Op-Ed: Myths and Truths About Muslim Anti-Semitism in Europe
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism among Muslim youngsters in Europe has specific characteristics which distinguish it from the hatred of Jews by people in surrounding societies. Yet it also has common elements. Many standard statements about the origins of Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe are without foundation. There is no proof that this hateful attitude is greatly influenced by the discrimination of Muslim youngsters in Western societies.
“I have conducted 117 interviews with Muslim youngsters of an average age of 19 in Berlin, Paris and London. The majority voiced some or strong anti-Semitic feelings. They openly express their negative viewpoints toward Jews. This is often done with aggression and sometimes includes intentions to carry out anti-Semitic acts.”
Dr. Günther Jikeli is a gentile anti-Semitism researcher at the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University and was awarded the Raul Wallenberg Prize. He earned his PhD at the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism in Berlin in 2011. From 2011 to 2012, he served as the OSCE/ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) Adviser on Combating Anti-Semitism.
His book in German describes his research findings. Its title translates as, Anti-Semitism and Observations on Discrimination among Young Muslims in Europe.
“Many youngsters I interviewed expressed ‘classic’ anti-Semitic stereotypes. Conspiracy theories and stereotypes which associate Jews with money are the most prominent. Jews are often deemed as rich and stingy. They are also frequently seen as being one entity with a common and evil Jewish interest. These archetypal stereotypes strengthen a negative and potentially threatening picture of ‘The Jews’ in the minds of these youngsters.
“They usually do not differentiate at all between Jews and Israelis. Their view of the Middle East conflict can be used by them as a justification of a general, hostile attitude toward Jews including German, French and English Jews. They often claim that Jews have stolen Palestinian-Arab or alternatively, Muslim land. This is a major contention for them to delegitimize the State of Israel. The expression ‘Jews kill children’ is also heard frequently. It is a supportive argument for their opinion that Israel is fundamentally evil. As they do not make any distinction between Israelis and Jews in general, this becomes further proof for the ‘vicious character’ of Jews. It also makes them very emotive.
"The assumption of a general or even eternal enmity between Muslims (or Arabs) and Jews is widespread. This is often expressed in statements such as, ‘Muslims and Jews are enemies,’ or accordingly, ‘Arabs dislike Jews.’ This makes it difficult for youngsters who identify strongly as Muslims or Arabs to distance themselves from such views.
“We know that anti-Semitism is never rational. Yet some Muslim youngsters do not even try justifying their attitudes. For them, if someone is Jewish, that is sufficient reason for their loathing. From statements made by some interviewees, it emerges that negative attitudes toward Jews are the norm in their social environment. It is frightening that a number of them express a desire to attack Jews when they encounter them in their neighborhoods.
“Some discuss anti-Semitic acts carried out in their environment where the attackers have never been caught. Several interviewees approved of these aggressions. Aware of the fact that others from their social, religious and ethnic backgrounds attack Jews and remain uncaught and have not been clearly condemned, enhances the normalization of violence against Jews in their circles.”
Jikeli adds, “Differences between the interviewees of the three countries regarding their anti-Semitic viewpoints are surprisingly minor. One sees some divergence in their argumentation. German Muslims mention that Jews control the media and manipulate them in order to conceal Israel’s ‘atrocities.’ In France, interviewees often say that Jews play a dominant role in the national TV media. In the U.K., they mainly mention Jewish influence in American broadcasting as well as in the film industry there.
“The word ‘Jew’ is used pejoratively in Germany and France, by non-Muslims also. In the U.K., this phenomenon is less known in general and among Muslim interviewees. Only in France are Jews often seen as ‘exploiters.’ Some Muslim youngsters mention that it is wrong that Jews allegedly have a better life in France than Muslims. It may well be that this stems from the fact that French Jews are often more visible than those in Germany and the U.K. and furthermore, that many French Jews are also immigrants from North Africa and that there is a certain feeling of competition.
“In Germany, some interviewees often use specific arguments they have picked up from society at large, such as the allegedly high Holocaust restitution payments made to Israel. Another argument frequently offered and believed, is that Jews, in light of the Holocaust, ‘should be better people than others, whereas Israel embodies the opposite.’
“Yet, there are also some Muslim youngsters who distance themselves from anti-Semitism. This happens even if they have been initially influenced by anti-Semitic views from their friends, family and the media. This proves once again that people should not generalize.”
Jikeli concludes: “Anti-Semitism may be strengthened further by referring to a general negative attitude by the Muslim community toward Jews. References to the Koran or the Hadith may also be used with the implication that Allah agrees with this viewpoint. Yet one should not falsely arrive at the common assumption that Muslim anti-Semitism is exclusively a product of hatred of Israel, or from Western ‘classic’ anti-Semitism, the teachings of Islam, or their Muslim identity. The reality is far more complex.”