Thursday, February 27, 2020

Belgium/Netherlands: The deep shift that’s making Jews doubt their future in Western Europe

Cnaan Liphshiz has written the most insightful article, so far, on the implications of the Alost carnival for Western Jews. Please read this extract and read the complete article (link below).

At the 2011 annual celebration of the founding of the Free University of Brussels - Saint-Verhaegen day - the university Law Society float poked fun at Jews, at their worries about antisemitism which are dismissed as "blackmail": "Antisemitims blah, blah, blah". The placard features a haredi Orthodox Jew with the typical ugly Jew-nose, grasping hands, and, like at the Alost carnival, mice/rats (vermin)… (via Philosémitisme blog)

Cnaan Liphshiz @ JTA
I enjoyed the Belgian carnival that featured anti-Semitic floats. Then I searched for homes in Israel.

[…] Dismissing any historic context of how Jews were caricatured in pre-Holocaust Europe, parade organizers have defended the rat display and others as harmless satire. But to Jews, the displays here are jarring not only because of the stereotypes they betray, but also because they indicate how the borders have shifted on what can be said about Jews in the places where they were murdered or hunted down only 75 years ago.

For many of us, it is this deeper shift — not as much the imagery that reflects it — that’s making us doubt our future in Western Europe. […]

Following the carnival, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, the chief rabbi of neighboring Holland, told me that he dreamed on Sunday night that he was forced to decide whether to warn his congregants to leave the Netherlands — an issue he’s been struggling with for several years.

In the dream, he felt the weight of leadership that rested on Jewish community leaders in the 1930s and 1940s, he said.

“We’re not there yet, I’m not sounding that alarm yet,” he said. “We can live and prosper in Europe. But the fact that it’s even on my mind is a new development that scares me.”

I have my own fears, with which I’ve been grappling for years living in Amsterdam and revisited following the Aalst Carnival. If depicting Jews as insects is now permissible just outside the capital of the European Union, whereas it was unthinkable just 20 years ago, who knows what things will look like 20 years from now?

At one point during the event, my Belgian colleagues became aware of my presence there — perhaps because my reporting on last year’s edition was a key factor in the uproar that led to the UNESCO delisting.

“Do you think this is an anti-Semitic event?” one Belgian colleague asked me.

It isn’t, I said, but it does have anti-Semitic elements that make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t support banning it because I believe in freedom of expression, I added.

I’m actually having a good time here, I told my colleagues, adding that my main regret is that my kids can’t enjoy it with me. And I meant it. I’m considering taking them here next year because they’d have a blast and wouldn’t even notice the handful of Jewish references that I and my colleagues had sought out.

One wrinkle: I’m not so sure we’ll be in Europe next year.

Not for the first time in recent years, I found myself looking at housing options in Israel on the train out of Aalst.

With each new incident that reflects the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in Western Europe, I’m increasingly considering the merits of moving my family to the Jewish state.

For all of the problems in Israel, at least events like the Aalst Carnival amount to little more than a bad joke somewhere far away.
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Belgium: Antisemitic pornography at Aalst carnival

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