Friday, April 3, 2015

Belgium: Jew asks Jeffrey Goldberg whether he should leave Belgium

Hitler in bed with Anne Frank:
"Write this in your diary Anne."
Jeffrey Goldberg @ the Atlantic has written an article following "the discussion surrounding my cover story for the April edition of The Atlantic, about the future—or non-future—of Europe's Jews."  He pays particular attention to a letter from a Belgian Jew.  The letter reflects the terrible uncertainty and anxiety experienced by Jews in Belgium.  Sadly, it also shows that Belgian Jewish leaders aren't capable of offering guidance or to give a clear picture of the situation.  Indeed, with a few exceptions, they are notorious for their infighting.  They are also divided along linguistic lines Flemish Jews (mostly in Antwerp) and French-speaking Jews (mostly in Brussels).  It is worthwhile reminding our readers what  Christopher Caldwell pointed out on the Financial
Abou Jahjah, respected Belgian op-ed writer
(via Joost Niemöller)
Times in 2006
:"A Belgian Arab group released a cartoon showing Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank. “Europe, too, has its sacred cows,” said the group’s leader, Dyab Abou Jahjah, “even if they are not religious sacred cows.”"  That leader, Dyab Abou Jahjah, as this blog has reported, has become a columnist for the Standaard, is highly regarded by the media and the establishment.  Le Soir praises him to the skies and has hailed him as an "opinion leader" (26/03/2015). 

Jeffrey Goldberg:

[...] I wanted to try to answer a particular question sent to me by a reader in Belgium. [...] a Jewish person in Belgium who asked to remain anonymous: "I read your article, and the experience of the Jews of Belgium is similar, or maybe worse, than the experience in France, because our government is quiet on the subject and there are not so many of us here. However, I don't want to leave. This is my country. You probably feel that way about your country. If you were a Belgian Jew, what do you think you would do?"

The answer is very difficult, of course. As I wrote in the article, I do not sense a great future for Jews across much of Europe. The trends are not moving in positive directions, even putting aside the most obvious negative trend of all: In 1939 there were nine million Jews in Europe, and today there are roughly 1.4 million.

But my answer is this: If I were a completely assimilated Jew, one who, say, has married out of the faith; one who is not raising my children Jewish; and one who does not associate with Jewish people in specifically Jewish places, then I think I would be fairly safe in Belgium. It is possible to be secure in a place like Belgium by avoiding Jewish institutions (synagogues, schools, and so on) and, of course, by not participating in any obviously Jewish activity, or dressing in an obviously Jewish manner. So it comes down to a person's relationship with Judaism.

Obviously, the Nazis are not coming, and so it is not unduly dangerous to have Jewish ancestry. The article I wrote, however, was about normative Jewish life. For those people who want to be actively Jewish, a place like Belgium could, in fact, be dicey. I suppose that if I lived in Belgium, and could afford to be mobile, I would be getting mobile. But these are terribly hard questions. If I had parents, or siblings, who were tied to Belgium, I probably wouldn't be so quick to look for an exit.  More.

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