The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
European Anti-Semitism: It’s Not Just France

It’s easy and comforting to dismiss the recent wave of anti-semitic hate crimes sweeping France as a continental outlier–an exception to the rule of European tolerance.

It’s also wrong.

Take Malmö, Sweden, for example, a city whose mayor has taken to blaming Jews for their own persecution:

The store window had been smashed many times before. The shoe-repair shop is located in one of the rougher parts of Malmö, Sweden, and the Jewish owner, a native of the city, had gotten used to this sort of vandalism. But in the spring of 2004, a group of immigrants just under the age of 15—too young to be prosecuted by Swedish law—walked into the store yelling about “damn Jews.” The owner was hit in the face by one of the boys. Yasha, an 85-year-old customer…was struck in the back of his head…“I left Poland to get away from anti-Semitism,” he later told the police. “But at least there I never experienced any violence. That only happened to me here, in Sweden.”

…But Malmö’s mayor of 17 years, Ilmar Reepalu, has “Tourettes syndrome with respect to Jews,” according to Kvällsposten, a Swedish newspaper… When a journalist from the Malmö daily Skånska Dagbladet asked him in January 2010 about growing anti-Semitism in his city, he replied, “We accept neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism in Malmö.” His reaction to the fact that Jews are leaving his city because of anti-Semitism was to maintain that “there have been no attacks against Jews, and if Jews want to leave for Israel that is not a concern for Malmö.” In an interview with Danish television in March 2010, he described criticism about his statements regarding Jews and Zionism as an attack orchestrated by “the Israeli lobby.”

Read the entire harrowing account in Tablet Magazine. The author skillfully illustrates the toxic mix that has infected Sweden–a combination of extremist Muslim anti-semitism, failed integration of young immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, and feckless elites who prefer to wring their hands over stoking potential Islamophobia rather than condemn and combat actual anti-Semitism.

In his Passover greeting, President Obama reminded the American people that “The story of the Exodus is thousands of years old, but it remains as relevant as ever. Throughout our history, there are those who have targeted the Jewish people for harm – a fact we were so painfully reminded of just a few weeks ago in Toulouse.” Obama is right to connect the persecution of the Jewish past to the persecution of its present. We must remain ever vigilant about the world’s oldest prejudice, lest history repeat itself.

If a gang of white American thugs attacked African-Americans, and defended their action on the ground that they were protesting Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe, the world would laugh at their foolishness even as it condemned their bigotry. This isn’t quite how it works when goons around the world attack Jews and Jewish buildings and defend themselves by saying that they are angered by things the Israeli government has done. Efforts are made to ‘understand’ the perpetrators even as their actions are condemned. Somehow these events are seen as justifying, even requiring tough diplomatic measures against Israel — rather than demanding aggressive programs of civic education aimed at confronting the psychology of hate.

Published on April 15, 2012 2:10 pm
  • Will

    The post makes an important point, but it’s false to describe the phenomenon as “European anti-semitism.” The perpetrators of these incidents are not European. It’s an important point to note because some commentary associates these developments with Europe’s dark past, but that’s patently absurd and does no good in diagnosing the problem.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Will: Actually, this is not just a problem among immigrants. Alas. The nastier elements of the Hungarian right and chunks of the far left throughout Europe offer some very disturbing examples of exactly the old fashioned kind.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    “The author skillfully illustrates the toxic mix that has infected Sweden–a combination of extremist Muslim anti-semitism, failed integration of young immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, and feckless elites who prefer to wring their hands over stoking potential Islamophobia rather than condemn and combat actual anti-Semitism.”

    I agree with commenter njmber one. This is an immigrant problem, more specifically a Muslim immigrant problem, so far as I can see. If there is a growing problem of native European anti-Semitism in Europe it needs to be illustrated with non-immigrant examples. The same goes for France.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Luke Lea: Hungary, big time.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    There is native anti-Semitism in Sweden however. I remember reading about it in Haretz a couple of years ago and it was nasty (in connection with accusations of organ harvesting if memory serves). But this isn’t an example of it.

    It turns out Sweden has no better idea how to integrate Somalis into a liberal Western society than other countries do, which is ironic given the moral sermons it has made over the decades. Diversity is hard.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    A more general comment: There is a tendency in certain quarters of the media nowadays to ascribe racist and anti-Semitic sentiments to gentiles of European descent which is itself a form of racial prejudice. The Robert Zimmerman case is another example. It is not healthy.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Then let’s do a story on Hungary.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Luke Lea: we have.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Unfounded charges of racism and anti-Semitism are like unfounded charges of rape: as bad as the real thing.

  • ddh

    My question is, when the collapse of the blue model accelerates and Americans feel the pain even more acutely than we do now, will antisemitism become a more prominent–and less socially disreputable–part of the American scene than it is now?

    Antisemites are scare in the general American population, but one sees occasional expressions of antisemitism pop up, especially on the left. (I have the impression that some of this behavior is opportunistic–as if lefties calculate that antisemitism will popularize radical left solutions, which is yet another form of leftist disdain for the American public.) What immunizes Americans from this European disease, and will we continue to be largely immune?

  • Anthony

    The psychology of hate WRM: what undergirds, motivates, nourish, feeds, and continues it; what appetite/longing of human desire find satiation in its promotion?

  • Andrea Ostrov Letania

    If you want Sweden to become more ‘tolerant’ like the US, don’t worry. Government propaganda is headed in that direction. Watch the video.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    I mean let’s do another story on Hungarian anti-Semitism if it is a major European problem. I remember the last one, just not the details. Is it an ongoing story? Are charges and counter-charges flying back and forth? Guess I’ll have to do my own research.

  • Anthony

    WRM, a thought: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” (Voltaire, a famous European).

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Ok, my first research report finding:

    http://tinyurl.com/7d7wb2z

    What jumps out at me first of all is that France, Sweden, and western Europe in general is shown to be largely free of right-wing extremism. The second thing I note is that the metric is based on things that, to me, have nothing to do with extremism, like, for instance, whether one is in favor or opposed to same-sex marriage or one’s opinion of Islam as a religion of tolerance.

    My point: don’t paint with too wide a brush.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    @ ddh says:
    April 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    My question is, when the collapse of the blue model accelerates and Americans feel the pain even more acutely than we do now, will antisemitism become a more prominent–and less socially disreputable–part of the American scene than it is now?

    Antisemites are scare in the general American population, but one sees occasional expressions of antisemitism pop up, especially on the left. (I have the impression that some of this behavior is opportunistic–as if lefties calculate that antisemitism will popularize radical left solutions, which is yet another form of leftist disdain for the American public.) What immunizes Americans from this European disease, and will we continue to be largely immune?

    This is a very important question and I have some thoughts on it which I will save for another time. I think there are some things that can be done to head off that possibility.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Is you start calling someone a hater you may turn him into one. Human Nature 101

    That’s why accusations are very important things.

  • Jules

    Anti-semitic violence in Europe isn’t even remotely as common as is black on white violence throughout Europe and America. It is not even as common as Hispanic immigrant on white violence in the US. But neocon establishment journalists and bloggers will never discuss that violence.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Jules: a very perplexing comment. Why do you specify ‘neocon’? Some ignorant, mean spirited and bigoted people use the word ‘neocon’ to insinuate something anti-Semitic, but hopefully you are not in that number. In any case, it is very difficult to see what you mean. Are you saying that liberal journalists discuss black on white violence but conservative ones don’t? This comment frankly makes no sense to me unless it is intended as some kind of anti-Semitic dig, but then it doesn’t even make a lot of sense in that context.

  • Sam Schulman

    Hungary is an outlier, with its old-fashioned rightwing anti-semitism. European anti-Semitism comes from the anti-capitalist Left and from Islamist immigrants and the 2nd or 3rd generation Muslim communities that find Islamism exciting. The Left/Islamist alliance is tolerated by a political class that surrendered to OPEC in 1973-74, and needed to find reasons to become anti-Israel overnight. The connection of this dire reality with Hungary’s passe anti-Semitism – or with the anti-Jewish sentiments of the Estonian mayor of Malmo, Sweden, or the antique soccer thugs of Poland, is tenuous and irrelevant to a clear understanding of the problem. In fact, one might even say that opposing the anti-semitism of Hungary gives real anti-semites “anti-racist” cover for their far more serious injury to Jewry and to political liberalism.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    @ Sam Schulman – “The Left/Islamist alliance is tolerated by a political class that surrendered to OPEC in 1973-74, and needed to find reasons to become anti-Israel overnight.”

    Hmm. My take is that the European political class doesn’t want to acknowledge Europe’s responsibility (in their grandfather’s generation) for causing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the first place. But as we go into the next generation maybe this will change, most likely starting in Germany, when it is realized that compensation of the Palestinian people is a major and necessary component of any final settlement. Just my personal opinion as far as I know.

  • Jim.

    The problem with chasing down “aggressive programs of civic education aimed at confronting the psychology of hate” in a specific context like anti-Semitism is that the psychology of hate depends on identifying someone as the Other, safe to be hated. Put a red blotch of paint on a perfectly healthy zebra, and the lions will ignore the old and weak and take down the painted one.

    You should see the reaction of the SF Gate against harmless people who are, due to principle, conscience, and reason, opposed to mainstreaming homosexuality… the SF Gaters are so starved for an outlet for whatever hate’s inside them, it’s a bit shocking how they unleash on these people, who are identified by the Community as the Other.

    Any government overrun by the Multicult, which “celebrates our differences”, is simply begging for trouble from “the forces of hate”. Wear those big red blotches with pride! (AAAGH, why are so many people being eaten by lions??)

    You’re fighting human nature here, Mead. It is in many ways The Good Fight, I’ll grant you. But make sure the way you choose to fight it will actually do some good.

    Personally, I suspect assimilation and other means of minimizing differences (DADT was a good idea) would work best, if we want to avoid the mechanics of hate.

  • WonkishRogue

    RE: Jules. It’s not really all that complicated WRM. You make it so by ascribing to Jules intellectual honesty and liberality of thought wholly undeserved. He simply insinuates you’re a dirty Jew or dupe of dirty Jews pushing a false notion i.e that Euro anti-Semitism is a serious issue while simultaneously whining about brown/black on white crime. I’m guessing Ron Paul supporter or OWS degenerate. Maybe both.

  • Tom

    @WonkishRogue: Not even a Ron Paul supporter–they’re not that nuts.

    RE: Study in post #15: Anyone else find the phrasing in the question on homosexuality to be …interesting?

  • DaveP.

    Re the violators being “Muslim and not European”: Someone lets them in. Someone pays their dole. Someone courts them for political advantage. Someone excuses their behavior… and someone isn’t doing anything serious to stop them or to protect native Jews from them. So- are the governments of these nations “Muslim and not European”?

  • CatoRenasci

    The level of casual, open, antisemitism one hears to this day in conversation with Europeans is remarkable – even among the Danes and Norwegians who had a good record for the most part of resisting the German anti-Jewish policies. One didn’t open antisemitism from the English 20-30 years ago, but one does now.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Jules says:
    April 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Anti-semitic violence in Europe isn’t even remotely as common as is black on white violence throughout Europe and America. It is not even as common as Hispanic immigrant on white violence in the US. But neocon establishment journalists and bloggers will never discuss that violence.

    Agree with WRM that the “neocon” reference is completely uncalled for. But I would like to make a different point: sensationalizing incidents of racial violence of any kind is racially disturbing and should be played down by the mainstream media. In this latest round the primary culprits, as far as I could tell, were ABC, CNN, NBC, and NYT. There was not a single outlet that distinguished itself by objective reporting. See Talk Left for what objective reporting might look like.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Correction. Though I hate to admit it I am told Fox News remained objective in its reporting on Zimmerman/Martin case. (You can tell I’m a Democrat.)

  • Mr. G

    This is actual anti-semitism. The facts are agreed on. Assault on elderly customers of and vandalism of a Jewish owned shop and yet the mayor needs to make a point that he will not tolerate Zionism as much as he will not tolerate anti-semitism. Although in normal law enforcement it is the victim that receives redress and the perpetrator that is given a fair trial to see if he is actually guilty we now have a purely political comment on what Malmo will consider acceptable as if Malmo has any real power to judge basic human rights. The point is to make the status of Jews as clear as possible. A modicum of protection when the state is embarassed enough and plenty of posturing for the benefit of the cities dominate population (Moslems). Maybe its not anti-semitism but it sure is decline unless you consider this was always the state of affairs in Europe.

  • http://www.tempeteaparty.org Lee Reynolds

    This is why the US Constitution includes the right to keep and bear arms.

  • hepzeeba

    Sam Schulman @20

    Hungary is an outlier, with its old-fashioned rightwing anti-semitism.

    Unfortunately, this is not true. There is plenty of anti-Semitism in Romania, too. The “evidence” so far is published only in intellectual journals in the Romanian language, but it is certainly available, and the evidence is growing. I hope the “literature” will grow too, and be translated into English.

    Fortunately, there are serious people—sympathetic humanists of all stripes and the children of survivors of the last round of native European anti-Semitism— bird-dogging this phenomenon.

    Whether their efforts will made a difference remains to be seen.

  • crypticguise

    The Swedes ARE anti-semitic (anti-Jewish) and they allow intolerant hateful Muslims to attack Swedish Jews with impunity.

    99% of rapes in Sweden today are committed by young Muslim THUGS against young Swedish women. They are evil, and the Swedes allow this to continue.

    Muslims have their own section of Malmo and Swedish police do not even enter there. Sharia Law is the Law in Muslim Sweden.

    Cowards!

  • gringojay

    USA university campus conditions are just a pace behind in tolerating anti-jew mind set by cloaking the attitude in rhetoric about Israel.

  • Not a Peacenik

    Hi, some good comments here, along with some off the wall [scatalogical comment removed], too. I tend to agree with crypticguise analysis, and it is central to Mead’s article.

    The deal with Europa, and its hatreds, is that first, the Left (socialists, comms, progressives)cater to Muslims, in hope that they will wear down the West, in continued battle, which leaves the Left in political power, in a permanent, dictatorship-just about everywhere. That’s the Strategy.

    The bonus is they (Leftists) can use the Muslims, as the British used Gurkhas in India, to fight battles for them. Especially, against the Jews and Christians, and Conservatives, everywhere.

    If anyone holds what I have stated is accurate, then the next issue is how best to attack the problem? I have a couple of standard ideas, which are copied from our neo-soviet enemies.

  • jdm

    This post is completely true. There is something spooky about Euro anti-Semitism; it’s just weird how it festers on year after year. From the appalling overt violent anti-Semitism of the Muslim immigrants, to the oh-so-refined variation practiced by the “Boycott Israel” types, and finally, the cowardly wink-wink-nudge-nudge anti-Semitism of those implying, “well, how do we really know the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is really fiction?”, they’re all there. In numbers. And include people who should know better.

    Can’t live in Europe, can’t live in Israel, can’t live in any country around the Israel… Perhaps that’s why Euros get along so famously with the Palestinians: both would be just as happy if the Jews never existed or eventually don’t.

  • Tom Billings

    “The psychology of hate WRM: what undergirds, motivates, nourishes, feeds, and continues it; what appetite/longing of human desire find satiation in its promotion?”

    I see people here keep asking why anti-semitism keeps raising its vile head over and over. IMHO, it is that Jews are associated with something many groups on the Left, and elsewhere, are bitterly reacting against.

    More than any other similar sized group of people on Earth, Jews have actively encouraged and participated in the continuing industrial revolution. Since western Jews were banned from owning land and crafts, they developed trading and banking networks that served them well as the highly productive world-wide networks of the industrial revolution grew in the last 250+ years. Previous to that, the contrast between Jewish activity centered on their wider networks and agrarian networks’ more insular nature made them targets, but it did not threaten the very existence of positions and wealth inside the agrarian societies.

    As the industrial revolution grew, that changed. It is in those reacting against one or another of the freedoms of action needed to build and maintain these networks that I have found anti-Jewish feeling strongest. It
    is a rational response only when one sees the link between a fanatical desire to preserve particular status levels and positions in the old agrarian cultures, and the fact that so many Jews can be pointed to as people who moved along science, technology, banking, industry, and all the other things enabling peoples’ freedoms to disregard those positions and that status.

  • ronbo

    France, a country that is simultaneously secular and Catholic, is just weird (and I’m a Jewish francophile). Metropolitan France is sometimes grotesquely anti-Muslim, thanks (I believe) to a combination of general anti-immigrant sentiment and guilt over France’s conduct as a colonial power in Africa. With right and left united against French Muslims, they naturally look around and blame the Jews.

    Still, French Jews have enjoyed considerable social mobility since the end of WWII and I haven’t read many accounts of the kind of casual anti-semitism that used to be common in the US and is still not unknown in the UK. Obviously, the real threat of violence would give anyone pause, but I think the reaction of (for example) the political leadership to the Toulouse murders was both genuine and instructive.

  • Punditarian

    With respect to the specter of rising anti-Semitism on the Left, it was widely said in German Social-Democratic circles in the 1890s that “anti-semitism is the socialism of fools.”

  • Jim.

    @Luke Lea-

    Yes, we kinda realized you were a Democrat. (Though WRM himself was a bit of a surprise.) We love you both anyway. :-)

  • Rich K

    Well this thread sure proves that “gossip” rules the world.Which is how all this hate got started eons ago with one little “story” about a guy with a bag of gold,etc,etc.Embellish to your hearts content.Just remember to put the love/hate tag at the end to show which way you lean .

  • teapartydoc

    I appreciate the reference to Mugabe. There may be more of a connection than you realize. I lived in Rhodesia in the late 1960′s as a young lad, and I remember every second. After UDI and the subsequent declaration of UN sanctions, one of the few countries that would trade with Rhodesia was Israel. We lived in a rural part of the country and some of our news came in the form of newsreels at a local outdoor theater (you had to bring your own chair). I remember hearing people quietly cheer for the Israelis during the ones of the 1967 war. Of course now that the place is a leftist hotbed and has gone through a terrible hyperinflation (like Germany, like Hungary–and remember, fascism is a left-wing phenomenon)it is now by nature anti-semitic.

  • Kolya

    Here in the UK, the Labour party candidate for Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, is running a thinly-veiled anti-Semitic campaign.

  • Gary Rosen

    Luke Lea:

    “compensation of the Palestinian people is a major and necessary component of any final settlement.”

    But not compensation of Jews expelled from Arab countries where they had lived far longer than Palestinians in Israel. Gotcha. By the way, since you brought up Zimmerman, it’s a safe bet that Jackson, Sharpton and Farrakhan jumped on this case originally because they figured “Zimmerman” was Jewish.

  • Peter

    Thank you, Mr. Mead, for another brilliant article and analysis. I am a huge fan of your blog. If you are ever in Toronto, my wife and I would love to host you for a Shabbos dinner!

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