Saturday, October 08, 2005

White Europeans? No!

A new study on anti-Semitic incidents in Europe brings out some unexpected truths:

The question of the identity and motives of attackers of Jews has occupied Jewish communities and organizations in recent years, as well as law enforcement authorities and researchers. In numerous incidents, the victims reported that their attackers appeared to be Arabs, and in France - mainly of North African origin.

These testimonies, and the fact that the steep rise in violent actions against Jews occurred just after the outbreak of the second intifada, led many to the conclusion that the clashes in the Middle East, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, are the reason for the violent incidents against Jews in Europe. It seems that this conclusion was influenced to no small degree by the worldview of the speakers and writers, and by political needs.

Another thesis regards anti-Semitism in Europe as part of a campaign waged by radical Islam against the West. The findings of London police investigators challenge these assessments, which completely disregarded the local social and economic background to the acts of violence against Jews.

One important finding is that "white Europeans" - that is, non-Muslims - continue to be the central factor in the perpetration of hate crimes against Jews.

The second important finding is that the absolute majority of the perpetrators, including immigrants and children of immigrants, did not act as agents of an extremist group and carried out their actions without any advanced planning.

These findings are consistent with the study conducted in France by Jean-Christophe Rufin under the auspices of the French interior ministry. A salient characteristic of the incidents in both France and Britain is that many of the perpetrators are immigrants who arrived from countries that have no direct connection to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Moreover, the changes in the number of incidents from month to month were indeed influenced by developments in the Middle East, but also by other factors, such as the period of Jewish holidays. In any case, no change was evident in the characteristics of the incidents following developments in the Middle East.

Thus, the incidents related to the Middle East, such as the extreme anti-Israeli propaganda that includes anti-Semitic motifs, comprise only one catalyst for the feelings of hostility that are expressed, among other ways, in spontaneous violence. This conclusion leads to a very pessimistic feeling about the way anti-Semitic stereotypes are adopted by immigrants and their children in Europe.

On the other hand, the insight that this is not a "Middle Eastern import" or "Bin Ladenism," but rather a reflection of internal European problems, should motivate the Europeans to wage an educational battle against anti-Semitism. At the same time, it also should encourage Jewish leaders to try to promote dialogue with moderate Muslim leaders in Europe, while rejecting anti-Semitic stereotypes on the one hand, and Islamophobic generalizations on the other.

I remember a quote from Jacques Chirac a few years back:

“Stop saying that there is anti-Semitism in France. There is no anti-Semitism in France and, moreover, there are no anti-Semites in France.”

So, now we know that not only is there anti-Semitism in France, but it's perpetrated, in many cases, by real French people. Who woulda thunk it?