Anti-Semitism in Europe, take two

This was all over the blogosphere a week ago. I didn’t get around to finishing this post until now. EU body shelves report on anti-semitism

I’m with Eugene Volokh, we should withhold judgement. It may be that the report was no good. This pasage makes me suspect so:

“When the researchers submitted their work in October last year, however, the centre’s senior staff and management board objected to their definition of anti-semitism, which included some anti-Israel acts. The focus on Muslim and pro-Palestinian perpetrators, meanwhile, was judged inflammatory.

‘There is a trend towards Muslim anti-semitism, while on the left there is mobilisation against Israel that is not always free of prejudice,” said one person familiar with the report. “Merely saying the perpetrators are French, Belgian or Dutch does no justice to the full picture.”

Some EUMC board members had also attacked part of the analysis ascribing anti-semitic motives to leftwing and anti-globalisation groups, this person said. “The decision not to publish was a political decision.”‘

Bullshit anti-semitism charges are frequently used by likudnik partisans and various other elements as a rhetorical bludgeon, and it sort of sounds like this was the case here. Note that this was the spin of the ones critical of the EUMC.

However, this passage makes me fear a good report would also have met with restistance: ‘”Merely saying the perpetrators are French, Belgian or Dutch does no justice to the full picture.”‘

I hold that there is a fair amount of anti-semitic sentiment among some of the arab immigrants in Europe, and this is something many have been reluctant to acknowledge, out of a misplaced concern about fuelling anti-muslim xenophobia. We must deal with this problem, and we can’t do that if we pretend there is no problem.

Update: Apologies for all the typos.

EU body shelves report on anti-semitism
By Bertrand Benoit in Berlin
Published: November 21 2003 21:10 | Last Updated: November 21 2003 21:10

The European Union’s racism watchdog has shelved a report on anti-semitism because the study concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it examined.

The Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) decided in February not to publish the 112-page study, a copy of which was obtained by the Financial Times, after clashing with its authors over their conclusions.

The news comes amid growing fears that there is an upsurge of anti-semitism in European Union countries. Among many recent incidents, a Jewish school near Paris was firebombed last Saturday, the same day two Istanbul synagogues were devastated by suicide truck bombs that killed 25 and wounded 300.

Turkey, which hopes to join the EU, suffered again at the hands of what are believed to be al-Qaeda inspired terrorists on Thursday with truck bomb attacks on British targets.

Following a spate of incidents in early 2002, the EUMC commissioned a report from the Centre for Research on Anti-semitism at Berlin’s Technical University.

When the researchers submitted their work in October last year, however, the centre’s senior staff and management board objected to their definition of anti-semitism, which included some anti-Israel acts. The focus on Muslim and pro-Palestinian perpetrators, meanwhile, was judged inflammatory.

“There is a trend towards Muslim anti-semitism, while on the left there is mobilisation against Israel that is not always free of prejudice,” said one person familiar with the report. “Merely saying the perpetrators are French, Belgian or Dutch does no justice to the full picture.”

Some EUMC board members had also attacked part of the analysis ascribing anti-semitic motives to leftwing and anti-globalisation groups, this person said. “The decision not to publish was a political decision.”

The board includes 18 members – one for each member state, the European Commission, Parliament, and the council of Europe – as well as 18 deputies. One deputy, who declined to be named, confirmed the directors had seen the study as biased.

In July, Robert Wexler, a US congressman, wrote to Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, demanding the release of the study.

Ole Espersen, law professor at Copenhagen University and board member for Denmark, said the study was “unsatisfactory” and that some members had felt anti-Islamic sentiment should be addressed too.

The EUMC, which was set in 1998, has published three reports on anti-Islamic attitudes in Europe since the September 11 attacks in the US.

Beate Winkler, a director, said the report had been rejected because the initial time scale included in the brief – covering the period between May and June 2002 – was later judged to be unrepresentative. “There was a problem with the definition [of anti-semitism] too. It was too complicated,” she said.

This week, Silvan Sha lom, Israel’s foreign minister, proposed a joint ministerial council to fight what Israel sees as a rise in European anti-semitism.

36 thoughts on “Anti-Semitism in Europe, take two

  1. At the end of the day, isn’t this the Jewish community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s? If they want to cry wolf twice a day, equating anti-semitism with criticism of Israel, they can hardly be surprised when the rest of the world effectively tells them “screw you” and goes off to spend its time more productively elsewhere.
    That’s how crying wolf works—maybe there is “real” anti-semitism among recent European immigrants, and maybe there isn’t. Certainly I”m more inclined to believe that Israel/pro-Jewish groups are flat-out lying on this than otherwise; and at the end of the day, it’s simply hard for me to care.

  2. David – Your post must rate as one of the most balanced, sane assessments I’ve read in blogs but I’m reminded of something Aneurin Bevan – an especially leftist Labour politician in Britain back in the 1950s who became something of a cult leader – wrote back in 1953 in an altogether different context: “We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.”

    That is the problem. The causes of the throuble is both that some, most probably young radical muslims, are trying to stoke anti-Semitism in Europe and that Sharon, in particular, has a case to answer on war crimes, not on my insignificant viewpoint, but on that of Gerald Kaufman MP in Britain whose ethnic credentials are beyond challenge: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1933309.stm

  3. I’m glad to see that Mr. Handley has cleared all up for us: pro-Jewish groups are flat-out liars, maybe there is no anti-semitism “among recent European immigrants,” “the Jewish community… cr[ies] wolf twice a day,” and “it’s simply hard for me to care [about possible anti-semitism]”

    Naturally, there is also no anti-semitism amongst any European non-immigrants, I am even more sure. Glad we got all this straightened out.

    “At the end of the day, isn’t this the Jewish community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s?”

    How fine it is that no one in Europe and the world has never in history taken this attitude before. It’s so refreshingly original.

    I’d be curious to know, however, if Mr. Handley would stand by these words if another ethnic/social noun were substituted for “Jew.” “At the end of the day, isn’t this the black community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s?” “At the end of the day, isn’t this the Palestinian community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s?” “At the end of the day, isn’t this the Catholic community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s?” “At the end of the day, isn’t this the Islamic community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s?” “At the end of the day, isn’t this the Irish community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s?” “At the end of the day, isn’t this the gay community’s problem, not the rest of the world’s?”

    But “maybe there’s no [bigoted opinions]” against any of those communities, and Mr. Handly finds it equally “simply hard for me to care.” They’re “flat-out lying,” as well.

    Alternatively, perhaps this is only true of the Jews and their sympathisers. I look forward to Mr. Handley clarifying.

  4. In the press recently: French Chief Rabbi warns Jews against wearing skullcaps. It appears that what you have here is an ethnic group being afraid to walk the streets for fear of violence. Keep shelving those reports, boys.

  5. Where it is said that French people of judaic religion are afraid to stroll the streets? That someone, who seems to have vested interests, says so is not a proof.

    Antisemitism is to refuse Einstein theory of relativity. Or refusing to see a Woody Allen film, or a Natalie Portman one. In not so few cases antisemitism expresses itself as anti-Marxism.

    DSW

  6. I guess it’s not difficult to be convinced that anti-semitism is not a problem if one comes to the table with the notion that any input from Jews about anti-semitism is from someone with “vested interests” and is therefore to be dismissed.

    Again, how useful it would be to apply this methodology to all group grievances. Europeans! You are henceforth not allowed to complain about America treating Europe badly! You have a vested interest! Americans! No complaints about anti-Americanism!

    This approach to Jews and Israel has already been seen when recently one prominent British journalist explained that he no longer read any letters about Israel by people with Jewish- sounding names.

    I do look forward to further explanations here about why alleged European anti-semitism is not at all a problem and does not in fact exist.

  7. If you read the article, what it says is that the Rabbi urged young people not to wear the skullcap, saying they could become targets of violence.
    I don’t live in Europe so I don’t know how things really are. I imagine that if you don’t live in or near the Muslim part of town you wouldn’t feel a thing. However, since wearing a skullcap is more or less a commandment in the Jewish religion, I don’t think that the chief rabbi of France would issue such an recommendation unless people there really faced bodily harm.
    While I agree that some of the Jewish reaction has been hysterical, and some of it may have been politically motivated, shoving the issue under the carpet is not the solution, in fact it’s quite cowardly.

  8. “After a weekend arson attack on a Jewish school, Rabbi Joseph Sitruk urged young men to be extra cautious, saying they could become targets of violence if they wore the yarmulke, or skullcap.” – from: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/20/1069027257765.html?from=storyrhs

    Wearing skullcaps is legal in France and no one is proposing otherwise, as best I know, but

    “French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has announced plans that could in effect ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves in public institutions.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3248614.stm

    In Britain, “the Europe minister, Denis MacShane, was at the centre of a political maelstrom today after urging UK Muslims to follow the ‘British way’ of political dialogue and reject Islamist terrorism. Speaking in his Rotherham constituency 24 hours after the Istanbul bombings, Mr MacShane likened terrorists to Nazis and urged imams and other Muslim leaders to use ‘clearer, stronger language’ to speak out against them.” – from: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/attacks/story/0,1320,1090647,00.html

    What he did not do was to follow his political colleague, Gerald Kaufman MP, in condemning Sharon for war crimes as here:

    “Israeli leader Ariel Sharon has been branded a ‘war criminal’ and a ‘fool’ by former Labour minister Gerald Kaufman. In a blistering attack, the veteran MP, who is Jewish, said Mr Sharon had reduced his country to an ‘international pariah’ whose actions were staining the Star of David with blood. . .” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1933309.stm

    Btw it does not make sense to write in one penstroke of Europeans in this context. Europe is a diverse collection of nation states, each with their own distinctive languages, cultures, laws and institutions.

  9. Gary Farber, saying that something is not a proof does not mean it is to be dismissed, simply it is better to get other evidences before acting on it, or relaying it.

    I’ve not lived in France for more than 30 years now, and if anything it was the Muslims that had problems of acceptation from the rest of the people. And fundamentalism was not a problem then.

    The French did not seem to me to be particularly antisemitic, if anything they are the same as in UK or USA, in as much we talk of percentage of population. Since density is higher clashes should be more frequent, but that is not a moral question.

    from http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/rel_jew_cap&id=EUN&id=us

    France has a 1% of Jews and a 5% of Muslims,
    USA have a 2% of Jews and a less than 4% Muslims,
    UK have about a 0.5% of Jews and a 2.5% Muslims

    The density of population for France is about 109 people/sq.km, the USA 32, UK 250. Given the intrinsical segregation of people by religion, people of the same family use to have the same religion, and the different size of families, level of unemployment, free time, etc. I reckon that the only difference is in how much whatever happens is diffused by the media.

    DSW

  10. Errm . .

    “France today has roughly four or five million Muslim inhabitants, nearly a tenth of the population. Approximately half have French citizenship. More precise figures are not available, since the French state, being officially secular, is forbidden to inquire into questions of religion. It is generally agreed, however, that France, preponderantly Catholic, now has more Muslims than either Protestants or Jews, its historical minorities. Islam has become the country’s second religion.” – from: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19960901faessay4226/milton-viorst/the-muslims-of-france-islam-abroad.html

    “There is also little surprise in the religious make up of Britain. It confirms what many have been saying for years. While secular we remain a majority Christian country. Just as expected Muslims are the largest faith group among ethnic minorities. They are in fact the second largest religion in Britain today. But the almost 1.6 million will be seen as significantly lower than the two million estimated by Muslim groups.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2758453.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/03/census_2001/html/religion.stm

    “A spokesman for Britain’s one million-strong Muslim community has urged the Blair government not to join a federal Europe because it might lead to heightened discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Council of Imams and Mosques, regarded as one of the most distinguished Muslim intellectuals in Britain, says the drive to federalism presents ‘a great danger of prejudice against those of us who come from elsewhere.’ . .

    “He said Britain is the ‘most tolerant country in the world’ and the best European location in which to be a Muslim because it does not ‘demand that everyone conforms.’ But this tolerance could be in jeopardy if ultra-right values are imported.” – from: http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/1998/01/F.RU.980120141016.html

  11. Bob,

    I can’t see why the fact that the French prohibit headscarves (for reasons that have nothing to do with the Jews) does not make assaulting Jews on the street OK – you seem to be implying that this is some sort of an excuse, otherwise I don’t understand at all why you brought up the issue.

    Antoni,

    saying that something is not a proof does not mean it is to be dismissed, simply it is better to get other evidences before acting on it, or relaying it.

    Well, by not publishing the report on the subject, we certainly will no be getting any more evidence, will we?

    if anything it was the Muslims that had problems of acceptation from the rest of the people

    The fact that Muslims have a harder time than Jews being accepted in French society does not mean that there isn’t antisemitism. It especially doesn’t mean that there isn’t Muslim antisemitism – from all accounts, there most certainly is.

    Since density is higher clashes should be more frequent, but that is not a moral question.

    What is not a ‘moral question’? I’m afraid I don’t understand. It is most certainly an issue that the french government must deal with (and they seem to be making moves in the right direction). Too bad a country like Belgium doesn’t realize this: when Israeli Minister Nathan Sharansky (not one of my favorite Israeli politicians, BTW) asked the Belgian ambassador in Israel to take action against manifestations of anti-semitism, the Belgian ambassador replied that when Belgium’s muslims stop seeing pictures of Palestinians on TV antisemitism will disappear. This may or may not be correct, but it is surely a most craven and cowardly response from a government official – a state must implement Law and Order and make sure no segment of the population feels terrorized, as Belgium’s Jews indeed feel they are.

  12. Even The Guardian may be starting to get it. One of its columnists certainly has. So quit the bloody excuses about how many muslims your country has, and of course they must hate Jews, I mean wouldn’t you?

  13. Danny,

    I pointed out that the French government was proposing to ban muslim women from wearing headscarves in public places because you evidently thought that this report meant anti-semitism was widespread in Europe: “After a weekend arson attack on a Jewish school, Rabbi Joseph Sitruk urged young men to be extra cautious, saying they could become targets of violence if they wore the yarmulke, or skullcap.”

    As the government in France is not proposing to ban skullcaps, there is an asymmetry in the official responses.

    As best I can tell from the news, anti-semitism certainly isn’t widespread in Europe and nor are Europeans inclined to anti-semitism as claimed above here. The most likely explanation for the attacks on synagogues and jewish schools is that the perpetrators are young muslim extremists infected and motivated by al-Qaeda.

    From blog reading, it seems that quite a few Americans are under a general unfounded misapprehension that nothing is being done to combat such extremism in Europe by the security services. That is simply untrue as can be gathered from these news reports:

    “Twenty-four alleged members of an Algerian extremist network have gone on trial in Paris for a wave of bombings that left 12 dead. Ten people were killed and more than 100 injured in the worst attack on an underground train at the St Michel metro station in Paris in July 1995. . . The men are suspected of being supporters of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria. . . One of those believed to have played a major role in the bombings, Khaled Kelkal, was shot and killed by police later in 1995.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/357808.stm

    “A French court has convicted three men of heading support networks for Islamic insurgents in Algeria at the end of France’s largest ever trial. Mohamed Chalabi, Mourad Tacine and Mohamed Kerrouche, were among 138 men accused of backing Islamic radicals seeking to overthrow the Algerian Government.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/260393.stm

    “Europe’s first al-Qaeda trial opened in Frankfurt on Tuesday. At stake is the fate of five Algerian men accused of planning a bomb attack in Strasbourg and Germany’s reputation as a serious terrorist-fighting country.” – from: http://www.dw-world.de/english/0,3367,1432_A_499109,00.html

    “A Jordanian man has gone on trial in Duesseldorf accused of plotting attacks in Germany on behalf of a Palestinian group. Shadi Abdallah is accused of being a member of al-Tawhid, a group with alleged links to al-Qaeda.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3016166.stm

    “Germany has issued official arrest warrants for a group of suspected Islamic extremists detained in the past two days, which the authorities say had been planning to carry out attacks in the country.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1949762.stm

  14. I must say I don’t understand why people are getting so worked at up what I said. I was simply making the point that, with any and every criticism of Israel being labelled anti-semitism, the term anti-semitism has been degraded to meaninglessness. It is THAT that is the problem for the Jewish community, the fact that they have degraded the term so much that when I (and many other) people hear accusations of anti-semitism, our reaction is not “we need to work to prevent another holocaust” but “ho hum, another round of trying to deflect attention from what Israel is doing”.

    As for Julie Burchill’s Guardian column, I found the following sentence interesting: “Which, for all its faults, is the only country in that barren region that you or I, or any feminist, atheist, homosexual or trade unionist, could bear to live under.” I assume she imagines that her reader is NOT a muslim Arab. One could just as easily have written a sentence like that about South Africa in the 1980′s compared to its neighbors, and as someone living there (and white middle class), sure, it was a fine life. But, if you are top dog, living pretty much anywhere is a fine life — the crux of the matter is: what is life like if you are not fortunate enough to have been born top dog.

  15. More to the point, here around Paris every single synagogue and every Jewish school has got a police van permanently stationed in front of it. I’m not sure what else the French police can do to protect jews, except stopping its racist treatment of Arab and Black youths.

    The French government is proposing to ban headscarves (and skullcaps ; the law would forbid “ostensible religious signs) only in public schools ; no official inequality of treatment.

    Finally, yes, the jewish is too crying wolf too often ; the most absurd case in France being when the jewish students association sued a radio talk show host for antisemitism, when he had denounced an actual antisemite by airing an interview… The talk show host being well known for his pro-palestinian positions. But this should not prevent us to actually notice the resurgence of anti semitism, and do something about it.

  16. Maynard, sorry to burst your illusion, but there are Arab Muslim Israeli citizens living in Israel today, enjoying the same rights and responsibilities as all the other citizens of Israel.

    In fact, there are Arab Muslims sitting in the Israeli parliament, – ironically making Israel the only country in the Middle East where Arab citizens actually have representation in a real democracy.

  17. “The French government is proposing to ban headscarves (and skullcaps ; the law would forbid ‘ostensible religious signs’ only in public schools ; no official inequality of treatment.”

    That is reassuring as far as it goes, I suppose, but in the local superstore in London I visit to buy groceries, most weeks I’ll encounter a lady dressed in a full burqa pushing a trolley with her familiy’s shopping. Would that be an “ostensible religious sign”?

    To all appearances, no one calls the anti-terrorist flying squad – which seems to be very geared up to judge by the string of arrests it has been making over the last week or so. No one is proposing laws to ban burqas. No one is even having hysterics in the store at the sight of the ldy in the burqa. In fact, no one seems to give a jot. If that is what the lady really wants to wear then that is her business seems to be the viewpoint. Occasionally, I may see a guy with a skullcap and no one gives a jot about that either.

  18. Great post, David, but I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss the report because it concluded that “on the left there is mobilisation against Israel that is not always free of prejudice.” I haven’t seen the full report, but that doesn’t sound as if it’s automatically equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Instead, it sounds more like an acknowledgment of the fact that some criticism of Israel – specifically, criticism that uses traditional anti-Semitic tropes such as blood libel or deicide – crosses the line.

    It seems to me as if two parallel myths exist with respect to the relationship between anti-semitism and criticism of Israel. The first, which is promoted by some (not all) Likudniks, is that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic by definition. The second, which is sometimes promoted by the left, is that criticism of Israel is never anti-Semitic and that those who criticize Israel should get a free pass from accusations of anti-Semitism by reason of their political position. A study of European anti-Semitism shouldn’t succumb to the first myth, but it shouldn’t be shelved because it challenges the second.

    if anything it was the Muslims that had problems of acceptation from the rest of the people

    I’ve seen this argument raised before as a reason not to be concerned about anti-semitism in Europe. With all respect to Antoni, I think it’s morally bankrupt.

    Anti-racism is not, and should not be, a zero-sum game. The unquestionable fact that anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry exists in Europe, and may even be worse than anti-Semitism, doesn’t mean that bigotry against Jews should be ignored. Instead, governments and anti-racist organizations should combat both.

    Imagine if someone had told Arab-Americans on September 12, 2001 to “shut up, the blacks still have it worse,” and you’ll understand how I feel when anti-Muslim prejudice is raised as a defense to concerns about anti-Semitism. (Antoni, if you didn’t mean it that way, then I apologize.)

  19. Jonathan,

    “The unquestionable fact that anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry exists in Europe, and may even be worse than anti-Semitism, doesn’t mean that bigotry against Jews should be ignored. Instead, governments and anti-racist organizations should combat both.”

    I agree.

    Btw would it be indicative for us Europeans to judge all the inhabitants of the North American subcontinent by this: http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm
    or this: http://www.lewrockwell.com/tucker/tucker30.html

  20. Danny writes:

    wearing a skullcap is more or less a commandment in the Jewish religion

    Up to a point, minister. I don’t claim to be a Talmudic scholar (I’m not even Jewish), but my understanding is that the wearing of head covering by males is not a commandment. Rather, it is a minhag, i.e., custom that has ‘hardened’ into a rule. It is not a divine commandment (whether of the written or oral Torah), nor the result of rabbinic legislation. Indeed, it may be a minhag solely among the Ashkenazim, but I’m not certain of that. (The source of the custom is a rather obscure reference to a sage who was never seen without his head covered while at prayer.)

    But the kippa (or yarmulke) per se has no religious significance. It’s just one way to fulfil the rule, a way that is perhaps especially convenient in an age when few men wear hats. A baseball cap will do as well. Ironically, though there is no obligation to wear this particular form of head covering, it has become a ready identifier of observant Jews.

    Thus the rabbi’s suggestion was that Jewish men could find a means of fulfilling the rule that might make them less obvious to antisemites. I don’t know how I feel about that. I like to think that, if I were a Jew in France, I would go on wearing a kippa and tell the antisemites to p**s off. But then, it’s easy for me to take that view from the safety and comfort of my armchair.

  21. Och, David, I certainly hope so, as that would mean my disposable time would be measured in hours rather than minutes. These days all I can manage is the odd comment between conference calls (or during, when the calls get particularly boring).

  22. my understanding is that the wearing of head covering by males is not a commandment. Rather, it is a minhag, i.e., custom that has ‘hardened’ into a rule

    Yeah, I know. That’s why I said ‘more or less’ (though actually it’s just ‘less’). Anyway, I don’t think this makes the point I made any less valid, since not wearing the skullcap is definitely a major step for Religious French Jews.

  23. Jonathan,

    “Bob, I’m not entirely sure what your point is, but I don’t think it’s right to make generalizations about anyone.”

    I think I know what you may intend to mean but am doubtful whether most would agree that motor insurance companies should no longer be able to offer discounts to low risk drivers as that requires assigning people to categories. Why do we have nationalities at all and how come our pluralist democracies permit political parties if we should not make any generalisations about group beliefs and values? Besides, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations it was Disraeli who said: “Damn your principles. Stick to your party.”

    But I digress.

  24. I think I am following along with Bob. Just like less experinced drivers are more likely to get into accidents, and members of a certain political party are likely to support this party’s policies, Jews are more likely to …?

  25. not wearing the skullcap is definitely a major step for Religious French Jews

    Danny,

    I agree that it’s a major step; it’s simply not a major religious step. The rule is as well fulfilled by wearing a baseball cap, pith helmet or one of those Australian cowboy hats with corks hanging from the brim.

    What is major about it is this. I presume that a Jew who wears the kippa does so not only to fulfil the rule but also as a postive means of identifying outwardly as a Jew – as a form of what the Germans would call Bekenntnis, a showing of the colours. Particularly so, as in my experience many Jews who wear the kippa don’t otherwise wear any distinctively Jewish garb (the hasidim, recognisable by their old-fashioned black clothes, paot and exposed tzitzit, more often wear a plain old hat). The kippa has, then, the secondary function of announcing to the world that, yes, one is indeed a Jew.

    The major step for a religious Jew in wearing some goyishe form of head covering is not in refraining from observing a rule – he does so just as well the one way as the other – but rather in desisting from an outward affirmation of his Jewishness. Now, most Jews (at least in Europe and America and Israel) don’t in any way so affirm their Jewishness by their dress, and fair play to them. But it is a shameful thing that a Jew who would otherwise do so should find himself having to consider whether he ought to leave off for safety’s sake. As I say, my gut reaction would be to say, damn the antisemites, and keep wearing the kippa. But then, that’s easy for me to say, as I’m not faced with the possibility of a kicking by violent louts. And sometimes prudence is the better part of valour. I should never condemn a religious Jew who chose to swap his kippa for a baseball cap. But (though it doesn’t affect me personally), I find it saddening and angering that a Jew should have to face this choice at all.

  26. Hi Mrs Tilton,

    Good to see you posting again and look forward to seeing more.

    Around where I live in London, if there is no problem with muslim ladies wearing full burqas to do the family shopping, there isn’t going to be a problem if guys choose to wear skullcaps, is there? At the stores where I shop, all the continents on earth are represented. It’s an anyday experience to see groups of folks or couples, of all ages, with different ethnic origins.

    Some of this discussion here seems quite OTT to me and quite possibly does harm by promoting misleading impressions. By news reports, it is true that a few synagogues in Britain in recent years have been subject to arson attacks or defaced. Of coure, that is deplorable but that fact is being singled out and presented here – and elsewhere – out of context and used to somehow imply there is pervasive anti-semitism when nothing could be further from the truth. Last night, I did a little googling to get a wider impression.

    On an official website advising on protection against arson, I found this:

    “Each year there are 200 arson attacks on churches, with each incident causing on average ?45,000 worth of damage. Places of Worship are seen as soft targets by arsonists, burglars and vandals. Lack of adequate security makes them particularly vulnerable.”
    http://www.arsonpreventionbureau.org.uk/Advice/

    From the posts in the blogsphere, readers would hardly gather that an average of some four churches a WEEK are subject to arson attacks in Britain. Here is a selection of news reports:

    “A fire has gutted a Victorian church in Luton thought to have been targeted by arsonists eight times in recent months.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2491633.stm

    “A wave of violence has engulfed church workers in England and Wales, with, on average, more than one assault every day of the year. In 1999, the latest year for which figures are available, 462 church workers, including ministers and priests, were injured in attacks. And because many crimes are not reported, the figure is recognized by the British government as greatly understating the actual level of violence against church workers. At the same time a sample survey by researchers at London University has found that 12 percent of Anglican clergy in England – about 1,300 priests – were attacked in 2000.”
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/105/15.0.html

    “Lincoln Cathedral authorities may be forced to spend ?250,000 to install internal security cameras after narrowly avoiding disaster when arsonists attacked a side chapel.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-207940,00.html

    “A vicar said last night that he was thanking God for protecting his church from a mob of masked Muslim youths who broke its stained-glass windows and attacked him with bricks.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,68-135700,00.html

    “A gospel church was petrol-bombed as worshippers inside conducted a bible study class, in what appears to be a racist attack, police said yesterday. None of the congregation of 15 was injured when the bomb was thrown at the front door of the mainly white Full Gospel Mission Church in Nelson, Lancashire.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/racism/Story/0,2763,180313,00.html

    “A church in County Durham that contained some of the most outstanding 17th century decorated woodcarving in Britain was destroyed in a catastrophic fire towards the end of last year. No cause for the fire has yet been established, although a number of churches in the area have suffered arson attacks over recent years.”
    http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba41/ba41news.html

    “An arson investigation has begun into a fire at Peterborough Cathedral, police have said. Investigators have said there were no accidental causes to the fire which caused damage that may cost millions to repair.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1671497.stm

    And I also came upon this item which gives a historical perspective:

    “The Old Rectory in Epworth was the Wesley family home until 1735. It was rebuilt after fire destroyed the original building 1709. It is suspected that this fire was an act of arson perpetrated by opponents of Samuel Wesley.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/humber/famous_folk/wesley/biography.shtml

    The spread of the reports suggests the motivation for the attacks is mixed. In some cases there is evidently a racist element but other cases look like arson to conceal robbery or just mindless vandalism. Similar motives appear to apply in the case of schools:

    “Arson attacks on school buildings by bored and disaffected pupils are costing millions of pounds and endangering the lives of children and teachers, firefighters and the insurance industry claim.”
    http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,5500,974148,00.html

    This evidence from news stories gathered from across a spread of media sources is certainly thoroughly worrying but it does put the attacks in Britain on synagogues and jewish schools into a more accurate perspective for non-European readers here whose sources of news have perhaps been over-narrowly focused.

  27. Bob, if most of the church arsons and assaults on church workers aren’t bias crimes, then you’re comparing apples and oranges. There are also many more churches per capita in the UK (and other European countries) than there are synagogues. If you compare the number of bias attacks on churches per thousand Christians with the number of bias attacks on synagogues per thousand Jews, then you’d have a meaningful statistic. As it is, your evidence is as anecdotal as the evidence of anti-Semitism you criticize.

  28. Howya Bob,

    it is interesting to be sure that there are church-burnings in Britain, though I suspect these do not indicate any widespread anti-Christian sentiment. (An exception of sorts would be Northern Ireland, where churches of each set of the local Christians have been torched by the other set – but that is its own dynamic).

    I live in Frankfurt, where one also sees headscarf-wearing Muslim women, hasidic Jews, Africans in kente robes and even the occasional German. As a general rule, nobody bothers anybody else. (My son’s football club comprises boys of every conceivable background, and is a model of harmony.) Here in Germany, some synagogues have been burnt and some Jewish tombs defaced. The absolute numbers aren’t very high (for all I know, no higher than in Britain), and of course most synagogues and cemeteries remain unmolested. So in an objective, grand-scheme-of-things sense, perhaps, it’s a bit OTT for the Germans to react as strongly to these crimes as they do. But there is a subjective side to things as well, and most Germans take a ‘not in our country’ approach. (I live a few streets away from the Frankfurt synagogue, which has a regular police watch and concrete bollards in place to foil would-be car-bombers.) In objective terms, as I say, antisemitic vandalism in Germany is carried out by the same small sad shower of knobheads as in Britain (the perps here have been a mix of neonazi skins and Muslim extremists). They’re a fringe phenomenon, but given German history, the Germans are concerned about them in a way that perhaps the British do not need to be. (Note that the British need to be concerned about these events *as events*, but do not need to be on watch against the reappearance of a cancer Britain never had.)

    But I think that Germany is right in its concerns, and France would be as well. The number of incidents of antisemitic violence and vandalism may be small in absolute terms, but so far as I know they are increasing. What’s more, some of these are down to Muslims, a group that I do not believe to have engaged in much of this sort of thing in these countries in earlier years.

    The Germans have a phrase that they use in reaction to even smallish instances of antisemitism, not to mention nostalgia for the period 1933-45 (I am thinking here, for example, of the recent remarks by conservative MP Martin Hohmann – ugly and stupid to be sure, but not really worse than the sorts of things some American politicians sometimes say): ‘wehret den Anfang’. This we may translate as ‘nip it in the bud, before it can grow into something really dangerous’. And I think that’s about right.

  29. Hey Mrs Tilton,

    Part of the explanation for the alarmingly high rate of regular attacks on churches in Britain is probably because we are becoming an increasingly irreligious society.

    I’ve been contributing to message boards for years now and every so often we get round to the differences across Europe in religious observance. By evident agreement among visitors to Britain, we compete with the Dutch for being the least religious country in western Europe and probably eastern Europe too. Apart from the comment of visitors, it shows up in the steady declining attendances at worship and the closures of churches. One of the large stores I sometimes go to was built a few years ago on the site of what was a fine church just a decade back.

    I miss the monumental architecture of many churches but as one of those who believe that religions have been responsible for an unconscionable amount of division and conflict in Europe through the centuries, I cannot really say that I feel the gentle demise of the influence of religion is altogether cause for great regret. You mentioned Northern Ireland and that indeed is a stark example of what happens when religious divisions become deeply embedded. I mean, every summer they have a marching season there to commemorate the outcome of a battle between catholic and protestant armies in 1689. For heavens sake! Some years back now an academic wrote into one of the Sunday broadsheets to say that among the surviving scripts from the 6th century attributable to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was the text of a letter complaining about slaving expeditions into Ireland from, presumably, Wales.

    I’m not a historian by training but read a fair amoung of history partly for fun, but also, I suspect, to confirm or rebut many of the claims I read online. Folks often invoke history as a justification for some present decision or spin. The trouble so often is that the history presented is often at best partial as well as self-serving if not hopelessly unfounded. It had long semed to me that a high percentage of my fellow Brits knew or recalled little of Britain’s long history when I came across this quote in Norman Davies: The Isles (1999):

    “Now one of the most curious things about the English, I think, . . is that they suppose themselves to be conscious of history, and to be enveloped in History. They are not. They are both indifferent and ignorant as far as history is concerned. If you want a really historically conscious country you have to go either to Central Europe, where they have too much history, or to the United States, where they have so little of it. I think that England could do with knowing a little more about the past, but that has always been so.”

    That was from the inaugural lecture in 1968 by the late Professor Geoffrey Elton, one of the most distinuished of our constitutional historians. He was born in Tubingen in Germany under the name Gottfried Ehrenberg but fortunately managed to reach Britain in 1939.

  30. Bob,

    interesting stuff. I think, though, that you might err on one small point. I don’t think Patrick was complaining about Welshmen taking Irish slaves. It was rather the reverse (that’s how Patrick got to Ireland in the first place, of course).

  31. Also, though religion has certainly declined markedly in Britain, I don’t think we can attribute British church-burnings exclusively, or even principally, to that. As you note, the Dutch are as little religious (or even less so), and don’t to my knowledge make a habit of torching chapels. Maybe it’s just an expression of a yob culture that has no equivalent in Holland (save perhaps at football stadiums).

  32. Hi Mrs Tilton,

    Your diagnosis is probably correct. I’ve been cautious over remarking on Yoof Culture ever since reading – in my pre-university teens – a passage in one of Lipton’s then authoritative tomes on English economic history quoting a manuscript from a monk in medieval complaining about how young people no longer respected their elders etc. Plus ca change . . However, as best I can make out through international comparisons, Britain, or perhaps more accurately, England really does have a terrible football culture. The fans have acquired a deserved reputation for being the most hooligan inclined across Europe and it has to be said that professional players in some league clubs are not much better.

    Quite why this is so is something of an enduring mystery. Some years back, one of the football associations sponsored expensive academic research – with some distant social science academic colleagues of mine btw. I looked through some of their published output a while back. There was much about “alienation”, which seemed to be more a label than a robust explanatory hypothesis, but otherwise one of the main findings that sticks in my mind was that there is nothing especially new in the connection between hooliganism and English football.

    There are few, if any, dependable stats for earlier periods, of course, but the research did turn up archived press reports of violent behaviour among football fans in the 19th century. Hooliganism seems to have abated in the inter-war period and also in the early post-war years before reverting to what seems to be some sort of norm and escalating since. But then crime generally was reputedly also low during the depressed inter-war years, which rather knocks on the head the facile linkages often made about widespread poverty inducing crime.

    Thinking about it, I was irresistibly drawn to explanations relating to the persistence of national cultures – which I feel acutely embarrassed about because “cultures” are something of an academic rag-bag that can be invoked to explain almost any social behaviour which other explanatory hypotheses can’t reach, as it were. Nevertheless, there are a few independent threads suggesting Britain has something of a distinctive yoof culture in western Europe.

    I can put my hand to a piece in The Economist of some 20 years back commenting that stay-on rates in full-time education after the minimum school-leaving age in Britain were lower than in any other W European country except Portugal. We seem to have created something of a sub-culture which has little esteem for education. Stop a few folks at random in Trafalgar Sq, London, and ask about the date, context and significance of the Battle of Trafalgar and see what happens.

    One insight from an online discussion of this years back was a posted description of football as a game for gentlemen played by hooligans while rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen. And, of course, while the England football team is pretty mediocre by international standards, England’s rugby team is among the best in the world and England’s rugby fans don’t go around beating up and murdering other rugby fans.

    Another insight comes from something George Orwell wrote back in 1936:

    “The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a ‘job’ should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly.” [The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), chp 7]

    Remember that: “the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly”.

  33. Mrs Tilton,

    Least you think I was just referring to low stay-on rates in education in Britain in the distant past, that is not so as these links show:

    “There has been a fall in the number of 16 year olds in England who have stayed in education or training.” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2082256.stm#table

    “It must be one of the most stunning statistics that [Britain is] 20th out of 24 OECD countries for staying-on rates at 17,” said David Miliband, minister of schools standards.
    - from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2238424.stm

    “The United Kingdom might not meet a global education target because of boys’ underachievement, the UN says.” – from: http://newswww.bbc.net.uk/1/low/education/3247169.stm