Jonathan Ofir writes: Zionism is very much a mirror image of anti-Semitism. It was founded and based on an assumption that assimilation is bound to fail, and that the Jews must resort to other measures in order to protect their existence – as persons, but perhaps even more significantly – as a supposed nation. David Ben-Gurion’s words to the Mapai committee in 1938 reveal how the national aspect could supersede the humanitarian concern to actual people: ”If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.” In that same year he spoke to the Jewish Agency in regards to the Évian conference which sought to facilitate the plight of Jewish refugees, saying, “[I do] not know if the conference will open the gates of other countries. . . . But I am afraid [ it ] might cause tremendous harm to Eretz Yisrael and Zionism. . . . and the more we emphasize the terrible distress of the Jewish masses in Germany, Poland and Rumania, the more damage we shall cause” — to Zionism and Eretz Israel by promoting emigration to western countries. [Both quotes at this link.]
That is to say, that the priority of nationalism (as opposed to personal security) was extremely high in Zionism from the outset. Zionism sought to forge a sense of ‘nationhood’ for a people that were of a vast spectrum of ethnicity, language, even religion (from ultra-orthodox to atheist) and claim that they were one. The British (and notably Jewish) Secretary of State for India Edwin Montagu, in his critique of Her Majesty’s Government’s intentions to endorse a ‘Jewish national home” in Palestine in 1917, said: “I assert that there is not a Jewish nation. The members of my family, for instance, who have been in this country for generations, have no sort or kind of community of view or of desire with any Jewish family in any other country beyond the fact that they profess to a greater or less degree the same religion. It is no more true to say that a Jewish Englishman and a Jewish Moor are of the same nation than it is to say that a Christian Englishman and a Christian Frenchman are of the same nation: of the same race, perhaps, traced back through the centuries – through centuries of the history of a peculiarly adaptable race”. [Continue reading…]
Leonid Bershidsky writes: The record influx of Muslim refugees last year coincided with a sharp decline in the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents in major European countries, many of which bore the brunt of the refugee crisis.
The wave of so-called new anti-Semitism of recent years largely stemmed from anti-Israeli rather than racist beliefs, and had often been linked to the persistence of such attitudes among the growing Muslim population. Yet data from the 2015 report on global anti-Semitism, published on Wednesday by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, clearly show that as the refugees started coming in by the tens of thousands per day starting about a year ago, Europe became a safer place to be Jewish.
According to data collected by the Israeli demographer Sergio DellaPergola, France, the U.K. and Germany are the European countries with the biggest core Jewish population, defined as people who describe themselves as Jews. In France, the number of major violent anti-Semitic attacks dropped to 72 last year from 164 in 2014. The U.K. saw a similarly steep decrease, to 62 from 141. In Germany, there were 37 attacks, down from 76. Throughout Europe, anti-Jewish violence is at the lowest level in a decade. [Continue reading…]
Robert Mackey writes: At first glance, the heated argument two members of the British Labour Party conducted in front of reporters’ iPhones on Thursday, sparked by accusations that one of their colleagues posted anti-Semitic comments on Facebook, seems like a story of interest mainly to political junkies in London.
Watch this. Extraordinary. John Mann MP: You're a disgusting Nazi apologist, Livingstone'. pic.twitter.com/1wlbA1BmND
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) April 28, 2016
When the debate is unpacked, however, it becomes clear that what’s at stake is something much broader: whether critics of Israel, who question its government’s policies or its right to exist as a Jewish state, are engaged in a form of coded anti-Semitism. That matters because attempts to disqualify all critics of Israel as racists are widespread across the globe.
In the United States, for instance, supporters of a movement to boycott Israel until it grants Palestinians full civil rights have recently been condemned as anti-Semites by Hillary Clinton; last month, the University of California adopted a policy on discrimination that implies anti-Semitism is behind opposition to Zionism, the political ideology asserting that the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in historic Palestine.
But how did this issue come to dominate the political debate in Britain, a week before important local elections? [Continue reading…]
Jamie Stern-Weiner writes: Norman Finkelstein is no stranger to controversy. The American Jewish scholar is one of the world’s leading experts on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the political legacy of the Nazi holocaust. Apart from his parents, every member of Finkelstein’s family, on both sides, was exterminated in the Nazi holocaust. His 2000 book The Holocaust Industry, which was serialised in the Guardian, became an international best-seller and touched off a firestorm of debate. But Finkelstein’s most recent political intervention came about by accident.
Last month, Naz Shah MP became one of the most high-profile cases to date in the ‘antisemitism’ scandal still shaking the Labour leadership. Shah was suspended from the Labour party for, among other things, reposting an image on Facebook that was alleged to be antisemitic. The image depicted a map of the United States with Israel superimposed, and suggested resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict by relocating Israel into the United States. It has been reported that Shah got the image from Finkelstein’s website. I spoke with Finkelstein about why he posted the image, and what he thinks of allegations that the Labour party has a ‘Jewish problem’.
Did you create the controversial image that Naz Shah reposted?
I’m not adept enough with computers to compose any image. But I did post the map on my website in 2014. An email correspondent must have sent it. It was, and still is, funny. Were it not for the current political context, nobody would have noticed Shah’s reposting of it either. Otherwise, you’d have to be humourless. These sorts of jokes are a commonplace in the U.S. So, we have this joke: Why doesn’t Israel become the 51st state? Answer: Because then, it would only have two senators. As crazy as the discourse on Israel is in America, at least we still have a sense of humour. It’s inconceivable that any politician in the U.S. would be crucified for posting such a map.
Frankly, I find that obscene. It’s doubtful these Holocaust-mongers have a clue what the deportations were, or of the horrors that attended them. I remember my late mother describing her deportation. She was in the Warsaw Ghetto. The survivors of the Ghetto Uprising, about 30,000 Jews, were deported to Maijdanek concentration camp. They were herded into railroad cars. My mother was sitting in the railroad car next to a woman who had her child. And the woman – I know it will shock you – the woman suffocated her infant child to death in front of my mother. She suffocated her child, rather than take her to where they were going. That’s what it meant to be deported. To compare that to someone posting a light-hearted, innocuous cartoon making a little joke about how Israel is in thrall to the U.S., or vice versa…it’s sick. What are they doing? Don’t they have any respect for the dead? All these desiccated Labour apparatchiks, dragging the Nazi holocaust through the mud for the sake of their petty jostling for power and position. Have they no shame? [Continue reading…]
On November 30, 2011, the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, spoke to a conference of lawyers organized by the European Jewish Union. His remarks have some renewed relevance now as Britain’s Labour Party is suffering multiple accusations that it harbors antisemites.
There is and has long been some amount of anti-Semitism, of hatred and violence against Jews, from a small sector of the population who hate others who may be different or perceived to be different, largely for the sake of hating. Those anti-Semites are people who hate not only Jews, but Muslims, gays, gypsies, and likely any who can be described as minorities or different. That hatred is of course pernicious and it must be combated. We can never take our eye off it or just dismiss it as fringe elements or the work of crazy people, because we have seen in the past how it can foment and grow. And it is that hatred that lawyers like you can work vigilantly to expose, combat and punish, maybe in conjunction with existing human rights groups.
I have not personally seen much of that hatred in Europe, though it rears its ugly head from time to time. I do not have any basis to think it is growing in any sense. But of course, we can never take our eye off of it, and you particularly as lawyers can help with that process.
So in some sense, that is the easy part of the analysis.
Let’s turn to the harder and more complex part.
What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena. It is the phenomena that led Jacques Brotchi to quit his position on the university committee a couple of months ago and that led to the massive attention last week when the Jewish female student was beaten up. It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.
It too is a serious problem. It too must be discussed and solutions explored. No Jewish student – and no Muslim student or student of any heritage or religion – should ever feel intimidated on a University campus for their heritage or religion leading to academic leaders quitting in protest. No high school or grammar school Jewish student – and no Muslim high school or grammar school student or student of any heritage or religion – should be beaten up over their heritage or religion.
But this second problem is in my opinion different in many respects than the classic bigotry – hatred against those who are different and against minorities generally — the type of anti-Semitism that I discussed above. It is more complex and requiring much more thought and analysis. This second form of what is labeled “growing anti-Semitism” produces strange phenomena and results.
Thus for example, I have been received well by Belgians everywhere in this country. I always get polite applause and sometimes more.
But the longest and loudest ovation I have ever received in Belgium came from the high school with one of the largest percentages of students of Arab heritage. It was in Molenbeek. It consisted of an audience dominated by girls with head scarves and boys named Mohammed, standing and cheering boisterously for a Jewish American, who belongs to two schuls and whose father was a Holocaust survivor. Let me just share a minute or two with you of a video clip from that visit.
These kids were not anti-Semitic as I have ever thought of the term. And I get a similar reaction as I engage with imans, at Iftars, and with Muslims communities throughout Belgium.
And yet, I know and I hear at the same time that the cheering occurs for this Jew, that within that same school and audience at Molenbeek, among those at the same Iftars, and throughout the Muslim communities that I visit, and indeed throughout Europe, there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes and all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.
This is a complex problem indeed. It requires its own analysis and solutions. And the analysis I submit is not served simply by lumping the problem with past instances of anti-Jewish beliefs and actions or those that exist today among minority haters under a uniform banner of “anti-Semitism.”
When the former London mayor Ken Livingstone said in an interview that Hitler was “supporting Zionism” before he “went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”, he was quickly suspended from the Labour Party, which was already in the throes of a painful row over anti-semitism. But while Livingstone’s tone-deaf comments came at a very politically sensitive moment, the historical error at their heart is all too familiar.
Claims that Hitler was a Zionist, or supported Zionism, before his anti-Jewish policies turned into murder and extermination flare up at regular intervals. They usually cite the controversial Haavara Agreement (Transfer Agreement) of August 1933 as the most potent evidence of a wilful cooperation between Hitler and the Zionist movement. When viewed in a certain way, this deal does superficially seem to show that Hitler’s government endorsed Zionism – but just because it was a mechanism to help German Jews relocate to Palestine it does not imply it was “Zionist”.
The Haavara Agreement was the only formal contract signed between Nazi Germany and a Zionist organisation. The signatories were the Reich Ministry of Economics, the Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland (Zionist Federation of Germany) and the Anglo-Palestine Bank (then under the directive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine).
Under the agreement Jewish emigrants had to hand over their possessions before they left Germany, and the proceeds were used by a company specifically set up for this purpose in Tel Aviv to purchase German goods for sale in Palestine. The proceeds of these sales were then paid in Palestinian currency to the emigrants in Palestine.
The agreement was immediately criticised from all sides. The Zionist Federation was accused of collaboration with the Nazis, and the Nazi authorities were criticised by fellow Nazis for helping Jews when their official policy was to “solve the Jewish question”. Still, at this point in time, both sides no doubt saw potential benefits for themselves in such an agreement.
For the Zionist Federation, it was a way to save Jews from the claws of an increasingly hostile regime and attract them to Palestine, while for the Nazi state signing an international agreement was further proof of its legitimacy, broke the Jewish movement of boycotting German goods, and helped the recovery of German exports at a time when the German economy was still in the depth of depression.
The Guardian reports: Ken Livingstone has refused to apologise to the Jewish community for insensitive comments linking Zionism to Adolf Hitler, claiming the crisis at the centre of the Labour party was caused by “embittered old Blairite MPs” and is “not about antisemitism”.
The former mayor of London, speaking on LBC, took the opportunity to publicly say sorry to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the party for causing “disruption” but pointedly refused to apologise for his original comments, which he reasserted as “historical facts” on Saturday.
“I’m sorry to Jeremy and the Labour party that I am caught up in this but it wasn’t me that started this problem, this is embittered old Blairites bringing it up,” he said. “I’m sorry if anyone was upset by what I said, I’m sorry for that. But it happens to be a statement of fact.”
Pushed to say whether he regretted bringing the German dictator into the debate, Livingstone said: “I regret mentioning Hitler because it brought up this nonsense.
“I’m sorry that I said that because it’s wasted all this time but I can’t bring myself to deny the truth and I’m not going to do that. I’m sorry it’s caused disruption.”
Earlier in the interview, the former mayor of London appeared to mistakenly cite a statement by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in his defence. “This is what annoys me about the degradation of British journalism, no one does any research,” he said.
“Two days before I did that interview [on Thursday], the prime minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu is addressing the World Zionist Congress, this is the sentence he says: ‘Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews but only to expel them.’ Now, I haven’t seen that in any British paper, I had to get it off the internet.”
In fact, Livingstone appears to be referring to Netanyahu’s address to the WZC in October last year, where the Israeli PM did not refer to Zionists collaborating with Hitler, but instead accused the second world war Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem of having suggested the genocide of the Jews to the Nazi leader. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Journalist Julia Ioffe has experienced this kind of harassment before: in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
In the 24 hours since her profile of Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, appeared in GQ magazine, the Russian-American journalist has received a torrent of antisemitic, vitriolic and threatening messages from supporters of the Republican frontrunner.
In the deeply disturbing response to her piece, Ioffe said she sees a frightening future of what freedom of the press – and the country – might look like under President Trump.
“What happens if Donald Trump is elected?” Ioffe said. “We’ve seen the way he bids his supporters to attack the media, his proposal to change libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists.” [Continue reading…]
Josh Zeitz writes: Peter Shulman, an associate professor of American history at Case Western Reserve University, [recently] caused a political stir when he tweeted results from a Fortune Magazine poll dated July 1938. “What’s your attitude towards allowing German, Austrian & other political refugees to come into the US?” Fortune asked its survey audience. Over two-thirds of respondents answered in the negative.
Shulman’s tweet went viral, igniting a spirited debate about whether opposition to welcoming Syrian refugees is morally or situationally equivalent to American indifference in the 1930s toward Jewish victims of the Nazi state. In what can only be described as a sharp reversal of prevailing norms, many conservatives, who these days seem inclined to liken every government overreach to Nazism, are incensed by the analogy, while many liberals, who have grown accustomed to rolling their eyes each time that Bill Kristol invokes the Munich Agreement, are sticking by it.
So is the analogy a good one? In short, yes. Contrary to what conservatives are saying these days, language commonly invoked in opposition to admitting Syrian refugees bears striking similarity to arguments against providing safe harbor to Jewish refugees in the late 1930s. Then as now, skepticism of religious and ethnic minorities and concerns that refugees might pose a threat to national security deeply influenced the debate over American immigration policy. For conservatives, this likeness is an inconvenient truth.
But the analogy doesn’t stop there. There may be no historic precedent for the rise of the Islamic State, but many current-day conditions in the Middle East are reminiscent of the broader context in which the Holocaust occurred. Europe in the 1930s and 1940s witnessed a systemic breakdown of national borders and civil society; brutal ethnic cleansing and population transfers; and a refugee crisis that strained the world’s creativity and resources. These human-made disasters do not just befall majority-Muslim countries.
For liberals, this raises its own inconvenient truth. Even had the United States admitted a large number of Jewish refugees in 1938, the underlying forces tearing Europe apart would not have abated. Winning this particular argument is important, but it does not resolve the larger challenge facing Syria or Iraq. [Continue reading…]
Ynet reports: The world’s Jews feel secure in their countries, including in Europe: In a survey conducted among Jewish community leaders in different places around the world, 77 percent reported that their members do not feel threatened in their places of residence, including 56 percent of European Jews.
Only 21 percent said their community members felt unsafe – about half of them due to the growth in anti-Semitism, and others because of the anger towards Israel, local criminal crime, the economic situation, the immigration problem in Europe, etc.
Ahead of the 9th World Conference of Jewish Community Centers (JCC Global), which is being held in Jerusalem this week, JCC leaders were asked whether the current situation in Israel affected them. The findings were surprising: Forty-six percent said the community’s sense of security was unaffected by the current round of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, while 35% said they felt less secure. Ten percent even reported a higher sense of personal safety recently.
The interviewees were also asked to rank the Diaspora Jewry’s challenges. They revealed that the communities’ unity is more important to them than the connection with Israel, preventing assimilation and fighting anti-Semitism. [Continue reading…]
In a speech to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on October 20, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Haj Amin al-Husseini, former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, of “inspiring the Holocaust” and urging Hitler to exterminate the Jewish people.
Netanyahu then explained that he wanted “to show that the father of the Palestinian nation wanted to destroy Jews even without occupation.” These comments led to widespread condemnation and outrage. But who was al-Husseini, and what was his role and involvement in the Holocaust? Rainer Schulze sets the record straight.
Who was the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini?
Born in the mid-1890s, and appointed Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 (Grand Mufti in 1922), Haj Amin al-Husseini was one of the most prominent nationalist Arab figures in Palestine during the time of the British Mandate. He opposed both British rule in Palestine, and the Jewish-Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland in the region, aiming instead to establish a pan-Arab federation or state with himself as the spiritual leader.
His political activism led him to organise and support protests against Jewish immigration and Jewish settlements, which peaked in the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine. In 1937, in order to evade arrest, he fled Palestine and took up residence first in the French Mandate of Lebanon and then in Iraq. In October 1941, he escaped to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
After Netanyahu claims Hitler didn’t want to kill the Jews, Germany insists it holds full responsibility for the Holocaust
Reuters reports: The German government said on Wednesday that responsibility for the Holocaust lay with the Germans, after Israel’s prime minister sparked controversy before a visit to Berlin by saying a Muslim elder had convinced Adolf Hitler to exterminate Jews.
“All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilisation that was the Holocaust,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said when asked about Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks.
“This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.” [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Israeli historians and opposition politicians on Wednesday joined Palestinians in denouncing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for saying it was a Palestinian, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who gave Hitler the idea of annihilating European Jews during World War II.
Mr. Netanyahu said in a speech to the Zionist Congress on Tuesday night that “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews.” The prime minister said that the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, had protested to Hitler that “they’ll all come here,” referring to Palestine.
“ ‘So what should I do with them?’ ” Mr. Netanyahu quoted Hitler as asking Mr. Husseini. “He said, ‘Burn them.’ ”
Prof. Meir Litvak, a historian at Tel Aviv University, called the speech “a lie” and “a disgrace.” Prof. Moshe Zimmermann, a specialist of German history at Hebrew University, said, “With this, Netanyahu joins a long line of people that we would call Holocaust deniers.”
Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition in the Israeli Parliament, said the accusation was “a dangerous historical distortion,” and he demanded that Mr. Netanyahu “correct it immediately.” [Continue reading…]
Anshel Pfeffer reports: ‘The Cossacks aren’t coming’ – a series of dispatches from Jewish communities across Europe – was born from a feeling that the true story of Jewish life in Europe is not being told.
It is obscured in both Israeli and international media due to a, perhaps understandable, focus on terror attacks and perception of a rising tide of anti-Semitism washing over the continent. The narrative which has emerged in recent years, to an increasing degree since last summer’s conflict in Gaza and in the wake of the Paris killings in January, has been one of fearful and endangered Jews on the brink of tragedy – that can only be averted by mass emigration to safer shores.
Much of the reporting on European Jewry in recent months has been tinged with disbelief: Who are these foolhardy Jews that have failed to learn the lesson of the Holocaust and are once again ignoring the coming storm in this cursed continent?
It fails to take into account that for a million and a half Jews across Europe, this is home. They are part of the social fabric and national identity of the countries where they were born and continue choosing to live their lives. While thousands of communities were wiped out in the Holocaust and many others have since drastically dwindled in numbers, Jews still live openly throughout Europe, both carrying on traditions and creatively innovating new and fascinating Jewish experiences.
Very little of this has been reported, and the complex challenges the Jews do face, are routinely reduced to the simplistic formulations of physical threat from the new Islamization and a resurgence of old anti-Semitism. Most of the coverage has also disregarded how in the wider upheaval occurring now in Europe, the Jews are not victims of change, but also have a key role to play in the continent’s future.
Ten features cannot provide a broad picture of such a wide range of communities, each facing its own particular set of circumstances and carving out a unique place in wider national identities. It is intended to present a series of snapshots, illustrating how the Jews of Europe are not only responding to tragedy and intimidation, but also busy building a future. In addition to my research in five countries, chosen to give a cross-section of regions and Jewish populations of different size and temperament, the insights are informed by my reporting for Haaretz over the last eight years from all the major Jewish communities in Europe and many of the smaller ones as well.
The Jewish cemetary in Krakow. Photo by Moshe Gilad
It is an attempt at a clear-eyed appraisal of the dangers facing Europe’s Jews but also an optimistic view of their future; which is why my journey began down the road from Auschwitz, at the bright and new Jewish Community Center in Krakow. [Continue reading parts 1-10…]
Reuters reports: More than 1000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo’s synagogue on Saturday, offering symbolic protection for the city’s Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend.
Chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” Norway’s Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen last weekend.
“Humanity is one and we are here to demonstrate that,” Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the protest’s organizers told a crowd of Muslim immigrants and ethnic Norwegians who filled the small street around Oslo’s only functioning synagogue.
“There are many more peace mongers than warmongers,” Abdullah said as organizers and Jewish community leaders stood side by side. “There’s still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.”
Norway’s Jewish community is one of Europe’s smallest, numbering around 1000, and the Muslim population, which has been growing steadily through immigration, is 150,000 to 200,000. Norway has a population of about 5.2 million. [Continue reading…]