of their parents.

When the Jewish nation existed, it, like all ancient nations, had a national religion with its own god (like other nations had their own gods). When the Romans conquered this nation and scattered it into exile, the only way for the Jewish nation to retain its identity was to focus on the only thing still shared in common by Jews across the globe – the religion. The religion was only *one aspect* of the Jewish national identity, but it was the only element still shared in common.

But Zionism wanted to restore the Jews to their land, so that Jews could be like any other nation, rather than being the only nation that existed only on a spiritual plane.

That is why someone like Shimon Peres, who grew up a passionate Marxist, or someone like Ariel Sharon, who is totally secular, nevertheless feel a strong connection to the places the Jews lived in during Biblical times – not because they are religious, but because the Bible is a connection to the way the last Jewish nation.

And that is how I can be Jewish, Zionist, and atheist – because being Jewish is being part of a nation, and Zionism is the movement to restore this nation.

But as part of Jewish nationhood, yes, religious parties and religious people exist – just like they exist in Europe, America, China, etc. Nationality is not a simple concept, it is defined somewhat differently in different countries (for example, look at how France is trying to ban all religious symbols from the schools in order to encourage assimilation, while America endorses individual freedom as a way to encourage assimilation).

So, clearly, I disagree with you because I think your definition of Zionism as a religious movement is flawed.

But I disagree with you even more vehemently because the reason Israel comes up for condemnation by the EU and UN is *not* because it’s a religious movement. If that were the case, then why is Israel up for more condemnation than theocratic government? Why is Israel – where there are 1.5 million practicing Muslims and many thousands of Christians – up for more condemnation than Saudi Arabia, where you are not allowed to practice any religion but Islam, even in private?

If the EU and UN are condemning religion, then why is the Organization of Islamic Countries allowed to participate in international forums? Why is there still debate within Europe about whether the EU constitution should refer to Europe’s Christian roots?

Hell, what is Hindu nationalism in India, or the Orthodox iconography rising around fallen Russian soldiers in Chechnya, or Islamic parties in Pakistan?

I have no problem condemning fundamentalist Israelis. But it is functionally anti-Semitic if you condemn only Jewish religiosity, and not the far worse examples of religiosity elsewhere (hello Hamas! Hello Islamic Jihad! Hello Hizbullah!).

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Bob 02.01.04 at 7:09 pm

Do you think these reports in the media might have anything to do with the rise of anti-semitism in Europe?

“The Israeli army is under growing pressure to explain a series of deaths of Palestinians in a three-week operation in the West Bank city of Nablus. According to witnesses and medical evidence, at least two of the 19 deaths during the operation have the hallmarks of executions.” – from: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1136426,00.html

“A pathologist sent to Israel by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) announced today in Jerusalem that a Palestinian prisoner ‘died a violent and unnatural death’ in an Israeli hospital within twenty-four hours after his arrest.

“On April 27, 1995, Derrick Pounder, M.D., a professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Dundee in Scotland and a consultant to the Boston-based human rights organization, participated in the autopsy of Abded El Zasmed Harizat, 30, conducted at the Abu Kabir Pathological Institute in Tel Aviv. Dr. Pounder traveled to Israel at the request of the deceased’s family. . .” – from: http://www.phrusa.org/research/forensics/israel/forhar.html

“Physicians for Human Rights (USA) (PHR) conducted a medical and forensic investigation in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank from October 20-27, 2000 to investigate allegations of excessive use of force, including the use of prohibited ammunition in the current conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian demonstrators and authorities. The three-person physician team also collected information on attacks on ambulances, patients and health professionals. . . The PHR team found that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has used live ammunition and rubber bullets excessively and inappropriately to control demonstrators, and that based on the high number of documented injuries to the head and thighs, soldiers appear to be shooting to inflict harm, rather than solely in self-defense.” – from: http://www.phrusa.org/research/forensics/israel/Israel_force_2.html

“Khiam prison was a detention and interrogation centre during the years of the Israeli occupation in Southern Lebanon. From 1985 until the Israeli withdrawal this May, thousands of Lebanese were held in Khiam without trial. Most of them were brutally tortured – some of them died. Israel has always sought to escape responsibility for what was done in Khiam; Israel Accused asks where the blame for what Amnesty International calls “war crimes” really lies.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/correspondent/1002463.stm

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Mike 02.01.04 at 7:51 pm

Bob’s comment suggesting rising European anti-semitism arises from the behavior of the government of Israel is revealing. European jews are not Israelis; why should the former suffer for the supposed acts of the latter? Unless, of course, the real vice of Israelis is that they are jews.

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fred 02.01.04 at 8:02 pm

I can not offer much on this topic but to note that within thepast two days France has officially told Arab media to cease broadcasting anti-semitic remarks, for which, see http:www.Israpundit.com where the piece has been posted.
I note in passing that France is currently undergoing a fairly substantial large movement of its Jews to Israel…must be seeking better weather.

It is of course one thing to be anti-semitic in language and in print; another to employ acts of violence. And I believe that a substantial amount of hate now has undergone a revision from being anti-Jewish to be “anti-Zionist.”

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Doug Muir 02.01.04 at 8:06 pm

A study that looks at Western Europe, but not France, and not Eastern Europe either… okay.

Well: I live in Eastern Europe, and anti-Semitism is alive and well here. And I mean old-fashioned, unreconstructed mouth-breathing Elders of Zion stuff.

Not really what y’all are talking about, but still.

Doug M.

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Doug Muir 02.01.04 at 8:07 pm

Chris: I do think you’re doing a bit of dumpster-diving here. Do Americans, especially on the right, tend to overstate European anti-Semitism? Yes. Is Charles Krauthammer indicative of mainstream US opinion? No. You’re picking commentators whose overstatements are sloppy and particularly easy to attack, and that’s dumpster-diving by definition.

If you want to do this right, you should phone up Norman Geras. Norman is smart, he’s honest, and he believes that European — and British — anti-Semitism is on the rise, and a real and growing problem. I’d read an informed debate between the two of you with great interest.

But you slagging Krauthammer and Will… pfft. What will you do for an encore? Psychoanalyze Andrew Sullivan? Breathlessly reveal that Jim Lileks uses his three-year-old daughter as a rhetorical foil? Tell us that Ann Coulter doesn’t fact-check, perhaps?

Honestly.

Doug M.

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Chris Bertram 02.01.04 at 8:20 pm

Doug: I drew Norm’s attention to the Kuper article when it appeared (before I posted) and he and I have both exchanged emails and chatted on the phone. Norm may or may not post on this himself in the days to come. But because Norm doesn’t make the kind of extreme statements that I had an issue with here, and doesn’t have the ideological project of the right-wing commentators I was criticizing, it didn’t seem appropriate to include him. Perhaps you are right that the people I’m attacking here shouldn’t be taken seriously, but I was moved by the fact that they are, all over the blogosphere.

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Bob 02.01.04 at 8:54 pm

“European jews are not Israelis; why should the former suffer for the supposed acts of the latter?”

I agree. Perhaps the following helps to illuminate:

“The chief rabbi of Great Britain is a well-known figure in his native country and the nations of the Commonwealth, including Australia, Canada, Gibraltar and New Zealand.

“Yet ironically, the Orthodox rabbi’s work on radio, television and his column with the Times of London has made him extremely popular among the nation’s non-Jews. His harshest critics, it seems, come from within.

“‘The hardest part of my job is trying to persuade Jews to admire Judaism as much as non-Jews do,’ said Sacks in an interview before he addressed the International Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics in Burlingame.” – from: http://www.jewishsf.com/bk010223/sfasacks.shtml

Listening to Jonathan Sacks on the radio or reading his occasional journalism, it becomes easy to understand why he is so widely respected and liked. And he reciprocates that – he radiates humanity with intellectual buttresses. He wrote:

“I never thought I would have to write about anti-semitism. Until recently I hadn’t experienced it. I might have done. I went to Christian schools, St Mary’s Primary, then Christ’s College Finchley. We Jews were different and a minority. Yet not once was I insulted for my faith. . .” – at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,659149,00.html

What seems to have occasioned his recent troubles with some in the Jewish community in Britain is this:

“Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, today delivers an unprecedentedly strong warning to Israel, arguing that the country is adopting a stance ‘incompatible’ with the deepest ideals of Judaism, and that the current conflict with the Palestinians is ‘corrupting’ Israeli culture. . .” – from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,781113,00.html

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Ampersand 02.01.04 at 9:11 pm

Ezter wrote: Any chance that one may view the threat differently as a Jew? If one is a member of the group targeted with comments and violent crimes one may notice such instances more often than others.

But then again, one may not. This Jew thinks that implying that what’s going on in Europe today is at all comparable to “the final solution” – as George Will did – is absurd. Worse, it trivializes the Holocaust.

J-M quoted: “Israel holds just one one-thousandth of the world?s population, but holds all the hopes for the continuation of the Jewish experience as a portion of the human narrative.”

Notice how some pro-Israel Jews marginalize and dismiss the existence of non-Israeli Jews. We’re the majority of Jews, but since we don’t live in Israel, so we don’t count; certainly, there is no hope that our lives and our Judaism might comprise part of “the Jewish experience.”

I’m never sure what to respond when my (and my entire family’s) existence as Jews is so easily dismissed. This doesn’t seem like an appropriate forum for rage and obscenities, but anything less seems rather an understatement.

Anthony wrote: I have noticed that whenever I discuss Israel these days, that rather than justifiable concerns about Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, those I am discussing the issue with quickly move onto statements like ?Israeli should never have existed? or that ?of all the nations in the world Israel has the least justification for it continued existence?. The worst is ?Israel has lost the right to exist, since they are doing to the Palestinians exactly what happened to the Jews in Europe?. It is usually accompanied by some reference to the Neocons influence over George Bush. These are not stupid people, most of them I would class as part of the progressive left.

I haven’t noticed this. For instance, the current discussion on this thread hasn’t contained any such statements – is this discussion you’re currently participating in such an extraordinary exception?

I would point out, however, that there’s a big difference between saying that “Israel shouldn’t have been created” and “Israel currently has no right to exist.”

I don’t think the United States should have been created – this land should have remained the property of what are now called American Indians. It does not follow that I believe the US currently has no right to exist. It’s a logical error to assume that anyone who thinks the US – or Israel, or any other country – was created in an illegitimate fashion, must believe it has no right to exist in the present day.

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Michael B 02.01.04 at 9:24 pm

amp,

Do you believe Israel has a right to continue to exist?

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Ampersand 02.01.04 at 9:38 pm

If I must answer with a simple yes or now, I say “yes.” Yes, Israel clearly has a right to exist. Beyond any doubt.

If I’m permitted to suggest a more nuanced answer:

I think any nation has a moral right to exist only insofar as it serves the best interests of the people it rules, and the people it affects.

I therefore think Israel has far, far more right to exist than a country like Saudi Arabia, which goes very far against the interests of most of the people it rules. (Unlike the Saudis, I count women as people.) I can think of many countries that have less right to exist than Israel. Just by being a democracy, Israel has put itself firmly in the “has more of a right to exist than most” category.

On the other hand, I believe that Israel is not serving well the interests of the Palestinians under its rule in the occupied territories. (I don’t believe the claim that the PLO rules these areas; the PLO is a joke). Therefore, if the current dispute could be amicably resolved – either by a just two-state solution, or by a one-state solution in which Israel extends citizenship to all residents of the occupied territories – then Israel would have even more of a right to exist than it does today. In my opinion.

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Jim 02.01.04 at 9:42 pm

Do you think these reports in the media might have anything to do with the rise of anti-semitism in Europe?

Yes, Bob, media reports of abuses committed by Israeli soldiers may well encourage anti-semitism in Europe. Your comment is proof of it. My question (to less biased readers here) is this: why is Israel, the only country in the world fighting for its very survival (for purposes of comparison imagine Britain surrounded by hostile neighbours 25 times as populous and 50 times as large, many bent on its annihilation, all tacitly encouraging a massive IRA bombing campaign that claims the lives of thousands of Londoners annually) held to standards far above those used to judge say Russia in Chechnya? Where is the Russophobia? Where are the outraged editorials? Where are the demonstrations? Where are the boycotts? Where are the EU reports? Indeed, where is the subject in Crooked Timber?

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Michael B 02.01.04 at 9:50 pm

amp,

I appreciate the direct answer. I won’t broach the even wider topic herein (I don’t happen to believe a two-state solution is presently viable) since there is even reluctance to broach the topic of anti-Israel incitements or sentiments and the extent to which they overlap or at least work in tandem with anti-semitic incitements and prejudices.

But appreciate the direct answer anyway.

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Eve Garrard 02.01.04 at 9:57 pm

Can anyone offer a plausible explanation for the double standards about Israel which Jim so rightly points out, other than anti-semitism of one kind or another? That’s not a rhetorical question, I’d be really interested to know.

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Antti Kauppinen 02.01.04 at 10:11 pm

Joshua wrote of criticism of Israel: “It is functionally anti-Semitic because there is no justification for Israel being singled out for more criticism and more condemnation than any other nation on earth. There is no reason European protestors should remain silent when Russia kills 200,000 Muslims in Chechnya in 13 years”. Here, again, I think we should be more precise. Justification comes in many varieties. I can hardly speak for the entire European left, but I think few of Israel’s critics would disagree that the Russian repression of Chechens is, objectively speaking, a degree or two worse than what Israelis are doing to Palestinians. In that sense of justification, there is indeed no reason at all to single out Israel.

If that were the end of it, Joshua’s conclusion would follow: the most plausible explanation would be covert anti-Semitism. But, crucially, there are also _pragmatic_ issues and pragmatic justification. Are there any pragmatic reasons why criticism of Israel should be vocal than criticism of Russia, as it in fact is? If we look at that as dispassionately as possible, the answer seems to be affirmative. First of all, unlike Russia or any other regime subjecting another ethnic group to brutal military rule, Israel has many _defenders_ within the partially overlapping Western European and American public spheres – politicians, pundits, bloggers, and so on. It is _they_ who “single out” Israel, who seek to make an exception of it. Demonstrations and other forms of criticism are essentially a response to this attempt. Since there’s already a broad agreement on Chechnya, Tibet, and others, there’s not as much reason to convince others in the target audience, our own public and politicians.

A second pragmatic reason is that Israel couldn’t keep up its occupation without aid and support from the West, the US in particular. We are responsible for it in a more direct manner. Also, as a democracy and a small country, Israel is (in principle) more vulnerable to external pressure than, say, China. This is a kind of ‘can implies ought’ argument that no doubt appears unfair, but surely we should do good where we can, even if we can’t do it everywhere.

I think these two reasons, responding to those who would exonerate Israel and Israel’s dependence on the West, pragmatically justify and explain why Israel is criticized more than other countries that do even worse things. The third reason doesn’t amount to much of a justification but it is probably the best explanation for why popular feeling about Israel is negative: it is always in the news, and the news is never good. Normal, decent people can hardly watch pictures of the security wall dividing Palestinian farmlands or yet another column of tanks driving through already desolate shacks without feeling pity and sympathy for the average Palestinian. True, pictures of suicide bombings give rise to a similar instinctive reaction, and people do in fact sympathize with Israelis as well. But at the end of the day, it is Israelis who occupy Palestinian areas, not vice versa. They’ve got the guns and they call the shots. People root for David, not for Goliath. Indeed, when the image of small but defiant Israel surrounded by powerful enemies was current, the public opinion went the other way – another indication that it’s not driven by anti-Semitism.

Finally, insofar as Joshua meant that the European public should be more vocal about Chechnya, I very much agree. Russia has few defenders in the West, but unless pushed, governments will continue to make half-hearted efforts at best. The Russia of today is much more dependent on trade and aid than Soviet Union was.

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Gary Farber 02.01.04 at 10:26 pm

“‘Sheesh, I’m getting worked up about this and I’m not even Jewish.’

“Well, uh, good to see you get worked up about racism.”

Getting worked up about anti-semitism isn’t getting worked up about racism. Jews aren’t a race. (Of course, “races” aren’t “races,” but that’s another topic.) People convert to Judaism. Judaism is both a culture and a religion. For some it is both, for others just one. In no case is it biologically based.

Chris, in a case where there is uncertainty as to the level of persecution or oppression or danger for a people, might it not be best to err on the side of listening to their alarm with sympathy and an open mind, rather than err on the side of dismissing it as “garbage” and “absurd”?

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Michael B 02.01.04 at 10:31 pm

The Palestinians are also oppressed as underclass Arabs within the wider Arab/Muslim world as well, broadly regarded as second class citizens therein. The Left NEVER protests this aspect of the situation or other similar aspects.

You also elide the now plain fact that the Arab refugees in Palestine have been a cultivated set of pawns and cannon fodder used by wider Arab/Muslim interests and states in their strategies against Israel’s very existence. This too is an aspect that is never, seemingly, noted by the Left. If there is an exception to that I’d be interested in knowing about it.

Your arguments are so highly selective and exclusionary along so many aspects or lines of what you advance that it’s difficult to know where to begin. But those two notes are a beginning.

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Eve Garrard 02.01.04 at 10:39 pm

Antti, your ‘can-implies-ought’ explanation might account for the disproportionate criticism (though I’m puzzled at its implication that effective criticism of Middle Eastern countries other than Israel isn’t possible – why would we think that?). But how could it account for the double standards with respect to Israel’s right to exist? We can hardly believe that telling Israelis their country doesn’t have a right to exist is going to be effective in altering their behaviour.

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Eve Garrard 02.01.04 at 10:39 pm

Antti, your ‘can-implies-ought’ explanation might account for the disproportionate criticism (though I’m puzzled at its implication that effective criticism of Middle Eastern countries other than Israel isn’t possible – why would we think that?). But how could it account for the double standards with respect to Israel’s right to exist? We can hardly believe that telling Israelis their country doesn’t have a right to exist is going to be effective in altering their behaviour.

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Gary Farber 02.01.04 at 10:44 pm

“A second pragmatic reason is that Israel couldn’t keep up its occupation without aid and support from the West, the US in particular. We are responsible for it in a more direct manner.”

Egypt receives over $2 billion dollars a year in US aid, and is effectively a dictatorship. It could not stand without US support, let alone in the face of sufficient US pressure. Innumerable Egyptians are locked in jail, and/or tortured, while there is no democracy. Where are the marches against Egyptian oppression?

“Also, as a democracy and a small country, Israel is (in principle) more vulnerable to external pressure than, say, China.”

Where are the marches, and the agitation on the left, against Zimbabwe? Uzbekistan? North Korea? Cuba?

It doesn’t appear that being small is sufficient criterion to rate.

Interesting philosophy, though. “We’ll beat up on X, but only if X is small enough that we can really hurt them.” Don’t they usually call someone with this approach a “bully”?

“Normal, decent people can hardly watch pictures of the security wall dividing Palestinian farmlands or yet another column of tanks driving through already desolate shacks without feeling pity and sympathy for the average Palestinian.”

This begs the questions. Why is this on television rather than comparable, and far worse, scenes in Congo, or Eritrea, Columbia, Sudan, all of which have killed vastly more people than Israel has?

In Algeria, the government has killed upwards of 75,000 Islamicists. Where are the marches?

In Sudan, since 1983, over a million and a half dead, four and a half million displaced; doesn’t that rather dwarf the Israeli/Palestinian situation? Where’s the daily tv coverage?

Is it only democracies that allow tv cameras that are to be agitated against? Isn’t that perverse?

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Antti Kauppinen 02.01.04 at 10:59 pm

Eve, I don’t think _all_ criticism of Israel is justified in any sense. I was talking about mainstream European criticism that firmly (if not always explicitly – what is obvious need not be stated) distinguishes criticizing extremist Israeli policies from denying its right to exist. The latter would be a form of anti-Semitism, and I do not see any kind of justification for any kind of anti-Semitism. The former is the kind of criticism that was significantly reduced in volume when there was a credible peace process going on – in other words, criticism that depends on what Israelis do, not on what they are. Part of the problem with the new anti-Semitism brouhaha is that it assimilates the two, insinuating that Europeans will criticize Israel no matter what. As far as the mainstream (or the Left) goes, that is simply false.

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ahem 02.01.04 at 10:59 pm

Chris, in a case where there is uncertainty as to the level of persecution or oppression or danger for a people, might it not be best to err on the side of listening to their alarm with sympathy and an open mind, rather than err on the side of dismissing it as “garbage” and “absurd”?

Well, there’s the small matter that ‘sympathy’ and ‘an open mind’ aren’t the sort of terms one would use towards Charles Krauthammer or George Will. (Friedman too, in his current messianic phase.) Perhaps that could be construed as ‘blaming the messenger’, but in this case I’m more trusting of alarmed Jewish voices from within Europe than columnists in the US media.

(It’s also the right-leaning American media which has turned the castigating so-called ‘self-hating Jews’ into a perverse artform.)

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Michael B 02.01.04 at 11:01 pm

Title this post antti’s and the broader Left’s studied avoidance, myopia, willful blindness, evasiveness, casuistries, rationalizations, elisions, occlusions and self-referential forms of argumentation.

Another aspect of antti’s argument, and again this is something that just simply obdurately endures and persists among Leftists without even an attempt at justification, is that implicitly the implication is there that Arafat is an honorable representative to deal with. Or if not, the question posed again, why doesn’t the Left ever protest against Arafat, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, etc. – instead of more positively supporting him, both actively and via selective forms of presenting the overall situation for PR and other purposes? All that is not in Chechnya or Russia, it is part and parcel of the very power dynamic herein, the very one being addressed.

Or explain away the enculturation of life-long hate and incitements perpetuated by Arab refugees in Palestine and the broader Arab/Muslim populations. The blood libels and other forms of egregiously specious hatreds and prejudices promulgated especially among Arafat’s refugees but the broader part of that world as well? Explain why that aspect as well is never protested by the Left.

Or still again, why aspects of Israel are ever and always questioned, but Arab/Muslim motifs and ideologies including dhimmitude or dar al Islam vs. dar al harb ideologies and motifs are never protested as well by the Left as a part of the overall and highly consequential power dynamic?

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Bob 02.01.04 at 11:06 pm

“why is Israel, the only country in the world fighting for its very survival?”

For illuminating insights, both into the founding of Israel and the continuing conflict, I recommend Avi Shlaim: The Iron Wall (Penguin Book, 2001). The author, an Israeli, is professor of international relations at St Anthony’s College, Oxford.

In the United Nations General Assembly debate in November 1947 on the future of Palestine, the then British government abstained warning that partition would result in continuing conflict and so it has proved.

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Chris Bertram 02.01.04 at 11:33 pm

Gary Farber: Chris, in a case where there is uncertainty as to the level of persecution or oppression or danger for a people, might it not be best to err on the side of listening to their alarm with sympathy and an open mind, rather than err on the side of dismissing it as “garbage” and “absurd”?

Gary, there is some uncertainty about the level of oppression and danger. And the alarm of those on the receiving end of persecution should always be listened to with sympathy and an open mind. But since my post plainly referred not to the legitimate anxieties of those people but to the fantasies of some American commentators, your comment is beside the point.

Even given “uncertainty about the level of oppression and danger”, there is no reasonable construal of what that danger actually is in Europe at present that would justify anyone in thinking that a new Holocaust is around the corner.

I also note, since I’ve noticed, that you are not happy (in comments on Matt Yglesias’s blog) about my description of Thomas Friedman as a right-wing commentator. I have to tell you that in just about every country in Western Europe, Friedman would indeed be situated on the right and the fact that there is a question about this re the United States is testimony only to the fact that there is no left of any electoral significance in the US.

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Conrad Barwa 02.01.04 at 11:58 pm

Getting worked up about anti-semitism isn’t getting worked up about racism. Jews aren’t a race. (Of course, “races” aren’t “races,” but that’s another topic.) People convert to Judaism. Judaism is both a culture and a religion. For some it is both, for others just one. In no case is it biologically based.

Well, I don’t personally believe in “race” as a scientific category, but this is as you say a separate discussion. However, I think it is possible to talk of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ as socially constructed categories and phenomena. To take an example of race and racism here in the UK, some of it is directed at immigrants and their descendants from the Indian Subcontinent; now there isn’t any such thing as an “Indian” race, one can debate whether there is even such a thing as an Indian ethnicity( similarly I wouldn’t think of the Roma as a ‘race’ either). Unfortunately, these distinctions tend to be lost on those who feel that uncontrolled growth of these communities will lead to Britain becoming a “mongrel” race. This is why I would tend to class any such discrimination of groups based on supposed ascriptive or primordial identity as a form of racism and I think I would be strongly tempted to include any such discrimination based on somebody’s nationality, religion, culture etc. that sought to reduce their entire identity to a sole marker and then interpret it in a discriminatory fashion even though it might not confine itself to some biological theory of “scientific racism.” For example, I would be inclined towards seeing things like the “Tebbit cricket test” as a hidden form of racism. Other peoples’ milage may well differ.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 02.02.04 at 12:02 am

“Eve, I don’t think all criticism of Israel is justified in any sense. I was talking about mainstream European criticism that firmly (if not always explicitly – what is obvious need not be stated) distinguishes criticizing extremist Israeli policies from denying its right to exist.”

Can we please distinguish between mere words and real actions? Stating that you support Israel’s right to exist while actively propping up the PLO while they engage in suicide bombing is saying that you support Israel’s right to exist while acting to the contrary. I suspect that even in Europe you can still understand the saying ‘actions speak louder than words’.

But then again this is the continent where the French can take action against anti-Semetism by telling Jewish people not to wear clothing which makes them identifiably Jewish.

One of the key problems with this post is that it repeatedly treats European anti-Semetic violence as equivalent to US anti-Semetic sentiment. This is what so many people interpret as ‘dismissive’ of Jewish concerns or ‘excusing’ anti-Semetism. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention. But that is the effect.

And I note again that in a survey excluding France there was still 50% more serious anti-Semetism than is found in the US.

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David Bernstein 02.02.04 at 12:25 am

I have a short post on this at volokh.com, but I have to not how funny it is to see a poster recommend a book by Avi Shlaim, an “Israeli” who is a professor at Oxford. How long do you have to live outside Israel, and how hostile to Israel do you have to be, before anti-Zionists can no longer use you an “Israeli” shield?

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Antti Kauppinen 02.02.04 at 12:25 am

I came here via Brian Leiter’s blog, expecting if not a philosophical, then at least a civil and calm discussion. I’m not so sure that’s what’s going on. In line with what Ralph Wedgwood (I think) pointed out, the allegation that anti-Semitism once again reigns in Europe has become such an article of faith for some that alternative explanations for European attitudes toward Israel are flatly ignored, if not straightforwardly accused of the same sin. Thus, Gary and michael b give little consideration to my modest explanatory sketch and move on to talk about something else, like Zimbabwe or Arafat. I’d just like to emphasize that explanation is by nature contrastive. I was concerned with the question “Why Israel and not Russia?”. The answer to “Why Israel and not Zimbabwe?” or “Why Israel and not Arab propaganda?” need not be the same, though of course they should be consistent. I have no interest in answering all such questions – for one thing, I can’t pretend to have all the answers. I’d guess that many would fall under the following (very broad) categories: a) not a similar situation, b) not a similar history, c) you’re already doing it, so why should we? (ie. why doesn’t the left protest so loudly against the popularity of the Protocols in the Arab world – well, they’re already trashed by the pro-Israelis and there’s no reason to disagree with them, nor is there anyone here who would need to be convinced that this is a problem).

Keep up the good work, Chris.

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silly me 02.02.04 at 1:16 am

The rising anti-semitism is an existential danger for Israel. Because when this will enter politics, it will result in making Israel a pariah state as long as the occupation continues. And as the South Africa example shows, some societies can’t take that pressure. So for all those that think the occupation is neccesary for the existance and security of Israel, yes it is a serious danger. And given the fact the EU is already in the camp of the anti-semites according to some, the fight is becoming serious.

But blaming the European Muslim/Arab/North African immigrants is cheap. They are about to be blamed for everything wrong in Europe.
The support for Israel is currently in dispute among many Europeans. And the result of that dispute will affect Israel in a positive or negative way, sooner or later.

And it’s nice to try to deflect human rights issues in the occupied territories with worse situations all around the world, but that won’t help much. Most EU countries get a conviction for human rights abuses in some European court. That doesn’t affect our ability to critize others. In fact it enhances it.

And as Israel is a partner in many EU treaties it will be judged by the EU on human rights issues. And that is not something I just made up. It’s part of those treaties. And Russia and China and many others mentioned don’t have that many treaties with the EU.

Another rant from an anti-semite,

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Meryl Yourish 02.02.04 at 4:02 am

It seems to me that many of the commenters here would benefit by reading the suppressed EU report on anti-Semitism, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the public domain in Spain, France, Italy and Sweden, sections of the political left and Arab-Muslim groups unified to stage pro-Palestinian demonstrations. While the right to demonstrate is of course a civil right, and these demonstrations are not intrinsically anti-Semitic, at some of these anti-Semitic slogans could be heard and placards seen; and some demonstrations resulted in attacks upon Jews or Jewish institutions. In the Netherlands pro-Palestine demonstrators of Moroccan origin used anti-Semitic symbols and slogans. In Finland however, pro-Palestinian demonstrations passed without any anti-Semitic incidents. In Germany, and less so in Austria, public political discourse was dominated by a debate on the link between Israeli policy in the Middle East conflict and anti-Semitism, a debate in which the cultural and political elite were involved. In Germany and the United Kingdom the critical reporting of the media was also a topic for controversy. In other countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Finland there was no such heated public discussion on the theme of criticism of Israel/anti-Semitism (see country reports).

[…] The following forms of anti-Semitic activities have been experienced:
– Desecration of synagogues, cemeteries, swastika graffiti, threatening and insulting mail as well as the denial of the Holocaust as a theme, particularly on the Internet. These are the forms of action to be primarily assigned to the far-right.
– Physical attacks on Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues were acts often committed by young Muslim perpetrators in the monitoring period. Many of these attacks occurred either during or after pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which were also used by radical Islamists for hurling verbal abuse. In addition, radical Islamist circles were responsible for placing anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and in Arab-language media.
– Anti-Semitism on the streets also appears to be expressed by young people without any specific anti-Semitic prejudices, so that “many incidents are committed just for fun”. Other cases where young people were the perpetrators could be classified as “thrill hate crimes”, a well-known type of xenophobic attack.
– In the extreme left-wing scene anti-Semitic remarks were to be found mainly in the context of pro-Palestinian and anti-globalisation rallies and in newspaper articles using anti-Semitic stereotypes in their criticism of Israel. Often this generated a combination of anti-Zionist and anti-American views that formed an important element in the emergence of an anti-Semitic mood in Europe. Israel, seen as a capitalistic, imperialistic power, the “Zionist lobby”, and the United States are depicted as the evildoers in the Middle East conflict as well as exerting negative influence on global affairs. The convergence of these motives served both critics of colonialism and globalisation from the extreme left and the traditional anti-Semitic right-wing extremism as well as parts of the radical Islamists in some European countries.
– More difficult to record and to evaluate in its scale than the “street-level violence” against Jews is “salon anti-Semitism” as it is manifested “in the media, university common rooms, and at dinner parties of the chattering classes”.
– In the heated public debate on Israeli politics and the boundary between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, individuals who are not politically active and do not belong to one of the ideological camps mentioned above become motivated to voice their latent anti-Semitic attitudes (mostly in the form of telephone calls and insulting letters). Opinion polls prove that in some European countries a large percentage of the population harbours anti-Semitic attitudes and views, but that these usually remain latent.

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joshua 02.02.04 at 5:14 am

Let me summarize the recent comments by “silly me” and “Antti Kauppinen”:

1) Because Israel receives aid from America, it deserves more criticism.

2) Because Israel is party to agreements with the EU, it deserves more criticism from the EU.

3) Because pro-Israeli people criticize the Arab world, the left doesn’t have to.

4) Because Israel is Goliath and the Palestinians are David, people will root for the Palestinians.

Now, individually I think that each of these arguments makes some sense. But taken as a totality, they don’t add up. Because, in the end, the results of these arguments are criticism of the democratic, liberal state of Israel defending itself against terrorism, and silence when it comes to Chechnya, Algeria, Sudan, Congo, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, etc.

At some point, these abstract justifications become sophistry. At some point, we need to step back and ask what message are we conveying? Who are we supporting?

The left has had every opportunity to condemn Palestinian terrorism at the same time as it condemned Israeli settlements, or to support Israel’s right to exist while it condemned Israel’s policies. Just like the left had every opportunity to oppose war with Iraq while it condemned Saddam Hussein, or had the opportunity to oppose the US embargo of Cuba while opposing Castro’s dictatorship.

But instead, time and again, the left chooses to support the “underdog” blindly, without the common sense to recognize that democracy is better than dictatorship, liberalism better than terrorism, and “western” freedoms truly superior to the “culturally authentic” repression of other cultures.

Hey, I understand Palestinian terrorism too. Uneducated, occupied people will resort to bad means. Ehud Barak was once asked what he would be if he were a Palestinian, and he said that he would have been a militant, but then would have chosen the path of peace. That, I think, is a sensible answer.

But the fact that I understand Palestinian terrorism doesn’t mean I have to endorse it. I understand it, but it is still wrong. The Palestinians need to be told in no uncertain terms that their cause is just but that to kill civilians when there is a chance for genuine peace through negotiations is wrong.

The European left has not unequivocally said this.

Moreover, the European left has never said what Israel should do. This has been a failing of the left in general since 9/11 in the US and the Intifada in Israel. It is all well and good to say that Israel’s responses are too strong, but what should Israel do? Should Israel do nothing? Should it give more, and in so doing reward terrorism?

I have no problem with left-wing *solutions*. That’s why I would have voted for Amram Mitzna, because I think morally and politically there was a lot to argue for Israel leaving the territories. But the European left, and all too often the American left, does not offer solutions. It only offers criticisms. Everything the US and Israel does is wrong, while there is silence about what they should do, and silence about what the Arabs do.

My preferred solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was written up in The Nation two years ago by the head of Jews for Peace in the US. He correctly identified that these parallel concessions are impossible – neither side will ever believe that the other is doing as much as it is. Therefore, the only solution is to force one side (Israel, in this article) to make all its concessions up front (i.e., give the Palestinians a state and pull out completely), in return for NATO guarantees that if the other side (the Palestinians) do not meet their commitments, the first side (the Israelis) gets to invade with total NATO support. That’s a realistic solution, if you believe that peace can be attained once there is separation and two states for two peoples. But no one on the European left is arguing for this sensible plan. Instead, they just condemn everything Israel does. Even after 100 Israelis were killed in June 2002, all the condemnation was saved for Israel’s retaliation in Jenin.

Again – it doesn’t add up.

And finally, I wish I could believe that the left doesn’t criticize the Arabs because the pro-Israeli pundits already do it for them, and naturally they agree. But sadly, the wife of one of my best friends made me wonder. In an argument about Israel once, I asked her if she thought the horrible anti-Semitism in the Arab world might make the Arabs less likely to offer the Israelis the fair deal that the liberal Israelis would offer the Arabs – and her response was that anti-Semitism in the Arab world wasn’t important, what was important was to understand *why* the Arabs were anti-Semitic. I.e., if the Arabs were anti-Semitic, it was the Jews’ fault for making them anti-Semitic.

That was one of the scariest things I have ever heard. Sadly, it has really hurt my friendship with this person I loved dearly…

And besides, how realistic is it to assume that the left lays off Arab anti-Semitism because they agree with the pro-Israeli pundits? I have a hard time believing that the left doesn’t bother condemning the Arabs simply because they agree with Will, Krauthammer, and Friedman.

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Jim 02.02.04 at 6:07 am

Nice try, Antti, but…

1. It’s American money that supports Israel and we’re talking about European anti-semitism.

2. People root for “David”, you say? Ok, why not the Chechnyans?

3. European antagonism to Israel is a response to its “many defenders” among (American? certainly not European) “politicians, pundits, bloggers”? Gimme a break!

4. Israel is “always in the news, and the news is never good”. But don’t its, ahem, “defenders” control the media?

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silly me 02.02.04 at 6:51 am

Joshua,

It is not that Israel “deserves” more criticism,
it is Israel that gets more criticism because of those reasons.

My understanding of your aguments already ends when you write “the democratic, liberal state of Israel defending itself against terrorism”. I
don’t consider annexation, occupation and settlement building “defending against terrorism”.

So there I remain an anti-semite and I will call you an unashamed Israel apologizer.

To add another point – calling Mitzna left wing is indeed an accurate description given Israels political situation.
But the difference between your European “left” and the Israeli left is more than just solutions. His party has always accepted the annexation, occupation and settlement building, and when in power has executed these policies with as much vigor as the “right wing” likud.

So there’s not much overlap between your despised European “left” and Israels “left wing” Mitzna.

And last – the European “left” may not offer many solutions, but the Geneva accords are widely supported in Europe. Even by the “left” and the anti-semites.

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Jim 02.02.04 at 7:15 am

I remain an anti-semite

Ok, Silly Me, you’ve convinced us.

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Gary Farber 02.02.04 at 7:46 am

Chris said: “Gary, there is some uncertainty about the level of oppression and danger. And the alarm of those on the receiving end of persecution should always be listened to with sympathy and an open mind. But since my post plainly referred not to the legitimate anxieties of those people but to the fantasies of some American commentators, your comment is beside the point.”

I don’t care to defend Will or Krauthammer, but in this case I think they are largely reflecting the alarms of many ordinary Jews. Such alarms may or may not be justified (or, more precisely, it may be difficult to establish some precise metric as to how justified we could “objectively” declare them to be), but they exist and are wide-spread. And not simply because of propaganda, but because of context of history.

“Even given ‘uncertainty about the level of oppression and danger’, there is no reasonable construal of what that danger actually is in Europe at present that would justify anyone in thinking that a new Holocaust is around the corner. “

I don’t think there will be death camps in Europe in five years, and I don’t think any significant numbers do. But that’s not the point. One doesn’t want to wait even until an equivalent of Kristallnacht, let alone the camps, before one discusses alarming signs.

Chris, this is the sort of reason many Jews are hyper-sensitive about possible signs of anti-Semitism.

Many Jews are hyper-sensitive about possible anti-semitism because of great familiarity with three thousand years of history of it leading to pogroms, lynchings, murder, and expulsions.

The Jews in Germany in the 1920’s were no less secure in the most civilized nation on the continent, and most of them had no worries that a few random anti-Semites here and there could possible pose any danger. The idea was garbage, absurd!

But the history of anti-Semitism is hardly limited to the 20th century. That’s a mere blip on the screen, a second in the long passage of the history of anti-semitism.

And you’re asking that people not worry because of a mini-blip of some peaceful years in Europe on the blip of history of the 20th century? While, meanwhile, in the last sixty, post-war, years alone, Jews have been expelled from over twenty countries, hundreds of thousands forced to move, wars of a dozen countries were launched to exterminate the Jews in a particular country, and countless terrorist acts of mass murder were carried out, many in the past thirty years?

But you want no one to worry or be upset, because that’s an insult to Europe (I take it).

That’s absurd.

And while I’m entirely biased here (I’m Jewish, for those unaware), I’m rather inclined to favor not insulting the feelings of alarmed Jews by telling them their alarm is “garbage,” than to favor not insulting the feelings of Europeans/Britons who feel that their Union is being insulted when people point to such signs as the most prominent rabbi in France warning Jews it’s not safe to wear dress identifying one’s self as a Jew in public, or that it’s necessary to have armed guards in front of synagogues, and so on.

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Gary Farber 02.02.04 at 7:52 am

It occurs to me that when Chris says “But since my post plainly referred not to the legitimate anxieties of those people but to the fantasies of some American commentators, your comment is beside the point,” that he’s not aware that they are simply replicating a mass anxiety of ordinary people. Rest assured they are.

“I also note, since I’ve noticed, that you are not happy (in comments on Matt Yglesias’s blog) about my description of Thomas Friedman as a right-wing commentator. I have to tell you that in just about every country in Western Europe, Friedman would indeed be situated on the right and the fact that there is a question about this re the United States is testimony only to the fact that there is no left of any electoral significance in the US.”

I’m certainly aware that the US is what we mightly loosely call more “rightist” than Britain and Europe, but I’d still like to know what, other than generally favoring free trade as leading to a rising tide of wealth for all societies and people around the world, and favoring the Iraq war (as done what he construes the right way, which means a great many disagreements with how the Bush administration has and is doing it), makes Thomas Friedman “right-wing”? Exactly? What policies? (In general, he otherwise opposes and castigates most other Bush/Republican policies.)

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Chris Bertram 02.02.04 at 8:14 am

Gary,

I take your point about those anxieties, indeed I thought I’d already indicated as much in an earlier comment. But I think I can do that whilst disagreeing with your view that what Krauthammer et al are doing is merely to reflect those anxieties. Rather than being mere reflectors, those guys are exploiting those anxieties as a further means of fanning anti-European sentiment for other political purposes.

You, and some others, have taken my use of words like “garbage” and “absurd” as to be disrespectful or careless towards those whose legitimate anxieties I do recognize. Since those words rather detract from the substance of the post, I wish I hadn’t used them.

I’d also like to reiterate my belief that anti-Jewish violence (mainly from young Muslims) is a significant problem in Europe and one that everyone, but especially governments, should take seriously. Indeed the French government has been very active (despite claims to the contrary).

———

I should also note that David Bernstein of the Volokh Conspiracy has posted a response in which he disputes the claim made in the FT that age is not a good predictor of anti-semitic attitudes in the US.

———-

I’m going to close this thread now because I think useful discussion has probably come to an end. At any rate, I’m done with monitoring and responding to comments on this matter.

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