How can we explain the renaissance of anti-Jewish sentiments in rather stable European societies?

The new war between Israel and Hamas is at least as violent as the two previous ones. And it does not look like as if it will pave the way for a viable solution of the Near East conflict. But the repercussions in the Western world seem to be different now. A significant wave of anti-Jewish sentiments and actions is covering French, German, and other European cities.

In this blog, we are not interested in addressing differences between criticizing Israel versus blaming Jews. Rather, we want to look into the aggressiveness of anti-Jewish manifestations, often carried out by rather young people, both migrants and locals.

  1. Hildegard Müller 3 weeks ago

    Anti-Semitism has got serious advocates in society. The spectrum of anti-Semitism ranges from the extreme right-wing, anti-Americanism and increasingly Islamist groups.
    Protected by the freedom to assemble in public spaces, openness and tolerance are currently confused in many places with disrespect, and the acting out of hatred. The fear of large parts of our society against the charge of discrimination, should they take action against radical parties, religious fundamentalists and Muslim-dominated protests, must not lead to cowardice and ignorance. We need a clear, strong “no” against any form of anti-Semitism. Everyone is required.

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7 Comments

  1. Torge Matthiesen 3 weeks ago

    As a German, I consider this debate as potentially “mined territory”. I think it is important that we are able to criticise inappropriate policies and actions of the Israeli government while we maintain neutrality or even appreciation towards the people of Israel. To me religion, culture or tradition should not be a factor for the perception of the ongoing conflict. I simply do not care if somebody is a Christian,Hindu, Jew or Muslim. I care how people treat each other, how they frame a political discourse, how they regard human life and the rights of their fellow human beings.

    I however feel that especially Germans and German politicians sometimes embark on a course of “self-censorship” towards Israeli policies. It seems that the potential of being labeled as “anti-semitic” serves as a strong deterrent / caveat in our discourse about Israeli policies. In that regard, I would appreciate if we could first establish a common ground of what anti-Semitism actually means and how we define acts of anti-Semitism.

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    1. Christoph Wolf 2 weeks ago

      Dear Torge,
      you are right, first of all we have to define, what antisemitism is.
      Wikipedia (and other sources) defines it as a “prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews as a national, ethnic, religious or racial group”.

      i attended a so called “pro-palestine”-rally several weeks ago and all i saw (“Israel is illegal”/”zionism is fashism”) and heard (“childmurder israel”) was pure antisemitism. why do i state that this is antisemitism?

      now some people (exspecially some dogmatic left-wing, extreme right wing and islamistic groups) argue that this is criticism on israel and it is not about blaming jews. at first sight, this seems reasonable. of course, every state is criticisable, and exactly this happens towards israel. and this is perfectly ok. if you read german magazines like SPIEGEL or watch german television like ARD, there is an immense amount of criticism towards israel. and nobody calls ARD or SPIEGEL antisemitic (by the way, a pretty simple argument against günter grass, jakob augstein, etc. thesis, one cannot criticize israel without being blamend as an antisemit). many german newspapers even said, there were no antisemitic slurs al quds day, because protesters never used the word jews.
      well i argue they simply used words like “zionist”.

      why? antismitism today is only comprehensible if we talk about “secondary” and “new” antisemitism (this labels are somewhat clumsy, because it is old wine in new skins). in a nutshell, this means antisemitism because of auschwitz (“The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”) and an irrational anger against israel (anti-zionism and double standards against israel). the typical argument then is “look at israel, it is the same as the germans did to the jews during WWII”. in case of double standards, it is very obvious right now: while they rally against israel (some even with pro assad flags, although assads regime killed thousands of palestinians), none of these people seemed to care for IS or human rights in Iran, etc.

      simpy put, antisemitism is hatred against jews and an irrational hatred against israel. the latter is VERY common among young, locals and migrants alike.

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      1. AW 1 week ago

        First of all, I would like to thank Mrs. Müller for her contribution. Short and sweet.
        Secondly, I have to give a small correction to what Christoph has said (and with what I cannot agree more): there WERE anti-semitic slurs during pro-Palestinian (Judu Jude feiges Schwein, for example).
        The rise of anti-semitism can be explained by the spread of Islam in Europe and tight allience between the European left and islamists. This is nothing new: already the members of RAF were close to islmist terrorists. Besides, palestianian terrorists and European left use the same victim-discouse (we are just victims of the terrible regime, the government/Israel/the US want to kill us/is watching us/is lying to us, but we stand to protect the human race/the pure Islam/socialist values).
        Anti-semitism as a primitve reaction and badly educated people participating in the pro-Palestinian protests. To criticise Israels’ action you have to go into details and find substantive arguments (risking to realize that there is nothing to criticise Israel for). Blaming the state, the people and “jews” is easy and appeals to emotions, not the minds.

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        1. Christoph Wolf 1 week ago

          Dear AW,
          you are right, there were many antisemitic slurs. But @ al quds day (few days after the first antisemitic protests), protesters avoided classical antisemitic slurs.
          Second, I disagree with your explanation: Of course, antisemitism of arab or turskih immigrants is related to islam, but it is no explanation.
          Antisemitism was not very strong in muslim societies until the eraly 20th century. In fact, it was imported through europe. Islamistic Movements like the muslim brotherhood can be seen as an anti-modern reaction to rapid changing societies and barely have any connections to traditional islam. But they strongly incorporated antisemitism. Today, antisemitism is a huge problem within muslim societies and muslim immigrants in europe (http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/antisemitismus-unter-muslimen-der-hass-ist-voellig-ausser-kontrolle-geraten-1.2059322). Their antisemitism is often much more direct, while antisemitism of locals usually fullfills criteria of secondary antisemitism.

          My Thesis is that it is not a renaissance, it just becomes much more visible every time, the conflict between israel and palestine escalates again. but it looks like a renaissance because a) the power of social media and b) arabic/turkish youth does not rely on secondary antisemitism, but uses more “traditional” slurs.

          antisemitism is a phenomenon of the society as a whole. it is a form of racism, which seems to explain complex situations in modern societys. antisemitism works on a much more abstrtact level than other forms of racism. it is a form of racism which seem able to explain all problems of modern societies.

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  2. klaus segbers 2 weeks ago

    it is deeply disappointing that this post found, over one week, two responses.
    is there no material basis for this question? is it not troubling? or is it by now so natural a phenomenon that there is no need to bother with an assessment? do i have to turn to muslim fundamentalists to trigger more responses?
    i find this highly irritating. not because we are looking for more gestures of political ‘correctness’, but because this is an issue relevant for global politics.
    so what causes your silence?

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  3. Christoph Wolf 2 weeks ago

    why are peolpe so silent? i think this is party explainable by the fact that there is a very strong bias against israel in all societies. and most people are not capable of distinguishing between critique on and resentment against israel. if you look how poplular anti-zionist (and anti-semitic) positions among social scientists are, it is no suprise that so many keep quiet.

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  4. Torge Matthiesen 1 week ago

    I currently live in Asia so I am somewhat disconnected to what goes on in European capitals. When I left Berlin two months ago, I did not have the expression that there was a latent or even expressive form of Anti-Semitism in the public discourse. So from my perspective, it is very hard to comprehend why this actually seems to pop up in such a massive way.

    I also agree with AW that anti-semitism itself is a very primitive and unwarranted reaction. But then I also find that the initial question is poorly framed. I find it very important to distinguish rational, warranted criticism of political and military measures from blunt arguments that are fueled by ethnic or religious prejudices or even hatred. Of course this entails that expressions like “Zionism”, “Jew” or whatsoever are excluded from the discourse – in fact I do not see how this vocabulary could be rationally related to the actions of Israeli officials.

    If we look at Anti-Semitism from an educated point of view, there is not much to discuss – you can only reject these arguments and actions. I would also assume that “ordinary Germans” or “ordinary Europeans” actually have no clue what I means to practice the jewish faith. In that case it is even harder to understand why such persons engage themselves in anti-semitic practices. In that regard, I feel that social, educational or behavioral scientific approaches may offer more promising avenues of analysis and explanation. I personally feel that this is less of an IR question.

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