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Antisemitism in Europe


Quite often I am reading in the Israeli newspapers how Europe is now become antisemitic. To be honest, this annoys the non-Jewish Belgian I am.

Yesterday, I found another opinion by a well known secular Jewish Belgian. This opinion was published in "Le Soir", the biggest French speaking paper in Belgium, in October.

Paul Fays

Le Soir en Ligne, le 17/10/2002

Ghetto? No thanks…

The time has perhaps come for the Jews from Belgium to sound the end of the recreation and to send back to their dear studies the few extreme rightists excited ones, Belgians or Israelis (see for instance " Le Soir " of the 27/9), who prevail among them. There are months now that these self proclaimed spokemen of the "silent majority" of the Judaism multiply amalgams, insults and exclusions against the Jews which have the misfortune not to support in an unconditional way the current Israeli government. Who, in the community, is not pro-Sharon is an ashamed Jew or one filled up with hatred of oneself. At best, an idiot, in the worst case a traitor, in any case, a blind man who does not even realize that he lives in a savagely anti-semit country (a continent, a planet, a galaxy?).

Because, to this will of putting things straight internally, overall attacks against Belgium presented like basically antijew are added: the government would not cease criticizing Israel, justice of creating problems to Ariel Sharon, the population of launching pogroms against the synagogues. As for the press, it would not have anything to envy the one of Germany in the Thirties - especially " Le Soir " and the RTBF (state radio TV), as per happenstance, the two most significant political media of the country. It would only be ridiculous if it were not known, precisely since Goebbels (minister Nazi of Propaganda, NDLR), that an often enough-repeated lie can become a truth, especially with people traumatized by the terrifying sufferings of the Israeli population.

Let us point out some realities. On the one hand, nobody has quality to speak neither in the name of the whole Belgian Judaism nor in the one of its silent majority (no one did receive mandate neither to grant patents of Judaism or Zionism). On the other hand, the Jews are distributed on the whole of the political chessboard, from the extreme right to the extreme left. And, if they are one crushing majority to support the existence of the State of Israel, that is not an automatic approval neither of its policy nor of its leaders.

It is, in addition, as a forgery as it is insulting to claim that Belgium would be an antijews country. It is the opposite as a matter of fact: since 1945, our successive governments did not cease bringing to the community, openly or discreetly, all possible assistance. The population is not more antisemitic, except for two minuscule groups: a small part of the Arab community (joined by some hooligans as depolitized as thirsty of destruction) and a part of the extreme right-hand sides (the other supporting Israel … by hate of the Arabs).

As for the press? Me neither, I do not like the articles that " Le Soir " (and other newspapers) devotes to the Middle East, same for TV reports. They make me sick and I prefer by far the time when the media braided laurel wreathes to Rabin and Peres squeezing the hand of Arafat under the benevolent eye of Clinton, before the extremists of the two sides joined in destroying the Oslo process of peace.

The explanation of such a change of attitude could be that the whole of the journalists of the Belgian press (and European) became anti-semitic. But, if the image of Israel tends to go down in the mind of the public, wouldn't this be rather because its current government follows disastrous policies, short and long term? More precisely, and even if they made, or have let make, some mistakes, I want it to pay homage to the journalists of the " Soir ": working under the difficult conditions of a daily newspaper, unceasingly subject to the pressure of the daily news, they ply their trade without aiming at an improbable objectivity, but seriously and honestly as required by their ethic.

Of course, those who launch these attacks are not unaware of all that. If they proceed so, it is first with the hope of intimidating the government and the media. But especially to make believe to the Jews that they are alone and rejected in order to lock them up in a kind of "mental ghetto" similar to those, quite real, where their ancestors lived with such hardship at one time. However, if "everyone is against the Jews", isn't the escape to Israel the logical solution? That some sorcerer's apprentices play with this kind of fire; ultimately it is their own business. As it is the job of the media to do their job. And that of the free Jews of this country to make their opinions known and to answer these little Machiavellis with "the ghetto? No thanks"…

Columnist Ouri Wesoly Former head of the staff of « Regards », monthly of the Jewish secularist Community Center, author of ' " Shall Israel survive in 2048? (Editions Luc Pire)

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Replies: 2 comments

I am not Israeli but have read disturbing accounts of European anti-semitism in the US press. Appreciate that you took the time to say that Europeans are not anti-semitic and obviously you are not. However, because of the fact that the Holocaust took place in Europe, every event against Jews today there is very disturbing for Jews like me and I'm afraid what I read makes me think that there is a disturbing anti-semitic trend in Europe.

Here are some links from a liberal San Francisco California USA Jewish newspaper:
European Jews seek united front to fight anti-Semitism

5762:a year of attacks...

Posted by Karen @ 12/31/2002 02:38 AM CST

Thanks for the links. These reports seem to me mixing facts with overstatements.

I shall take the Belgian case that I know best. It is true that 2 (I think) times a firebomb was thrown against the front of a synagogue by a passing vehicle. They did suffer slight damages; they were not "torched" if that word means destroyed. It is true that shots were fired at the synagogue in Brussels but at a time nobody was near it: no life was in danger. The most serious attack was against a bookshop that had put in its window a sign in favor of Israel: it did suffer damage from a fire. This not to say, I find these attacks "normal". They can't be accepted nor defended. The same when the Great Rabi of Belgium was punched in the nose in the underground because he did look to be "jewish".These are serious attacks against a community and the one against the bookshop, an attempt to curb the freedom of opinion to boot. To say that they prove that Belgian has become antisemite seems however to me overdone. Why not say that America had turned antichristian when some churches were torched 3 or 4 years ago in the South?

One of your reports mentions manifestations to be organized in Europe at the time. The one in Brussels was some days after the Brussels synagogue was gunned. I did want to attend. I remember the Saturday afternoon before; I did meet a Belgian MP of North African origin at a conference. He too was shocked. He too did intend to be there. Back home however, I did learn the manifestation organizers did intend at the same time to protest against the antisemite attacks and to show their solidarity with the State of Israel. I don't know if the MP did join it but myself, I did stay at home, not because I am against the existence of Israel but I don't support present policies.



Posted by Paul @ 12/31/2002 11:41 AM CST

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