Saturday, March 14, 2020

Europe: How bad is antisemitism in Europe? Survey suggests it's rampant.

Melissa Langsam Braunstein via The Federalist:
[…] When 36 percent of Portuguese respondents, along with 32 percent of Spaniards, 31 percent of Italians, and 28 percent of Belgians agree that “Jews always pursue their own interests and not the interest of the country they live in,” that’s concerning. And when 36 percent of Italians, 33 percent of Portuguese, 30 percent of Spanish, and 28 percent of Belgian respondents tell Pew pollsters they agree that “Jews always overstate how much they have suffered,” that’s a red flag. Neighbors who believe you’re exaggerating about historical suffering are unlikely to empathize over your contemporary concerns.  
For a more explicit deep-dive into this subject, consult the ADL Global 100 index of antisemitism, which added an 18-nation update in 2019. ADL’s top-line conclusion is that 24 percent of Western Europeans and 34 percent of Eastern Europeans hold antisemitic views. Those numbers are followed by extensive, substantiating details.

Hesitating to dub strangers antisemites is wise, especially based on limited information. It’s worth reading the country reports in full, if only to understand the particular form antisemitism takes in each society. However, I’d like to focus on the survey’s first question as an important sign post for this inquiry.

Respondents were asked whether “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to [this country/to the countries they live in].” Anyone answering “probably true” views Jews as “the other.” Whether through ignorance or malice, this group is primed to believe antisemitic conspiracy theories, including myths about Jews controlling financial markets, the media, and world governments, or blaming Jews for the world’s wars.

The fact that 33 percent of British respondents deemed that statement “probably true” helps explain Corbynism’s growth and the “record high total of 1,805 antisemitic incidents in the UK last year.” Also, the fact that 64 percent of Poles, 62 percent of Spaniards, 50 percent of Belgians, 49 percent of Germans, 49 percent of Austrians, and 39 percent of Russians think this statement is “probably true” speaks volumes.

It’s easier to understand Jews being widely dehumanized at public celebrations when we understand how widespread the antisemitic virus is in Europe. That knowledge necessarily informs European Jews’ decisions about how openly Jewish to be in their daily lives - for those who aren’t visibly Jewish - and whether they consider it safe to remain in their home countries.  
For those who would combat antisemitism, it also offers a window into the immense challenge ahead. Antisemitism’s European roots are centuries deep, so any curricular component would have to start long before the Holocaust.

Also worth pondering is the microscopic percentage of respondents truly familiar with Jews. That only 2 percent of Polish respondents reported interacting with Jews “very often,” while the same was true of 4 percent of respondents in Belgium and 1 percent in Spain, is instructive. Demonizing people you know only as ugly caricatures is easy. So it’s theoretically possible that person-to-person diplomacy, especially starting at early ages, could help reverse some of these conspiratorial beliefs.

But fundamentally, this is not European Jewry’s problem to fix. If things change, it will be because Europe’s non-Jewish majority decides it’s time to make their nations’ collective future brighter than their past.
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