- The new anti-Semitism revives stereotypes of traditional anti-Semitism and has a specific element that decades-old hostility to Israel is directed against the existence of an entire country in its capacity as a “collective Jew.” It is mainly, among other things, a consequence of anti-Americanism.
- In Europe, unlike in the period before World War II – and in contrast to the situation in the countries of the Soviet bloc following that war – contemporary anti-Semitism is completely society and not state driven. Much of it is Israel driven. The left’s anti-Semitism, rather than the right’s conventional version of this hatred, comprises the key ingredient of anti-Semitism’s current European existence.
- Currently the relationship to the Jewish minority in Europe is being discussed anew. Especially in the countries of Eastern Europe, new axes and levels of discussion are forming in which Stalinism plays a greater role.
- Nazifying Israel has three objectives. The delegitimation of Israel by associating it with the symbol of evil par excellence. Furthermore, one can attack and humiliate the Jewish people by equating it with the perpetrators of the brutal genocide that nearly succeeded in exterminating the Jews completely. Finally, it frees Europeans of any remorse or shame for their history of a lethal anti-Semitism that lasted centuries.
Anyone who deals even marginally with anti-Americanism has to be struck by its closeness to the prominent topic of anti-Semitism. I have always viewed the two as close relatives or, more figuratively, as first cousins. But my research for the project leading to my book on anti-Americanism convinced me that the relationship between these two phenomena is even closer than is the case among cousins.2 Andre Glucksmann’s characterization of the two as “twin brothers” seems more apt. Glucksmann, like myself, sees contemporary anti-Semitism as, among other things, a consequence of anti-Americanism. He writes about the current situation in France and Europe: “One plus two plus three: From the extreme left to the extreme right, everyone in French politics – simple activists, members of parliament, trade unionists, cabinet ministers and the head of state in unison – is raving against the intervention in Iraq: ‘Bush equals Sharon equals murderers’ is the chant from the street. ‘Sharon equals Bush equals disregard for international law’ is the pronouncement from the salons. The rise of anti-Semitism is really not a result of the Intifada, but rather a twin brother of the wave of anti-Americanism that has sloshed up onto the coasts of Europe since 11 September and flooded the continent since the Iraq war”3
A central theme of this article is to discern one of the main characteristics of the new anti-Semitism in Europe today: its status as an epiphenomenon of anti-Americanism. This feature is, I believe, perhaps the most important component of the “new” anti-Semitism. It is a recent addition to stereotypes reviving both traditional anti-Semitism and the specific element of that decades-old hostility to Israel directed against the existence of an entire country in its capacity as a “collective Jew.”
European anti-Semitism, of course, predates anti-Americanism by more than a thousand years. And, naturally, there are major differences between these two phenomena at every conceivable level. The most important such difference is the fact that European anti-Semitism motivated the brutal, systematic murder of millions of innocent people and humiliated, ostracized, persecuted, and oppressed people for centuries. In contrast, anti-Americanism, even in its most aggressive, hate-filled form – with the few exceptions of individual terrorist attacks (and leaving aside conflicts between states in various wars, which I am not including here) – hardly ever led to a loss of human life and was largely restricted to property damage in the form of “America Houses” destroyed or American flags burned for symbolic reasons. This is an all-or-nothing difference, which places these two European phenomena in completely different explanatory realms and indicates that there is a fundamentally different quality, indeed a principally different status, to anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.
But this does not mean that the two cannot be analyzed and discussed together, especially since they have gone hand in hand since at least the early 19th century. Let us put it this way: One can write about European anti-Semitism without ever talking about anti-Americanism. The converse, I maintain, is impossible.
Just as with anti-Americanism, the primary focus of my larger study, when it comes to anti-Semitism I am firmly convinced that, in principle, there are (or were) no country-specific differences within Europe, even if, from time to time, different countries produce specific intensities and expressions that motivate different forms of social violence and are also partly manifested in different functions. (For example, German postwar anti-Semitism is always associated with a special defense mechanism against a sense of guilt; i.e. prejudices are raised against Jews, among other reasons, because Jews are emblematic of the recollection of past German crimes and therefore of a feeling of “national shame” that can impede Germans’ unbroken identification with their nation.)
A Pan-European Construct
Conceptually, emotionally, historically and structurally, anti-Semitism was and is a wholly pan-European construct. It is precisely for this reason that the Nazis were so successful in carrying out the extermination of the Jews, although the murder of European Jews emanated from Germany and has to be seen against the background of a specific German constellation and of Germany’s pre-war political culture and hegemonic self-image as a “blood nation.” In addition, of course, without the Wehrmacht and the entire apparatus of a modern industrial state, there could never have been such a quick and efficient effort at sorting out millions of people from their societies across an entire continent, deporting them to death camps, and then – often within a matter of hours – killing them with industrial precision and logic.
But the project of exterminating the Jews was basically just the logical apex, the compelling goal, of a brutal European anti-Semitism that had lasted at least a millennium. The Shoah was, at the same time, the culmination of a European process of repeatedly mobilized and institutionalized degradation, exclusion, and persecution of Jews that had been the common property of everyday culture on the continent since 1010 at the latest.4 If anti-Semitism had been exclusively – or even just primarily – a German phenomenon rather than the established common property of Europe that it was, the Nazis would never have received so much support for their genocide from the populations of those countries occupied by them or allied with them.
Obviously, there were different degrees of cooperation and participation, as well as resistance, something Hannah Arendt had already described in detail in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem5: Just as with anti-Americanism, there have always been country- and time-specific variations in the manifestation of European anti-Semitism, which sometimes appeared stronger in country X than in country Y, thus more pervasive in Spain of the 15th century than in Italy, more acute in 19th century Russia than in Britain. At first its foundation was chiefly religious and economic; then, starting with the Spanish Inquisition, clearly racist components were added. (The political dimension of anti-Semitism was ubiquitous.)
There is not a single country in Europe – not Ireland and Portugal in the west, not the Scandinavian countries in the north, nor Italy and Greece in the south, and certainly not the Ukraine and Russia in the east – in which anti-Semitism has not, over the centuries, assumed a significant role in a very concrete manner in the everyday life of its citizens. Regardless of whether the hegemonic religion has been Roman-Catholic, Protestant, or Greek-Orthodox, whether the relations of production were mainly agrarian or industrial, or whether politics was shaped by a feudal aristocracy or a parliament-oriented bourgeoisie, they all knew and used anti-Semitism. Of course, there were enormous differences between the lethal violence of pogroms in Czarist Russia and the snobbish ostracism of London clubs that refused to accept Jewish members. But these were differences in the manifestation and exercise of this prejudice and hatred, not in its conception and essence.
It is certainly also no accident that a massive intervention into Europe by the U.S. (for the second time in the course of the last century) was required in order to make the pan-European language of anti-Semitism that had prevailed for a millennium unacceptable, both socially and politically, for the first time in history. The defeat of European fascism and German National Socialism by the Red Army and the Western powers dominated by the American armed forces led for the first time in Europe’s history to the delegitimation of anti-Semitism there.
This post-Holocaust concordance lasted almost exactly 50 years. In my view it is therefore no accident that anti-Semitism in one form or another is showing its face again in Europe just at the time when the U.S. is withdrawing politically and military from Europe. I do not know if I would go as far as Jean-Claude Milner, who views the destruction of the Jews as a condition sine qua non for European unification and, by extension, European unification itself as the result of this singular crime. However, I have no doubt that anti-Semitism is assuming an important European function – as a pan-European discourse steeped in tradition and (above all) as an important ingredient in the European emotional repertoire – just at a time when the establishment of a new European proto- or quasi-state has become (and is likely to remain) a political reality in Europe’s everyday life.6
Current Situation in Europe
Before delving into the details of this article, I would like to highlight key characteristics of the current situation in Europe relating to anti-Semitism:
First, unlike in the period before World War II – and in contrast to the situation in the countries of the Soviet bloc following that war – contemporary anti-Semitism is completely society and not state driven. Indeed, in virtually all European countries, the state authorities are explicit opponents of anti-Semitism and have instituted policies and laws that oppose this scourge. In fact, numerous discussions and meetings have been held at the multi-national level in an effort by the various states to deal explicitly with this problem, most recently, the Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance, held in Cordoba, Spain in June 2005.
At this event, sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the results of an opinion survey of 6,000 adults across 12 European countries conducted by the Anti-Defamation League sadly announced that “despite good faith efforts by government and the international community to counteract the Anti-Semitism plaguing Europe, millions of Europeans continue to believe the classical anti-Semitic canards that have dogged Jews through the centuries.”7
As this and other polls demonstrate, current European anti-Semitism is most certainly a phenomenon of civil society and not the state. Even in civil society there exist developments all across Europe that would lead one to believe that anti-Semitism ought to be a scourge of the past. Many countries celebrate “their” own Jews and their culture: museums abound, old synagogues are restored often without congregants; Yiddish courses are offered in adult education classes, and klezmer music — particularly in Germany — has attained a hitherto unprecedented popularity. And still, old animosities against Jews have not only failed to disappear, but the threshold of shame towards articulating them has been massively lowered.
Second, much of Europe’s acute anti-Semitism is Israel driven. Because Israel is a very close American ally, and because it is a powerful entity, its vilification has no boundaries in form and content. Language and imagery that would – and could – never be used in criticizing any other country’s policies have become de rigueur in Israel’s case. Indeed, such discourse would never be used in describing any European country’s Jewish citizens. While it is not acceptable to use anti-Semitic imagery against local Jews, it is all the more legitimate to employ such imagery and discourse when describing Israelis and American Jews. Local Jewish populations are perceived as weak and vilifying them would clearly be categorized as racist. By dint of Israel’s strength and its inextricable association with the United States, vilifying it with the vilest of anti-Semitic tropes is seen as progressive and critical of a predatory bully and its evil intentions.
Third, the left’s anti-Semitism – which, of course, it never acknowledges and fervently denies – rather than the right’s conventional version of this hatred comprises the key ingredient of anti-Semitism’s current European existence.8
Change in Substance and Tone
Presently the relationship to the Jewish minority in Europe is being discussed anew. Especially in the countries of Eastern Europe, new axes and levels of discussion are forming in which Stalinism plays a greater role. It will remain unclear for a long time which of the discursive schemes will ultimately prove hegemonic over the history of these countries. One thing, however, is clear: Here, too, both the substance and the tone have changed regarding “Jews” and “anti-Semitism”.
Whether we are dealing with Romania or Hungary, Slovakia or Croatia, the Czech Republic or Poland, everywhere one notices two things. On the one hand, there is a recognition of each country’s Jewish population that one would have never expected ten to twenty years earlier, as manifested by the construction of memorials, museums etc. On the other hand, however, a revival of anti-Semitic discourses are providing the traditional hatred of Jews in these countries with a new public audience.
In both Eastern and Western Europe, the threshold of shame for social acceptance of traditional anti-Semitism has been lowered. Here one need only refer (as a proxy for similar developments in Eastern Europe) to the growth of public and increasingly uninhibited expressions of anti-Semitism in Hungary9.
The Hungarian writer György Dalos has published several articles in the German press on a growing anti-Semitism in Hungary that, while not stronger than in “comparable states of socialist provenance,” is nevertheless “undoubtedly louder, more barefaced, and more malicious than elsewhere.”10 In addition to the usual anti-Semitic assaults on cosmopolitans, strangers, foreigners, bankers, world literati, big capitalists, Americans, “imperialists,” and Israelis, there are the attacks on Communists, socialists, and old leftists of every variety.
The controversy about the Hungarian writer Kornel Döbrentei, known for his provocative manners as well as for his open anti-Semitism, which led to the dissolution of the Hungarian Writers’ Association, has been well documented by the international press, German newspapers in particular.11
New European Hostility toward U.S. and Israel
More important and powerful than this new uninhibitedness, however, is the new hostility toward the U.S. and Israel in Europe, particularly in Western Europe. In the eyes of the West European public, this hostility is also much more legitimate. Images of America and Israel play a central role in this connection. In post-fascist Western Europe – especially under the influence of the student movement of the late 1960s and the discourse of the New Left that emerged from that movement – toleration and acceptance of the weak in all its forms have emerged on a scale that is both historically unique and very welcome.
In the framework of this discourse, which resulted partly from the Holocaust and the confrontation with its legacy, there developed such previously unknown phenomena as the collective apology of one country for its population’s past misdeeds toward other people and countries. The Federal Republic of Germany deserves to be applauded for its very important pioneering role in this discourse of collective empathy and apology. But in every one of the West’s liberal democracies, not just in Germany, people treat the weak and minorities differently than they did just 30 years ago.12
We have become more tactful in the way we talk about, but also in the way we regard it as legitimate to interact with animals, the handicapped, and every kind of “other” creature so long as we view it as helpless and weak. This is a change and an achievement in the public discourse of liberal Western societies about which we can justly be proud, for it testifies to progress in humaneness and empathy and to a process of social self-reflectiveness regarding older forms of social exclusion.
And while, as mentioned above, a clear-cut change is in the offing about publicly dealing with the history of fascism, National Socialism, and Stalinism in several European countries, Jews in Europe are still viewed in respectable (especially liberal) public circles as weak and subject to discrimination. To put it another way: Traditional, open anti-Semitism remains illegitimate in the public discourse of these countries because Jews used to be victims and because, as a tiny minority, they could also be regarded as weak.
But none of this applies at all to Israel, and especially not to Israel’s image. On the contrary: Israel is perceived as a strong, highly developed, militarily “overpowering,” and (above all) Western country using its power on a daily basis against a non-Western population perceived as weak and underdeveloped.
Just as anti-Americanism receives a major dose of legitimacy among many well-meaning people because of the factual size and power of America itself (Josef Joffe’s wonderfully useful analytic concept of “Mr. Big”), so it goes with an Israel that is viewed as (overly) powerful, a country imputed to have an unscrupulous imperial ambition of wanting to be a “Greater Israel.” And if this tiny country in the Near East is not itself portrayed as a “great power,” its close ties with America bespeak a power that just has to seem suspicious (a priori) in the hegemonic discourse of empathy with the weak.
In today’s intellectual Europe it is illegitimate to view European Jews as Shylocks (or deride them as such), but it is entirely legitimate to portray those Jews who, instead of fitting the picture of the weak pariah, have built their own state (namely Israel and the Israelis) as Rambos and to hate them as such.13 It is the figure of the tough, aggressive, unscrupulous, and ruthless Jew in the form of the powerful, brutal Israeli that is lending a new dimension to contemporary European anti-Semitism. And it is strength and (military) power that assigns anti-Americanism an auxiliary and indispensable role in this new form of anti-Semitism (outfitted as hostility toward Israel)14 and that turns these two phenomena into politically potent Siamese twins throughout Europe.
Until recently, it was clear how the U.S.-Israel relationship fit into this line of thinking: It was the powerful United States that was using Israel as a marionette or “aircraft carrier” for its “imperialist” and “neo-colonial” schemes; the U.S. was the real power, and Israel was the henchman. But in the discourse of many Europeans after 11 September 2001 – and especially since the Iraq war – this has been reversed almost 180 degrees.
Israel as Rambo
Today, for many Europeans, Israel is the real power that is making America obey its interest via the Jewish lobby in Washington, the “American East Coast,” the “Jewish neoconservatives” and Leo Strauss epigones. Regardless of which vector is assigned priority in this interrelationship between the U.S. and Israel, one thing seems to be absolutely central in this European discourse on both countries: They are Rambos one may openly despise, fear, and ultimately even hate legitimately as Jews in a collective sense, and without feeling a trace of anti-Semitic self-consciousness because one is simultaneously steadfast about taking a position against anti-Semitism when it affects “weak” Jews.
Whoever sees hatred of Jews at work in the hatred of Israel is then supposedly instrumentalizing the accusation of anti-Semitism for political purposes, namely on behalf of an aggressive, expansionist, and overly powerful “Israel lobby.” In my view, the absolutely critical dimension of strength and power in this equation demonstrates that this hegemonic antipathy toward Israel in Europe is primarily attributable to a left-wing liberal and not to a right-wing conservative discourse.
America and the Jews were always suspect and hated among the European Right and by conservatives as representatives of an unstoppable modernity. But this is not the chief tenor of hostility toward Israel in today’s European public. Naturally, traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes are always seeping into the mix when Israel is portrayed as a particularly evil and deceptive power and when it is repeatedly held responsible for a “conflagration” in the Middle East and for terrible, “genocidal” crimes, which are often called to mind in the media using key words (“Sabra and Shatila”, “Jenin”) that function as symbolic representations of or ciphers for Israel’s purportedly essential, incorrigible maliciousness15.
Traditional anti-Semitic images are also increasingly used to de-legitimatize and demonize Israel on behalf of “appeasement,” as we shall see from some of the illustrations later in this article. But most Europeans do not frown on Israel mainly because of its Jewish identity (although “Zionism,” which refers primarily to the identity of the Jewish state, is viewed in the European Left as decidedly negative and “reactionary,” if not regarded as a special “swear word” associated closely with concepts like “imperialism” and “colonialism”).
Instead, Israel comes in for disapproval owing to its power and its political disposition, which (in the eyes of these Europeans) Israel is imputed to share values with the U.S. in a way that – in the eyes of the European public – increasingly distances it from Europe. Israel is regarded as nationalistic, religious (and therefore backward-looking or regressive), particularistic, attached to realpolitik, unilateral, and playing according to political rules that Europeans (who glorify themselves as post-nationalist, secular, universalist, and multilateral) have allegedly long since abandoned.16 In this connection, Europeans equate the U.S. and Israel with the bad old pre-1945 Europe that they believe they have long since left behind owing to their successful labors of overcoming the past.
Ironically, all the people who were so outraged at Donald Rumsfeld’s disparaging remarks about “old Europe” – and who saw themselves compelled to reject his category of the “new Europe” – actually identify themselves as “new Europeans” in that they equate Israelis and Americans with the flawed “old Europe” they left behind in 1945.
EUMC Report Links Antipathies
The fact that the new anti-Semitism based on hostility toward Israel goes hand in hand with anti-Americanism among major portions of the European left is confirmed by the first report on anti-Semitism in 15 European countries published by the “European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia” (“Europäische Stelle zur Beobachtung von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit”) in Vienna. In the analytical section of the report, before the data from the individual country studies are presented, the text entitled “EUMC Report on Anti-Semitism” says unambiguously that the European left’s acute antipathy toward Israel is partially concealing anti-Semitism in both tone and content, and that these emotions cannot be separated from aversion to America:17
“The supposedly close ties between the U.S. and Israel have contributed additional motives to growing anti-Semitic attitudes that one finds on the radical left… The United States of America are also attacked most severely by the peace movement, the anti-globalization movement, and some developing countries. Elements of the radical right join in and categorize the U.S. as an imperial power acting as Israel’s protector. Thus, for example, many people in German-speaking countries especially use the term ‘East Coast’ as a synonym for a supposedly total Jewish influence on the U.S. and its politics. Sympathizers with these extremes immediately understand the meaning of this word without additional explanations. They can use it incessantly without running the danger of violating any anti-discrimination laws in a particular state. This example makes it clear how closely anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are bound up with each other.”18
There is an additional reason why the anti-Israeli discourse in Europe is much more attributable to the Left than to the Right. The Right, especially because of the illegitimacy of National Socialism and fascism in European public opinion, has long behaved far more circumspectly with respect to its depiction of Jews and Israel than has the Left. Because classical anti-Semitism was usually associated with the Right, the Left enjoyed a kind of bonus or free ride on matters relating to Jews and Israel.
Unlike the Right, the Left could take the liberty of being anti-Israeli and (in part) even anti-Semitic. (I distinguish between these two phenomena more precisely later in this article.) This bonus gave it the chance to establish an anti-Israeli discourse that has now become part of a widespread and accepted linguistic usage. Because of its general acceptability and legitimacy, left-wing criticism of Israel and left-wing anti-Semitism are far more relevant and alarming than what one finds on the Right, which has barely changed over the years. Today’s neo-Nazis are ugly and unpleasant, yet they continue to remain well beyond the bounds of what is respectable in the European discourse.
British Hostility from the Left
The Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, and the BBC – to mention a few British examples that have their counterparts in other European countries – did not develop their hostility toward Israel, Jews, and the U.S. under the influence of the right-wing extremist National Front. Their stance reflects changes in the attitudes of Britons and other Europeans that go back to developments from the late 1960s, and which are certainly also the fruit of that already-mentioned discourse (influenced by the New Left) of empathy with the weak and “oppressed peoples” of the world.
Because of this left-liberal discourse (which has become hegemonic in the public) – and not, say, because of any traditional right-wing anti-Semitism – things have gotten to the point where 59 percent of Europeans view Israel as the greatest menace to world peace – ahead of Iran, North Korea, the United States, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (in that order). China and Russia were near the bottom of the table. Bespeaking the Europeans’ self-righteous arrogance, it was not surprising that they squarely placed themselves in last place (by a wide margin).
Making matters worse still for Israel’s situation in Europe was the fact that 66 percent of Europeans who had studied beyond the age of twenty described Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.19 This finding corroborates my point that while “classical” anti-Semitism is much more prevalent among Europe’s lesser educated strata than among its educated elites, the exact obverse seems to have developed over the past four decades (and particularly since the second Intifada begun in September 2000) in matters relating to Europeans’ hostility towards Israel.
This fits in with the hegemonic self-perception Europeans currently have of themselves as paragons of world peace. Anyone who has followed the tone of the European media’s reporting on the Near East conflict since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000 would hardly be surprised by these survey results. And this tone comes not from the Right but from the Left.
Selective Language of Biased Reporting
Here it suffices to mention just a few examples of this reporting’s selective language: The BBC always talks about violent attacks by the IRA or the Basque ETA using the words “terrorists” or “terrorism,” but it never uses these terms for bomb attacks by Hamas or Islamic Jihad against Israeli civilians. Instead, expressions like “resistance,” “opposition,” “struggle,” “militants,” “radicals,” “activists,” or “extremists” are used – never “terrorism” or “terrorists.”
The acts of violence are described using the passive voice or in an impersonal manner, such as “a bomb was placed” or “they attacked a bus.” Israelis, by contrast, are portrayed as operative actors: They “murder,” “kill,” “destroy,” and “attack” – and are also given adjectives like “brutal,” “gruesome,” and “merciless.” In the German media Israelis “murder,” “shoot,” “liquidate,” or even “execute” Palestinians, while (by contrast) Israelis merely “meet their death.”20 This style of reporting has a definite feedback effect; namely, that Israel’s actions influence European attitudes towards Jews in a clearly negative way21. To most journalists it is not even clear, as Antje Kraschinski has written in the Frankfurter Rundschau “that they are [stirring up] the notion of a Jewish God of vengeance with their permanent use of the word ‘retaliation.’ [Vergeltung]” Even worse, the concept of “preventive strike” actually used by the Israelis often gets translated as “retaliation.”
The press gladly divides Israelis into “good” and “evil.” On the “good” side are conscientious objectors, peace activists, and leftist politicians; “evil” are Jewish settlers, conservative Jews, the Orthodox, and the Likud party. And why are “Irish terrorists” designated as such when Hamas members are called “extremists,” “activists,” or “radicals”?22 To the participants at a conference on “Anti-Semitism in the German Media and the Near East Conflict” (sponsored by two Social Democratic fora, the Moses-Mendelssohn-Zentrum at the University of Potsdam, and the political initiative “Honestly Concerned”), at least, it was clear that “the purported taboo about not being allowed to criticize Israel is just a myth.”23
In the broader German and European media landscape, however, this myth is constantly kept alive. It is a myth associated with the thesis (also eagerly put forward by large segments of Europe’s leftist intelligentsia) that every marginal criticism of anti-Semitic elements in the Left’s Israel discourse and of hostility toward Israel and “anti-Zionism” is always nothing more than an illegitimate charge of anti-Semitism, and that such accusations are launched by the “established media” and a “Zionist lobby” in an effort to “muzzle” critics of Israeli policy.24
This brings us to the difference in substance. It should be rather clear that European intellectuals and the political classes – as, increasingly, the public at large – are not so much expressing their sympathy for oppressed Muslims or disadvantaged Arabs as they are giving vent to their antipathy toward Israel and (increasingly and more openly) toward Jews as well (more on this later in the article). This is demonstrated, among other things, by the following paradox: The very people whose silence was most persistent when Bosnian Muslims were being slaughtered by Bosnian Serbs, as well as by Bosnian Croats, first came out to protest in 1995 – naturally against the much too belated American intervention undertaken on behalf of these very Bosnian Muslims.
With a few (though important) exceptions (in Germany this includes the milieu around the journal KONKRET), these were the same people who are also the loudest opponents of Israel. The connecting link and common denominator here is the United States. When the U.S. intervened on behalf of Muslims, many European intellectuals sided, at least objectively, with people like Slobodan Milosevic.
Dislike of Israel and the anti-Semitism that accompanies it simply cannot be separated from hostility toward the U.S. and those on whose behalf the U.S. takes a stand. How otherwise can one explain the attitude of Greek intellectuals, politicians, clerics, and public opinion, all of whom are massively pro-Serbian and hostile to Bosnian Muslims while simultaneously being among the most Arab-friendly and Palestinian-friendly Europeans?
Hatred Drives Left
What is driving large sections of the Left in Europe is obviously aversion to and hatred of Israel and America. It is not sincere sympathy for subjugated Muslims and identification with them,25 nor is it real solidarity with the oppressed and subjugated or with “oppressed peoples” (often perceived and idealized in a folkloric way as a collective entity). What upset the European Left was not the murder of innocent Muslim women and children, neither by dictators throughout Arab history nor during the war in the former Yugoslavia. What brought thousands onto the streets of Berlin, Paris, and Athens, when intervention was finally undertaken on behalf of Muslims, was once again the American bogeyman.
And once again the Right and the Left converged on questions relating to America and Jews, namely in constructs where it is exclusively America, Jews, and Israel that appear as criminals on the stage of world history. (Any criticism directed by the extreme Right and extreme Left toward their own governments at home is often restricted to denouncing their supposed “vassal status” vis-à-vis Israel and the U.S.).
Nobody on the extreme right in Europe has such a terrible record of animosity toward Serbs as the German and Austrian Right. For a long time, both supported Serb-killing fascists in Croatia. Nevertheless, their hatred of the Serbs could not compete with their hatred of Americans: As soon as the U.S. intervened in favor of Bosnian Muslims and their co-religionists in Kosovo against the Serbs, right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis in Germany and Austria sided with Milosevic in total opposition to the U.S.-led NATO intervention. When it has to do with Israel, Jews, and Americans, the extremes touch. What links both, in addition to hostility toward Israel, is anti-Americanism.
When José Bové, a figurehead of the anti-globalization movement, visited Palestinians in Ramallah in the spring of 2002 – instead of traveling to Gujarat, where many more Muslims had been killed in pogroms by Hindu mobs – the primary concern was not to demonstrate solidarity with an oppressed people. As the reincarnation of Pierre Poujade and the media-savvy representative of a global Poujadism, Bové’s political disposition includes populist elements much closer to the convictions of French proto-fascism than to the Left (whether old or new).
But none of these traditions is what drove Bové toward Ramallah and made him – like other opponents of globalization – into a fierce enemy of Israel. The driving force is animosity to the U.S. and everything America represents to this milieu. Not least of all owing to America’s closeness to Israel, this one Near Eastern country has become a villain for many globalization opponents. There is no need here to delve more deeply into the emergence of the atrocious anti-Semitism that accompanied international meetings in Durban, Porto Alegre, and Davos.
The picture of protestors dancing around a golden calf in Davos in January 2003 is widely known. There a demonstrator wore a Donald Rumsfeld mask over his head and a yellow six-pointed star with the label “Sheriff” on his chest, while his colleague, equipped with an Ariel Sharon mask, was swinging a club. “It is interesting,” writes Marcus Hammerschmitt:
“that an ensemble patched together from Carnival costumes (in part, with clear references to animals), the golden calf, a Star of David straight out of Nazi propaganda, and some masks of politicians is so brazenly used to mark the enemy, because the demonstrators assume that the message is already understood: Jewish Americans, or American Jews, worship money and gold and protect it with (animalistic) power, as only they know how.
Simultaneously confusing and clear, both unfathomably deep and barbarically simple, as only authentic credentials of anti-Semitic mania can be, this procession denounces not only the abysmal stupidity of the demonstrators, but also the relationship (seldom clearer) between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism: The idiots of Davos, who probably still see themselves as leftists, stick onto the person portraying Rumsfeld (in lovely conformity with Iraqi government newspapers) the yellow star and inscribe the star with the word “Sheriff” in order to dispel any last doubts about their idiocy: For them, everything is one and the same, Americans are Jews, all Jews are like Sharon, a Star of David is the same as the star on a sheriff’s badge, the golden calf is a Jewish calf, it’s all the same. The onlookers, so they suspect, will certainly understand just what and who is intended; the main point is that the demon dancing around the idol has a signet.”26
The kind of anti-Semitism linked to the struggle against globalization represents a meeting point between the Right and Left of a kind that has not existed so openly since the heyday of National Bolshevism. The intensity of hatred against Israel has not least of all to do with a perception of Israel as America’s proxy, as a de facto constituent of the U.S. One can rail against Israel because it is powerful and belongs to an even greater power, the U.S. Whatever is directed against a strong Israel and not against weak Jews cannot be anti-Semitic.
Yet there remains a question that has to be posed to the globalization opponents: Why against Israel, why not, for example, against Saudi Arabia, which is just as close to the U.S., plays a much bigger role world-wide, and exercises far greater influence than Israel? The answer has nothing to do with Israel’s political closeness to the U.S., but in its identity as a Jewish state. And it has to do with the relationship of Jews to Europeans and their history. The excess of Europeans’ hostility toward Israel, the enormous space given over to reporting on the Near East conflict in the European media compared with all the other conflicts that are geographically much closer to Europe, illuminates the dimensions of a feeling, of an almost obsessive attitude, that reaches far beyond conventional politics. There are deeper historical, cultural, and psychological forces at work here. And this brings us again to the three pillars of classical anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism: to Jews, America, and modernity.
Anti-Zionism, Hostility to Israel and anti-Semitism
Conceptually and in principle, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and criticizing Israel have nothing to do with each other. Anti-Semitism is a prejudice against all Jews, independent of how they act concretely. By contrast, anti-Zionism is a political point of view: It denies the right of the Jews to their own state, either in principle or in its currently existing form. I would go a step further and distinguish between two kinds of anti-Zionism. The first kind is the one just mentioned, but the second is an anti-Semitic form of anti-Zionism in which the old familiar themes of classical anti-Semitism are used in order to demonize the state of Israel or any sovereign construct for Jews: Israelis as Nazis, as Christ killers, as usurers, as exploiters, and as subhuman.
In this form of anti-Zionism, all the historical ingredients used to demonize Jews are simply transferred to the state of Israel (grasping for world power, the vengefulness of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” capitalist greed, brutality toward the weak). This is the way that traditional anti-Semitism is reshaped into a new form that – in contrast to the old version – does not suffer from any lack of legitimacy in today’s Europe. As the study by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia mentioned earlier puts the point: It needs to be carefully observed “whether a double morality is being construed in which Israel is judged according to entirely different standards as are other states, whether false historical parallels are drawn (like the comparison to National Socialism), and whether anti-Semitic myths and stereotypes are being used in order to characterize Israeli policy.”27
When it comes to identifying genuine criticism of Israel, by contrast, we are dealing with a wholly legitimate opposition to (and questioning of) every aspect of that country’s political, social, economic, and religious structures and of decisions made by the Israeli state and its society, with a no-holds-barred debate about every facet of Israeli public life, but without calling into question or negating the existence of this country. One can – and perhaps even should – reject the policy of the Sharon government without questioning the existence of Israel. Even more, it is actually possible to take a position against the existence of the state of Israel without being an anti-Semite eo ipso.
To this day the (in)famous epigones of the legendary Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum from the Romanian-Hungarian town of Satu Mare/Szatmar (hence known to this day as “Satmars”) now comprising the main element in a group called Neturei Karta, deny and actively oppose the existence of Israel. Nonetheless, they are not anti-Semitic, even though being a Jew does not a priori exclude anti-Semitism, since the former is a socio-religious and ethnic category while the latter is a political viewpoint. In fact there are Jews who are anti-Semitic, alongside many others whose world view is anti-Zionist, and then there are yet others who are both of these things.
On the other hand, the question of whether there is a non-anti-Semitic anti-Zionism among the European public – a European anti-Zionism that singles out this one small state in the Middle East in order to call its existence into question in a fundamental way – is largely a theoretical question. As researchers from the University of Bielefeld have aptly demonstrated, while it is perfectly possible to hold deeply critical – even hostile – views of Israel and not adhere to any anti-Semitic positions, the fact is that among the general German population, there exists an overwhelming overlap between the two: Put differently, at least 90 percent of the respondents who expressed negative attitudes towards Israel also answered positively to at least one of the items on which the researchers measured an overt anti-Semitic orientation.28
Developments of the last few years in Europe’s accepted public discourse offer us no reason whatsoever to see this as a purely German phenomenon. Today it is hard to find examples in European public opinion of a non-anti-Semitic singling out of Israel, the Jewish state, for exclusion from the community of nations. Of course, there are also plenty of anti-Semites who neither criticize the government of Sharon nor openly challenge the right of the state of Israel to exist. Conceptually, the lines of demarcation are rather clear and easy to understand, but in practice there are always overlapping and opaque grey zones that make the whole thing complicated and highly charged. The various actors’ intentions and the nuances of their actions are often the only indicators allowing any evaluation of their respective positions in this complex situation.
And even with the most meticulous attention to everyone participating in the discourse, there are inevitably misinterpretations and misunderstandings. This is hardly likely to change in the future, for the simple reason that the complex “Israel” cannot be completely decoupled from the complex “Jews,” and also (and especially) because the latter, like the culturally and historically layered “images of Jews” embedded in European consciousness, is not so easily negated as an integral component of Europe’s (and America’s) history. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman contributed these wise words to the discourse about the American Left’s complex relationship to Israel at the country’s elite universities: “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and it is harmful to assert as much. But singling out Israel for scolding … is anti-Semitic, and not admitting so is dishonest.”29
In what follows, I proceed from the assumption that in Europe, Jews are frequently what people have in mind when they strike out at Israel, and that this is by no means restricted to those anti-Semitic anti-Zionists who deny Jews and Israel a right to existence and demonize them in toto. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew very well that very often when one scolds Zionists, one means Jews. “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism.”30
When it comes to anti-Zionism and hostility toward Israel, we have long been dealing with a new, legitimated form of anti-Semitism that is coded and, rather than being stuck with the stigma of Jew-baiting, conveys moral nobility, a sense of moral superiority toward the alleged “perpetrators of today,” the U.S. and Israel.
In the following pages, using different illustrations from several European countries, I should like to point out tendencies in these countries’ discourse about Israel that, in my view, are either explicitly anti-Semitic or clearly tend toward anti-Semitism. I shall restrict myself to examples from established (mostly left-liberal) public statements, in order to show that we are dealing with a discourse among the respectable mainstream and not just some marginal publications of the radical Left or radical Right. I base these illustrations on the following analytical criteria:
1. The disproportional nature of the quantity and quality of criticism of Israel compared with other countries – the phenomenon of “singling out” and the problem of double standards;
2. The pejorative inclusion of Israel in protests that – like those against the International Monetary Fund in Washington or the already-mentioned annual meetings in Davos – have nothing to do prima facie with Israel. Here, of course, we are dealing with an attendant symptom of anti-Americanism, for the main target of these actions is always the U.S., which is a proxy (often personalized in a one-sided manner) for capitalism. Here, too, this tiny country in the Middle East is indirectly blamed for global problems; it is construed as an oppressive and conspiratorial power of imperialism and capitalism world-wide;
3. The constant comparison and equation of Israel with Nazism and the crimes of the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews (like the accompanying demonizing of Israeli actions); and
4. The utilization of classic anti-Semitic depictions and stereotypes like Christ-killing or ritual murder, of pronounced “Jewish” characteristics like hooked noses, hunched backs, Stars of David etc.31
I wish to restrict myself just to these illustrations of a one-sided and negative shift in the European public discourse about Jews and deliberately omit the demonstrable increase in physical attacks against Jewish citizens and institutions in some European countries, because the latter are often committed by perpetrators who are not viewed by Europeans as part of their community (be they Nazis or, above all, Muslim immigrants) and who therefore provide Europeans with a comfortable self-exculpation.32 But there are no angry young Muslim men from the banlieus of Paris, from Berlin’s Neukölln district or from the slums of Burnley or Birmingham that are writing from the editorial staffs of Europe’s “papers of record,” or broadcasting from radio or television stations, or speaking at prestigious Oxford colleges. I am much more interested here in the increasingly irritated and aggressive tone of Europe’s “chattering classes” toward Jews and Israel.
Oxford Bans Israeli
A propos “chattering classes”: Oxford University is an ideal starting point for illustrating the new discourse. The dons at this renowned university would never have dreamt of banning Russians, Croats, Serbs, Chinese, Spaniards, or even Ulster Protestants from their laboratories. But this actually did happen with a young Israeli scientist simply because he, like every Israeli citizen (man or woman), had served in the Israeli army. To be sure, after the Oxford university administration intervened, Professor Andrew Wilkie, who had blocked the already admitted Israeli doctoral candidate from access to his laboratory, was suspended without pay from the university for two months. But the message of the original decision to exclude Israelis from science could not have been clearer: In the pathology labs of Oxford’s Pembroke College, at least, Israelis are not wanted.33
Let us stay with Oxford for a moment longer. Tom Paulin, one of the most famous professors of literature there, and even more renowned as a poet, granted an interview to the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram Weekly in which he described Israel as a “historical obscenity” that “never had a right to exist.” “I feel nothing but hatred toward them,” he said, by way of clearing up any doubts about what his position might be. After the interview was published, of course, the poetizing professor protested using the usual ploy that his statements had been taken out of context by the paper. His denial was not terribly credible. Over the years Paulin had been conspicuous for numerous anti-Israeli remarks and poems.34
Here is another illustration of “singling out” in the British academic world, of a spotlight that is never focused on citizens of Arab or Muslim dictatorships (such as Syria, Sudan, or Iran) that discriminate systematically against certain categories of people (especially intellectuals, leftists, Jews, women, and homosexuals): Mona Baker, editor of the journal The Translator and Translation Studies Abstract, professor at the University of Manchester, and leading representative of a far-reaching anti-Israeli boycott by the British university trade union, fired two colleagues from her journal’s editorial board simply because they were Israeli citizens.35
I cannot think of any other cases from Great Britain (or from another West European country) in which professional colleagues were fired from a scholarly advisory board simply because of their citizenship in a country where a political-military-ethnic conflict is taking place.36 Even the boycott against South Africa was never directed against individuals, but always against political institutions and companies.
UK Universities Against Israel
And lastly, the decision in April 2005 by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) – the main UK union for university teachers, librarians, computer technicians and staff of all kind – to vote in favor of a boycott of Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities surely confirms Israel’s singling out in the public discourse of Britain’s contemporary intellectual milieu. While the boycott was formally repealed by the AUT in a special council meeting of 26 May in good part due to a bevy of academic voices from all over the world opposing this egregious act which – as Jeff Weintraub has so aptly argued – was much more akin to a blacklist than a boycott, the underlying conditions leading to this blacklist remain fully in tact: the fundamental legitimacy of Israel’s singling out which is becoming an ever-more accepted fact of public discourse in Britain and the rest of Western Europe; and the expressed desire on the part of the blacklist’s advocates to continue their campaign against Israel in a similar vein.37
Peter Pulzer – another voice from Oxford who has spoken out in this context – has summarized the most important and most frequent characteristics of this new anti-Israel anti-Semitism in the British (but also in the left-liberal Continental) media using the following categories:38
1. Trivialization: Anti-Semitism, what is that, after all? This monster doesn’t even exist, and if there are occasional encroachments, then these are just a few isolated incidents of property damage by errant youngsters. The fuss about anti-Semitism is either Jewish hysteria or – worse and more probable – a Jewish conspiracy in order to deny and choke off justified criticism of Israel.
2. Warding off guilt: Anti-Semitism was and is something done by the extreme Right. These new outrages are the machinations of neo-fascist groups. It is always the same right-wing radical youths, who cannot stand Muslims and Jews and attack them every now and then.
3. Sympathy with the perpetrators: We are dealing with poorly integrated youngsters from the bleak concrete deserts of the Parisian suburbs and their British counterparts, whose lives were ruined by the dominant order. This is the only way to understand their outrages against Jews and Jewish institutions; by no means is one entitled to situate these perpetrators in proximity to fascism or stigmatize them as the heirs to Vichy.39
4. The massive growth of caricatures, cartoons, and other depictions that use the Star of David – incidentally an ancient religious symbol, analogous to the cross, and not a political symbol – to designate Israeli soldiers, tanks, airplanes, and other military equipment and aggressive actions.40
5. The rapid accumulation of analogies between Israelis and Nazis in a broad variety of texts in newspapers and journals: It has become standard operating procedure in this new discourse among the British and Continental left-liberal milieu regarding Israel to equate the Star of David with the swastika or with SS runes in caricatures or on posters and placards, and to depict Sharon as Hitler or a Nazi.41
Nazifying Israel makes it possible to kill three birds with one stone: The first objective achieved is the delegitimation of Israel by associating it with the symbol of evil par excellence. Secondly, one can attack and humiliate the Jewish people by equating it with the perpetrators of the brutal genocide that nearly succeeded in exterminating the Jews completely. Finally, this malicious analogy between Israelis and Nazis frees Europeans of any remorse or shame for their history of a lethal anti-Semitism that lasted centuries. Above all, it liberates Europeans from any residual guilt that they might have experienced in the wake of the Shoah. If the Israelis – who are mostly Jews, after all — can be depicted as Nazis, than not having helped them during World War II might not have been such a bad thing after all.
Britain’s One-Sided Media Discourse
The discourse in Great Britain’s left-wing liberal media has become so one-sidedly anti-Israeli that some of the publications most responsible for this, such as the Guardian, the Observer, and the Independent felt compelled to address the problem openly in at least a few sporadic articles. Thus the Guardian featured an editorial entitled “Our dulled nerve” saying that:
“a new anti-Semitism is on the march around the globe … All Jews are seen by extremists as legitimate targets. Here in Great Britain, ultra-Orthodox Jews were pelted with stones. They had absolutely no relation to Israel. There were even some among them who, for theological reasons, do not recognize the state of Israel… Why are leftist liberals not sufficiently alarmed about the growth of anti-Semitism? In this year’s anti-war demonstration in Paris, Jewish peace activists were beaten by demonstrators. There were less dramatic confrontations in the million-person march in London. It did not matter at all to the culprits that many Jewish writers and activists had been verbose in their opposition to the war. It also did not matter to them that many of these Jews criticized the policy of the current Israeli government toward the Palestinians. Their victims were selected only because they were Jews.”42
The article ended with an almost laughably naive question that clearly shows how the Guardian either cannot or will not grasp this problem as an identity-shaping “wedge issue” for its left-liberal readerships: “Were left-liberals, who in earlier eras always endeavored to protect Jews against prejudice and bigotry, unable to rediscover their old values?” I am afraid that the answer to the question has to be a clear “no” because it is becoming increasingly obvious – in light of the current Israel discourse and the new, morally legitimated left-liberal anti-Semitism – that Jews qua Jews were never particularly important for the left.
In another article that has a more astute analysis and takes a clearer position, Melanie Phillips examines the growth of anti-Semitism in Great Britain, which she attributes almost exclusively to the “Sharon-hating Left” and not to the usual right-wing radicals.43 Phillips describes how irritating the dominant discourse has become among the British intelligentsia when its members talk about the “vastly exaggerated” warnings concerning a new anti-Semitism, and how the stigma of a “new McCarthyism” is bestowed on this phenomenon (a witch hunt intended to muzzle criticism of Israel and brand anyone daring to criticize Israel as an anti-Semite).
Phillips herself was then accused, along with other British Jews, of trying to exert control over the public debate about Israel and Jews in the U.K. Phillips describes British dons who organize boycotts against Israeli colleagues and universities but would never dream of undertaking similar measures against Kuwait (which expelled 350,000 Palestinians in 1991) or Jordan (which murdered tens of thousands of Palestinians) or Syria (which, a year after Phillips wrote her article, still militarily occupied and politically controlled vast parts of Lebanon). She ended her article with the infamous statement of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that people were too afraid of forthrightly identifying the power of the Jewish lobby in America:
“‘So what,’ Tutu asked. ‘The apartheid regime was very powerful, but it does not exist any longer. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all quite powerful, but in the end they all met their demise.’ So Jews, according to Tutu, not only have enormous power, but they are to be equated with these tyrants. Apparently their power was not great enough to prevent Tutu from publishing such an ignominious opinion and thereby charging up even more hatred against the Jews. But, of course, Jews who call this attitude by its rightful name are the new McCarthyites.”44
In an issue of the Independent Marie Woolf wrote about some politicians’ warning against the virus of anti-Semitism in Great Britain.45 Former Minister Stephen Bryers had said that “the dividing line between legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and demonizing and dehumanizing Jews has been crossed, and that there is a double standard” for judging Jews and Israel according to completely different criteria than all the other nations of the world.
Woolf quotes Labour MP James Purnell, who was shocked at the caricatures and cartoons about Israel and Jews. He added astutely that the Holocaust had proved to be a good vaccination shot against the virus of anti-Semitism for 60 years, but that now – owing to the alliance policy of the radical Left, “which has gotten involved with some extremely dubious elements” – it was losing its effectiveness: “During the anti-war demonstrations there were really frightening pictures of people who dressed up as suicide bombers and carried slogans equating the Star of David with the swastika. The apparent incorporation of these symbols by anti-war leftists is absolutely incredible.”
The visibly shocked Purnell could have observed identical scenes at similar demonstrations in Berlin, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Athens, and many other European cities. They are the symbols of the current European peace movement, which has not, even for a single moment, really distanced itself from this imagery in an explicit and decisive way.
A final example from Great Britain needs to be mentioned. On 27 January 2003, the Independent published a cartoon showing Ariel Sharon eating a baby. The newspaper’s caricature was modeled on Francisco Goya’s world-famous painting of Saturn devouring his own children. In spite of protests, the commission that handles complaints against the press in Great Britain found that there was nothing wrong with the cartoon. Not only that, but the drawing was awarded the “Political Cartoon of the Year” prize for 2003 by the “Political Cartoon Society” of the United Kingdom.
Lest there be any misunderstanding: As a radical advocate of free speech who condemns any kind of censorship, regardless of whatever heinous intention that might serve, I am not pleading here for any kind of ban on these depictions. Instead, my intention is to delineate a political climate and milieu in which this and similar depictions are not only concocted but flourish within the mainstream, where they are rewarded and honored by established institutions and by a public that finds such depictions legitimate, perhaps even commendable.
Greek anti-Semitism Mainstream
Finally, let us look briefly at the situation in some other European countries that are not usually among the first that come to mind when talking about European anti-Semitism. Anti-Israeli discourse has become so routine in everyday Greek public life that it now covers the entire political spectrum and shows up in almost every kind of imaginable forum. “In Greece,” according to Moses Altsech, “anti-Semitism exists not just on the extreme left and right, but is completely embedded in Greece’s mainstream. It shows up in the most diverse varieties and forums: in the context of religion, education and training, the application of justice and laws, and of course in the form of politically motivated anti-Semitism among all of the country’s major political parties.”46
Needless to say, the thin dividing line between anti-Zionism and opposition to Israel, on the one hand, and anti-Semitism, on the other, is constantly being crossed. The boundary line is virtually nonexistent. Greece is, moreover, an especially good illustration of my thesis that today’s so-called “new” anti-Semitism is closely bound up with America and anti-Americanism. I might go so far as to regard the new anti-Semitism manifested in today’s Greece and elsewhere as mainly a secondary phenomenon arising out of anti-Americanism. It is no accident that most of the anti-Israel demonstrations in Athens start out in front of the American embassy, from whence they proceed to head toward Israel’s.
Many Greeks still cannot forgive the Americans for having successfully supported right-wing militias against the Communist-led national liberation movement immediately after World War II. Greek rancor toward Americans is even greater, and more understandable, because of the central U.S. role in setting up the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. This antipathy has never ebbed and has always remained acute, as is attested not only by the assassinations of American diplomats and officers, but also of civilians, over the last 30 years. The animosity experienced a new climax in the course of the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, when the Greeks found themselves, for historical and religious reasons, in Europe’s pro-Serbian camp.
Although the Greek Jewish community is one of the oldest in Europe, its members are not accepted as Greeks by Christian Greeks, since at least a nominal tie to the Greek Orthodox church remains, to this day, a condition for membership in the Greek nation as far as most Greeks are concerned. The fact that Greeks do not accept Jews as equal members of their society is, admittedly, just the expression of a norm that remains in effect throughout Europe, in spite of proclamations of tolerance issued with regard to the Holocaust.47 As in the rest of Europe, Jews are also associated with Israel in Greece.
Negative attitudes toward Israel are often presented using manifestly anti-Semitic content and in unequivocally anti-Semitic form. Designating places with names like Dachau, Auschwitz, and Mauthausen etc. is standard practice when reporting on Israeli policy in the occupied territories. The terms “Holocaust” and “genocide” have frequently been used since Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and since March 2002 this language has worked its way into daily usage among the mainstream media when it comes to characterizing Israeli policy.
A cartoon from 7 April 2002 in the newspaper Ethnos, close to the pan-Hellenist Socialist party PASOK, showed two Israeli soldiers in Nazi uniforms with Stars of David on their helmets. They are stabbing daggers into the bodies of small children, from which blood is spurting. One soldier says to the other: “Don’t feel guilty, my brother, we weren’t in Auschwitz and Dachau in order to suffer, but to learn.” Frequently there are similar cartoons in other newspapers from the PASOK camp, such as Eleftherotypia, Avriani, and Ta Nea. All four papers have trotted out stories reflecting the exact verbal equivalents of the images in those cartoons. Eleftherotypia talks about “Israeli Nazis” and Ta Nea sees the Israelis as “worthy successors of Hitler.”
But this tone is by no means limited to PASOK and the Left. Politicians and journalists from the right-wing conservative Nea Demokratia party have made anti-Semitic remarks that – in contrast to those from the PASOK discourse – are not chiefly restricted to Israel, but which instead also revive the timeworn themes of classical anti-Semitism. At a book presentation (where he was flanked on either side by the Greek Minister of Culture and Education Minister), the great Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, who held a cabinet position in a short-lived Nea Demokratia-led coalition government during his phase of sympathizing with the right, said that he regarded the Jews as “the root of all evil.”48
One Nea Demokratia politician denounced his PASOK rival as a “Judasse” and called Prime Minister Costas Simitis the “High Priest of Jewry.” Some Nea Demokratia members held a joint celebration with retired army officers from the fascist organization “Chrysi Avgi,” which picked swastika-like runes in black, white, and red (the anti-republican colors of both Imperial and Nazi Germany) as its symbol. The conservative weekly paper To Vima published a commentary by Archbishop Christodoulos, who accused the Jews of forcing the EU to stop using religious affiliation on personal identity cards.49
A report from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles on anti-Semitism in Greece confirmed these observations and maintained that, in spite of repeated pleas to different Greek governments under former Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the current government of Kostas Karamanlis to do something against the rising tide of anti-Semitic graffiti and desecrations of Jewish graves and other Jewish institutions, nothing ever happened.50 Nor did repeated letters from the Greek Helsinki Monitoring Group beseeching Prime Minister Simitis to have the graffiti saying “Death to the Jews” and “Jews get out” removed from along the highway route (traveled by thousands) between Corinth and Tripolis receive an answer or lead to any serious political response.
Italy and Portugal No Exception
To stay just briefly with a few other illustrations from Mediterranean countries: On 3 April 2002, in the reputable Turin newspaper La Stampa, there appeared a cartoon clearly alluding to the old anti-Semitic prejudice about Jews as Christ-killers. We see an Israeli tank – designated, of course, by a large Star of David on its turret – whose gun is fixed on a manger in which a small boy with a halo is saying: “They can’t possibly be coming in order to kill me a second time.”
And La Stampa‘s Milanese competitor and Italy’s other “paper of record” Corriere Della Sera ran a cartoon which showed Jesus trapped in his tomb unable to rise because Ariel Sharon, rifle in hand, was sitting on the sepulcher. In October 2001, the website of the country’s most respected left-liberal daily La Repubblica published the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its entirety without making it clear to the readers that this document has been unmasked long ago as a forgery of the Czarist secret police in fin-de-siecle Russia. The newspaper did however suggest that the reading of this document might actually help explain America’s military action in Afghanistan.51
In Portugal the prominent Nobel Prize winner for literature, Jose Saramago, compared the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian city Ramallah with Auschwitz.52 And from Spain to Sweden similarly anti-Semitic and grotesquely offensive cartoons, headlines and articles caricaturing and vilifying Israel became de rigueur in the wake of the Second Intifadah and particularly after 9/11.53
Daily Incidents in France
Even a scanty discussion of the situation created by the new, hegemonic, anti-Israeli discourse in France would vastly exceed the scope of this article. Late last summer, the news reached me that yet another Jewish institution – this time a community center in the east of Paris that prepared kosher meals for poor Jews – was burned down and smeared with anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas.54 Incidents like these – especially in the wake of 11 September 2001 – are part of everyday life in France. As already mentioned, France (in spite of frequent protestations from French government officials that they are going to do something decisive against these incidents) is ranked at the top of the European scale where infringements and attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions are concerned. All the research shows that the majority of these attacks are committed by members of the Muslim community and not by “normal Frenchmen.” It is certainly not just the geographic proximity and linguistic affinity with Alsace that has recently also turned France into the playground of German right-wing radicals and neo-Nazis.55
All of this is taking place in a discursive context in which Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador in London, can call Israel a “shitty little country” (in refined company) and then – as André Glucksmann reported – “added the remark: Why should the world be brought to the brink of a Third World War because of this country? The ambassador, formerly spokesman for one of President Mitterrand’s foreign ministers, was criticized by the British press, but no apology was forthcoming. His remarks about the ‘shitty little country’ were not repudiated as unacceptable… He ended his career as French ambassador in Algeria, in other words, at an important and reputable posting.”56
This discursive climate also includes the well-known and utterly serious thinking that went on in France’s leading government and bureaucratic circles about a Middle East “after Israel.” Israel is increasingly viewed by sections of France’s “classe politique” as a provisional phenomenon that is apparently entirely dispensable or whose dissolution could only be advantageous to the world.
One thing that fits perfectly into this discourse is the phenomenon best described as “Bonifascism.” In August 2001 Pascal Boniface published a “letter to an Israeli friend” in Le Monde whose title and content (or tone) reminded many French citizens of Albert Camus’ “Letters to a German friend” from 1943 and 1944. Pascal Boniface, founder of the “Institut des Relations Internationales et Strategiques” (IRIS), a small research institute for international relations in Paris, was not only a close foreign policy adviser to Lionel Jospin, but also an active member of the Parti Socialiste. In this letter, which was addressed neither to a friend nor an Israeli but to the Jews of France, Boniface unambiguously warned the Jews that they would be dropped as a valued constituency in favor of the Muslim community, numerically ten times larger, if they continued to identify too closely with Israel. Boniface did not mince any words when he wrote: “It would not be advisable over the medium term for France’s Jewish community to intercede too much on behalf of the Israeli government. For the moment, certainly, the Arab and Muslim community is less well-organized, but it is numerically significant, is growing in weight, and will soon be much more important.”57 Early in 2002 a paper listing some main points by Boniface came to light that was intended solely for internal strategy discussions within the Socialist Party. Referring to upcoming parliamentary and Presidential elections in France, Boniface said that election results might depend on the votes of Arab/Muslim voters, if not in these elections, then in elections to come.
In order to play the “Muslim card” more fully, Boniface advised the PS to ignore the Jewish community completely and bring about a definitive break between the Left and the Jews.58 “Bonifascism” accommodates two related dimensions: There is the dimension of electoral strategy, which simply regards the numerically much larger Arab-Muslim community as a more potent clientele for the PS than the Jews, and the moral dimension: Since Jews would be increasingly forfeiting their role in electoral strategy considerations in favor of the Muslim and Arab population in France, one would have to worry a great deal less about anti-Semitism. On the contrary: Potentially, occasional flirting with anti-Semitism might even pay off politically.
Given this atmosphere and context, it is all the more surprising that a court in Versailles found three Le Monde authors and the paper’s editor in chief guilty of “racist defamation” against Israel and the Jewish people. The court ruled that a comment published in Le Monde, France’s unquestioned paper of record, in 2002 entitled “Israel – Palestine: The Cancer” had espoused anti-Semitic views and disseminated anti-Semitic opinions.59 This ruling – quite singular thus far in Europe – made it clear that anti-Semitism should have no place in the media, is a clear form of prejudice and hatred, even if it masquerades as an analysis of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
Despite this court’s ruling, positions like the ones described in this article have in the meantime gained entry into the political discourse and public attitudes of European democracies. The substance and tone of public debates are highly important here. These debates create a framework that influences political behavior and can also contribute to shaping a political culture’s permanent elements. Debates shift the boundaries of the space for legitimate discourse in politics by defining acceptable concepts and threatening those who violate these boundaries with sanctions. Debates shape language and create new code words for old ideas (but also for prejudices and antipathies). Above all, shifts in the discursive space of politics influence the manner in which elites and average citizens discuss and think about any topic. The tone of debates like these therefore reflects a more comprehensive ideological transformation in politics and society.60
Where anti-Semitism is concerned, however, there are always enough opposing voices strong enough to prevent the kind of unanimity in Europe’s public discourse similar to what is increasingly happening in the case of anti-Americanism. Yet, at the same time, we are witnessing some disturbing developments. Salomon Korn talks about a potential “power triangle of anti-Semitism” in Europe that seems to reveal elements of what might at least be a nascent state in the continent’s political chemistry: “The Islamic anti-Semitism that is pressing forward from southern Europe at the same time as the ‘classic’ anti-Semitism seeping in from eastern Europe will initiate a ‘pincer movement’ that will presumably intensify the secondary or ‘guilt-reflex’ anti-Semitism already present in western Europe. The outcome might possibly be a kind of ‘power triangle of anti-Semitism’ – a reciprocally reinforcing alliance of distinct forms of animosity toward Jews.”61
And as the admittedly pessimistic yet not completely unrealistic new study by Gabriel Schoenfeld shows, there are some small indications that even the great exception in the modern history of Western anti-Semitism – the United States of America – might absorb at least components of this amorphous yet clearly recognizable conglomerate into its public life.62 One’s relationship to “Zionism” has become a litmus test for various European (and, increasingly, American) leftist political milieus and progressive politics.63
Even if one advocates leftist views in every other area, one is no longer counted as a leftist (and can be branded a reactionary) if one publicly and emphatically speaks up for Israel’s right to exist.64 Yet even more disturbing is the generosity with which many European – and even American – leftist intellectuals trivialize anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks. Worse, some even, like the Canadian philosophy professor Michael Neumann, exhorts his colleagues “almost never [to] take anti-Semitism seriously, and maybe we should have some fun with it.”65
In no other case of racism or prejudice would any self-respecting leftist react with anything even remotely approaching this kind of equanimity. Yet only in a few brief stages of the European Left’s history did Jews enjoy the emotional attentiveness and solidarity of leftists. Such a state of affairs seems more remote than ever in today’s Europe and – increasingly even – the United States.66
1. Although the term “anti-Semitism,” ought to be unmistakably clear to all concerned, it does require a brief explanatory footnote, since there are always people who, for whatever reason, attempt to relativize and alter the concept. Ever since Wilhelm Marr (in his 1879 anti-Jewish pamphlet “The Victory of Jewry over Germanism”) introduced the expression “anti-Semitism” into the public sphere and common usage of every European country as a negative attitude toward the collectivity of “Jews” and everything Jewish, this is precisely what this generic term has meant: a general negative prejudice against Jews that can coagulate into an ideological explanation of the world attributing all kinds of social phenomena to the impact of Jews.
In the course of the Jewish-Arab conflict during the 20th century, Arabs and (later) Europeans developed the stubborn ideology that their attitude toward Jews could not possibly be anti-Semitic, since Arabs themselves are “Semites.” Quite apart from the fact that Arabs can also be anti-Arabic – and, according to this logic, also “anti-Semitic” (since prejudices are spiritual, intellectual, and emotional constructs not tied to the birthplace or “peoplehood” of anyone holding them) – this argument only serves as an exculpation and disguise of modern Arab hatred of Jews. In discussing the phenomenon that is generally characterized as anti-Semitism, it ought to be clear that this has nothing to do with any kind of “Semitic” linguistic regions or “ethnic groups,” but with modern hostility to Jews. Some authors – in order to evade this pseudo-problem now use the term “anti-Judaism” instead of “anti-Semitism.”
I find this superfluous and politically unacceptable. For a precise definition of terms like anti-Semitism, the German “Judenfeindschaft” (hostility or animosity toward Jews), and Judaeophobia in current social science discussions, and for more on the debate about new symbolic forms of these phenomena, cf. Lars Rensmann, Demokratie und Judenbild: Antisemitismus in der politischen Kultur der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Wiesbaden: 2004), pp. 71-95.
2. Andrei S. Markovits, Amerika, dich hasst sich’s besser. Antiamerikanismus und Antisemitismus in Europa. (Hamburg, 2004). A much-expanded English-language version of this book will be published by Princeton University Press in 2006. As to a brief definition of anti-Americanism, here is the one provided by Paul Hollander in his major book on the subject: “Anti-Americanism is a predisposition to hostility toward the United States and American society, a relentless critical impulse toward American social, economic, and political institutions, traditions, and values; it entails an aversion to American culture in particular and its influence abroad, often also contempt for the American national character (or what is presumed to be such a character) and dislike of American people, manners, behavior, dress, and so on; rejection of American foreign policy and a firm belief in the malignity of American influence and presence anywhere in the world.” (Paul Hollander, Anti-Americanism: Critiques at Home and Abroad, 1965 – 1990. [New York, 1992], p. 339 [emphasis in the original])
Anti-Americanism is a generalized and comprehensive normative dislike of the United States and things American that often lacks distinct reasons or concrete causes. Anti-Americanism – just like anti-Semitism — is an “ism” thus bespeaking its established institutionalization and common usage as a modern ideology. Whereas the word itself might not have been explicitly used until the beginning of the twentieth century, the sentiments that it denotes had been commonly understood and employed in Europe since the late eighteenth century, if not before. (A British economist writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1901 used the phrase “Anti-Americanism” explicitly for the first time. From David W. Ellwood, “A Brief History of European Anti-Americanism” [unpublished paper, delivered at the 2003 convention of the Organization of American Historians – OAH – Memphis, Tennessee, 6 April 2003.]).
Anti-Americanism exists: it is visible, palpable, audible, and observable. Lest we get bogged down in fruitless definitional squabbles, Justice Potter Stewart’s famous dictum about pornography (obscenity) pertains to anti-Americanism just as well as it does to anti-Semitism: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to embrace in that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it….” (Justice Potter Stewart, concurring in Jacobellis v. Ohio [378 U.S. 134, 1964]). People like to squabble about definitions of these terms endlessly, yet it is perfectly clear to most involved – victims and perpetrators – what they really mean.
3. Andre Glucksmann, “Scharons Irrtum” in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23 July 2004.
4. I have been impressed by the research of Richard Landes, who dates the start of acute and ultimately lethal European anti-Semitism to the winter of 1010. As a response to the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher by the Muslim Caliph al-Hakim, anti-Semitism brought the first organized massacres of Jews to Europe (especially to France). This systematic, politically motivated mass murder occurred in connection with new efforts at state-building in Christendom and with mobilization measures helping to raise armies in order to fight the Muslims in the Holy Land.
There had, of course, also been violent actions against Jews heretofore, though they had not (according to Landes) gone beyond the usual, vendetta-like acts of revenge that characterize rival communities and cultures living side by side all over the world. Cf. Richard Landes, “What Happens when Jesus Doesn’t Come: Jewish and Christian Relations in Apocalyptic Time” (unpublished manuscript, Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University, 2000, p. 1 ff.)
5. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jersualem (New York: 1965).
6. Jean-Claude Milner, Les penchants criminels de l’Europe démocratique (Paris: 2003).
7. “Attitudes toward Jews in Twelve European Countries” Anti-Defamation League (http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ASInt_13/4726_13.htm)
8. For an excellent study of European Anti-Semitism’s novel dimensions, see Robert S. Wistrich, European Anti-Semitism Reinvents Itself (New York, 2005).
9. In particular, Anti-Semitism in Hungary, and to a lesser extent, Poland, appears to be driven by economic concerns. In the ADL survey mentioned earlier, twice as many Hungarians (55%), as opposed to 27% of their European neighbors, agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much power in the business world”. Similarly, 55% of Hungarians, as opposed to 30% of Europeans, agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much power in international financial markets”. In other aspects of Anti-Semitism (e.g. Jews’ purported loyalty towards Israel) Hungary did not differ substantially from the other countries evaluated. Op.cit.
10. György Dalos, “Laut, frech, heimtückisch, Jude sein in Ungarn – und in Europa” in Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21 August 2004.
11. Istvan Eörsi, “Keine Zeile gelesen. Im Streit um Antisemitismus löst sich Ungarns Schriftstellerverband auf. Umso besser!” in Berliner Zeitung, March 15, 2004; György Dalos, “Kein Ausrutscher. Warum ungarische Autoren den Schriftstellerverband verließen” in Frankfurter Rundschau, 15 March; Wilhelm Droste, “In der Sackgasse gegen die Wand. Der ungarische Schriftstellerverband vor dem Ende” in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 19 March 2004 and Richard Wagner, “Mehr Opfer als Profiteure. Der Austritt ungarischer Schriftsteller aus dem Schriftstellerverband legt die Spuren zu einem osteuropäischen Antisemitismus frei, der bislang verdeckt war” in Frankfurter Rundschau, 19 March 2004.
12. Cf. on this point the outstanding comparative study by Elazar Barkan, The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices (New York: 2000).
13. This characterization of the two stereotypes, the Shylock and the Rambo Jew, derives from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. See his essay “The Globalization of Antisemitism” in The Forward, May 2, 2003. An extended German version appears under the title “Globalisierung des Antisemitismus” in Doron Rabinovic, Ulrich Speck, and Natan Sznaider (eds.) Neuer Antisemitismus? Eine globale Debatte (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2004).
14. Cf. Lars Rensmann, op. cit., pp. 87-89.
15. This anti-Semitic kind of hostility toward Israel is conspicuous for its “double standards” – always reliable indicators of this phenomenon – which are aimed at Israel as a Jewish state in toto and are obviously distinguishable from legitimate criticisms of the way the government is acting at any particular time. Israeli military actions are vastly exaggerated and stylized as singular crimes against humanity, while acts of terror against the Israeli civilian population are idealized as “resistance” or mere “reaction to the occupation.” As part of this anti-Israeli double standard and manner of perception, the crimes of Arab dictatorships against civilian populations, such as the massive Jordanian massacre of Palestinians during “Black September,” are routinely downplayed, or else they simply drop out of consciousness, since they have limited usefulness for demonizing “Zionism” or as a political cipher that can be mobilized. The reaction of the European Left to the persecutions undertaken by the Sudanese in Darfur, for which neither Israel nor the U.S. could be held responsible, has been correspondingly minimal.
16. On this point, see Mark Lila, “The End of Politics” in The New Republic, 11 June 2003.
17. Europäische Stelle zur Beobachtung von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit EUMC, EUMC Report on Anti-Semitism: .
18. Ibid. p. 13.
19. Analytical Report, Flash Eurobarometer 151, “Iraq and Peace in the World,” November 2003, survey ordered by the European Commission, (http://www.politik.uni-mainz.de/kai.arzheimer/Lehre-Eurobarometer/fb.151-in-the-news.html)
20. Antje Kraschinski, “Wenn der Präventivschlag zur Vergeltung wird” in Frankfurter Rundschau, 2 July 2003.
21. According to the aforementioned ADL poll, 29% of Europeans stated that their opinion of Jews is influenced by the actions taken by the State of Israel, and of those influenced over half (53%) say their opinion of Jews is worse because of the actions taken by Israel. Op cit.
22. Antje Kraschinski, “Wenn der Präventivschlag zur Vergeltung wird” in Frankfurter Rundschau, 2 July , 2003.
24. Quite apart from the fact that this figment conjured up in attempts to ward off the “anti-Semitism accusation” is itself replete with anti-Semitic features from the realm of conspiracy theory, scholarly investigations show that it really makes no sense to talk about a “taboo” on discussing Israel’s policies critically. Nor do any European country’s media take the side of Israel in any significant way. On the contrary: Reporting on politics in the Near East is overwhelmingly preformed by the construct of an oppressed Palestinian David struggling against a ruthless Israeli Goliath. The preponderant image is one of media-staged productions showing the deceptive picture of a conflict between stone-throwing children facing murderous soldiers in tanks; cf. inter alia Rolf Behrens, Raketen gegen Steinewerfer: Das Bild Israels im “Spiegel” (Münster: 2003); Duisburger Institut für Sprach- und Sozialforschung, Die Nahost-Berichterstattung zur Zweiten Intifada in deutschen Printmedien unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Israel-Bildes: Analyse diskursiver Ereignisse im Zeitraum von September 2000 bis August 2001 (Duisburg: 2002).
25. In every one of the European countries under consideration here, surveys show that the native European population hates its country’s Muslim inhabitants more than it despises its Jewish fellow citizens. This fact is unfortunately used by some people – chiefly politicians and intellectuals – to trivialize or deny the anti-Semitism that also exists.
26. Marcus Hammerschmitt, “Ein Sheriffstern mit sechs Zacken. Globalisierungskritik am Abgrund?” See .
27. Europäische Stelle zur Beobachtung von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit EUMC, EUMC Report on Anti-Semitism, op. cit., p. 13.
28. Andreas Zick and Beate Kuepper, “Antisemitismus in Deutschland – Ergebnisse aus dem GMF-Survey 2004” (unpublished manuscript, 2005). A published version will appear under the English title “Old myths, new stories – a report on anti-Semitism in Germany” in Journal für Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung 2005.
29. Thomas Friedman, “Campus Hypocrisy” in The New York Times, 16 October 2002.
30. Reverend King’s words are quoted in an op-ed article by Congressman John Lewis, “‘I have a Dream’ for Peace in the Middle East: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Special Bond with Israel,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 21, 2002.
31. It would go beyond the scope of this article, both conceptually and physically, to review the anti-Semitic themes and depictions that are omnipresent in the Arab media. Suffice it to mention briefly that today, as never before, a radical anti-Semitic discourse dominates most media in all the Arab (and, increasingly, Islamic) countries. In Egypt, a soap opera based on “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” running for several weeks became a major hit. This triumph was then repeated in other Arab countries. In the Arab media over the last several years, any distinction between Jews and Israelis has ceased to exist. Jews/Israelis are routinely depicted as wild beasts, monsters, and devils. The classic personifications of European anti-Semitism are, of course, fully applied: murdering Arab children for Jewish ritual purposes, the Jew with the hooked nose and the hunched-over posture, the avaricious gaze, the skullcap, the demonic disposition. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was not only a major hit in the Arab world; the film was also used to depict the “crucifixion” of contemporary Arabs. And, of course, the swastika is repeatedly used. Jews are constantly portrayed as Nazis. See Anti-Defamation League, Arab Media Review: Anti-Semitism and Other Trends (New York: 2004). The fact that anti-Semitism, with all of its traditional (and even Nazi) symbols and content, has a long tradition in the Arab world is demonstrated by Matthias Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhass. über den neuen antijüdischen Krieg (Freiburg: 2002).
32. There are a few European countries – Finland, Ireland, Portugal, and Luxemburg – where there has been practically no violence against Jewish persons or institutions. Now and then Jewish citizens and Israeli offices receive threatening letters in these countries, but otherwise there have been no major incidents. Then there is, on the diametrically opposite pole, a group of countries in which there has been considerable – and growing – violence against both Jewish persons and institutions. This group includes primarily France, followed by Belgium and Holland. Germany, Sweden, and Great Britain fall in between these two poles, although in these countries, as in the previous group, there has been a great deal of verbal aggression against Jews. Finally, there is a group including Spain, Greece, Italy, and Austria that has experienced far fewer acts of violence than France or Germany, but where the media and the public tolerate and even cultivate an especially blatant anti-Semitic discourse. Anti-Semitic views in these countries are also widespread and considered legitimate among the population at large. See Europäische Stelle zur Beobachtung von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit EUMC, “Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003,” p. 16 ff.; and Europäische Stelle zur Beobachtung von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit EUMC, “EUMC Report on Anti-Semitism,” p. 14.
33. Lucy Ward, “Oxford suspends don who rejected student for being Israeli” in The Guardian, 28 October 2003. In May 2003 Andrew Wilkie was appointed Nuffield Professor of Pathology at Oxford. After this incident, he resigned his position as “Fellow” at Pembroke College but retained his professorship at the university.
34. The Tom Paulin affair produced dozens of articles. A good summary of the entire story is Piper Fogg, “Harvard Reverses Decision and Reinvites Poet Who Made Incendiary Comments” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Volume 49, Issue 16, 13 December 2002.
35. The Mona Baker affair was discussed for months in the media of Great Britain, Israel, the U.S., and other English-speaking countries. Scholars from numerous countries and in diverse forums took positions on this case in a variety of articles in newspapers, journals, conferences, and the Internet. The two best summaries are Ori Golan, “Boycott by Passport” in Jerusalem Post, 17 January 2003 and Andy Beckett, “It’s water on stone – in the end the stone wears out” in The Guardian, 12 December 2002.
36. This confirms my long-held opinion that (unfortunately) intellectuals also – or perhaps especially – have political convictions and normative preferences creating an ethic that is then used to legitimate these very preferences and then sold as a rationalization disguised in universalistic terms. The people who defended Tom Paulin almost always used arguments based on freedom of speech and opinion. But when it came to supporting Mona Baker, many said that the editor of a scholarly journal has the right to fire people from the editorial board at her discretion without commentary. Sometimes it was the very same people who used these fundamentally different and clearly contradictory arguments to advocate on behalf of their ideologically like-minded compatriots.
37. Jeff Weintraub succeeded virtually all by himself to get the American Political Science Association and other major American academic organizations to express their official opposition to the AUT’s original boycott. In his initiating a huge signature campaign against the boycott, Weintraub developed the notion of the AUT’s action being much closer to a blacklist than a boycott by dint of two things: first, the AUT’s decision offered an exemption of its boycott to faculty members of Bar Ilan and Haifa universities if these persons actively expressed political views that the AUT found to its liking; second, as Weintraub noted, “boycotts” target institutions, as was the case in the global disapproval of South Africa’s apartheid regime, whereas “blacklists” aim at individuals, as was the case during McCarthyism. See Jeff Weintraub, “This is a blacklist, not a boycott” (www.aweintraub.sas.upenn.edu).
38. Peter G. J. Pulzer, “The New Antisemitism, or When is a Taboo not a Taboo?” in Paul Iganski und Barry Kosmin, A New Antisemitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain (London: 2003), pp. 79-101. Peter G. J. Pulzer is the Gladstone Professor of Politics (emeritus) at All Souls College in Oxford. He has written extensively on different topics of German, Austrian, and British history and politics.
39. This, for example, is the line of argument advanced by the German and Franco-Italian left-wing intellectuals Elfriede Müller, Klaus Holz, and Enzo Traverso when they write: “An arson attack on a synagogue is an anti-Semitic act that needs to be condemned and sanctioned. But it is useful to know if it was committed by skinheads, those nostalgic for Vichy France, by Islamic fundamentalists, or by youths with a Maghreb background who wanted to show their support for the Palestinian Intifada.” The struggle against Israel is construed as legitimate; a reaction against state terrorism, for ultimately Israel is an “apartheid system,” the product of a “colonization process,” and practicing a “policy of suppression exercised with brutal force.” Therefore, it is important to pull down the “Auschwitz blinder,” and the solidarity that still exists among portions of the Left toward “Jewry … generally” needs to be withdrawn, because these are the “oppressors of today,” and the Palestinians should not be “instructed about the ways and means of their struggle” in reaction to this oppression. Klaus Holz, Elfriede Müller, and Enzo Traverso, “Schuld und Erinnerung,” Jungle World 47 (2002), cited by Lars Rensmann, Demokratie und Judenbild, op. cit., pp.113 and 319.
40. For my project “Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in Europe” I have collected over 500 caricatures, cartoons, posters, leaflets, and similar visual material from 14 European countries. The process of deliberate scholarly evaluation of these documents is still underway. But it is already noticeable that there is a clear difference in the caricatures and cartoons from German publications and from other countries. Thus far, as a general rule, mainstream German newspapers and journals have not published cartoons even nearly as malicious and anti-Israeli (or anti-Semitic) as their British, Italian, Greek, and French counterparts. In the realm of cartoons, the German threshold of shame still seems to be a tad higher in this sensitive area than it is in other European countries.
41. Pulzer, op. cit.
42. “Our dulled nerve” in The Guardian, 18 November 2003.
43. Melanie Phillips, “Anti-Semitism is on the increase and its roots are not in the Right but in the Sharon-hating Left”, in The Observer, 22 February 2004. It needs to be said that Melanie Phillips is a regular columnist for the conservative Daily Mail and provided this article in her capacity as a guest columnist for the Observer. In the article she identifies herself as Jewish.
45. Marie Woolf, “Anti-Semitism is ‘infecting’ British politics, MPs warn” in The Independent, 22 April 2004.
46. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Interview with Moses Altsech, “Anti-Semitism in Greece: Embedded in Society,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, Number 23, 1 August 2004, p. 1.
47. Even in Ireland, where there are very few Jews, and where attacks on Jews or Jewish institutions have been practically nonexistent for decades, Jews are not viewed as genuinely Irish. See Jonathan Wilson, “The Fading World of Leopold Bloom in The New York Times Magazine, 13 June 2004.
48. In a wide-ranging interview that Mikis Theodorakis granted Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit 24 hours before the start of the Olympic games, he was keen to maintain that he had not said Jews were the root of all evil, but rather that Jews could always be found at the root of all evil. In this interview Theodorakis gives voice to every standard anti-Semitic theme, both old and new: from the many Jewish Nobel Prize winners, which Theodorakis attributes to Jewish arrogance and aggressiveness, to the complete Judaization of America and the subservience of American politics to Jews; from Jews as unpatriotic people to the proudly repeated analogy between Israel and Nazi Germany. In this context Theodorakis raises a point that I had never read before in quite this way in any of my rather extensive readings about the different rationales for hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism: “After World War I the Germans were victims. They felt like victims. They also felt they were in the right to feel this way. Others had caused them grief, but they were in the right. This was the germination for Hitler… Hitler said we will never be victims again. We will arm ourselves and we will avenge ourselves. Look where that led. Something like this could also easily happen with Israel.” Ari Shavit, “The Jewish problem, according to Theodorakis” in Haaretz, 27 April 2004. (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/469781.html) In spite of the rather drastic political shift from left to right and then back to the left again undertaken by Theodorakis, his name continues to be mentioned as a possible head of state for Greece. His reputation as a public intellectual, and not just a composer, remains at a high level throughout Europe.
49. This information comes from the excellent interview with Moses Altsech, who teaches at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin and has been doing research and writing on anti-Semitism in Greece for many years. See “Anti-Semitism in Greece: Embedded in Society”, op. cit.
50. Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Spirit of Olympic Games Must Inspire Greece to Deal with its Antisemitism.” See .
51. Tom Gross, “Anti-Semitism at ‘Le Monde” and Beyond” in Wall Street Journal Europe, 2 June 2005.
52. See . One of the best articles treating the cases of Theodorakis and Saramago within the larger context of the old and new anti-Semitism in Europe and the role of intellectuals is Pilar Raholas “Los Protocolos de los Sabios de la Informacion. El Ojo Tuerto de Europa” in
53. Tom Gross, op. cit.
54. Craig S. Smith, “Arsonists in Paris Vandalize and Burn a Jewish Community Center” in The New York Times, 23 August 2004.
55. Craig S. Smith, “Thwarted in Germany, Neo-Nazis Take Fascism to France” in The New York Times, 13 August 2004.
56. Andre Glucksmann, “Scharons Irrtum” in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23 July 2004. It is interesting how translations can decisively influence both nuance and content. This quote comes from the just-cited publication in the FAZ. On July 24, 2004 the newspaper The Scotsman published the same article by Glucksmann in an English translation. The Scottish paper used the word “people” instead of “country” (as reported by the Frankfurt paper). At issue was whether the world ought to risk a Third World War because of this “people/country.” Furthermore, the FAZ translation talked about an “important and reputable posting” for Bernard as ambassador in Algeria. For The Scotsman this was “a choice posting and a strategic one,” which, given France’s pro-Arab policy, indicates a clearly strategic move for an ambassador who openly utters these kinds of words about Israel. Even the English title of the article is much more telling than the German one. See Andre Glucksmann, “Potent Ingredients Stirred into a Dangerous Anti-Semitic Cocktail” in The Scotsman, July 24, 2004.
57. Pascal Boniface, “Lettre a un ami israelien” in Le Monde, August 4, 2001 and Christoph Caldwell, “Bonifacisme. Liberte, Egalite, Judeophobie” in The Forward, April 27, 2002.
58. Michel Gurfinkiel, “France’s Jewish Problem” in Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2002 and Pascal Boniface, “Est il interdit de critiquer Israel?” in Le Monde, August 31, 2001.
59. Tom Gross, op. cit.
60. There is a superb treatment of these ideas in the context of the different ways the Nazi past was treated in Germany and Austria; see David Art, “Debating the Lessons of History: The Politics of the Nazi Past in Germany and Austria” (unpublished dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 2004). On the current discussion about anti-Semitism and the meaning of what can be said democratically (the meaning of “discursive opportunity structures”), cf. Lars Rensmann, op. cit., p.211 ff.
61. Salomon Korn, “NS- und Sowjetverbrechen. Sandra Kalietes falsche Gleichsetzung” in Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 31, 2004.
62. Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism (San Francisco: 2004).
63. On anti-Zionism having mutated into the litmus test of being a bona fide progressive and leftists both in the North America and Europe, see Andrei S. Markovits, “The European and American Left since 1945” in Dissent, Winter 2005, pp. 5 – 13.
64. A tragic example that confirms my argument here has been provided by the well-known American feminist Phyllis Chesler. At the end of 2003 she wrote an important book with the telling title The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It (San Francisco: 2003), which resulted in her being shunned, attacked, and denounced by many feminist intellectuals.
65. Alvin Rosenfeld, Modern Jewish Intellectual Failure: A Brief History (unpublished manuscript, May 2005).
66. Ibid. Rosenfeld’s work demonstrates most comprehensively how anti-Zionism with many anti-Semitic overtones has become central to the American left’s self-understanding and political identity.
Professor. Andrei S. Markovits was born in Timisoara, Romania in 1948. He emigrated to the United States in 1960, but spent the bulk of his teenage years in Vienna before returning to New York in 1967 to attend Columbia University where he received all five of his university degrees. He is the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Among his books are: The German Left: Red, Green and Beyond (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); The German Predicament: Memory and Power in the New Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997); and Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). His latest book [in German] is Amerika, dich hasst sich’s besser, (Anti-Amerikanismus und Antisemitismus in Europa) (Hamburg, Konkret, 2004). An amended and expanded English-language version will be published by Princeton University Press in 2006.