Anti-Semitism in Europe: Fighting Back
Address by Ana Palacio
Former Foreign Minister of Spain
To the Anti-Defamation League
National Leadership Conference
Washington, D.C., April 4, 2005
Posted: April 20, 2005
I want to first thank [ADL National Chair] Barbara Balser and [National Director] Abraham Foxman for their dedication to fighting discrimination and working to secure fair treatment and justice for all. I am also indebted to them for their efforts in organizing this important event. I am grateful they asked me to participate. For me it is a great privilege and honor to have the chance to speak to everyone today.
Europe has a shamefully long list of recent anti-Semitic acts. To give you an idea of what is going on in the "Old World", I could start with examples from around Europe, but I want to highlight something that happened in my country a few months ago because Spaniards believe there is no anti-Semitism in Spain.
The Town Hall of Oleiros, in the northern province of Galicia, has an international cooperation program to aid development in the Third World. To raise money for this worth cause, the mayor decided to sell t-shirts. Unfortunately, these were not just any t-shirts. One t-shirt showed Ariel Sharon as a dragon devouring the bloody corpses of Palestinian children with George Bush riding him like a cowboy on a horse.
The Mayor, apparently believing his message too subtle, decided to post on the illuminated outdoor municipal message board the following: "Let´s stop the animal, Sharon the assassin, stop the neo-Nazi."
Interestingly, the town´s international cooperation program states its actions should favour human rights: apparently, fighting anti-Semitism doesn´t fall into that category.
The Sharon t-shirt is no longer on sale. However, if you are feeling anti-patriotic today you can still visit Oleiros´ webpage and buy a t-shirt depicting the US flag as a roll of toilet paper and urging everyone to use it.
Unfortunately, this in not the only incident in Spain: Barcelona City Hall placed a Star of David side-by-side with a swastika on the official web page, later removing it but without offering any apologies or explanations; in June 2004 a plaque honouring victims of the Holocaust in Montjic Cemetary in Barcelona was vandalized for the fourth time since 2002.
Classic: Over the past three years, anti-Semitism in Europe has come to a head. The classic justifications for prejudice from the Protocols of Zion are alive and well: that Jews control the media, US foreign policy, international business and the financial world; that there was no holocaust; that the state of Israel has no right to exist; that the Israeli government is intrinsically evil; that Zionism is racism.
Together with these conspiracy theories go the familiar acts of violence: synagogue bombings in Turkey in November 2003; the ransacking of the Jewish Gan Hai day-care center in Belgium in July 2003; the arson attack on the HaTorah Jewish school in Paris in November 2003; the throwing of a grenade at a synagogue in Russia in January 2004.
In 2003, Labour MP Tam Dalyell decried the influence of "a Jewish cabal" on British foreign policy reinforcing the theme of Jews controlling the world.
On Saturday December 18, 2004 French Holocaust denier Professor Robert Faurisson former lecturer of Lyon University, gave an interview to Iran's Mehr News Agency about France's decision to ban Al-Manar TV:
MNA: "Actually, France doesn't respect the rights of its citizens, as it has banned the hijab (Islamic headscarf) in public schools. How do you assess that?"
Remember, the importance of denying the Holocaust is to undermine the original argument for the existence of the state of Israel.
Faurisson: "Because Jews, in a certain way, are used to treating the French as they treat Palestinians. The difference is that Palestinians refuse to obey the Jews, whereas the French obey the Jews, once more because of the Big Lie of the alleged 'Holocaust,' in which unfortunately they seem to believe…The alleged 'Holocaust' of the Jews is the sword and the shield of the Jewish tyranny all over the world. Destroy it" (Middle East Media Research Institute, 20 December 2004)
This string of widely publicized hate acts culminated in former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox declaring in March 2004 that Europe has an anti-Semitism problem. But the problem is evolving. There are new forms of anti-Semitism springing up covertly, quietly even politically-correctly.
This new anti-Semitism´s tactic in Europe is the systematic and heartless banalization of the Holocaust. The opinion makers, the intellectuals, from Nobel Prize winner José Saramago to the average journalist, don't think twice about accusing Israeli leaders of genocide or Hilter-like practices or of comparing Auschwitz and the prisons in Iraq. Such wording brings the Holocaust down to the level of just "another killing" and not one of human history's worst atrocities. Doing this, frees guilty consciences without addressing its underlying problems. Everyone is free to forget.
And in forgetting springs prejudice. Together with this banalization, the European Intelligentsia engages in anti-Israeli practices far out of proportion with any logical criticism of Sharon´s policies. Israel´s faults, mistakes, unlawful acts are magnified, Palestinian ones reduced. Israeli army attacks are splashed on the front pages while Palestinian terrorism tucked away and covertly justified if reported on at all. Just look at the veneration showered on Yasir Arafat in the European media after his death. There was barely a word of criticism. The effect of this bias is an information deficit, especially as it relates to how the violence and the Middle East conflict is analyzed and transmitted to the public. Israel's presumed guilt is always looming in the background. The burden of proof is inverted, Israel must justify its actions and explain itself before a jury that has often made up its mind in advance.
There are other facets of this media manipulation: for instance, a reluctance to report on Muslims engaging in acts of anti-Semitism. Both the EU and NGOs like Amnesty International bend over backwards to assign blame to disaffected, young Neo-Nazis, glossing over the role young Muslims in Europe are playing in this latest wave of anti-Semitism.
On November 22, 2003, the London Financial Times reported that the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUCM) had shelved a lengthy report on anti-Semitism commissioned to the Technical University of Berlin's Center for Anti-Semitism Research. The report argued that there was a "close link" between the increase in anti-Semitism and the conflict in the Middle East; it further noted that an increasing number of perpetrators of antisemitic acts are drawn from Muslim communities in Europe.
The banished report writes: "Physical attacks on Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues were acts mainly committed by young Muslim perpetrators mostly of an Arab descent in the monitoring period" . (P. 24)
All this fits with what up to very recently was European governments and NGOs "pattern of indifference" (Human Rights First). While France´s initial reaction to recent events was to tell its Jewish citizens to "keep a low profile", supposedly disinterested NGOs like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International pay little attention to anti-Semitism. They devote entire programs to defending Women´s Rights, Gay and Lesbian Rights, Labor Rights, Children´s Rights, Refugee Rights and an Anti-Death Penalty program. Either all of these can be considered Human Rights and therefore do not require separate programs or one of mankind's greatest scourges's, anti-Semitism, is sorely missing.
To appreciate how indifferent European countries were to rising anti-Semitism, we need only look at the US State Department´s Report on Global Anti-Semitism which reminds us that as recently as November 2004 French authorities gave a 1-year limited satellite broadcast license to Al-Manar, the Lebanon based television network controlled by Hizballah and featuring anti-Semitic material. Fortunately, the license was quickly revoked, but how did it get through the vetting process in the first place?!
A number of writers and thinkers, in particular Daniel Pipes, have highlighted three major differences between the new and classic forms of anti-Semitism:
Right to left: today anti-Semitism is much more prevalent in the European left than the right. This has to do with the second shift.
From religious to secular: hatred of Jews has moved from being against their religion to begin against the Jewish state -which as everyone knows, European found to be the most dangerous threat to world peace in a 2003 Euro barometer poll (ahead of North Korea!)
Combining left wing anti-capitalism ideology with a secular rejection of the State of Israel leads to a fusing of anti-Semitism with anti-Americanism. The two are now almost indistinguishable. Just look at Oleiros. One anti-Semite t-shirt and one anti-American or remember the PLO never saw Israel as the sole adversary but rather as a dependent of "world imperialism" under the direction of the USA.
These two "antis" link seamlessly with a third: anti-Globalization. What could be worse than Globalization? The spread of free market capitalism which, if we buy classic anti-Semitic claims, is per force a process controlled and promoted by Jewish elites.
What can be done?
First, admit there is a problem.
On March 31, 2004, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia
(EUMC) published a 345-page report on anti-Semitism in the 15 member states of the
European Union (E.U.). The report is the first such investigative report officially published by the center, and the first report produced using information from the European Union's nascent antiracism monitoring network, RAXEN-the Reseau européen d'information sur le racisme et la xenophobie (EuropeanInformation Network on Racism and Xenophobia).
The report lays out a stark panorama:
Austria has "no specialised body to record incidents, and a lack of consistency in recording complaints of racial discrimination in general and antisemitism in particular." Extreme right wing groups´ publications are monitored, but as we saw, New anti-Semitism is becoming a left-wing phenomena. Authorities need to adjust.
Belgium, "in the absence of any official systematic monitoring," is covered only through nongovernmental sources." The government, however, has tasked the judicial system with giving anti-Semitic attacks full priority.
Denmark, police record racist crimes without disaggregating by category, so that antisemitic crimes remain largely invisible in official statistics.
The majority of E.U. governments -Austria, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal and Finland- conduct no systematic monitoring of
Anti-Semitic incidents at all.
The lack of systematic data collection can offer a dangerously misleading picture of
Anti-Semitism. "While increasingly effective monitoring and reporting in countries like Germany and France now reveal high levels of Anti-Semitic violence, high levels of anti-Jewish violence may also be present but largely unrecognized in countries where little or no data is collected".
Example: in France the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (NCCHR) released in 2003 an extensive analysis of anti-Semitic incidents totalling 510 (256 graffitti and desecration, 166 verbal or written abuse, 10 bomb threats, among them). Based on its investigations, the NCCHR stated disaffected French-North African youths were responsible for many of the incidents.
EUMC cautions that while some countries do indeed appear to have low levels of Anti-Semitic incidents, in others "it is clear that it is rather the official denial of the phenomenon of anti-Semitism than the absence of it that has led to the refusal to collect data systematically."
The job ahead, although tough, is not impossible.
- First off, countries must address the information deficit by publishing regular national reports on anti-Semitism and engaging in awareness campaigns of the type ADL has initiated. Most Europeans do not believe there is a problem. It is time we laid out the evidence clearly and concisely and drive home the message. Free speech is fine up to a point. Virulent anti-Israel campaigns in the media cannot go unanswered.
- Also we must assure Europe does not forget its shameful past. We have the unfortunate tendency to think anti-Semitism is purely a German issue, when historically it is a European problem, from Queen Isabel in Spain to Vichy France and Mussolini´s Italy. We must remember, it was Europe´s intolerance that forced the creation of Israel, of a safe haven away from persecution.
- Throughout Europe, specialized training for Police and judges in anti-Semitism is a must. Authorities need to understand what is going on and how serious the situation is becoming.
- The most important step is enforcement of a complete legal framework to go after those perpetrating hate crimes, inciting others to violence. Until governments take the matter as seriously as they take other criminal activities, nothing much can be hoped for.
- Finally, on a more general level, relativism in the matter of values is weakening Europe's will to fight the infectious spread of anti-Semitism. The belief that everything has its context and, worse, that nothing is better or worse than anything else, just different, inevitably leads to tolerating the most heinous acts. We cannot condemn anti-Semitism because who are we to judge what other people think? No. This cannot go on. Freedom of thought, of expression and every other type ends where it starts to infringe on the safety and freedom of others.
The other day, we lost a good man, a man of integrity. Pope John Paul II´s fight to defend each human being´s natural freedom and basic rights transcended particular religions. In fact, the Pope was the first bishop in Rome to enter a mosque, the first to visit a synagogue and, naturally, the first in the history of Christianity to speak of the Jews as "our older brothers". And, as a sign of recognition our "older brothers" had suffered, bowed before the memorial flame at Yad Vashem.
For this reason, I would like to bring this talk to an end citing the Pope´s 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus: "Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person . . . if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism."
To combat anti-Semitism, we must rearm our democracies with the essential values that compose the human person: individual dignity and rights, solidarity through free human cooperation, the advancement of freedom and peace, the obligation to justice and charity and, the universality of truth. These are non-negotiable and Pope John Paul II stood up for them against the greatest odds when he helped face down the Soviet Empire. Defending these same values today, is essential to making the world a better place and particularly helping rid it of one of its historic scourges, anti-Semitism.