European anti-Semitism continues
Problem acknowledged; not enough being done
By Kenneth Jacobson
The various forms of intolerance - racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism - share many elements in common. Stereotyping, seeing the victim as the other are among these common elements.
On the other hand, there are core characteristics that enable one to identify that which is unique for each type of hatred.
In the case of anti-Semitism, it resides in a matrix of three beliefs: that Jews in some mystical way have overwhelming power; that Jews are more loyal to an outside party than they are to their own country; and, that Jews when they participate in any activity or line of work are never doing so merely as individuals, but rather in cabal, in a conspiracy to achieve some sinister, Jewish, end.
This matrix is particularly insidious because it has in the past and continues today to provide the fuel for the most lethal form of hatred, political anti-Semitism.
This belief system when running rampant created the justification for large-scale murders of Jews on the grounds that the Jew was so poisonous that society has a right to defend itself in any way against this poison.
On the current world scene, the closest we come to this situation is in significant parts of the Arab media. And, while there are few Jews living today in Arab countries, the rationalizations are being generated for abhorrent behavior against Jews somewhere at some future point.
In Europe, a continent which has a significant Jewish population and which has witnessed a surge of violent anti-Semitic incidents as well as an environment where the state of Israel is frequently demonized, attitudes are nowhere near as extreme as the Arab world but they are troubling nevertheless.
Too much power, too loyal to Israel
43 percent of Europeans said in a recent poll that Jews were more loyal to Israel than to their own country. This figure is disturbing first because no matter what Jews do to integrate in a European society, the idea that Jews are not one of ours remains strong and potentially labels Jews as harmful to the society.
This is compounded by the fact that Israel's image in great parts of Europe is highly negative, with a constant critical media bombardment of the Jewish state. So to be deemed more loyal to such a state exacerbates the fundamental problem.
In addition, thirty percent of Europeans said that Jews have too much power in business and 32 percent said they have too much power in international finance.
These responses indicate there still is a market in the mainstream of society for conspiracy ideas about Jewish control and influence.
When added findings that 42 percent of Europeans believe that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust and 20 percent believe that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, there clearly is a problem that extends beyond the usual effort to cast negative attitudes in the prism of the policies of the state of Israel.
Anti-Semitism: alive and well
Let's face it: old-fashioned, pernicious anti-Semitism is alive and well in the heart of Europe. It is an important step forward that European leaders have acknowledged the problem and, together with the U.S., have organized conferences on anti-Semitism, the latest this past week in Cordoba, Spain. It is important that monitoring institutions have been established, that there are discussions about instituting stronger hate crime legislation and training about hate crimes.
But not enough is being done to challenge the millennia-old ideas about the Jew. Some might conclude that nothing can be done about hostility that is so engrained that even the knowledge of the Holocaust and changed teachings of the Vatican have not made a serious dent. A Zionist response might be that Jews only have a future in Israel.
The reality, however, is that there will be large numbers of Jews in Europe for the foreseeable future and European governments need to translate the good words they have pronounced into concrete programs to change attitudes. They have acknowledged that anti-Semitism is a problem; now they must develop programs to get to the root of the problem concerning these basic hostile notions of the Jew.
The continued existence of anti-Semitism in Europe notwithstanding, this is not the Europe of the 1930s. Democracy, the rule of law, a commitment to human rights characterize today's Europe. There are now institutions and values in Europe to deal with the problem unlike the past when both the institutions and values were used against the Jews. Change for the better can take place but it will take the continued attention of the United States, of Israel, of Jews around the world, and of leaders in Europe itself.
Kenneth Jacobson is Senior Associate National Director of the Anti-Defamation League