The hate that the European Union may have tried to hide

berlin | The study that the European Union’s Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia commissioned was prompted by a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe that intensified in the spring of 2002.

The report was suppressed, allegedly to avoid offending Europe’s large Muslim communities. The European Jewish Congress obtained a copy of the report and released it Monday, Dec. 1.

These are among its findings:

• The incidents under examination “were tied to public discussion on the dividing line between legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy and anti-Semitic argumentation.”

• In many cases, perpetrators of attacks could not be identified. But in cases where they could, the attacks “were committed above all either by right-wing extremists or radical Islamists or young Muslims mostly of Arab descent, who are often themselves potential victims of exclusion and racism.”

• Attacks such as desecration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, painting of swastikas, sending of threatening and insulting mail, and Holocaust denial generally were attributable to the far-right.

• Physical attacks on Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues often were committed by young Muslims. Many of these attacks occurred during or after pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which also were used by radical Islamists for engaging in verbal abuse of Jews. In addition, radical Islamist groups were responsible for placing anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and in Arab-language media.

• On the extreme left-wing scene, anti-Semitic remarks were made at pro-Palestinian and anti-globalization rallies and in newspaper articles that used anti-Semitic stereotypes in criticizing Israel.

This combination of anti-Zionist and anti-American views formed an important element in the emergence of an anti-Semitic mood in Europe, the report found. Israel — portrayed as a capitalistic, imperialistic power — the “Zionist lobby,” and the United States are depicted as evildoers in the Middle East and as a negative influence generally on world affairs.

More difficult to record and evaluate than “street-level violence” against Jews is “salon anti-Semitism,” which is found in “the media, university common rooms and at dinner parties of the chattering classes,” the report said.

This nexus is where anti-American and anti-Semitic attitudes could converge and conspiracy theories about “Jewish world domination” could flare up again, the report said.

The assumption of close ties between the United States and Israel provides further incentive for harboring anti-Semitic attitudes. Especially on the political left, anti-Americanism is closely bound up with anti-Zionism. Additionally, dovish activists, globalization opponents and some Third World countries view Israel as aggressive, imperialist and colonialist.

Such criticism is not necessarily anti-Semitic, but the report found that there are exaggerated formulations in which criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism, such as when Israel and the Jews are accused of replicating Nazi crimes.

The report said, “It can be said that the threatening nature of the situation, in particular for the Jewish communities, arose because in most of the countries monitored the increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks, committed frequently by young Arabs/Muslims and by far-right extremists, was accompanied by a sharp criticism of Israeli politics across the entire political spectrum, a criticism that in some cases employed anti-Semitic stereotypes.”

Toby Axelrod

Toby Axelrod is JTA’s correspondent for Germany, Switzerland and Austria. A former assistant director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, she has also worked as staff writer and editor at the New York Jewish Week and published books on Holocaust history for teenagers.