Photo: AP
Refugees arrive in Europe
Photo: AP
Ben-Dror Yemini

Racism and prejudice

Op-ed: Europe is slowly unburdening itself of the yoke of political correctness; in Germany, there are 'no-go' zones the police dare not enter, while Sweden is introducing border control now that it has had enough immigrants; the party of Arab refugees freely swarming into the continent is over, while the radical right-wing loses all restraint.

Europe, perhaps in an unprecedented manner, took off the veil of political correctness this week. It happened following a series of mass rioting in three cities in Germany, which were accompanied by robbery, harassment, sexual harassment, and at least one incident of rape. For the first time, the leading media outlets, including the flagbearers of political correctness – the BBC and the Guardian – reported that the rioters were Arab. There is still a debate on whether these were second generation Arabs residents, or refugees who arrived over the past year. It is clear, however, that some of the rioters were carrying documents of asylum seekers.



Most of the Muslims were, and remain, distant from any violent, criminal or jihadist activity, and yet there is still a problem. A serious problem. It didn't start with the mass rioting near the cathedral at the city of Cologne, which suffered the brunt of the violence. In 2011, the commander of the German Police, Bernhard Witthaut, described police "no-go zones" in the country. "In these areas, crimes no longer result in charges. They are left to themselves. Only in the worst cases do we in the police learn anything about it. The power of the state is completely out of the picture." When it turned out that parts of the city of Duisburg, not far from Cologne, are police "no-go zones,” local officials stressed that "anyone who tries anything, is immediately branded as a radical right-winger."


Protesters rally against sexual harassment and rape in the German city of Cologne this week (Photo: Reuters)
Protesters rally against sexual harassment and rape in the German city of Cologne this week (Photo: Reuters)


Extremist political correctness

Recent events have increased concerns that the radical right is growing stronger. These concerns are justified. Racism has never solved any problems, it just created them. The thing is that political correctness, in its extreme version, has turned into the radical right-wing's biggest promoter. Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker, for example, is still a prisoner of the extreme version of political correctness. She told the women of her city that they were not adopting an appropriate "code of conduct," which must be driving youth of a certain ethnicity wild. They're to blame. Not the men. Reker's comments didn't weaken the radical right-wing. They only served to strengthen it.


It happened on the other side of the ocean as well. More and more commentators in the United States explain Donald Trump's meteoric rise as a counter-reaction to the political correctness "thought police." According to a recently conducted survey, 68 percent of Americans define political correctness as a serious problem, so the support Trump is enjoying is seen as a sort of rebellion against the political correctness police. The thing is that Trump is on the other side of the spectrum. When his leading strategy is "I say what you are thinking," he unleashes dark demons. This is the motto of all racists. This was Meir Kahane's motto. A sane person is supposed to know how to restrain himself every now and again. There's no need to spew out every prejudice. Trump and Kahanists are both ridding themselves of the yoke of restraint. Political correctness extremists, meanwhile, are not restraining themselves. They're lying to themselves. They refuse to look at reality as it is. Blindness strengthens the radical right. A correct outlook on reality could make a difference. A racist outlook will only make things worse.


Donald Trump calls for a halt in all Muslim immigration (Photo: AFP)
Donald Trump calls for a halt in all Muslim immigration (Photo: AFP)


Arabs seeking to integrate

Israel is also dealing with problems in the same department. Since the murders on Dizengoff Street, questions keep arising about the Arab sector. The murders happened only days after the most right-wing government Israel has ever had approved the most significant plan yet for the Arab minority: An investment of NIS 15 billion in the sector. Over the past two decades, the relationship between the majority and the minority has been plagued with regular recurrences of crises. The leadership is becoming more and more radical, it's crossing red lines.


The Arab public, however, is showing a little more maturity than the leadership. The most serious survey about the Arab sector's positions is the multi-annual poll conducted by Prof. Sami Samocha. According to the 2015 findings, 56.4 percent of Arabs recognize Israel's right to exist, and 42.7 percent recognize its right to exist as a state that safeguards its Jewish majority. Some of the findings are worrisome, while others are encouraging. Samocha states that there hasn't been an increase in radicalization since 2013.


Outside the world of surveys, there is a consistent rise in the number of Arabs volunteering for national service. In 2011, there were 1,459 volunteers, while in 2015, 4,540 volunteers. This is a significant jump, particularly in light of the leadership's efforts to prevent them from volunteering. This change points to an ever-increasing desire to integrate. And it's working. The rate of employment among Arab women aged 20-29 is between 26 and 30 percent. But among Arab women who volunteered for national service, the rate of employment jumps to between 70 and 90 percent. Those who claim national service for Arabs does not improve the situation should take note of these numbers.


Different circumstances

The circumstances in Europe are different from those in Israel. Over there, they don't have the issue of the conflict, which is like a cloud hovering over the relationship between the majority and the minority; over there, there is no occupation; and over there, the Arabs are immigrants, some new and some second- and third-generation – while in Israel, the Arabs are a native population. And despite the differences, the problems in Europe, even in countries that excel in hospitality, are far graver.


Over the last year, the problem of terrorism has worsened, and it appears the threat in Paris, Munich and Brussels is far more serious than in Tel Aviv. So are the tensions between the populations. Most among the veteran populations of Britain, France and Germany are afraid of the foreigners, and in many countries in Europe there are “no-go zones,” which he that keepeth his soul holdeth himself far from them. There are no such zones in Israel. So please, let us not use the word "occupation" as an excuse for everything that is going on here. This is mostly self-deception of political correctness's making.


Sweden closes its borders

Two weeks ago I attended a lecture by Prof. Shlomo Avineri. He claims that everything Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said months ago, Europe is doing today. This week, Avineri got further proof of how right he is. Sweden, and no other, passed a decision to introduce border control. The party is over. There will be no more refugees, or not-refugees, coming in non-stop. The Øresund Bridge, which connects Sweden and Denmark, will no longer be an open border. Six months ago, Orbán was portrayed as the dark side of Europe. Now, Sweden is following in his footsteps.


"We're willing to do more than anyone else," said Swedish Migration Minister Morgan Johansson. "But even we have our limits." European media calls this move a "dramatic change." One of the reasons for that is the connection between immigration and the threat of terror attacks. No one knows just how many of the 1 million plus immigrants who came to Europe during 2015 have any ties to terror organizations. In some places, there are estimates the number stands at about two percent.


Relative to the size of the population, Sweden took in more immigrants than any other European country: 163,000 into a population of some 9.5 million, compared to Germany, which took in 1 million into a population of 81 million; Denmark - 18,505 into a population of 5.3 million; Norway - 30,101 into a population of 5 million; and Finland - 30,625 into a population of 5.4 million. Except that Sweden has reached, according to its government, its very limits. And so, drastic measures like closing the borders, which began mostly in Hungary, have reached Sweden as well.


There's no need to mock Sweden. There is no hypocrisy here. There's no double standard. There's a collision between a humane attitude that must not be dismissed and concerns of the country being overrun, terrorism, and that those who are not refugees would take advantage of Sweden's hospitality.


Despite the different historical and regional circumstances, Europe is starting to deal with the same problems that plagued Israel over the past decade. Europe's preaching is being put to the test. Or, to be more accurate, failing that test.


פרסום ראשון: 01.09.16, 08:10
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