December 3, 2003 | Scripps Howard News Service

Hatred, European-style

In the wake of September 11th, people of good will were naturally concerned that innocent Muslims might be scapegoated.

But in Europe, something else happened: anti-Semitism surged.

For example, in recent days a Jewish school near Paris was firebombed and two synagogues in Istanbul were attacked by terrorist truck bombers. A member of the German Parliament suggested that the Jews bear collective responsibility for atrocities committed by communists during the Russian Revolution of 1917. Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis said of Israel: “This small nation is the root of evil.”

To its credit, the European Union commissioned a study of anti-Jewish hatred, incitement and violence, its causes and possible cures.

To its shame, the watchdog group that undertook the study – the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) — decided not to publish it.

Why not? According to Britian's Financial Times the reason was simple: The 112-page study, “Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the European Union,” found that anti-Semitism isn't just for Nazis anymore. In particular, EUMC brass feared that one of the report's key conclusion — that Muslim and pro-Palestinian groups have generated a new wave of hatred — could be “inflammatory.”

The EUMC study has now been leaked and is available on a number of websites. It makes for disturbing reading – even though it neglects what may be a major source of Judeo-phobia in an increasingly interconnected world: the propaganda now tolerated and sometimes encouraged even in moderate Arab and Muslim countries.

For instance, both Egyptian and Syrian television have broadcast series based on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a forged document that originated in Czarist Russia and which maintains that a Jewish cabal is taking over the world. Hizbollah TV has been broadcasting a dramatization showing orthodox Jews slitting the throat of a gentile child, and then draining his blood to use in the making of Passover bread which they greedily devour. The belief that Jews were responsible for 9/11 is common, even as Osama bin Laden dolls – complete with replicas of the burning World Trade Towers – are sold on the streets of such cities as Ramallah.

In Europe, expressions of anti-Semitism tend to be not quite that blatant. But some people may be surprised by the EUMC report's conclusion that “anti-Semitic activities” are now being perpetrated as much by those on the far left of the political spectrum as by those on the far right.

In such nations as France, Italy and Sweden, the study notes, “sections of the political left and Arab-Muslim groups unified” to organize demonstrations at which “anti-Semitic slogans could be heard and placards seen.”

“In the extreme left-wing scene,” the study adds, “anti-Semitic remarks were to be found mainly in the context of pro-Palestinian and anti-globalization rallies and in newspaper articles using anti-Semitic stereotypes in their criticism of Israel.”

In Greece, by contrast, it's still mostly militants on the far right who desecrate Jewish cemeteries. Similarly, in Spain “the traditionally strong presence of neo-Nazi groups was evident,” and such groups have collaborated with “people with a radical Islamist background” to commit a “series of attacks.” 

While those on the far left interpose the Star of David with swastikas to suggest that Jews and Nazis are identical, those on the far right use swastika graffiti in the more traditional manner of an implied threat to Jews. The report adds: “The German language itself is used in non-German speaking countries — expressions such as ‘Juden raus!'[Jews out!]  –so as to refer affirmatively to the [Nazi] persecution of Jews.”

The study finds that anti-Semitism has become increasingly common also among members of Europe's “peace movement,” and, for good measure is sometimes “very closely tied” to anti-Americanism.”

The report talks, too, about “elite or salon anti-Semitism,” increasingly found in the more politically mainstream European media, on European campuses and, of course, at social gatherings of “the chattering classes” where, the study observes, it is “en vogue to take an anti-Israeli stance.”

Even those without political convictions participate in what might be called recreational Jew-bashing. “Young people without any specific anti-Semitic prejudices” may engage in “anti-Semitism on the streets,” the study notes, “just for fun.” Other cases where “young people were the perpetrators could be classified as ‘thrill hate crimes,' a well-known type of xenophobic attack.”

In sum, European Jew-hatred has become widespread, and sympathy for such bigotry appears to be growing. “Opinion polls prove that in some European countries a large percentage of the population harbors anti-Semitic attitudes and views,” the report points out.

Conventional wisdom used to hold that the experience of the Holocaust had created antibodies to anti-Semitism in Europe. The EUMC study demonstrates that that view was naïve. What treatment is there now for this ancient virus? The authors urge that, as a start, European authorities “acknowledge at the highest level the extraordinary dangers posed by anti-Semitic violence.”

But, again, that recommendation comes from a report that European authorities commissioned – but which they then determined should never see the light of day.

Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies a policy institute focusing on terrorism.



Egypt Syria