Jerusalem Letter / Viewpoints
No. 455 10 Sivan 5761 / 1 June 2001
ANTI-SEMITISM REVIVED: THE IMPACT OF THE INTIFADA ON
MUSLIM IMMIGRANT GROUPS IN WESTERN DEMOCRACIES
The New Wave of Anti-Semitism / Imported Fury from the Middle East / Onset of the Intifada in the West / Timing of the Riots / Assaults on Diaspora Jewish Communities / Characterization and Significance / Prospects for the Future
The New Wave of Anti-Semitism
Since the Al-Aqsa Intifada erupted in the Middle East in late September 2000, an almost simultaneous wave of violent anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment has accompanied it in the Western democracies, initiated and executed mainly by locally nationalized Arab or Muslim immigrants, long established or recent arrivals, legal or illegal. Due to the ubiquity in space, synchronicity in time, and similarity in style and content of these events, one wonders whether they were all triggered and managed centrally, or spread by emulation from one part of the globe to another.
One also questions why, beyond the Arab and Muslim worlds, these eruptions are limited mainly to Western democracies, and whether it is so because of the large concentrations of new immigrants of Muslim/Arab descent there; or due to the openness of Western societies and political systems which tolerate such demonstrations; or to the existing anti-Semitic infrastructure there that instigates, or encourages, or joins forces with the demonstrators; or by reason of the perceived support of those countries to the Jewish state; or as a result of the influence and high standing of the strong local Jewish communities whom the demonstrators seek to challenge.
Indeed, all these questions are intertwined in more ways than one, and have come to the fore in the recent wave of seemingly anti-Israel eruptions, in the context of the Arab-Israeli dispute, but which very often belie deeper anti-Semitic strata.
What is more, Arab and Muslim politics in those Western countries are gradually becoming part and parcel of the local scenes as the populations of those ethno-religious origins have been growing rapidly due to a high birthrate. The consequence is that their impact on the politics of their countries of shelter will further increase as the many young are coming of age and becoming more vocal than their parents who had been too busy searching for employment and survival, and were for the most part disenfranchised in their status of foreign workers.
Thus, politicians of all parties, especially in areas of heavy concentrations of Arab/Muslim immigrants, are on permanent lookout to enlist the support of these nationalized citizens and listen to their special concerns, be they domestic in the fields of education and religious and social services, or foreign as regards the relations of their new Western countries with the Arab and Muslim worlds.
This process, which has dramatically increased in the past decade, has had immediate repercussions on a large scale:
1. The long-established Arab/Muslim immigrant populations have become politically active as they have learned to translate their numbers into political clout and to make their political support conditional upon satisfaction of their demands. (Indeed, local Muslims in Britain reportedly targeted pro-Israel candidates in the June 2001 parliamentary elections.)
2. The strong Muslim/Arab communities established in the Western democracies often use their leverage to clamor for easing immigration controls on their kin who wish to join them and further increase their numbers.
3. Paradoxically, these new immigrants, formerly unable to voice their views and bring their influence to bear under the authoritarian regimes in their home countries, are now using their democratic power in their new lands to exert pressure on their governments to rally behind and support the poor and undemocratic regimes that they left behind.
4. Domestically, these new immigrants are clamoring for equal rights and tapping the resources of the host countries to support their absorption in their new homes and to benefit from the high quality social services these nations offer their citizenry in general; but at the same time they import with them their own understanding, biases, and emotional approach to the Middle East dispute, and strive to align their new countries with those views.
5. As they grow in numbers and influence, they not only assiduously assert their views, but they also begin to erode the longer established and highly regarded local Jewish communities which usually wield a very visible influence in the economic and cultural domains and stand at the opposite political pole as regards the Middle East. The result is that, despite tremendous Jewish efforts at dialogue with their Muslim/Arab compatriots, antagonism between the two communities sets in.
6. Although much of the developing tensions between the two denominational communities can be traced to the wide gap existing between the usually more educated and prosperous Jews and the poorer and more frustrated new Muslim/Arab immigrants, a large part of it must be ascribed to their usually antagonistic positions regarding the Middle East.
7. While Jewish support for Israel is normally dignified and within the boundaries of law and legitimate dissent and demonstration in democratic societies, the Muslim newcomers, who are not versed in these niceties upon their arrival, tend to perpetuate the tradition of violence and open outrage that they bring with them from their countries of origin, resulting in clashes, eruptions of rage, and acts of force, intimidation, arson, beatings, and the entire gamut of fury and passion resorted to in the Middle East.
Imported Fury from the Middle East
In what has become routine, the Israeli government, in conjunction with the Jewish Agency, has been issuing a monthly report on anti-Semitic outbreaks around the world. Usually, this report centers on anti-Semitic propaganda and other hate literature in European and other Christian societies where traditional anti-Semitism has been rife. It details the anti-Jewish threats, desecrations of Jewish sites, acts of violence against Jewish targets or individuals, manifestations of Nazi or neo-Nazi ideology and practice, Holocaust denial, allegations of the universal "Jewish conspiracy" and such. In the past few years these reports have been "enriched" by Internet sites which cultivate xenophobia, in general, and anti-Semitism, in particular.
A special section of the report is devoted to concrete steps in legislation, memorial-building, prosecution, education, physical protection of Jews and their sites, and information campaigns that the governments of those anti-Semitism-prone countries take to minimize and control the sentiments and manifestations of anti-Jewish rhetoric and action.
These are routine reports and yet, when one reads through the many pages and the multitude of anti-Semitic eruptions, one cannot help wonder at this high concentration of events in the Christian world at the turn of the twenty-first century, and merely half a century after the Holocaust. Furthermore, the report does not encompass, for some mysterious reason, the daily occurrences of anti-Semitic vitriol in the Arabic press throughout the Arab world and beyond, including in such countries as Egypt and Jordan which have signed peace accords with Israel. Moreover, had these monthly reports looked routinely at the school-texts in which generations of Arab children are being educated, one would begin to comprehend the connection between education and hatred and its violent manifestations.
However, since there are practically no Jews left in Arab and Islamic countries, the anti-Semitic rhetoric there is directed against Israel, the product of the Jewish people, and against Zionism -- their movement of national liberation. Thus, Arab/Mus-lim immigrants to Western countries for the most part carry with them the anti-Semitic luggage which they had absorbed by education in their mother-countries and cultures; and their renewed encounter with Jews in their new host-countries permits them to vent their inherited sentiments and express them in both anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli terms. The fact that most Jewish congregations in the West voice their support for Israel and general Jewish causes makes it convenient for the Arab/Muslim immigrant communities there to combine the two and often fail to distinguish between them.
With the Al-Aqsa Intifada breaking out on the eve of the Jewish New Year (28 September 2000), which rallied Arab-Muslim immigrants in Western countries around the Palestinian cause, and the parallel concern of the Jewish communities in those countries for the safety and welfare of Israel, both sides were set on a collision course, giving rise to an almost unprecedented level of rhetorical and physical violence on the part of the Muslim immigrants, legal and illegal, against Jews and Israel.
This outpouring of sentiment and violence was further aided by several factors:
a. The period of the Jewish High Holidays is particularly prone to heightened tension because Jews, even those who do not usually identify as such or do not actively participate in Jewish life, are drawn to synagogues of all Jewish denominations, where Jewish piety as well as Jewish awareness and communal concerns are voiced and expressed.
b. In most Western countries, and independently of the intifada, there are enough anti-Semites and hate groups to provide material for the monthly reports of anti-Semitism worldwide. Groups such as the Black Muslims in America are all too ready to put their experience, networks, Farrakhan-style anti-Semitic passion, funds, eager audiences, and national resonance at the disposal of their fellow demonstrators.
Upon the outbreak of the intifada, the Muslim/Arab communities in those countries found fertile ground to demonstrate their fury against Israel and Jews, in combination with the active support of their natural allies, the locally established anti-Semites. Thus, under the guise of anti-Zionism, violent events unfolded in the streets and on the campuses of practically every Western country that shelters Arab/Muslim communities, much to the horror of Jewish congregations which immediately sensed the anti-Semitic import of those manifestation.
c. Local circumstances in each country, such as the nomination of Sen. Joseph Lieberman to the presidential ticket in the U.S., or pro-Israeli declarations by the Prime Minister of Australia, or words of sympathy towards Jews expressed by some European leaders in view of the desecration of Jewish sites in their countries, only fueled anti-Semitic outbursts there; in consequence, anti-Israel rhetoric and acts of violence resulted.
Onset of the Intifada in the West
According to the August 2000 Report, that is, prior to the outbreak of the intifada, the Beit Aharon Synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, was torched on 31 August, following rock-throwing, an incendiary bomb, and window-breaking during the preceding month. August-September 2000 saw a mounting wave of aggression against Jews, their cemeteries, and synagogues in Sweden (12 Sep.), Russia (17 and 27 Sep.), Italy (18 Sep.), France (24 Sep.), England (6, 7 and 12 Aug. and 29 Sep.), Lithuania (two cases of desecration), Germany (one case), Russia (one case), Ukraine (one case), Norway (Holocaust denial and desecration), and Ireland (one case). These acts of defamation or desecration were accompanied by intense anti-Semitic propaganda on walls, Internet sites, and in posters and fliers, especially after Lieberman's nomination.
Acts of this sort were even reported in Bolivia and in Belgium. On 29 September in Brussels, muazzins in the mosques urged worshippers to go out and "take vengeance against the Jews in retaliation for the events in Israel and the Palestinian territories." On 30 September, one day after the outbreak of the intifada, a rabbi was assaulted by un-identified youth on his way back from synagogue in Brooklyn. Tear gas was sprayed in his face before he was beaten, while the assailants screamed: "This is for the Palestinians!" On the same day a Hassidic Jew was stabbed in New York City. The aggressor said he was Palestinian and told his victim to "get out of here!" Some steps were taken by governments in the Czech Republic, Sweden, the U.S., Germany, and Russia to contain these violent eruptions of anti-Semitism, but the worst was to come.
The October 2000 Report detailed an alarming increase in anti-Semitic outbreaks. The by now routine desecrations, assaults, arson, and Holocaust denial, and the expected joining of forces between Arab/Muslims and local anti-Semites, were now backed by open incitement, almost unprecedented in peacetime, against the Jews and Israel.
On the day after the intifada erupted, rocks pelted the windows of Kehillat Yaacov Synagogue and the Great Synagogue of Fieldgate St. in London. On 1 October, an Arab driver attempted to run over Jews on their way to the Aubervilliers Synagogue in Paris, followed by Arab youth who threw water bottles at the walls of the synagogue. On the same day Arab youth approached a large group of Jewish holiday worshippers and pelted them with chestnuts in the vicinity of Ohaleikha Yaacov Synagogue in Paris. Only the police presence and intervention kept matters from getting out of hand. On the same day, other Arab youths were reported hurling rocks and abuse at Jewish worshippers both in Creteil, a Paris suburb, and Villeurbanne, a Lyon neighborhood more reputed for its basketball team. Jewish New Year notwithstanding, other Arabs in Antwerp, aided by local skin-heads, abused Jewish worshippers with insults and curses, and one raised his right hand in a Nazi-style salute before they were constrained by police.
Timing of the Riots
This flurry of heightened anti-Semitic activity peaked in Western countries in the coming days as the events in the Middle East kept escalating. Thus, the spiral of violence rose rapidly in both places, as the Jewish Holidays passed from the New Year to the Ten Days of Awe leading to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
It is interesting to note the choice by the rioters of these most holy of days in the Jewish calendar, which of course reflected the realities on the ground in the Middle East. Why the Palestinians elected precisely those days, exactly as Sadat had done in the 1973 October War against Israel, may be a matter of speculation. Either the Palestinians believed, like the Egyptians before them, that the Jews would be busy praying and fasting, and therefore less alert and more vulnerable, or both thereby expressed their contempt and derogation of Jews by denigrating their holidays.
Conversely, during the holy month of Ramadan, which was celebrated by Muslims, including Palestinians, in the middle of the intifada, the Palestinians decreased their level of violence and expected Israel to follow suit, both out of respect for their holiday and out of exhaustion from the fast. Israel complied on both scores, since it had no desire or stake in the continued riots in any case, and the hostilities tapered off. Thus, turning the heat on and off at their whim only helped to demonstrate that the "spontaneity" of the intifada was controllable after all, and that the respect others duly owe the Islamic faith and its believers is not necessarily rewarded in kind.
Assaults on Diaspora Jewish Communities
As the intifada gained force, the rate of anti-Semitic occurrences increased. In central Lille, France, swastikas were spotted on walls with the equation: Star of David = Anti-Arab. On 2 October, in Rue Gresser Synagogue of the 19th Arrondissement in Paris, a bottle was tossed at the building and abusive and menacing telephone calls were received at the synagogue in the middle of the morning prayer. The same day, in Britain, a fatwa (religious verdict) was issued by a Muslim cleric and placed on the Internet, calling for Jihad (Holy War) against Israel and Israeli interests.
Sheikh Umar abd-a-Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who had masterminded the Twin Tower explosion in New York and has since been serving a prison term, was quoted that day as urging his believers to launch Jihad against Jews wherever they could find them. That same night, three firebombs were tossed at the entrance to the synagogue and Jewish community center in Dusseldorf, Germany, while an anonymous call received by the Nice (France) Fire Department warned of a ticking bomb at the local synagogue. Similar warnings and acts of violence against synagogues were recorded that same night -- which can only be compared to the infamous 1938 Kristallnacht -- in Malmo, Sweden, in Brussels, and in Schwerin, East Germany, where an elderly Jewish couple was assaulted and the woman seriously injured. That same night the Jewish cemetery in Schwaebisch Halle in Germany was desecrated and swastikas were painted on the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial near Munich, and on the Old Synagogue Memorial in Halle, Germany.
The next day, on 3 October, a synagogue in the Villepinte neighborhood in Paris was hit and partly burned by three firebombs. In the Campinas suburb of Sao Paulo, Brazil, thugs threatened to kill the policeman on guard near the local synagogue. In Thassaloniki, one of the most "Jewish" cities of the Balkans under the Ottomans and modern Greece, a huge demonstration was held opposite the offices of the waning Jewish community. In Florence and Venice, Italy, threatening phone calls were made against Israel and the Jews. Again in Malmo, Sweden, where a large community of Arab refugees has found shelter, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated on the night of 3-4 October.
The next day a large demonstration, led by the Italian Fascist Forza Nueva, took place in central Rome. The Jewish cemetery in Potsdam, Germany, was desecrated and its Jewish symbols abused. That same day the leaders of the German Jewish community received letter-bombs and threats to their lives. Threats and anti-Semitic insults were also received at a Jewish day school in Paris. Radio 786, an Islamic radio station in Capetown, South Africa, broadcast inciting messages against Israel and called for the "liberation of Jerusalem from the Zionists."
On 5 October, a Jewish boy was attacked by Arab teenagers near the Or-Yossef Jewish day school in the 19th Arrondissement of Paris. The next night rocks broke windows at the Kreuzberg Synagogue in Berlin, followed by the desecration of the Bar-Yohai and Or-Aviv Synagogues in Marseille, France, where graffiti proclaiming "Death to the Jews" and "the Jews are Murderers" was sprayed on the walls. Attacks on Jewish targets also occurred in Toronto and London, Ontario, and in Montreal.
On 6 October, students leaving the Tenouji Jewish school in St. Ouen, north of Paris, were pelted with rocks. The same day, the Jewish newspaper in Sao Paulo received abuse against Jews and threats to blow up the local Jewish Federation facilities and the local Israeli Consulate, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Brasilia. Ominously, the threats were signed by Osama bin Laden and the Hizbullah. Words of abuse, which compared the Jews to Hitler, and a threat to blow up the Jewish Museum in Rio de Janeiro, were received by email on the screens of Israeli and Jewish institutions in town.
In Panama, the Arab community released a communique condemning Israel and the Jews, in response, they said, to the unfolding events in Palestine. The communique stated that "Jews are murderers of anyone who opposes their aspirations to rule the world." The Latin American "Ciudad de Libre Opinion" Internet site posted a call to "oust the genocidal Zionists" and to support the Palestinian cause. On 7 October a picture was added to the site showing Palestinian youth hoisting a red banner with a black swastika in its center. The caption under the picture read: "The Jewish Occupation Forces have murdered 47 Palestinians and shot to death 12 children," and quoted Iranian President Khamenei's summons for Jihad against Israel.
On 7 October there was a large demonstration opposite the UN buildings in Geneva where calls were heard for Jihad against Israel. An incendiary bomb was tossed at the Aubervilliers Synagogue northeast of Paris, where local Arabs threatened to blow up the building on the approaching Yom Kippur. Firebombs were hurled at a Jewish restaurant in the 19th Arrondissement in Paris, and rocks smashed its windows. Later, Arab youths attempted to force their way into other Jewish restaurants in the area amidst insults and curses. In a suburb of Lyon, the La Duchere Synagogue was attacked with rocks and the worshippers had to be evacuated in police cars. Threats by Arabs followed to torch or otherwise harm Jewish houses of worship on Yom Kippur. In London, on the same day, the Reform Synagogue at Edgeware was hit by rocks and its windows broken, and at the Elstree Burehamwood Synagogue in London the Ark containing the Holy Scrolls was crushed and some of the scrolls were burned by arsonists. That same night firebombs were thrown at the windows of synagogues on Upper Berkeley St. and Seymour Place in London.
Dozens of other Jewish targets were attacked in similar ways in the coming days in Marseille (7-8 Oct.), Lyon (8 Oct.), Leicester, England (8 Oct.), Birmingham (8 Oct.), London, and the Bronx in New York on the eve of Yom Kippur. The campaign against Jews continued in Daghestan (Russian Federation); Ottawa, with slogans crying "Glory to Islam"; Montreal, where Muslims screamed "Death to the Jews"; and five similar attacks in Toronto and its vicinity during the first week of October.
On Yom Kippur, 9 October, a synagogue was torched in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, ironically bearing the proud name of Ohev Shalom (Lover of Peace). On the same day a synagogue in the Clichy s/Bois suburb of Paris was torched and its worshippers sent home. So it was at other synagogues and Jewish facilities in France (5 cases in Paris, 1 in Lyon, and 1 in Strasbourg). Indeed, during October, more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents occurred throughout France, including the burning of a synagogue in Trappes on 10 October. In Tashkent, Uzbekistan, as well, a synagogue was burned to ashes and its Torah scrolls destroyed. All this occurred in so-called civilized countries, where freedom of religion and worship is supposed to be safeguarded by constitutions, legal systems, and law-enforcement authorities.
Characterization and Significance
These widespread pogrom-style outbursts of anti-Semitism, which are probably unprecedented since the Holocaust, happened in mostly democratic and pluralistic countries, notably in France and Britain which are committed to human rights and freedom of worship. Nevertheless, the law-enforcement authorities seemed to stand by haplessly, helplessly, and hopelessly before this violent wave which surprised them in its scope and intensity. The detailed incidents described for the first week in October were repeated throughout the following months, albeit with varying degrees of violence and shifting emphasis from one country to another. However, the patterns of violence, which seem to have been guided, cultivated, and fed centrally, invoke some thoughts and categorizations that can be useful in sorting out this immense worldwide wave of anti-Semitic outpouring.
Although expressions of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment were rife throughout the Christian world well before the intifada, and independent of it, it is evident that the quickly mounting spiral of violence that broke out is indicative of an existing infrastructure of anti-Semitism in practically all of the infected countries, and it was used, expanded, and solidified by the Muslim/Arab rioters to their ends.
It is also evident that the unprecedented scale and intensity of the rampages against Jewish targets in the Christian world could not have reached this level of its own volition, since no Christian country, not even Russia and Ukraine, would have dared to revert to this medieval style of rampant and open anti-Semitism, for fear of American retribution. However, when combined with Arab/Muslim anti-Semitic outrage, disguised as anti-Zionism, the Christian anti-Semites, not least in the great democracies of France, Britain, Germany, Canada and the U.S., used Western tolerance for anti-Israel sentiment to legitimize and widen the anti-Semitic base in their countries without incurring any severe criticism or vigorous crackdown on the part of the authorities.
Once quiescent "legitimacy" was accorded to these outbursts in Western Europe, other anti-Semites in North, Central, and South America, Australia, and Eastern Europe raised their heads to join in the rampage, "celebrating" the widespread pogroms against the Jews as of old, with impunity.
The countries most affected by these rampages, where native anti-Semites converge with large immigrant Muslim/Arab populations, are France, Britain, and Germany where the populations of foreign Muslim workers are the largest: North African, Pakistani, and Turkish, respectively. These manifestations of hostility and intolerance have highlighted the increasingly burdensome issue of Islamic penetration throughout the Western world, first via legal and temporary residence for the purpose of work, and then via illegal infiltration with the intention to stay.
In the long run the demographic balance will be affected, especially in countries of immigration such as Canada, the U.S., and Australia, exactly as it already has been in Western Europe, which accords political asylum to refugees from Islamic countries. More ominously, it means that these immigrants, both the already established and the newcomers, including the illegal among them, import to these countries of shelter their hatred for Israel and the Jews.
Once the demographic balance has tilted far enough, this is likely to undermine the enviable status that these Jews enjoy in those countries out of proportion to their numbers. The Arabs/Muslims are determined to dethrone the Jews from that position of privilege and to seize primacy from them, both by the sheer numbers that they will bring to bear in those democracies, and by violence and intimidation towards the Jews themselves.
This, in turn, again in conjunction with local long-time anti-Semites, will signal to the general population that Jews are "dangerous" to befriend and be involved with, and therefore their neighborhoods and company ought to be avoided. It is easy to foresee the sentiments of anti-Semitism that will erupt when common people, who never particularly liked Jews in the first place, or were envious or afraid of them, are made to feel that their undesired neighbors have become a cumbersome liability.
The attacks launched daily against Israelis since the onset of the intifada are calculated to make life in Israel intolerable and drive the Israelis to despair, to abandon their hard-won prosperity, their remarkable democracy, and their phenomenal technological advances, so as to pave the way for their departure. Similarly, the Muslim communities worldwide, who view world Jewry as the main life-artery of Israel, are harassing the Jewish communities by attacking their religious and cultural centers and symbols: synagogues, cemeteries, restaurants, day schools and community centers, in order to render their lives untenable and force them to go. In effect, in Sydney and Paris, London and Capetown, from Ukraine to Panama, these hundreds of acts of arson, assault, murder, beatings, anti-Semitic slogans and posters, and calls to Muslims to join in Jihad to liberate Jerusalem from the Zionists, are two sides of the same coin, which have rattled cities and towns both in Israel and worldwide, all in pursuit of the same objectives.
The globalization of information has caused the universalization of Arab and Islamic sentiment and solidarity. In a paradoxical way, the local media in each Islamic country provide immediacy of awareness and identification with the Palestinians and help break the local siege of censorship on information. International Arab and Muslim concerns are hijacked by activist groups who not only transmit messages instantly regarding the oppression of Palestinians and the dangers that the Jews pose to the Muslim holy places, but also help raise funds, urge co-religionists to demonstrate, violently if necessary, in support of those causes, and even provide instructions on how to join terrorist groups or concoct explosives. Thus, what happens on the ground in Gaza or Nablus has immediate reverberations on the streets of Melbourne and London, Kuala Lumpur and Sao Paulo, not to speak of the Arab street from Rabat to Baghdad, or the Islamic street from Teheran to Jakarta.
With regard to the reactions of the authorities in the countries that are the arenas of this violence, doubts arise as to the firmness of the governments in place when it comes to clamping down on Muslim minorities. They may hesitate lest the violence turn against them, or are wary not to antagonize Islamic countries with which they maintain economic relations, or are simply cognizant of the mounting voting power of those growing minorities in their midst when elections come. There is even a suspicion that some officials, with the tacit support of their constituencies, may elect to look the other way. Otherwise, it is hard to explain how dozens of acts of violence are repeated daily across the major European and North American nations that pride themselves on respect for human rights and the enforcement of law and order. Had Jews assaulted mosques or Muslim individuals in those countries, and certainly if anyone had torched Christian churches, public outrage would have surely compelled the governments to take harsh measures, as was the case in the 1980s when daily terrorist bombings in Parisian stores and metros led to unprecedented police control of the streets of that city.
The consequence is that Jewish communities in Western democracies, which have always prided themselves for their individual and collective safety, and even more so those under regimes in Eastern Europe and Latin America where public order leaves much to be desired and anti-Semitism remains rampant, now fear for their lives. Informal and unarmed Jewish self-defense groups have sprung up to defend their property and police presence has been increased in violence-prone areas. Jews move out of "dangerous" neighborhoods or eliminate outside emblems of their Jewishness: mezuzot disappear from their doorposts, kippot are hidden in pockets, and Star of David jewelry is concealed underneath cloths. Some even emigrate either to Israel or to other destinations around the globe considered safer.
Prospects for the Future
This wave of violence has had a far-reaching impact on Jewish communities worldwide, due to a combination of their intimidation, fears for the future, and helplessness in the face of inaction or ineffective action by local authorities. These communities face the following choices:
A. Retreat from the outer and public manifestations of their Jewish identity and attempt to melt into the general population so as to escape public scrutiny and hide themselves from persecution, discrimination, and humiliation.
B. Revert to the old formula of being Jewish indoors and anonymous outdoors, in order to practice their Judaism clandestinely and avoid raising any suspicion as to their alien identity which might warrant slur, hatred, and hostility on the part of the general population.
C. Stand up and struggle, proudly but at a cost, against the anti-Semites, both local and immigrant Muslim/Arabs, by openly asserting their identity and their support of their faith, community, people, and the State of Israel; mobilizing to their side the authorities who are generally supportive of their cause; and using the legal means available to pursue their detractors in long, costly, exhausting, and unpopular campaigns.
D. Abandon the local scene altogether and tie their destiny with the Jewish state where, in spite of its problems, at least there is an infrastructure of Jewish pride and safety, also at a cost.
Jewish communities worldwide usually tend not to make clear-cut choices in this regard, and simultaneously adopt an amalgam of these strategies. They send family members to settle in Israel or purchase a home there as a safety measure for doomsday. Individuals among them will intermarry outside the faith and disappear from the community head-count. Others, in a desperate effort not to rock the boat, keep silent about their Jewish identity but nurture links to their Jewish roots. Still others, especially in places where they enjoy the cooperation of the local authorities, or are self-confident and strong enough to resist their detractors, stand up and fight, either as individuals or through their powerful institutions, for maintaining both their privileged status in their countries as well as their strong links with Israel.
In view of the unlikelihood of a quick fix in the foreseeable future to settle the Arab-Israeli rift, which seems to be gaining in intensity, it is likely that anti-Israel sentiment will continue rising and spreading in the countries where Muslim/Arab communities are taking root and becoming part of the socio-political scene. Concurrently, local anti-Semites will continue to translate their unfashionable anti-Jewish attitudes into more legitimate and acceptable anti-Zionist and anti-Israel bashing. This is the common denominator around which the anti-Semites and the Arab/Muslim communities converge. Therefore, Jews at large and Israel specifically can expect these kinds of violent eruptions to recur in the future, with growing intensity and efficacy, and should brace themselves, jointly and severally, to counter them.
* * *
Raphael Israeli is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is the author of numerous books and articles including Fundamentalist Islam and Israel: Essays in Interpretation (JCPA and University Press of America, 1993), and Muslim Fundamentalism in Israel (Brasseys', 1993).
are published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel-Hai St.,
Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-5619281, Fax. 972-2-5619112, Internet:
firstname.lastname@example.org. In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1515
Locust St., Suite 703, Philadelphia, PA 19102; Tel. (215) 772-0564, Fax. (215)
772-0566. © Copyright. All rights reserved. ISSN: 0792-7304.
The opinions expressed by the authors of Viewpoints do not necessarily reflect
those of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.