Antisemitism, migrants and integration
Antisemitism, migrants and integration

Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Ruud Koopmans

“Antisemitism in the Netherlands has grown in the past 10-20 years like in other countries in Europe. It is difficult to prove the spread of verbal antisemitism which can hardly be quantified. The rise of social media has increased this type of abuse. It aims at many targets, including Jews, Zionists and Israel. I do not give much weight to it.       

“A stronger and more severe form of antisemitism is threats and violence. We know that this violence has also grown in Europe. Sometimes it is even lethal.”

Dr. Ruud Koopmans was born in the Netherlands in 1961. In 1992 he received his Ph.D in sociology at the University of Amsterdam. He is professor of Sociology and Migration Research at the Humboldt University of Berlin and director of the research unit “Migration, Integration and Transnationalization” at the WZB Berlin Social Center.

Koopmans says: “I have done some research on antisemitism. In 2015, I studied religious fundamentalism in six European countries including the Netherlands. One question asked interviewees their opinion about the statement that Jews cannot be trusted. In the six countries concerned approximately 45% of Muslims agreed with this claim. Among non-Muslims it was eight percent.

‘Both in the Netherlands and in Germany there is good data about punishable antisemitic acts. Statistics are however rather vague about the perpetrators’ origins. The situation in Germany is even worse than in the Netherlands. It is impossible to obtain data about the share of migrants in various crimes.

‘The problems in obtaining data about antisemitic violence is not caused by a specific lack of desire to see the role of Muslims or immigrants in this violence. It is rather a general problem of not wanting to acknowledge any form of criminality or extremism among migrants. That would undermine the dominant worldview that migrants and Muslims are victims and not perpetrators.”

In September 2018 a session on antisemitism in the Netherlands took place in the lower chamber of the Dutch parliament. Koopmans was among those invited and submitted a preparatory document. There he wrote: ‘Effective combating antisemitism requires valid information about the motivation and characteristics of the perpetrators. The authorities, police and mainstream organizations which monitor antisemitism are deficient on this issue.

“In the many reports about antisemitism systematic information about the motivations and ethnic and religious background of the perpetrators is lacking. This wrongly creates the impression that antisemitism is a diffuse phenomenon which appears everywhere equally. Or alternatively, putting antisemitism in a context of racism and Islamophobia indicates that it primarily is a problem of native perpetrators motivated by right-wing extremism.

“One finds antisemitic attitudes in all parts of the population.  They are, however, particularly widely spread among Muslims. Antisemitism isn’t a marginal phenomenon in the Muslim community. It characterizes a large minority or even the majority.” In his document Koopmans furthermore stated that the assessments of victims concerning the perpetrators had to be complemented with data from the police and the justice authorities: “That the latter are not available can not be blamed on the victims. It is the result of a conscious decision of policy makers not to collect or publish the information about perpetrators.”  

Koopmans remarks: “We have to differentiate between antisemitism and attitudes toward Israel. My parents were members of a Christian Pentecostal community. That environment was very pro-Israel.  The same is true for many evangelical churches in the United States.

“The origin of this attitude is that one believes the biblical story.  According to it, the return of Jesus will only take place when the Jews have their own state in Israel. At the end of days the battle between good and evil will take place with Jerusalem at its center. Many Christian fundamentalists are therefore pro-Israel. This doesn’t exclude that they can also be antisemites.

“When we present a variety of questions to these Christian fundamentalists, they support Israel strongly. But when we ask them whether they agree with statements such as ‘Jews cannot be trusted,’ ‘Jews are responsible for many wars in the world,’ or ‘Jews abuse the Holocaust for their benefit,’ we find that Christian fundamentalists more often agree with these statements than liberal non-fundamental Christians.

“We have submitted the statement of ‘Jews are not to be trusted’ also to secular interviewees. The percentage among them that agreed with this claim was even lower than among Christians.

“Statistics of antisemitic incidents in various European countries cannot be compared with each other.  Legislation in Germany is more severe on this issue than elsewhere. Far more types of acts are forbidden in Germany than in other countries. This leads to many more right-wing extremist incidents. Most are incidental grafitti, expressions of hate on the internet or in obscure publications of right-wing extremists.

“A large part of the German press and politics aim to diminish left-wing and Muslim antisemitism. They thus claim that of all antisemitic incidents a dominant percentage originates in right-wing circles.

“If we had hard facts we would probably discover that in Germany -- like in other European countries --  the worst antisemitic incidents, i.e., threats and violence, come largely from Muslims. The increase in antisemitic violence is mainly attributable to this category. If this became widely known it might perhaps lead to a change in the public debate.”