By Robert S. Wistrich, Professor of European History at the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem and a senior research associate at the Shalem Center
The rising tide of anti-Semitic vitriol across Europe – with synagogues burning in
Paris, London and Marseilles, and the old pogromist cry of “Death to the Jews!”
once more echoing from Brussels to Kiev – has shocked many in Israel and the
Such hostility has not been seen since the end of World War II and has
exposed the dormant genocidal demons still lurking beneath the civilized veneer
of Europe, as well as the hollowness of its pretensions to moral superiority.
Much less attention has been paid, however, to the massive Muslim
contribution to this wave of anti-Semitism which in Europe and the West has
found its most enthusiastic supporters among recent Arab and Muslim
immigrants. Since October 2000, there has been an alarming rise in the number
of anti-Semitic assaults on Jewish communities around the world for which
young Muslims have been responsible – and nowhere is this more apparent than
in France. These new immigrants carry with them anti-Semitic baggage from
their mother countries and Islamic culture.
Their hatred is further reinforced by the malevolently Judeophobic sermons
heard in their local mosques or the scenes of “martyrdom” continually relayed
by satellite TV programs from the Middle East. This highly explosive cocktail of
fanatical religious passion, Jew-hatred, and warlike zeal – sentiments perfectly
encapsulated in the concept of Jihad (Holy War) – has been still further inflamed
by the violently anti-Israel coverage of the Palestinian intifada in most of the
French and European media.
Not only that, but the Muslim war against the Jews, especially in Europe, is
also fuelled by their feelings of alienation, exclusion, and marginalization –
largely the product of an unsuccessful integration into the majority culture.
Many Muslims see themselves as victims of European racism and displace their
rage against the far more successful Jews whose influence they tend to
exaggerate. Their frustrations and resentment have led to an intense though
vicarious identification with the Palestinian victims of “Israeli aggression.”
Meanwhile, the Jews – particularly in France with the growing spectre of
Le Pen adding fuel to the flames – find themselves caught between the new
Islamic Judeophobia, the anti-Arab xenophobia (anti-Semitically tinged) of the
Front National, and the Israelophobia of much of the European mass media.
ONE OF the paradoxes of the present situation is that only with the electoral
success of Le Pen have the Western media begun to acknowledge (though
somewhat grudgingly) that anti-Semitism is indeed a problem, though wherever
possible it is subordinated to the wider issue of racism and anti-racism.
But when it comes to Muslim anti-Semitism, the West inexplicably looks
the other way.
The ubiquity of Muslim incitement against Jews from Cairo to Damascus,
Baghdad, Teheran, and Lahore is barely commented upon. Its direct connection
to the terrorist war of the Islamists against Israel and the West is underplayed,
if it is mentioned at all. Even the deluge of venomous Judeophobia widely
available in Arab and Muslim bookshops and on video cassettes in Europe itself,
is rarely investigated though it clearly amounts to a culture of incitement.
Holocaust denial material, when sponsored, promoted, or disseminated by
Muslims, arouses only a small ripple of interest yet the same phenomenon when
it can be linked to neo-Nazis or neo- fascists is most extensively covered by the
Another virtually taboo subject is the close resemblance between Nazi and
Islamic anti-Semitism. This is apparent in the visual imagery of the Arab press
which endlessly indulges in hideous stereotypes of Jews reminiscent of the
classic Nazi propaganda rag, Der Stuermer. Muslims have largely taken over the
Nazi conspiratorial view of world Jewry as a giant octopus controlling the
world’s wealth and mass media, manipulating the US, fomenting wars and
revolutions, and seeking to dominate the planet by subverting all rivals –
Israel, in particular, is portrayed as the incarnation of evil, populated by
criminal racists and Shylocks in military uniform, whose policies include
spreading drugs, vice, prostitution, AIDs, and the cultural poisons of modernity
into Muslim society.
From there it is but a small leap to embracing the idea that all the Jews
of Israel should be eliminated. Hence the widespread glorification among
Palestinians, Arabs, and millions of Muslims of the suicide bombers who
deliberately target innocent Israeli civilians.
But to discuss these causes and effects would, it appears, be most
inconvenient to the good conscience of many self-righteous Europeans. After
all, only 60 years ago the unquenchable hatred we are now seeing on the
Muslim street was also rampant among the peoples of Europe whose complicity
and in many cases active collaboration made the Nazi extermination of Jews
But the impeccably “anti-racist” and humanist Europeans of today prefer not to
recognize their handiwork in the perverted and genocidal ideology of Islamist
anti- Semitism, for which historically they bear considerable guilt.
Instead they stand by almost silently when they are not actively denying the
existence of Muslim Jew-baiting or trying to excuse it as a purely political act of
“resisting the (Israeli) occupation.”
This trivializing response to the Muslim war against the Jews (which has
its counterparts in Israel and the Diaspora) reminds me of the failure of the
West to effectively counter Nazi anti-Semitism. It smacks of appeasement,
cowardice, and a failure to confront Europe’s inner demons – which have
instead been projected with almost hysterical fury against the alleged sins of
the Jewish State.
But the “original sin” of European racism will not be so easily exorcised,
and deflecting it against Israel is likely to prove as suicidal as the exploding
bombers who are wrecking the Palestinian cause.