The Old News of ‘New Anti-Semitism’
An Associated Press article by Diaa Hadid, filed from Tel Aviv and published Wednesday, warns of a potential increase in anti-Semitism and possible anti-Jewish violence in Europe if Israel carries out a military assault on Iran. The piece focuses on Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, speaking at Tel Aviv University “after the presentation of an annual report on worldwide anti-Semitic attacks” and in advance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Kantor said “he feared a minority of angry, extremist European Muslims who live in impoverished neighborhoods might use an Israeli attack [against Iran] as a pretext to hit local Jews, particularly in France and Great Britain.”
The report cited by Kantor was issued by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry. And yes, the Kantor Center is indeed named after Moshe Kantor himself, who paid for its creation in 2010. Kantor is not only the head of the EJC, he’s also the Chairman of the European Jewish Fund (which he established in 2006) and, with his net worth of $2.3 billion, one of the richest people in the world.
AP quotes Kantor as saying, “If Israel attacks Iran, it will be a dramatic increase of anti-Semitic, very violent attacks against Jews. And the vehicle for the realization of the attacks will be these enclave communities, where the level of hatred is very high and they are prepared to attack enemies inside their countries.” An Israeli assault on Iran would produce, in Kantor’s words, a “tsunami of hate against Jews.”
Note how Kantor worries that an actual, unprovoked violent attack by a nuclear-armed state against a non-nuclear-armed state is called a “pretext” for potential, future anti-Semitism in Europe. So what are Kantor and the EJC doing about this? Well, AP reports that “his group is prodding European governments to take more measures to protect Jewish communities. He said its biggest efforts were focused on combatting anti-Semitism in the radical fringes of European Muslim neighborhoods.” Kantor also described this alleged latent and potential violence emanating from Muslim communities in Europe as “a bomb ready to explode.”
That’s right. Kantor isn’t using his platform in Tel Aviv and position in Europe to warn against an illegal Israeli attack; no, he just wants more protection for European Jews if and when such an attack occurs. Apparently, the ancient community of 25,000 Iranian Jews don’t need similar protection for Israeli missiles and bombs.
But, this type of fear-mongering about the so-called “new anti-Semitism” is old news. While the provocation – “pretext” – is now linked to Iran, in the past it has been focused more on Palestine.
Over eight years ago, in March 2004, Los Angeles Times staffer Jeffrey Fleischman wrote, “Intolerance toward Jews is changing. Traditional anti-Semitism is coinciding with leftist opposition to Israel’s response to the Palestinian intifada. And attacks on Jewish institutions in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere suggest that a burgeoning population of frustrated Muslim men is transplanting Middle East animosities into Europe.”
Despite describing Europe as “an eloquent testament to constitutions and human rights,” Fleischman claims that, “as Europe reinvents itself, so does the way it hates.” He also quotes Cobi Benatoff, then-president of the European Jewish Congress, as issuing a “warning cry, a warning to Europe,” saying, “Anti-Semitism and prejudice have returned. The monster is with us again. What is of most concern to us, however, is the indifference of our fellow European citizens.”
Naturally, the Palestine connection is made. “The backlash against Jews over the Palestinian struggle to gain statehood is more pronounced in countries with large Muslim populations such as France, where about 700,000 Jews live amid more than 5 million Muslims,” Fleischman reports. “Germany has about 100,000 Jews and 3.5 million Muslims, and Britain has 300,000 Jews and about 2 million Muslims.”
Look at how outnumbered they are! Those poor, potential victims, adrift in a sea of bearded barbarity! How spooky!
But this type of hysteria is nothing new.
In 2006, journalist Jonathan Cook reported that there has been an intense effort on the part of the Israeli government to push the concept and fear of the “new anti-Semitism” dating back decades and reemerging more stridently in 2002. Cook explained that “Israel alerted the world to another wave of anti-Semitism in the early 1980s, just as it came under unprecedented criticism for its invasion and occupation of Lebanon. What distinguished the new anti-Semitism from traditional anti-Jewish racism of the kind that led to Germany’s death camps, said its promoters, was that this time it embraced the progressive Left rather than the far Right.” This narrative was again picked up twenty years later by members of Ariel Sharon’s administration, and championed by a rather familiar character. Cook reports,
Like its precursors, argued Israel’s apologists, the latest wave of anti-Semitism was the responsibility of progressive Western movements – though with a fresh twist. An ever present but largely latent Western anti-Semitism was being stoked into frenzy by the growing political and intellectual influence of extremist Muslim immigrants. The implication was that an unholy alliance had been spawned between the Left and militant Islam.
Such views were first aired by senior members of Sharon’s cabinet. In an interview in the Jerusalem Post in November 2002, for example, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that latent anti-Semitism was again becoming active:
“In my view, there are many in Europe who oppose anti-Semitism, and many governments and leaders who oppose anti-Semitism, but the strain exists there. It is ignoring reality to say that it is not present. It has now been wedded to and stimulated by the more potent and more overt force of anti-Semitism, which is Islamic anti-Semitism coming from some of the Islamic minorities in European countries. This is often disguised as anti-Zionism.“
The entire Cook article is vital reading on the subject.
The disingenuous association of anti-Semitism with progressive ideology, along with the absurd conflation and equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, has only been further exploited in the intervening years and the examples are legion.
The American Jewish Committee released a lengthy report in 2002 that declared, “Over the past two years the specter of anti-Semitism has spread over that part of peaceful, democratic, and law-abiding Europe that prides itself on the high degree of safety it affords its inhabitants.” Written by Villanova professor Gordon Murray, the report charged that, due to “the one-sided condemnation of Israel and the failure of [European] governments to condemn atrocities committed against Israelis, along with “their unbalanced, strongly pro-Palestinian line in the Middle East conflict, Western European governments have given a pass to those who wish to play out the intifada on the streets of Paris, Antwerp, Madrid, and Berlin.” Murray also condemned the “left” for its support for the Palestinian cause, in part blaming the “left’s sympathy for Palestinians and antipathy for Israel on, what he deemed, “the left’s congenital anti-Americanism.”
In September 2008, Paul A. Shapiro, Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. delivered the keynote address at a conference in Bucharest, Romania. In his speech, which warned of the “dangers of resurgent antisemitism” in Europe, Shapiro described the “multiple agents” responsible for the trend, “each capable of being effective with one or more audiences:”
1) Radical and jihadist elements within Islam; (2) right-wing bigots, including neo-Nazis, skinheads, paramilitary militia movements, ultra-nationalists, Holocaust apologists; (3) left-wing ideologues, in particular in the European region, as well as some more mainstream intellectuals, who in the current atmosphere are susceptible to anti-Semitic expression or to the use of code words (e.g., “New York,” “the Israel Lobby”) to express negative views of Jews and protest Jewish “power” and “influence”; (4) extreme anti-Zionists; (5) representatives of a variety of religious denominations who, through their preaching, writing, or speech tap into religious fervor and belief to assault the legitimacy of Judaism and Jews.
Shapiro also stated that this bigotry manifests itself in many ways, not only is physical attacks against Jews or Jewish organizations, but also in the form of “boycotts and divestment efforts against Israel” and “anti-Zionism.” Shapiro continues,
Scholars debate whether anti-Zionism is necessarily and always to be understood as a form of antisemitism. Many argue, I believe correctly, that one can be critical of specific Israeli policies and actions and not be antisemitic. However, what is often called “legitimate criticism of Israel” frequently crosses the line and becomes vilification of the Jewish state as such. This is characterized by demonization, delegitimization, and judging Israel by double standards, i.e., standards not applied to others. Denunciations of Israel as a “Nazi state,” an “apartheid state,” a state guilty of “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide” are antisemitic. Demonizing Israel, denying its right to exist, and attributing its perceived faults to its Jewish character crosses the line, encouraging both verbal and physical violence against Israel and against Jews in general.
So how real is this threat? Well, the report cited by European Jewish Congress head Moshe Kantor, while noting “an increase in cases involving harassment and violence against Jews worldwide, singling out western Europe, Australia and Canada as three of the places most affected by the trend, also “found that on average the number of verbal threats and vandalism cases against Jews were down 27% in 2011 with 446 incidents compared to 614 in 2010.” Furthermore, “57% of hate crimes involved vandalism.”
“The decrease was the second year in a row that the research center, which focuses on the study of European Jews, has counted fewer global anti-Semitic attacks,” reported The Jerusalem Post.
The Times of Israel was quick to point out that the “Antisemitism Worldwide 2011″ study alleged that “[r]adicalization among young Muslims, as well as the growing dissemination of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda online, contributed significantly to the increase in harassment and incitement throughout the world,” adding that “France led the list of countries where major violent incidents occurred with 114, followed closely by the UK with 104 cases.” The report also claimed that, while “the number of attacks declined in 2011…they were generally more violent than in previous years.”
By contrast, in 2010, the organization Human Rights First reported, “Authorities in France do not report explicitly on violence against Muslims, but their reporting of racist and xenophobic hate crimes offers a window into the problem of anti-Muslim violence, with 33 percent of reported incidents perpetrated against people of North African (Maghreb) origin, who are predominantly Muslim. In 2009, authorities reported 1,026 racist or xenophobic hate crimes, a 219 percent increase from 2008 (467).”
Additionally, a 2009 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) that reported discrimination against immigrants and minorities in the EU found that “1 in 10 of all Muslims surveyed (11%) was a victim of racially motivated ‘in-person crime’ (assault, threat or serious harassment) at least once in the previous 12 months.”
The research, compiled in 2008 via face-to-face questionnaire interviews of a total of 23,500 immigrant and ethnic minority people in all 27 Member States of the EU, also indicated that, if the data were translated “to the entire Muslim population in the Member States where Muslim respondents were surveyed, the level of victimisation would extend into thousands of cases every year that are not recorded by the police as racist incidents in the majority of Member States.”
The FRA report also stated, “On average 1 in 3 Muslim respondents (34% of men and 26% of women) stated that they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months. Those Muslim respondents who had been discriminated against stated that they had experienced, on average, 8 incidents of discrimination over a 12 month period.”
This is not to mention the actual laws and policies implemented in the West in the past few years that explicitly discriminate against and brutalize Muslims, such as bans on clothing and architecture and the systematic, institutionalized destruction of equality, human rights and civil liberties.
The association of Muslims in Europe with both violence and anti-Semitism is also completely disingenuous. Between 2006 and 2008, a mere 0.4% of all terrorist attacks in Europe could be attributed to extremist Muslims. Meanwhile, a recent survey about anti-Semitic sentiment conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in ten European countries and which reportedly found increased levels of bigotry against Jews within some European populations, polled only 500 people in each country and compiled (or at least reported) absolutely no data on the religious identification or political ideology of the respondents.
The exploitation of this “new anti-Semitism” charge as a method of policing speech and terminology, dismissing historical events, marginalizing comparative narratives, and delegitimizing the efforts of those who challenge the inherent racism, colonialism and ethno-religious exclusivism of Zionism is laid bare in a statement by Dr. Roni Stauber, a senior research fellow at the Kantor Center and one of the report’s authors:
“We began compiling these reports in 2001 and while we were very strict at the beginning, about differentiating between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in recent years it has become virtually impossible.
“The data derived suggests that the propaganda promoted by the world’s radical Left and far Right have meshed together the hatred for Israelis and that of Jews; and have created the perception that all Jews are ‘in cahoots’ with Israel, and therefore anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are the same.”
The purpose of the “new anti-Semitism” charge is abundantly clear: it not only serves to fear-monger about Muslims in Europe but also, perhaps more importantly, is a way to demonize and cow into silence critics of Israeli policy and advocates for human rights and international law.