Thursday, July 08, 2010

A European Problem

The Forward has a stellar, if chilling, article on growing anti-Semitism in Malmo, Sweden, which is driving the Jewish population away from the city and into Israel. But buried inside, they also quote from some downright scary polling done inside Europe:
A continentwide study, conducted by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, released in December 2009, found that that 45.7% of the Europeans surveyed agree somewhat or strongly with the following statement: “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” And 37.4% agreed with this statement: “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews.”

“[There is] quite a high level of anti-Semitism that is hidden beneath critics of Israel’s policies,” said Beate Kupper, one of the study’s principal researchers, in a telephone interview with the Forward, citing this data and a tendency to “blame Jews in general for Israel’s policies.”

Kupper said that in places where there is a strong taboo against expressions of anti-Semitism, such as Germany, “Criticism of Israel is a great way to express your anti-Semitism in an indirect way.”

That 37.4% figure seems like a perfect match of folks whose "anti-Israel" politics is leading directly into anti-Semitism, or at least "understanding" it. The 45.7% figure, by contrast, overlaps nicely with folks who have lost all sense of perspective or proportion (and what might be the cause of that?). Given these findings, I find it hard to disagree with Kupper that anti-Israel politics is often (not always) simply a socially acceptable way of operationalizing anti-Semitic attitudes.


joe said...

That is clumsy construction of a poll question. We can "understand" a lot of things. Consider, I can understand that people who are abused as children are likely to abuse children as adults. Am I a child abuser now, or "leading directly" to child abuse.

Or let's get closer to home. I recall you have suggested that you understand Israel's recent actions in Gaza even though you are doubtful they will yield positive results even for Israel. Since you have the benefit of a blog, you go on to explain that what you really understand is the human urge to do something in the face of terror attacks.

But if you get put on the spot by a poll you don't get the benefit of a nuanced dissection of such questions. Should we take your answer as proof of a high level of "direct support" for needless war, or -- if we really want to spin it -- revenge killings?

I'd say that is not responsible. The use of "understand" is a fuzzy phraseology, the kind we often see when a pollster wants his results to lend themselves to certain arguments. A better agree/disagree statement might be "Considering Israel's policy, I do not fault people for disliking Jews." Hell, even change "people" to "Arabs" or "Palestinians" -- that would undoubtedly boost the agreement rate, but it would still be a gauge of a belief that anti-Semitism can be excusable.

N. Friedman said...


The driving issue in Europe that allows Antisemites to find a means to express their hatred is Israel. Such comes from government policy which blames the Israelis for the failure of the dispute to settle. And, that policy was born out of agreements reached between Europeans and the Arab Leagues beginning just after the Yom Kippur War.

The gist of the agreements is for Europe to adopt much of the Arab League line in exchange for which Munich style terror arising out of the Arab Israeli dispute would not occur in Europe and in exchange for preferences on contracts to build in Arab League countries and in exchange for a guaranteed oil supply. An interesting article by Professor Richard L. Rubenstein about this appeared a number of years ago in Reform Judaism Magazine. More about this topic can be found in this article by Omar Barghouti and Adrian Grima in the far left magazine CounterPunch. The scholar of Islam, Bat Ye'or, has also written about this topic at length.

Antisemitism will increase in the US - likely on a smaller scale due to the large percentage of Americans who see Israel as a friend of the US - to the extent that Israel comes to be blamed for the failure of the dispute to end. Fortunately, Americans have not been shy about expressing their outrage at our president's foolish approach to the dispute and fortunately he appears to be backtracking from his prior approach, either because Americans disagree with it in large numbers or because it had, instead of fostering talks, allowed the Arab side to change the terms of the discussion so that there were no direct talks. Now, the President seems to have remembered that a dispute between peoples requires them to face each other.

Seeing evidence for for the connection between Anti-Israel and Antisemitic sentiment in Europe, however, ought to give anyone pause who thinks that the US taking up the European approach to Israel will have no consequences for American Jews. It will.


There is a great deal of polling in Europe regarding attitudes to Jews and Israel. Whether or not the instant poll is flawed does not change what is well known. I might add: it is an irrational proposition for anyone to suggest that attitudes towards Jews mysteriously became neutral or even positive after WWII. It may have become a disreputable opinion to express publicly but it does not take a poll to know how people actually think. Just read the way that opinion about Israel is expressed - language not used for any other dispute and conspiracy theories abound. And, with there being little taboo regarding expressing attitudes about Israel, it would be strange indeed if that particular means of expression were not the way that the average European expresses views about Jews - albeit veiled as comment about Israel.

joe said...

N., I was responding to the poll at issue. I can certainly believe the poll would yield disturbing results under a better methodology, but the whole point of bringing the statistics into it is for us to go beyond speculation. This being "the Debate Link," why give a pass to shaky arguments buttressing a justifiable belief when there are solid arguments waiting to be made?

Just read the way that opinion about Israel is expressed - language not used for any other dispute and conspiracy theories abound.

It does nothing to diminish the repugnance of that language to note you may be surprised by the things you'll hear said openly about Arabs and Muslims in the rural U.S.

N. Friedman said...


There are nasty things said about all groups. However, Europeans have a nasty history with Jews that does not exist with Muslims. And, that was what I was writing about.

Moreover, Jews are not threatening Europeans - yet they are still spoken about as they were before WWII.

By contrast, there are Muslims who have not only threatened but who have attacked Europeans. There is also substantial evidence that a substantial percentage of Muslims side with the attackers. And, Europeans have gone out of their way to appease Muslim concerns.

So, the language against Muslims responds to something that some Muslims have done to Europeans and to behavior that suggests approval of those attacks. That is simply not the case with Jews. Rather, Jews spoken of vilely despite there being few Jews in Europe and a declining population of no harm to Europeans.

Yours is a dishonest analogy, one I find very offensive, Joe.

Anonymous said...

It's not an analogy. It's a statement of fact. And whatever you think of Europe, the idea of there being some existential Muslim threat in the US is a deep and abiding pile of BS. But let's review what we hear said about Muslims, just so we're clear. On several occasions I've heard people literally say "kill 'em all" to no public censure -- so at best there's a cavalier attitude towards genocide. And it's well established that a majority of Americans think Iraq was in on 9/11, in the face of all evidence, so there's conspiracy theory.

As for European demographic issues or whatever, I'm not going to get into that with you except to note that many would find it offensive for you to handwave away certain attitudes on the grounds that some Muslims somewhere did something bad. You saying that kind of thing is precisely why I bring up the more nasty attitudes towards Arabs/Muslims -- because I have my doubts that you give that kind of thing much thought.

N. Friedman said...


You write: "It's not an analogy. It's a statement of fact."

Perhaps, you do not know what the word "analogy" means. Be that as it may, Muslims have blown people up in Europe. Polling shows substantial support among Muslims for that sort of behavior. There are no Jews I have heard of who are looking to blow up Europeans and there is certainly no support for that sort of behavior in the Jewish community in Europe.

Whether or not there is nasty comment regarding Muslims in Europe, such rhetoric at least mostly responds to behavior of certain Muslims who claim to act on behalf of Islam (and such behavior finds, in polling, support from a substantial percentage of the Muslim community in Europe) and the visceral, negative response of a great many Europeans to such behavior.

That cannot be said about European attitudes about Jews; Jews do not kill Europeans in the name of Jewry and do not threaten Europeans but have been, repeatedly, attacked by Europeans over the course of more than a millennium.

Joe's is an analogy. It is a dishonest one but an analogy still.

joe said...

Well, y'know, the bombing of the King David Hotel is commemorated in Israel, over British objection.

Now, if we take your approach, this fact can be used to trivialize modern anti-Semitism (at least until you start hairsplitting over why this example is totally different, of course). If we take my approach, we at least stop making excuses for reprehensible beliefs. Every bigot has his reasons, but they're ultimately not good reasons for his bigotry. Being understandably upset at some state of affairs is not a license to scapegoat. (This is not an easy thing for everyone to articulate, hence the trap of the "understand" wording in the poll question.)

(I'm Anonymous, by the way. I clicked the wrong ID bubble.)

N. Friedman said...


I figured that you wrote the post but I thought you meant to use a second name.

You continue to make my points for me. There was a one time event in 2006 in which a plague was put up related to the bombing of the King David hotel. That event is, in your mind, somehow justification for the vile talk from Europe - and not just Britain - against Israel.

Again, Muslims in Europe have, in substantial numbers, expressed support for violence against Europeans. Muslims in Europe have, in the name of their religion and supposed attacks on Islam, killed Europeans. Muslims in Europe, through their leaders, have demanded special privileges be carved out in the law for them (e.g. that Muslim men not be treated by women doctors, that Muslim women not have to show their faces on official ID's, that cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet be forbidden, etc., etc.). The violence, support for violence and accompanying demands have resulted in substantial amount of resentment by non-Muslim Europeans and hostility towards Muslims in Europe.

However, hatred of Jews in Europe is unrelated to anything caused by any Jews in Europe. Rather, Jews are merely serving their traditional role in Europe - a group to be hated and to be sneered at, etc.

joe said...

That event is, in your mind, somehow justification for the vile talk from Europe - and not just Britain - against Israel.

Just wow. My point is exactly the opposite. It does not justify vile talk, because suck talk cannot be justified. Categorically. But I find it interesting that you use that term, "justify." Are you now going so far as to say, in the parallel of the "analogy," that anti-Muslim bigotry is justified?

Do you imagine that bias against Muslims is solely a function of the issues you listed? Do you discount the notion that those issues could be used by many as a pretext for animus?

N. Friedman said...


First, I do not know what you mean by "bias." If by bias, you mean that people's judgment is clouded, I agree. However, I think that the bias is towards appeasing and eliding the existence of prejudices of Muslims and towards excusing violence by Muslims and by eliding attitudes held by Muslims (e.g. that it is ok to commit massacres, a view that is common among European Muslims, as shown by polling evidence).

And, yes, I think that much of the hostility towards Muslims in Europe is the product of how Muslims behave towards Europeans. Not all of it, mind you. Obviously, there is xenophobia and the like present among Europeans. But, the driving force of hostility is the attitude and actions of Muslims vis a vis non-Muslims.

joe said...

"Excusing" in what way? Do Muslims get issued a stack of get out of jail free cards that they can cash in for an honor killing in front of European courts? I don't believe that's the case.

As for the Muhammed cartoons issue you mentioned earlier, that's a simple judgment on the part of various institutions that the lives of potential victims that may be lost but for self-censorship outweigh the benefits of showing the cartoon. You may, like the creators of south Park, disagree with the judgment, but that doesn't make it "bias" in the sense you're describing.

N. Friedman said...


You have trouble sticking to the topic.

I contended that attitudes shown by Europeans about Jews were in considerable measure the result of prejudice. You responded that Muslims also had things said about them to which I indicated that such was a poor analogy, in that Muslims have done (and threatened to do) and are doing things to Europeans while Jews are not.

Things like the cartoon incident advance my view, since such things tick off Europeans (and others). You note that Europeans are reacting to such things. Your words: "As for the Muhammed cartoons issue you mentioned earlier, that's a simple judgment on the part of various institutions that the lives of potential victims that may be lost but for self-censorship outweigh the benefits of showing the cartoon." That makes my case.

The European reaction to the cartoon incident, by the way, is an example of the judgment of Europeans being clouded. Rather than simply standing up for the rights of authors - as occurred when essential the same tactics were employed against Salman Rushdie (with more than a dozen people being killed by Muslims) and with a permanent decree (called a hkum) on his head -, European leaders have urged Europeans not to publish things that annoy Muslims and there has been, as you say, self-censorship. The results have been astounding, with art shows canceled (e.g. in the UK), with performances of operas canceled, with films pulled off the Internet, etc., etc.

This results in not only nasty reactions against Muslims but also in ignorance among Europeans about the Islamic regions. Hence, the ability in European to ignore the hypocrisy of projects such as the Mediterranean Partnership, which is premised on their being the same regard for human rights in Arab League countries that exist in Europe.

The attitude in reaction to violence and threats of violence is a bias in the sense of a clouding of judgment. Yes, the Europeans are putting short term interest in avoiding bloodshed ahead of their long term interest of maintaining freedom of speech, women's rights, freedom of religion and preserving lives. The attitude taken - one of appeasement - is essentially the same attitude taken in response to the fascist and Nazi movements, with people finding excuses for barbarism. And, the fact is that the Islamist movement which is the source of the violence and threats of violence is barbarous movement - one that Europeans ought be standing up to rather than appeasing.

Among the things that this attitude foments is the need for scapegoats. Not surprisingly, European history provides its examples for Europeans to draw on for a group that can be used - finding a group which can be said to want to dominate the world, that supposedly acts in accordance with a secret protocol, that harvests people for their organs (or, in tradition, their blood), that acts with supposed cruelty and occupies other people. In other words, the Europeans are acting as they do traditionally: they are blaming Jews.

At the same time, there is hatred expressed by some against those Muslims who blow things up and threaten others. Etc., etc.

The cartoon incident is one of many, in response to threat of violence and actual violence by Muslims. In the case of the cartoons, there have been multiple attempts on the lives of the artists, one just recently in which the artist saved himself by locking himself in his bathroom, which he had furnished as a safe room.

N. Friedman said...


There are literally dozens and dozens of writers and artists who live with body guards - due to threats of violence from Muslims. There have been countless murders and firebombings connected with writers who say things that Muslims do not want to hear. There have been riots associated with such events.

So, I think that your entire line of thought here is naive and ill-informed. And, lumping hatred of Jews in - hatred that is irrational - with hatred of Muslims - which responds, at least primarily, with acts taken against Europeans by Muslims - is dishonest and outrageous and a form of bigotry.

This is not to excuse hatred expressed towards Muslims who have done nothing and threatened nothing. This is merely to note that, in fact, the hatred expressed against Muslims - to the extent it occurs - reacts to things occurring in European against non-Muslim Europeans.

joe said...

I do not dispute Europe's long history of ant-Semitism. But you are kidding yourself if you think that is the only bigotry that has deep roots. (And keep in mind, what you took exception to here was my observation about the US.

This is not to excuse hatred expressed towards Muslims who have done nothing and threatened nothing.

That is precisely what you've been doing here. You just suggested such hatred is rational (being different in type, in your eyes, from an irrational hatred). Earlier you suggested it was justified.

I'm sorry, but I am not inclined to close my eyes and ignore this. What's next, making excuses for racism against minorities in the U.S., calling it a mere result of supposed crime rates?

N. Friedman said...


No. You misstate my views.

I do not claim that only Jews are hated. I claim that they are being hated for irrational reasons, Jews being no threat to Europeans.

By contrast, a substantial percentage of Muslims supports the terror campaign against non-Muslim Europeans. That certainly arouses hatred. There is a substantial association that is likely causal. Some of the hatred is misplaced and directed at innocent Muslims. But, frankly, the hatred has a real cause, which is the behavior of a substantial portion of Europe's Muslim population and the terror campaign by a great many Muslims against Europeans.

Where I find dismay is your, frankly, bigoted comments that attempt to deflect attention from the rise of Antisemitic activity in Europe by creating a false - a dishonest - assertion of an analogy of such hatred with hatred shown towards Muslims. The analogy is a dishonest one.

joe said...

Given what you insist isn't bigotry, that's a remarkable accusation.

It's also incorrect. I apologize if you are upset, but the crux of our disagreement is that you seem to think there is such a thing as rational bigotry, and I do not.

N. Friedman said...


I did not deny that there were those among the group who opposed marriage who are racists. I merely said that not all of them were. And, I said that there were factors at work in connection with same sex marriage that involve issues that would allow a non-bigot to oppose it.

I shall now return to our conversion about nasty comments towards Muslims who think that blowing their neighbors up advances Allah's plan and regarding those who, in fact, act on that idea by trying or succeeding in such behavior. I shall put it this way: animus against outrageous behavior is not irrational. So, it is caused.

David Schraub said...

Let me see if I have this point straight:

There are Muslims who have engaged in terrorist attacks against Europeans.

Some non-trivial number of Muslims support such behavior.

Therefore (you say), European animus towards Muslims is (at least) rational (though it is, I assume, unfortunate when it is directed at Muslims who don't support such acts).

Likewise, some Jews have occupied private Palestinian homes, and, through violence, prevent them from returning. And some non-trivial amount of Jews support such behavior. Therefore, Palestinian animus towards Jews is rational (though, when directed towards Jews who don't support the occupation, unfortunate).

You can see why I have trouble endorsing this syllogism.

N. Friedman said...


To be blunt, your comment is irrational and not up to your standards.

Jews in Israel have a dispute with Arabs in Israel. Ergo, British take it out on British Jews. That is one scenario. It is irrational behavior by Brits.

The other scenario is Muslims in Britain have a fight with non-Muslims in Britain. Non-Muslim Brits say nasty things about Muslim Brits in response. That is rational.

David Schraub said...

British people never entered my hypothetical. I talked about Palestinian animus. The syllogism you express rationalizing European animus towards Muslims also rationalizing Palestinian animus towards Jews. It's equally wrong.

N. Friedman said...


Fine. You decided to change entirely what was being discussed on this page. But, for the record, it was my scenario which was the topic of discussion between Joe and me.

On your scenario, it is normal for people who fight with each other to have nasty things to say about each other. Of course, there is nasty and there is genocidal talk, which is a different matter.