Feb 3rd 2015

In Defense of the Jews, Again

MADRID – Despite the impression given by massive unity rallies throughout France, the recent attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo does not mean that freedom of expression is under any serious threat in Western Europe. Nor does it indicate that Islamic radicalism is somehow about to engulf or transform Western societies. The threat that it does highlight is a less publicized one: the resurgence of discrimination and violence against Europe’s Jews.

Charlie Hebdo – the last vestige of a bawdy and somewhat savage nineteenth-century French tradition of outrageous caricature of religious and political figures – may well be an ideal icon of free expression. Europeans rose to defend a vital principle; free speech, however vicious, retains a place in any democracy.

Likewise, “Eurabia,” Bat Ye’Or’s prophecy of Islamic doom for the West, simply is not emerging. No Islamic parties hold seats in European parliaments; few leading Muslim figures feature in Europe’s major centers of cultural and political power; and European Union institutions are practically bereft of Arabs and Muslims.

Efforts by radicals to recruit and indoctrinate young European Muslims do not reflect the inexorable rise of Islamist – or even Islamic – influence in Europe. Rather, they highlight the radicals’ desperation to influence a region where the overwhelming majority of Muslims aspire to integrate into, rather than challenge, the established order.

What is truly under threat in Europe is its Jewish community. In 2006, the French Jew Ilan Halimi was kidnapped and brutally tortured in a cellar for three weeks, resulting in his death. In 2012, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi were gunned down in Toulouse. And last April, a Jewish couple in a Parisian suburb were robbed, because, as the attackers put it, “Jews must have money” (though that did not explain why they then raped the woman). A month later, a French jihadist attacked the Jewish museum in Brussels, leaving three dead and one critically wounded. A few months after that, a mob assaulted a synagogue in Paris.

None of these events sparked anything remotely resembling the public outrage of recent weeks. Had the murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris, carried out by a confederate of the Charlie Hebdo attackers prior to their capture, occurred in other circumstances, one can assume that it would not have fueled a widespread movement to defend the values of the French Republic.

"Had the murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris,.....occurred in other circumstances, one can assume that it would not have fueled a widespread movement to defend the values of the French Republic."

Some argue that the surge in anti-Semitic violence in Europe is motivated primarily by the plight of the Palestinians. But, according to a 2012 poll, more Europeans believe that violence against Jews is fueled by long-standing anti-Semitic attitudes, rather than anti-Israel sentiment.

Radical Islam propagated hatred for Jews long before Zionism, and it will continue to do so after the creation of a Palestinian state. Given this, it is not surprising that the increasing visibility of Islamist extremism has, by capturing the attention of frustrated young Muslim men in Europe and elsewhere, spurred increased violence against Jews.

But the problem runs deeper, giving Jews the impression that they have no future in Europe. A recent YouGov poll found that a substantial share of the French and British populations hold anti-Semitic views. Another poll, conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University, showed that, in 2013, some 63% of Poles believed Jews conspire to control the banking system and the world media.

This has serious implications not just for Jews, but for Europe as a whole. As Hannah Arendt pointed out six decades ago, the rise of anti-Semitism fueled Europe’s descent into totalitarianism. With right-wing extremist and populist movements gaining traction in many countries, Europe’s political system – and the values that underpin it – is at risk.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recognizes this danger. In a recent speech at the National Assembly that recalled Emile Zola’s attack on the “blind stupidity” of Jew-hatred almost 120 years ago, he asked: “How can we accept that in France…shouts of “Death to the Jews!” can be heard in our streets?...How can we accept that French people can be murdered because they are Jewish?” He then warned that the revival of anti-Semitism in France – apparent, for example, in the anxiety over the Holocaust’s inclusion in the French school curriculum – indicates a crisis of democracy.

But Valls remains the only European politician to have highlighted the danger with the sense of urgency that it merits. It is time for his counterparts to step up, and doing so should not rule out bold policies, free of any complexes, aimed at influencing Israel’s policy toward Palestine.

At the same time, it is a dangerous fallacy to seek redemption for a problem that is so deeply ingrained in Europe’s history – and in Islam’s – by blaming it on the Israel-Palestine conflict or on young, alienated Muslims. Europeans must take a good hard look at themselves if they are to avoid falling back into the clutches of fear, hatred, and appalling politics.



Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2015.
www.project-syndicate.org




 


This article is brought to you by Project Syndicate that is a not for profit organization.

Project Syndicate brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere. By offering incisive perspectives on our changing world from those who are shaping its economics, politics, science, and culture, Project Syndicate has created an unrivalled venue for informed public debate. Please see: www.project-syndicate.org.

Should you want to support Project Syndicate you can do it by using the PayPal icon below. Your donation is paid to Project Syndicate in full after PayPal has deducted its transaction fee. Facts & Arts neither receives information about your donation nor a commission.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."