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Thursday, December 18, 2003

INCENDIARY ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE EU: 1st Of 3 Installments

Our thanks to X, a political science professor in California who sent us a link to an article on the dangers of fast growing anti-Semitism in West Europe. Written by a team of San Francisco Chronicle journalists stationed in West Europe, it appeared in that influential newspaper on December 14.

A few words about X that are relevant to the article seem in order. Born and reared in Liverpool, England, he came to this country at age 19, entered university, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. --- after 6 years of graduate work --- and is currently a happy fellow, a professor in California and a US citizen. He is himself, please note, not Jewish. Like the buggy professor, though, he deplores this renewed surge of Jew-hating racism in Britain and even more so on the Continent --- a scourge in European life for over 1500 years now --- and as a once proud Briton, he's left with sadness as he witnesses the evidence of anti-Semitism's spreading venom pile up in Europe again. More concretely, all of us of good-will --- whether American or European --- are bound to worry that the thick barrier of taboos surrounding anti-Semitism in Europe since WWII has experienced a recent bursting-the-bounds collapse. Our worry here is all the greater because of a related complex of extra-potent causes behind the surging anti-Semitism, a host of unsettling, pressure-cooker changes in European life --- economic, social, demographic, and political --- that entail both growing social-conflicts and charged mental stress. There's no secret of the driving forces behind these resented, disorienting changes: remorseless globalizing and regional trends, a heady compound as we'll see that has little to do with Israel or the Middle-East conflict --- which serves as the rationale-excuse invoked by most West European officials and media-types whenever the incendiary anti-Semitism active there is discussed --- and everything to do with a tangle of emotionally charged resentments and backlashes that seeks out and blames flesh-and-blood scapegoats for the upsurge of social conflicts and dislocations in European life.


PART I. SOME INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ON X'S ARTICLE: HOW ANTI-SEMITISM, ANTI-GLOBALIZATION, AND ANTI-AMERICANISM GO TOGETHER IN TANGLED IF INCOHERENT WAYS

Needless to say, we'll document these resentments and dislocations in a few moments. At the outset here, the key point to keep in mind is this: the more this complex of unsettling economic, social, and political changes picks up in momentum, the more likely there will be increased psychic backlashes in both halves of the Continent --- west and east --- that single out and seek to scapegoat Jews as instrumental for their troubles, whether directly or indirectly. In particular,

  • Directly so . . . by conjuring up age-old boilerplate views about hidden, all-powerful Jewish conspiracies to dominate the world;


  • And indirectly --- in a more sophisticated, updated way, purveyed by some of the EU media and among certain intellectual and political circles --- by invoking the alleged Jewish control of these feared globalizing and regional forces: whether of American foreign policy (the neo-con conspiracy), or by means of Jew-dominated big finance and Wall Street (and hence the relentless spread of "casino capitalism" a l'americain), or thanks to the alleged Jewish control of Hollywood and the even more relentless diffusion of American films, TV, music, and what have you.


Agreed: all these controversial points remain to be clarified and backed up with persuasive evidence. That's no less true of a new ingredient that's rippling with raw power near the core of this hyperkinetic, paranoid syndrome spawning anti-Semitism in Europe these days: the impact in EU life of the rapidly growing Muslim populations around the Continent --- increasingly young, increasingly alienated, and crackling with edgy resentments of secular European life --- that are inclined more and more toward fundamentalist extremism and apologies for Islamo-fascist terrorism. On the new racist anti-Semitism in the Arab countries and the wider Muslim world beyond it, see the series of four long buggy articles that appeared in October and early November this year. See these links: Buggy1 Buggy2 Buggy3 Buggy4

 

Another Point To Keep In Mind

The topic of anti-Semitism in the EU isn't a new buggy theme. We've just mentioned the four buggy articles that deal with the new and vicious Jew-hating racism in the Arab world and the Muslim countries beyond it . . . part of Arab street life and popular culture, vented daily in the state-controlled media all over the Middle East. The earlier buggy articles that probe the new anti-Semitism in West Europe --- a more sanitized, sophisticated form of vitriol and hostility that doesn't enjoy the degree of legitimacy it does in the Arab world --- can be found at these links, full of various kinds of cram-jam detail and evidence, including lots of survey data. one two and three Also, on the same subject, see this recent buggy article.





More to the point, these earlier buggy articles unpacked a related theme that needs to be emphasized and will in the remarks that follow. Recall the reference just now to the more sophisticated, updated ideology of anti-Semitism at work in European circles these days --- at any rate, beyond the simpleton Jew-hating racism of the traditional sort that crackles with energy in alienated Muslim communities or ripples with venom in political extremism of the right-wing sort symbolized by Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front. In this tonified form of Jew-hostile bigotry, there's an inextricable mix of snarling anti-Semitic animus and anxiety, anti-Israeli vitriol, and anti-Americanism of a crude sort . . . not to forget the anti-globalizing backlashes, with large popular and media support all over Europe, that have been energized on both the left and the right. It's an incoherent mental brew, this ugly mix. Some pernicious ingredients, it goes without saying, are more attractive to this group of haters and unhinged people than to others. No matter, the boiled-over venom and raw hostility are what count; and everywhere in the EU where there are emotionally angry and dislocated people whose mental bearings have gone whacky, the vicious, incoherent slop is being guzzled up and evacuated with surprising energy.

 



(i.) Yes, Anti-Semitism Varies, But . . .

Recall the term italicized a few lines ago. Everywhere in EU circles? Yes, everywhere people's intellectual and moral compasses are out of joint; and in the last few years, just as much on the European left as on its right.

Note what this means. It doesn't mean that clear hostility to Jews is embraced by a majority of West Europeans: as we'll see, survey evidence shows that about a third of West Europeans now give voice to strong anti-Semitic statements (vs. about half that number in the US). It does mean that this resurgent Jew-hostile racism is found in all countries and in all political circles on both the left and right, not just along the fringe-extremes; it also means that snarled-lip anti-Semitism also shows up regularly in even traditionally tolerant countries like Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Britain, and Norway. Most dangerously of all, it further means that the new racism is aired regularly in the mainstream EU media, in direct or indirect ways --- such as the recent decision by a journalist group in the Britain to award its annual prize for the best political cartoon to a Jew-baiting cartoonist, which depicts Ariel Sharon eating a Palestinian baby, a link to a vicious boilerplate canard 1000 years old in European Christianity that Jews have to kill a baby on the eve of Passover and use its blood for producing matzo. As it happens, that hateful blood-libel slur, which was featured persistently in the Nazi press of the 1930s, is regularly portrayed these days in the state-controlled Arab media.

"The demonization of Israel had led to the demonization of its supporters and Jews in general," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a fellow at the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the Middle East Center at St. Antony's College, Oxford. There is a feeling among the 300,000 or so Jews living in the United Kingdom that they are being silenced, adds Ottolenghi. "In order to live quietly, it is advisable not to identify yourself as a Jew, unless you do so in conjunction with strong condemnation of Israel. The feeling is that Jews in Europe today are on probation. And the U.K. is no different. " See The S.F. Chronicle


As for the media impact,

In Britain, Ottolenghi and others say, the trend has been led primarily by the left-wing and liberal press. They cite the growing number of Judeophobic statements and characterizations since Sept. 11. Only slightly less over the top than the cartoon of Sharon, the cover of the New Statesman magazine's Jan. 14, 2002, issue featured a huge, glistening gold Star of David piercing a British flag under the headline: "A kosher conspiracy? Britain's pro-Israel lobby." . . . In an interview with Vanity Fair in May 2003, Tam Dalyell, a parliamentary member of the ruling Labor Party, complained that a "cabal of Jewish advisers" unduly influenced Prime Minister Tony Blair. He mentioned Lord Levy, Blair's Middle East envoy; former top aide Peter Mandelson, whose father is Jewish; and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, one of whose grandparents was Jewish.

Remember, this is in traditionally tolerant Britain. As survey evidence shows (documented in a few moments), it still does better than almost all the rest of the EU when it comes to popular support for anti-Semitism: Holland, a fount of tolerance for its Jewish minority for several hundred years, shows by far the least. Oppositely, the populations of France, Italy, Germany, and Spain display anti-Semitism at almost double the levels of Britain --- between 35 - 40%. And yet, as the St. Antony's professor notes --- St. Antony's one of the buggy professors two colleges at Oxford --- even in more tolerant Britain the small Jewish community, of 1.0% of the 60 million or so total population, finds "it advisable not to identify yourself as a Jew" and to live as though you "are on probation."

 

(ii.) Why On Both The Left and Right?

Let's be clear what it means to say that anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and anti-globalization are extra-potent influences on both the left and the right in contemporary Europe.

Take the far-right. Think of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, who rails against globalization, the European Union, and the US with the same vigor and extra-potent venom that you find among the cop-baiters, rock-throwers, fire-bombers, and fist-shaking left-wing agitators who show up in large number wherever there is an EU Summit meeting, a G-7 meeting, or a World Bank gathering. Le Pen's National Front now enjoys the support of 22% of all Frenchmen, according to recent opinion polls. Worse, its extremist sentiments flourish with raw, bursting animal energy in far wider circles in French life, or so influential mainstream papers like Le Monde and Liberation admit, a subject that we'll return to eventually here.

As for left-wing vitriol and bigotry, it's the mirror image of this reactionary mentality and revivalism; and it too is laid out once more and documented in what follows. Meanwhile, for those of you who prefer to get European views, you might start with an article just published on left-wing agitation, racism, and anti-American sentiments by a Frenchman: Jean-Christophe Mounicq, Red-Green Anti-Semitism. The "red" label in Mounicq's article, note, stands for left-wing radicalism of the traditional sort, and its linguistic origins stretch back to the French revolution: the left colored red, the right colored white . . . tags that flourished later, say, in the Russian civil war from 1918 until 1921. The "green" tag is more a more recent invention; it refers to alarmist, overwrought environmentalism of the sort that sees the world going to pieces, at any rate unless there's immediate extra-potent regulations adopted of all sorts, administered with fervent determination by left-wing bureaucrats and politicians --- guess who will lead them? --- to curb runaway capitalism and especially the American variant. It's the sort of mainstream fruitcake stuff that, say, Kenneth Livingstone, the red-mayor of London gave vent to when President Bush visited that city last month: the monster Toxin-Texan was the world's greatest menace, leading it to ecological and diplomatic disaster that could spell fire-and-brimstone Armageddon. No, not an exaggeration. Bush, he said plainly, was "greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen". . . . worse, let's see, than Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Japanese militarists of WWII, and all the demented, paranoid Communist third-world dictators who, taken together, with Stalin and Mao, killed off 100 million of their citizens.

 

Agreed: all these observation still leave unclear what percentage of EU residents express strong anti-Semitic views, who they appeal to and why, how they stack up against survey data for Americans, and what the political counteracting influences happen to be in the EU trying to contain the bursting spread of the new anti-Semitism there. Be patient. As it happens, each and every one of these topics will be taken up and analyzed, along with supporting evidence, as the argument unfolds here. Come to that, the argument toward the end will also show why the current surge and spread of anti-Semitism in the EU --- worrying though it is, making life increasingly difficult for the tiny, apprehensive Jewish minorities in the EU (about 1/3 of 1.0% of the EU's roughly 400 million inhabitants) --- it isn't likely to duplicate the horrifying descent into fascisms, Nazism, and Holocaust that engulfed Europe and the Jews in the 1930s and first half of the 1940s.

None of this is reason for optimism, on the other hand --- just the opposite, and for reasons that remain to be set out. In the meantime, most of you might find the lengthy sidebar commentary that follows revealing about a certain state-of-mind --- dogmatic and intolerant of dissent --- that prevails in politically correct circles all over the EU, fought against essentially in the mainstream EU media only in some London-based newspapers and weeklies, plus a tiny handful at most of papers with an influential readership on the Continent itself: above all, the generally admirable Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung.  

A Sidebar Tag-on For Further Illumination: Left-Wing Dogmatism and Witch-Hunting, However Batty

Seems wacko, this sort of moonbat hokum voiced by Red Ken? Obviously. That doesn't make it any less energetically adhered to in wide left-wing circles all over the EU --- or make Livingstone any less popular in London or around the rest of the country.

And remember, far from being far-out leftie stuff, vocal echoes of the extravagant hyperbole are voiced throughout the EU media, and --- astonishingly, despite the use of more dry academic prose --- by self-chosen witch-hunters who dominate official scientific bodies in a country like Denmark . . . otherwise known for its respect for human rights.

Apparently, that respect doesn't fully extend to a severe critic of extravagant, overwrought green-environmentalism such as Bjorn Lomborg, the prominent Danish statistician who published a book originally in Danish, and then in an updated, far more extensive English version two years ago --- The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World --- that set out in elaborate statistical detail how exaggeratedly pessimistic and even doomster green-activist views tend to be about the world's environmental condition: if anything, in Lomborg's view --- whether we're dealing with resource availability and energy use, or pollution and climate change, or foresty and species survival, or for that matter food, population growth, and the sustainable nature of economic growth way into the future --- there is general reason for optimism. However praiseworthy it was, the Lomborg book had no new message for American readers. As he himself admits, it's a take-off on the pioneer writings of Julian Simon, an economist at the University of Maryland, who had been lambasting the blown-up hyperbole of environmental doomsters for three decades by the time he died in the mid-1990s. If Lomborg caused such a pother of backlash fury in Europe and in certain diehard American environmental circles, it was because of his vast statistical evidence, his admirable clear writing, his vigorous analysis, and above all his generally optimistic message . . . all the more the stuff of sorcery-ridden dissent, at any rate in the eyes of the Danish scientific witch-hunters, because Lomborg had once been an active member of Greenpeace, the well-known activist organization, only on a trip to America and afterwards to be converted to Simon's optimism. As Lomborg's book argues in its preface, followed by several hundred pages of detailed statistical evidence:

"We are not running out of energy or natural resources. There will be more food per head of the world's population. Fewer and fewer people are starving. . . . Global warming, though its size and future projections are rather unrealistically pessimistic, is almost certainly taking place," he writes, "but the typical cure of early and radical fossil fuel cutbacks is way worse than the original affliction and, moreover, its total impact will not pose a devastating problem for our future."

That, apparently, was unpalatable stuff in Denmark, the rest of Scandinavia, and throughout the EU media, all in a tizzy over the publication of dissenting views from Big-Green pieties. It looked like a replay, more than a century later, of the great Norwegian play by Henrik Ibsen, Enemy of the People. Enter the self-chosen Danish scientific committee in the Ministry of Science, which boasts the Orwellian title, the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty. With no documentation really, and no leeway whatever for the accused Lomborg to reply to the charges, it flatly accused him of bias and dishonesty, claimed he wasn't a real scientist, and sent him to pillory . . . or at least tried anyway. "The publication" of The Skeptical Environmentalist, the committee declared categorically, was a "scientifically dishonest" fraud that was "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice". The committee's inquisition and condemnation were all the more fervently pushed because Lomborg, horror of horrors, had just been appointed an environmental advisor by the new center-right coalition government in Denmark.

That was in early 2003. Before the Orwellian Inquisition published its condemnation, Lomborg had already been assaulted mercilessly in the Danish and EU media all over Europe, where, it appears, radical environmentalist views are rampant and unquestioned, and any criticisms of a sustained sort, however well-founded, put you in the camp of George Bush and mossbacked American capitalists . . . just about the worst insult most of the EU media can imagine. The attacks on him were personal and slanderous. Come to that, in certain scientific circles in Britain and the US --- to their discredit --- the criticisms weren't much better despite the aura of scientific authority they exuded.

That to repeat was a year ago. Since then, just yesterday, the right to dissent from politically correct orthodoxy in Denmark has been salvaged. The Scientific Ministry in Copenhagen has issued a report that vindicates Lomborg and accuses the witchhunters of . . . well, witchhunting, and little else. For more, see the perceptive Financial Times article on the furore.

It's a welcome whiff of common sense in what appears to be an otherwise stifling orthodoxy that's well-entrenched throughout the EU, especially in media circles and mainstream political parties. The Danish Ministry, note, didn't claim that Lomborg's book is the last word on environmental concerns. How could it be? In intelligent, well-documented ways, Lomborg was advancing a pivotal debate, charged with practical policy implications ---nothing more; and serious critics should be obliged to reply in detail and with an open-minded willingness to let Lomborg and others freely exchange views and counter-views with them. Apparently, when you're in the saddle as politically correct whiphands, you don't want that to happen. (Even Scientific American and Nature in Britain, which gathered a whole posse of Lomborg critics as the book's reviewers to skewer Lomborg, didn't allow him the courtesy of a reply. Fortunately, he found plenty of other US outlets.) On a different level, once again we're faced with the sad nature of the EU media, little of which, it appears --- anywhere --- spoke out in favor of Lomborg earlier this year. The exceptions were some in London. Too bad the Financial Times, The Economist, and a couple of other London-based media outlets don't have their equivalents on the Continent, at any rate with a large readership . . . including among influential politicians and bureaucrats. Probably the closest is the Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung, a good sober paper that also manages to keep its head when it comes to Bush-led foreign policies.

As for the Red Ken, he may look extreme when he voices his inflated doom-doom bombast. In fact, for all the overblown stuff, it's not far from the general line pushed in much of the EU or in far too many political parties in the EU. The world is going to pieces, and the sky's falling in; only Greenpeace, Eurocrats in Brussels, and political activist-saviors of mankind can reverse the dismal trends by taking power everywhere and spinning out hordes of regulations. True, three years ago, the Labour Party leadership in Britain decided that Mayor Livingston had overdone his off-the-wall behavior and rhetoric and withdrew official party membership from him in 2000. Since then, Red Ken has emerged as one of Tony Blair's most prominent critics and become a focal point for all the unhappy Labourites --- in and out of Parliament --- who have mutinied against Blair's policies, especially over Iraq.

Was the expulsion from the Labour Party a sign of sobriety? It seemed like it until earlier this week. For electoral reasons, as we now know, the decision has been overturned; Livingstone is simply too popular in London, and the Labour leadership needs to win back with the multitudes of mutineers in party ranks. Even Tony Blair --- an admirable political leader, who has refused to cave-in to assaults from the left and the media in Britain for his support of Bush's policies toward Saddamite Iraq and since the end of the war there --- has deemed it essential for Labour's political future that the party cozy up to the hypercharged mayor.


 

PART III. OUR TAKE ON THE S.F. CHRONICLE ANALYSIS

The Article's Strengths

To follow what ensues, it's useful to have clicked on the S.F. Chronicle links above and at least run your eye over the article.

Well, X . . . it's a good article and accurate as far as it goes --- not least in its reportage of the growing incidents of anti-Semitism all over West Europe, with some variation across particular countries. It also shows effectively how open venting of Jew-hatred and hostility --- whether verbal or by means of physical attacks, either on individual Jews or Jewish religious and cultural centers --- has gained more and more legitimacy the last few years. When Greece's most famous musical composer, the left-wing Mikis Theodorakis, can declare openly on a podium flanked by members of the Greek Cabinet --- who themselves say nothing by way of criticism --- that Jews are "the root of evil", and the Greek Cabinet Ministers present at the same say nothing in protest, then yes, as the Chronicle article observes, the attacks on West European Jews, only about 1/3 of 1.0% of the EU's nearly 400 million (or about 1.2 million total) have become "incendiary." The analysis, in short, is generally intelligent and, to repeat, more or less accurate . . . at any rate, given the available information at our disposal.

The latter, alas, isn't much.

Few European journalists, let alone scholars, have dealt with the high-octane anti-Jewish racism in their countries; for that matter, there isn't much done in the European scholarly world about anti-Muslim racism. One exception to this silence or cover-up is a full-tilt study that the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) commissioned in 2002 --- and even that report, as it turned out, was suppressed and not made public for fear of offending the rapidly growing, increasingly fundamentalist-inclined Muslim populations in the EU, whose young members were shown to be behind a large proportion of the anti-Semitism on the Continent. At any rate, it was suppressed for months until the ADL and some corresponding groups in the EU found out about the cover-up, went public about a month or so ago with their demands that the study be published, and ---thanks to the hullabaloo and international pressures --- got satisfaction only about a week ago. The entire study is now available at the CRIF French web site, and in English. For the executive summary, click on this link.

There may have also been some behind-the-scenes pressure exerted by the Italian President of the EU Executive Commission, Romano Prodi. In early November --- after another survey was made public that showed 59% of the EU populations claimed Israel was the greatest threat to world peace --- he put out a statement in which he said

"I am very concerned at the results of this survey. They point to the continued existence of a bias that must be condemned out of hand. To the extent that this may indicate a deeper, more general prejudice against the Jewish world, our repugnance is even more radical. In the Europe born in reaction to the horrors of war and the Shoah, there is no place for anti-Semitism and it cannot be tolerated."

 

One Tag-On Observation For Some Added Perspective.

The same EUMC organization had no hesitation to publish its in-depth study of anti-Muslim racism in the EU, also a serious problem. Why the cover-up then of the study about anti-Jewish racism? The center, after hesitation, said it had been under pressure not to publish the study lest it offend the Muslim minorities in West Europe ---- about 5-7% of the overall 380 million population, depending on the problems of counting who's a Muslim and tracking illegal immigrants: most likely some 20 25 million in all, and rapidly growing as the EU native populations themselves begin to age and shrink. It's a sign of the times. Obviously, there is anxiety and fear afoot in the EU about the growing violence and crime and verbal support for extremist Islamic terrorism.



Another Tag-On Observation: World Jewish Population

There seem to be about 15 million self-identified Jews in the world ---- about of 1.0% of the world's 6 million people. Only about 10 countries have more than 100,000 Jews total:

United States5,800,000
Israel4,847,000
France600,000
Russia550,000
Ukraine400,000
Canada360,000
United Kingdom300,000
Argentina250,000
Brazil130,000
South Africa106,000
Australia100,000
Hungary80,000
Belarus60,000
Germany60,000


 

END OF THE FIRST INSTALLMENT

The remaining four parts of the argument are found in the next article, which completes the argument begun here and uncoiled down to this point.