Anti-Semitism again plagues the Continent

    Despite growing anti-Americanism that is no longer just the paranoia of American tourists or hard-line conservative writers, any self-pity that Americans abroad have fostered should be erased by recent racism against European-Jewish populations. Americans subject to jeering and verbal harassment can still take pride in the fact that if anything were to endanger them physically, the fury of American public opinion would create a diplomatic nightmare, making current European-American relationships look like political utopia. On the other hand, the rising anti-Semitism in Europe has taken more sinister, less publicized routes, and no amount of backing by the Israeli government or Jewish organizations will dent the rise in these incidents. Worse yet, recent attacks and harassment have come from both extremes of the political spectrum rather than the typical fringe Neo-Nazi groups scattered about Europe.

    On one hand, there is the continuous threat of the rising support for extreme right-wing candidates for office in Europe. Because these candidates heavily support maintaining culture, they usually take unapologetic stances on the rejection of immigrants or, in extreme cases, their deportation. In the last French election, Jean-Marie Le Penn, leader of the National Front party, defeated Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin before losing to Jacques Chirac. Le Penn drew a great deal of attention because of his unabashed anti-Semitic stances. Aligning himself with those who wished to maintain French culture and nationalism, he was able to take an extreme platform toward refusing and deporting immigrants, and obtained 13.9 percent of the French vote. Amidst rising French concerns about the homogeneity of the European Union, Le Penn’s ideology was given a nearly credible name.

    France is not the only country to have to fend off ultra-right-wing anti-Semites. Austria was rebuked by the European Union because it formed a coalition government that included Joerg Haider, who had very similar ideas to Le Penn. The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and even Britain have all recently entertained politicians bordering on outright anti-Semitism. With such high support for these politicians, many analysts have declared that Europe will once again face its demons of anti-Semitism in full public light.

    Unfortunately for Europe’s Jewish community, there are great threats from the left wing as well, which has decidedly and almost unanimously backed anti-Zionists. There is virtually no diversity of opinion regarding Israel, which is often equated with Nazi Germany. Even more alarming, where many American pro-Palestinians wish for a peaceful resolution and some degree of cohabitation, many more European pro-Palestinians publicly entertain the thought of eliminating Israel altogether.

    This leads to heated debates about the similarities and differences between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. In theory and ideally, anti-Zionism solely constitutes the rejection of Israeli nationalism, but does not condemn Jews across the world or Israelis that support Palestinian freedom. As any intelligent anti-Zionist will tell you, they have only respect for Jews around the world, but are opposed to Sharon’s administration and the apparent oppression of the Palestinian people. While this is a valid ideal, the world does not work in such fanciful ways.

    Because anti-Zionism deals with opposition to a government that is nearly all one race, it is extremely easy to slip over the line into racist anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism provides a very solid hiding place for anti-Semites to voice their opinions under a credible name. In fact, anti-Semites can even discriminate against Jews publicly and then immediately assume a context of “”Israeli Jews only.””

    In some cases, this left-wing defense of the oppressed is much scarier than the blatant racism of the right wing. Because so many left-wing activists are immersed in the righteousness of their cause and the emotion that allows that narrow view, many protests against Israel have resulted in physical assaults on Jewish passersby, not the least in Paris, Hamburg and London. In a more diabolic avenue, protest against Israel can lead to subtle discrimination. At the Manchester Institute of Technology in the United Kingdom, professor Mona Baker recently admitted to firing two of her own journal’s contributors upon hearing that they had taken the Jewish right of return and accepted Israeli citizenship. If mere acceptance of Israeli citizenship (which is extended to all Jews) endangers Jews, then anti-Zionism has crossed the line into anti-Semitism. In European leftism, this has become increasingly normal.

    However, it is not only anti-Zionism that has the left wing attacking the Jews. Anti-Americanism has fueled much of the fire of racism. Because the United States is the last major supporter of Israel, hatred of American policies always becomes a link to the Palestinian suffering brought upon by the Jews. Because Americans tolerate Israeli action, many leftists assume that the Jews must have the Americans in their control. Conversely, the hatred of America immediately brings forth hatred of Israel by association. Increased tension over the Iraq crisis, which is always associated with the oppression of Palestine, anti-American sentiment drifts over to anti-Zionism. With such virulent attacks on American policy in Europe, it is no surprise that this emotion becomes racist at times.

    Thus, because of rising political validation of right-wing extremists, toleration of anti-Semites under the guise of anti-Zionism and the hatred of Jews by association with American support, Jews in Europe find themselves in a very turbulent and tense situation. Open criticism has led to fierce rebuttals. French President Jacque Chirac recently snapped at a Jewish journalist who was critical of the government’s handling of anti-Semitic attacks. “”Stop saying that there is anti-Semitism in France. There is no anti-Semitism in France, and … no anti-Semites in France,”” Chirac said. Furthermore, he told the reporter that if he did not stop, “”it will be bad for the Jews.”” In such an atmosphere, it is very difficult for Jews in Europe to voice their opinions or take a stand against the rising racism.

    Looking at the relatively mild hatred that Americans receive, it becomes very difficult to pity ourselves. Americans still face a vast majority of friendly, intelligent Europeans who respect views that they do not agree with. European relationships with the United Sates will dictate that European politicians protect Americans against extremists. However, with increasing political tolerance for anti-Semitism, it becomes easier to sympathize with European Jews, who now have to face the undeniable revival of the mistake that Europe cannot seem to learn from.

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