Friday, April 1, 2016

Belgium: "I often go out of my way to avoid mentioning that I am Jewish"

Haaretz decided to headline this op-ed: "As Jews in Brussels, we're trapped between the Jihadists and the far right", but the writer is not talking about extremists, but rather about regular Belgians.

Via Haaretz (h/t glykosymoritis):
I do not feel more threatened because I am Jewish. When people comment that, “Oh, now this has finally hit home,” as opposed to it happening in Paris or elsewhere, I reminded them that terrorism already came to Belgium — when four people were murdered at the Jewish Museum in May 2014. Yes, they say, but the threats then and since were directed at the Jewish community.
They might continue — but the warnings against Jewish targets were isolated, "exclusive" threats, and those threats are somehow "tolerable" because, well, that is what happens to Jews. We Jews here in Europe get threatened. The police and soldiers in front of our synagogues, community centers and schools are somehow "our" normal and to be expected, because, well, we are Jews. That perspective should have been shattered by the latest attacks.
We Jews should have been seen as the canary in the coalmine. We may be some of the first who get hit, but we are not the last. After the attack on the Brussels Jewish museum, the official reaction expressed solidarity. But most people saw it as an attack against Jews, and not as an attack on a pluralistic society in which different sorts of people live together.

 After the terrorist attacks on Paris this past November, journalists remarked that the victims at the Bataclan and in the restaurants were attacked for being "normal" people doing "normal" things, the first such attack on "normal" people. But that was also not the case; the victims of the January 2015 attack on the kosher supermarket were also "normal" people doing something as "normal" as shopping for food. Yet somehow because those shoppers were Jews, they were seen as something apart, as somehow different. Their deaths were somehow less cruelly random.
Europe has a long history of treating Jews badly. I have had many experiences of anti-Semitism from non-Muslim Europeans. My French colleagues are not asked if they support the National Front in job interviews, but I was questioned about my political allegiances, prompted by my resume, that notes I speak Hebrew and did an internship in Israel (I have since taken Hebrew off my CV). I often go out of my way to avoid mentioning that I am Jewish, never sure when it will mark the end of a conversation or provoke snide remarks.

I am not equating social slights with murderous attacks, but they are related. Yes, currently the reason we have soldiers outside our synagogues is due to a heightened threat from jihadists. But I see this threat as aggravated by the lack of full acceptance of Jews (and Muslims) on the part of so many non-Jewish and non-Muslim Europeans. I emphasize non-Jewish and non-Muslim because, contrary to the racist rhetoric of the rising far-right politicians, Europe’s non-Jewish and non-Muslim populations are by far the majority and hold most positions of power in European society.
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