Anti-Semitism, Real
And Exaggerated

By Jacques Schuster
12-12 03

Much was revealed by the study of anti-Semitism in Europe that caused such a controversy when the European Center for Monitoring Racism decided to shelve the results.
It showed a growing distancing from Israel and from European Jews, the ostensible representatives of the Jewish state. It exposed the failure of the immigrant absorption and integration policies adopted by European countries toward their Muslim minorities. And finally, the attitude to the report, whose data was not always well-grounded, showed how much hostility there is to Europe, particularly among members of the coalition parties in Israel, and the disproportionate manner in which they use the ghosts of anti-Semitism to distract themselves and Israeli public opinion in general from their own domestic problems.
First to the matter of anti-Semitism. Since September 11, it is being felt the way anger toward America is felt. But this is not the old style of race hatred against Jews; rather, it is more a general rejection of everything Israeli. Jews are identified with Israelis, just as the Israeli public is identified with its government. That first identification is more grave - it shows that hundreds of years of life in Europe and the memory of the genocide of the Jews has not been enough for the Jews to be recognized as citizens of their countries.
Add to that the criticism of Israeli policy. It can be justified, but the intensity with which it is expressed discloses not only the extent to which Germans are unable to put themselves in the place of a people suffering from constant terror; it also reveals a desire to disconnect, to get rid of decades' worth of complexes.
There is a lot to say about the Sharon government. However, the talk about an "Israeli war of destruction" and the frequently expressed sympathy for suicide bombers exposes a desire to get rid of the burden of guilt and to blame it on those who bother them with finger-pointing at the past. This is indeed a new phenomenon and unpleasant, but it is not threatening.
The real danger comes from the Muslims who have turned extremist. The torching by Islamic extremists of synagogues and Jewish schools in France is indicative of this. Europe prefers to ignore this. If it did not, its governments would have to admit that their multicultural policies have failed. They did not achieve the integration and absorption they meant to achieve. They created ghettoes in which powerful Muslim minorities openly fight against the Western world's values. Moderate Muslims have long been warning about such groups, which believe that they can bring the Middle East conflict to Europe. These groups operate according to the crude simplistic precepts of Arab dictators. Without the frightening ghosts of America and Israel, many Islamic intellectuals and clergymen would find it difficult to explain to their people why their situation is so much worse than that of other countries in the world. The Islamists adopted strategies of vagueness and blurred reality and then added a suspicious paranoia of modern civilization that should be opposed not only in Europe but everywhere in the world.
Israelis will hurry to agree with this analysis, but many of them instinctively regard Europe as the source of the problem. The news from the continent where anti-Semitism flourished can still inspire fears that are not proportionate to reality. As in the past, Israel feels itself to be "the Jew of the nations" - shoved aside, isolated and threatened. This is why Israeli responses often appear so exaggerated, especially when compounded by the tendency, especially among Likud politicians, to denounce as anti-Semitic statements and expressions that are frequently only criticisms of their policies. The minute something is described as hostile to Jews, it can be shoved aside without having to deal with the criticism.
But all this has practically nothing to do with the European reality, which is less threatening than the Israelis believe but more worrisome than the Europeans want to think. Those who want to see only anti-Semites in Europe should remember the days of Yitzhak Rabin. Practically never in its history was Israel so beloved on the continent as it was in that period.
- The writer is foreign editor of Die Welt, where this article originally appeared.
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