Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Danger Of Anti-Semitism In Europe Is Exceeded Only By The Apathy To It

Soeren Kern, Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, has written a post at Pajamas Media about the latest outbreak of Anti-Semitism that is currently sweeping through Europe in response to Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza. In Anti-Semitism Sweeps Europe in Wake of Gaza Operation, Kern documents a number of recent incidences of Anti-Semitism:
In France, the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism says it has received more than 100 reports of anti-Semitic violence since the start of Israel’s military operation in Gaza on December 27. Recent incidents include arson attacks against synagogues and Jewish community centers in several French cities, as well as physical assaults of Jews in Paris and elsewhere.

In Britain, the Community Security Trust has reported a sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks in recent weeks. Incidents include arson attacks on synagogues, physical assaults of Jews in London, and anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled in towns and cities across the country. British police have also advised prominent British Jews to redouble their security arrangements after some of their names appeared on a “Jewish hit list.”

In Denmark, two Israelis were shot and wounded in a shopping mall in Odense. In nearby Vollsmose, a public school principal declared that Jewish students are not welcome at his school and advised Jewish parents to send their children elsewhere. The principal is an active supporter of the Danish Boycott Israel campaign, which specializes in organizing anti-Israel protest marches in Copenhagen and elsewhere.

In Italy, the leader of a far-left trade union has called for a boycott of all Jewish shops in Rome. According to union leader Giancarlo Desiderati, the organization has already urged its members to blacklist Israeli products, and boycotting Jewish-owned or Jewish-run stores is a logical next step.

In Belgium, where the number of anti-Semitic incidents has surged in recent weeks, synagogues and Jewish schools have been attacked in Brussels and in Charleroi, Jewish community leaders have received death threats, and the home of a Jewish family was the target of an arson attempt.

In Greece, the center-right Avriani daily newspaper ran a story on Israel’s operation in Gaza, explaining that a Jewish plutocracy, having made the “wealth of the century at the expense of the economies of the world,” is preparing to put in motion “war machines” in various hot spots around the world in order to control the price of oil, redistribute the world’s natural resources, and start a new cycle of weapons production.

In Sweden, the Jewish center in Helsingborg was attacked by arsonists twice in one week and the Israeli embassy in Stockholm was covered with graffiti. Jews living in Sweden have been urged to take extra precautions when out on the street.

In Spain, where a recent poll marks Spain as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe, all major cities have been emblazoned with graffiti likening the Star of David to a swastika.

Kern notes that whenever any reference is made to Anti-Semitism, it is in the context of 'Islamophobia'--as if the two were equally prevalent; as if there were a issue of a Jewish mob comparable to the Islamist attacks on Jews.

Kern goes further in underlining the difference in attitude in Europe towards the protection of Muslims and Jews:
Meanwhile, the European political class, which is hyper-sensitive to anti-Muslim bigotry, has remained largely indifferent to the problem of rising anti-Semitism. A recent report on the epidemic of anti-Semitic violence in the European Union shows that most European countries do not even keep official records of anti-Semitic crimes. (The first such report, which was published by the EU’s Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia in late 2003, was initially suppressed and only publicized after months of public outcry.)
Heaven forfend that the fascade of Europe's 'postmodern multicultural utopia' be shown up for what it is. Meanwhile, the incidences of anti-Semitic protests are played down--much in the same way as the Kassams that are constantly being fired at civilian targets in Israel.

Kern then goes a step further in framing the this wave of Anti-Semitism as part of a larger battle:
Of course, the European political left is also pursuing an ideological battle to eradicate Judeo-Christian influences from European culture. Part of the strategy to achieve their objective involves embracing a host of Muslim causes. And so millions of Europeans have eagerly joined ranks with Islam’s 60-year challenge to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed, when European commentators proclaim that Israel is a Nazi, apartheid, pariah state, they are deliberately calling into question Israel’s legitimacy.
I wrote 2 years ago about an article by Hillel Halkin who anticipated the postmodern crisis. Halkin wrote:
the Zionist narrative, as gripping as it may seem to those who tell it as their own, is not, when set against the Palestinian narrative that opposes it, terribly convincing in an age that has a short attention span and distrusts the claims of history.

...For most contemporary intellectuals, this is a narrative that quite simply does not have what it takes. At best, it is put by them on a par with its Palestinian rival, so that one ends up with a "meta-narrative," two contradictory versions of history between which it is impossible and unnecessary to choose because they are ultimately equal and symmetrical. Here is a people that has suffered and here is a people that has suffered; here is one with great traumas and here is one with great traumas; here a lost homeland has been repossessed and here a possessed homeland has been lost; here and here is the inability to recognize the "Other," making both sides brutal and murderous with rage and hatred.
It is indicative of how things have deteriorated that whereas Halkin wrote about "two contradictory versions of history between which it is impossible and unnecessary to choose because they are ultimately equal and symmetrical"--whereas today we see that one of the narratives has achieved primacy: and it's not Israel's.

Halkin proposes that the best defense Israel has at its disposal in the postmodernist climate is Hasbara--but not in the sense often associated with it, of good PR.
But to think of hasbara as merely public relations is to take only the ground-level view. Israel's battle to make its case heard and understood is part of a larger battle to assert the importance of history and historical truth in a world in which they no longer matter very much. It is even, one might say, part of the battle against the intellectual betrayals of postmodernism itself.

In that sense, unless hasbara is conceived of as truly explaining, and not just as PR, Israel will continue to lose the war for public opinion. In the long run, the truth is its most reliable weapon, even if it is one that can only be wielded effectively by those willing to risk self-inflicted wounds. For if the truth is, generally speaking, on Israel's side, it may not be so in every case, and the temptation to tailor it when it is not, which hasbara has not been free of, is the temptation to resort to propaganda. And in a war of Jewish propaganda versus Arab propaganda—or, if one prefers, of Jewish versus Arab narratives—the Arabs will always win. They are simply much better at it. The first rule of warfare is to fight on the ground that is most advantageous to oneself. [emphasis added]
The good news is that Israel has begun to adapt Hasbara to the 21st century, particularly in presenting its case by documenting what it is doing and what Hamas is doing during Operation Cast Lead--utilizing blogs, twitter, and YouTube.

However, this is just the beginning--especially since the playing field is not always balanced, as evidenced by YouTube's removal of some of the IDF videos.

But clearly, the battle has been joined.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Technorati Tag: and and and and .

No comments: