Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dreams and delusions

Ari sends us some photos, and a Caroline Glick JPost piece which raises the question of why Israelis want to join the increasingly antisemitic European Union. Is it because Israel has Arabia on its other flank? Or do we have to look for answers in the kind of story recounted by David Goldman, two posts below?
Israelis are wild about Europe. A poll carried out by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation last month showed that a whopping 69 percent of Israelis, and 76% of Israeli Jews, would like for Israel to join the European Union. Sixty percent of Israelis have a favorable view of the EU.

This poll's most obvious message is that as far as Europe is concerned, Israelis suffer from unrequited love. A 2003 Pew survey of 15 EU countries showed that 59% of Europeans consider Israel the greatest threat to world peace. A poll taken in Germany the following year showed that 68% of Germans believe that Israel is pursuing a war of extermination against the Palestinians and 51% said that there is no difference in principle between Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and German treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.

And it isn't simply Israel that they hate. They don't like Jews very much either. In an empirical study published in 2006, Professors Edward Kaplan and Charles Small of Yale University demonstrated a direct link between hatred for Jews and extreme anti-Israel positions. A recent poll bears out the fact that levels of hostility toward Israel rise with levels of anti-Semitism.

According to a 2008 Pew survey, anti-Semitic feelings in five EU countries - Spain, Britain, France, Germany and Poland - rose nearly 50% between 2005 and 2008. Whereas in 2005, some 21% of people polled acknowledged they harbor negative feelings toward Jews, by last year the proportion of self-proclaimed anti-Semites in these countries had risen to 30%. In Spain levels of anti-Semitism more than doubled, from 21% in 2005 to 46% in 2008.

Not surprisingly, increased hatred of Jews has been accompanied by increased violence against Jews. Just last week, for instance, three men assaulted Israel's ambassador in Spain Rafi Shotz as he and his wife walked home from a soccer game. They followed after him and called out, "dirty Jew," "Jew bastard," and "Jew murderer." A crowd witnessed the assault, but no one rose to their defense.

Shotz was lucky. As Israel's ambassador he had two policemen escorting him and so he was not physically threatened. The same was not the fate of Holocaust survivors who assembled at Mauthausen death camp in Austria last week to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the camp's liberation by American forces.

As Jewish survivors of the camp where 340,000 people were murdered mourned the dead, a gang of Austrian teenagers wearing masks taunted them, screaming "Heil Hitler," and "This way for the gas!" They opened fire with plastic rifles at French Jewish survivors, wounding one in the head and another in the neck.

And Austria is not alone. From Germany to France, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and beyond, Jewish kindergartens and day schools, restaurants and groceries have been firebombed and vandalized. The desecration of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues has become an almost routine occurrence. Jewish leaders from Norway to Germany to Britain to France have warned community members not to wear kippot or Stars of David in public. Rabbis have been beaten all over the continent.

There is no all-encompassing explanation for the EU's popularity in Israel. It is a function of a number of complementary causes. The most important among them is the abject failure of the Israeli media to examine European anti-Semitism and its implications for European policy toward Israel in any coherent fashion.

Rather than recognize that European anti-Semitism and its concomitant hostility toward Israel is the consequence of internal European dynamics, the Israeli media tend to cast both as a function of Israel's actions. Doing so certainly makes for neat, easily digestible news stories, but it also trivializes the situation. Moreover, by acting as though Israel's actual behavior is at all relevant to European treatment of Jews and the Jewish state, the local media effectively buy into cynical European moves to belittle the significance of anti-Jewish violence. They give credence to false European claims that the firebombing of synagogues is simply the regrettable consequence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Then there is the issue of Israel's constant quest to end its international isolation. For many Israelis, it is tantalizing to think that we can end our international isolation by joining the EU. The EU is seen as a club of rich and cultured countries with which Israel would benefit from merging. This view again is nurtured by the media, which have failed to report on the failure of the European welfare state model.
Finally, there is the nostalgia that many Israelis feel toward the old pre-war Europe from their grandparents' stories. That long gone Europe, where young women and men would walk along the promenades in Berlin, Paris, Antwerp and Prague holding hands and eating ice cream, breathing in the air of Heinrich Heine and Franz Kafka, has been kept alive in the imaginations of generations of Israelis. Many of them work today as leading journalists, movie directors and actors. For many Israelis, then, the myth of Europe is more familiar than the real Europe.

Column One: The Europe of our dreams | Columnists | Jerusalem Post
Howard Rotberg welcomes this Glick piece, noting that
just as I have started a new series on the myth that Europe is a positive force in world history, the Jerusalem Post's great columnist Caroline Glick writes a superb column on Europe's anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and why Europhiles in Israel must re-assess their attitudes


Dag said...

Hating Jews has to be the penultimate punishment in the universe. Worse would be not to know how terrible the punishment is.

alice said...

i like your posted but i like simple words about jews.