Jewish Journal

Letters to the editor: Arabs in Israel and anti-Semitism in Europe

Posted on Aug. 20, 2014 at 10:03 am

A Safe Haven

I’ve been many, many times to Israel, because we have lots of family living there, and there’s nowhere in the world we feel safer than when we are there (“Safest Place for Arabs? Israel,” Aug. 15). What David Suissa says is totally the truth: Arabs and Jews are together in shopping malls, beaches, cafes, on the streets, walking side by side, and you feel no strain or stress seeing them or being at their side. ... It could be such a great country if politics, hatred, anger and evil wouldn’t interfere.

Berta Rosenohl via jewishjournal.com

Europe’s Anti-Semitism: A Surge, or Business as Usual?

While Michael Berenbaum (“After the Fog of War: An Early Assessment,” Aug. 15) is justified in downplaying the hysterics voiced by some commentators that Europe is reverting to the type of Jew-hatred of the 1930s, his belittlement of a new and more insidious form of anti-Semitism currently sweeping the continent is unfortunate. 

It is true that since the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000 and Israel’s ensuing conflicts with Hezbollah and Hamas, it has become routine to witness the anti-Zionist multitudes on the European street calling for punitive measures against the Jewish state. Most recently however, the shrill chants of demonstrators odiously equating Zionism with Nazism has become distressingly commonplace. Moreover, the Jewish communities of Europe in the past few months have encountered daily harassment if not violent assaults. In France alone, an unprecedented migration of Jews fleeing to embattled Israel this summer is the result of such an intolerable environment. The fact that a Jewish resident of Paris or Amsterdam is afraid to wear a yarmulke, lest he be verbally or physically accosted, is reflective of this new hostility. 

Unlike Professor Berenbaum, more than a few mainstream European heads-of-state have readily acknowledged the advancing tide of anti-Semitism in their midst. These leaders are justifiably alarmed by the emergence of right-wing anti-Semitic political parties that have increasingly gained popular appeal in such countries as Greece, Hungary, Belgium, and France, and whose affiliates matter-of-factly engage in Holocaust-denial while aspiring for the ethnic cleansing of Europe (including the Jews). Not to mention that the broad spectrum of left-wing European political voices — expressed in Parliament buildings, press outlets, non-governmental organizations and mass opinion — have continued to demonize Israel as one of the most heinous nations in the world.

Berenbaum’s differentiation between the “anti-Semitism in Europe” (mainly characterized by Muslim immigrant youth) and the “anti-Semitism of Europe” is untenable. These categories are simply not mutually exclusive. For an alternative perspective, I would advise Professor Berenbaum to refer to the Anti-Defamation League’s latest report (“Violence and Vitriol,” released last week), which systematically delineates the “dramatic surge of anti-Semitism” afflicting Europe. 

Dror Yaron, Los Angeles

Michael Berenbaum responds:

Dror Yaron has made my point. Nothing has changed; let me explain again.

Since 2000, large Muslim populations in Europe — not of Europe — regard events in the Middle East as a trigger to attack local Jews. The left wing and the human rights community — usually opposed to anti-Semitism — have turned against Israel — and will join them in demonstrations, not necessarily in attacks on Jews.

Comparisons of Israelis and/or Jews with Nazis has been rampant since 2000.

Israel can fuel the flames of anti-Semitism. Sadly, Zionism is not a solution to the problem of anti-Semitism.

Radical Islam is anti-Israel in a manner that includes Jews, all Jews.

What has changed is:

Governmental leaders in Europe have spoken out against anti-Semitism, strongly — not so in the previous anti-Semitic eruptions since 2000. 

European governments have been more supportive of Israel’s right to respond to Hamas rocket attacks and thus deprived the demonstrators of essential oxygen.

Arab leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have quietly and not so quietly sided with Israel — so, too, Mahmoud Abbas has not been averse to Israel weakening his rival Hamas.

Hamas is more isolated than it has ever been. Sadly, that makes it more dangerous because it has little to lose.

Jews are powerful. And people with overwhelming power are not believed to be victims.

The dialectic of Jewish power:

The power of Israel is its weakness — many automatically and thoughtlessly side with the underdog to level the playing field.

The weakness of Israel is its power — its moral power. It is restrained in using the overwhelming power it has because it is unwilling to kill wantonly or to lose its young.

No reason to panic, every reason to be vigilant and concerned.

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