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Günther Jikeli and Joëlle Allouche-Benayoun, eds., Perceptions of the Holocaust in Europe and Muslim Communites

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review
Volume 26, Numbers 3–4

Günther Jikeli and Joëlle Allouche-Benayoun, eds., Perceptions of the Holocaust in Europe and Muslim Communites: Sources, Comparisons and Educational Challenges, New York: Springer, 2013, 196pp.

This book consists mainly of a collection of essays based on lectures presented at a conference that took place in Paris in Paris in 2010. The first editor, Günther Jikeli, from Germany, is a promising young European scholar of antisemitism. The second, Joëlle Allouche-Benayoun, is Associate Professor and Researcher at Groupe Sociologies, Religions, Laïcités/Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique in France.

Several years ago, the examination of attitudes of European Muslims toward the Holocaust became a significant factor in understanding contemporary Muslim-Jewish relations. The importance of this endeavor, however, has decreased in light of the increase of violent antisemitic attacks perpetrated by Muslims in Europe, the reactions to such violence, or the lack of responses on the part of Muslim communities and officials. The murders of Jews by Muslims include: a Jewish teacher and three children in Toulouse, France by Muhammad Merah in March 2012;1 four people in an attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014 by Mehdi Nemmouche from France who had spent a year as a jihadi in Syria;2 four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris by Amedy Coulibaly in January 2015;3 and a security guard of a Copenhagen synagogue by Omar el-Hussein in February 2015.4 Indeed, Sammy Ghozlan, head of the National Bureau for Vigilance against Antisemitism in France, has remarked that the vast majority of violent attacks against Jews in France are carried out by Muslims.5

Therefore, one must regard this study of attitudes of European Muslims toward the Holocaust against the background of the more urgent issue of increasing violence against the Jews of Europe. The book, however, is extremely useful because it provides a vast amount of information. Particularly important is its central message that seems to deny what scholars have referred to as the binary presence of Islamists and ordinary Muslims. In fact, Muslim communities in Europe are far more diversified and cannot be stereotyped. An additional contribution of this study is that it shows that many Muslims do not view the history of European countries, of which the Holocaust is an essential part, as their own, because their ancestors did not live in Europe during the period of the Holocaust. This type of reasoning is important because minority groups that aspire to integrate successfully into majority society usually adopt major elements of the history of their new country of residence as part of their own.

Like most other books based on conference lectures, the quality of the articles varies. Michael Whine, of the Community Security Trust in the United Kingdom, is one of the few experts familiar with antisemitism and terrorism in Europe. He mentions Muslim organizations and leaders that have chosen to participate in Holocaust commemorations as well as those who have avoided or refused to attend. This varies from country to country. Furthermore, Whine points out that the overwhelming consensus among Muslims is that while the Holocaust did take place, Israel and the Zionist media exaggerate the number of Jews who perished. (38)

Rifat N. Bali adds to our insight with regard to Turkish attitudes toward Jews and Israel. In his essay on the perceptions of the Holocaust in Turkey, Bali explains that while Turkish media, politicians and civil elites frequently refer to the genocide of the Jews, the word Holocaust, as such, is not used. Turkish scholars often use the term “Nazi Holocaust” in order to avoid any comparison with Turkish massacres of Armenians during World War I.

Günther Jikeli discusses his research on the perceptions of the Holocaust among young Muslims in Berlin, Paris and London. His findings have been published in his doctoral dissertation.6 He also deals with the problem of falsely equating the Holocaust with the suffering of the Palestinians under Israeli rule. One of his conclusions is that “if young Muslims think that hostile attitudes toward Jews are common in their communities, they might adopt such attitudes that also influence their views on the Holocaust, even if that contradicts knowledge they have learned in school.” (127-128) This typical example of groupthink represents the misperception prevailing at universities. Junior lecturers in a department dominated by senior anti-Israel professors often adopt their viewpoints.

Julianne Wetzel is a senior researcher and member of the academic staff at The Center for Research on Anti-Semitism at the Technical University of Berlin. She addresses the complex subject of antisemitism and Holocaust remembrance in Germany. Wetzel mentions that false comparisons between the Holocaust and the politics of Israel’s government are not the prerogative only of the far right, the far left, anti-globalization groups and immigrants. She correctly asserts that: “This demonization is also being used increasingly in the mainstream discourse and finds its expression in the media.” (24) In fact, recent studies show that at least 40 percent of the Germans believe that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.7

Somewhat beyond the framework of the book is an article entitled, “History and Memory of the Other: An Experimental Encounter- Programme with Israeli Jews and Palestinians from Israel,” by Professor Monique Eckmann of the School of Social Work at the University of Applied Sciences, Western Switzerland, in Geneva. She describes a case study, based upon confronting Palestinians and Jews with each other’s memories. The article raises questions about the number of essential historical facts that are omitted, probably intentionally, in order to undertake such projects, such as the genocidal attitudes of leading Palestinians toward Jews before, during and after World War II and the role of Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, and their impact upon contemporary attitudes in the Palestinian parliament’s majority faction, namely Hamas. Another important historical fact, absent from this project, is the massive immigration to Israel of Jews who fled persecution in Arab countries. They have been integrated into Israeli society fairly successfully.

The one article in this book that the reviewer finds objectionable is “‘Hamas, Hamas, All Jews to the Gas’: The History and Significance of an Antisemitic Slogan in the Netherlands, 1945-2010,” by Eveliën Gans. Gans may best be described as part-historian, part-manipulator of history and part-pro-Palestinian propagandist. For example, she claims that the Second Intifada began because of the visit by opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in September 2000. (87) As early as 2001, Palestinian Communications Minister Imad Faloudji declared that the Intifada had been planned in advance and was not caused by Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount.8 Oddly enough, although more than a decade has passed, Gans continues to spread this false anti-Israel libel.

In addition, Gans consistently misquotes the reviewer’s work. Although I exposed her manipulations of my statements in 2011 in a major Dutch daily,9 she persists in arguing that I stereotypically depicted former Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen as a “cowardly, treacherous, non-Jewish Jew.” (95) I never called Cohen cowardly or treacherous, and as far as the phrase “non-Jewish Jew” is concerned, on various occasions, Cohen himself has stated in major Dutch media that he is a Jew for whom Judaism means nothing.10

Other authors included in the book are: Georges Bensoussan, Esther Webman, Philip Spencer, Sara Valentina Di Palma, Remco Ensel, Annemarike Stremmelaar, Mehmet Can, Karoline Georg and Ruth Hatlapa.

To sum up, this anthology provides convincing proof that the indiscriminate mass immigration of Muslims to Europe has brought extremely negative consequences for most of its Jewish communities.11

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1 Murray Wardrop, Chris Irvine, Raf Sanchez, and Amy Willis, “Toulouse Siege as It Happened,” The Telegraph, 22 March 2012.

2 Scott Sayare, “Suspect Held in Jewish Museum Killings,” The New York Times, 1 June 2014.

3 “Four dead at Paris kosher market after raid; one hostage taker on the run, Hebdo gunman killed,” The Jerusalem Post, 9 January 2015.

4 “Jewish man killed in Copenhagen synagogue attack laid to rest,” Haaretz, 18 February 2015.

5 “Report: Gang of youths taser French Jew at Paris monument,” JTA, 11 June 2014.

6 Günther Jikeli, Antisemitismus und Diskriminierungswahrnehmungen junger Muslime in

Europa (Essen: Klartext, 2012). [German]

7 For example, see: page 40, and

8 Clément Weill Raynal, “L’Agence France Presse: le récit contre les faits,” Observatoire du monde juif, No. 2, March 2002 [French].

9 Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Laffe Jood, Joodse Zelfhaat dat zijn niet mijn woorden, NRC-Handelsblad 21 January 2011. [Dutch]

10 ‘Job Cohen richt pijlen op rechts,’ uitzending NOVA, 7 June 2010. [Dutch]

11 Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Muslim Anti-Semitism in Europe,” Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, 5, 1 (2013).