Around 1.1 millions Jews live in the European Union and 19 million Muslims. It’s obviously very difficult to compare the situation of an ethnic/cultural/religious minority living in Europe for centuries with the situation of religious and/or national minorities whose importance has massively grown after the Second World War, and in some cases only during the last 40 years.
Nevertheless, many militants (inspired by left academic researchers) compare anti-Semitism in the 30s to the situation of Muslims in Europe today.
This comparison is flawed1, for many reasons, but it remains a fact that the anti-Islam paranoia which dominates Western media, and the long and complex relations between the Islamic world and Western powers nourish extended racist discrimination and social exclusion against Muslim workers, “alien” or not, living in Europe.
For definitions of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism this text mainly uses those provided by the European Fundamental rights Agency (FRA) with a few additions. Obviously they have not been conceived by so-called “revolutionaries” and do not have a great theoretical significance. They are clearly focused on discrimination: this legalistic and multiculturalist perspective deliberately neglects, or even completely erases, social inequalities, the division of society into classes, and refuses to take into account discriminations if they are not based on ethnic, racial, religious, or gender pecularities.
In addition, if you study in detail, from a historical and anthropological point of view, anti-Semitism and all the issues linked to the cultural, religious, economic and military contacts between Islam and the “Christian West”, contacts which have given birth to today’s anti-Muslim racism in Europe, then the differences between anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism appear so huge that you can no longer engage in any comparison – or only so from a purely demagogic angle. The too famous “competing memories” can lead you to compare the statistical figures of the Armenian, Jewish, Gypsy, Cambodian, Tutsi genocides with the number of victims of the transatlantic slave trade or the number of victims of colonialism; and then you will be inevitably led to establish a dangerous hierarchy between these evils. Or you can even go as far as suggesting that capitalist Europe is preparing a “muslimicide” analogous to Hitler’s Judeocide, as if European Muslims in 2015 are in a similar position to European Jews in the mid 30s ...
This article deliberately takes a minimalist focus: the issue of democratic rights for all human beings, whatever are their origins and philosophical or religious beliefs. In this limited frame, the great advantage of the FRA definitions is that they focus on concrete, identifiable, phenomena, which we want to fight and defeat today, even if they don’t cover their more general socio-economic causes.
The polemics which have been launched between social scientists – and by extension between radical left activists – around the content of these two definitions often hide ideological issues (“Zionists” against “anti-Zionists”, secular Republicans against supporters of “multiculturalism”, sectarian atheists against intellectually dishonest believers, partisans of a binational State in Palestine and supporters of two separate states, etc.) and their main effect is to divide and paralyse the militants concerned with an efficient struggle against all forms of racism, here and now.
Anti-Semitism is an ideology based on the conscious, or unconscious, hostility to the “Jews”2 for religious, social, national, racial and/or economic motives. “Jews” may be actually Jewish by religion or culture or not. It does not matter for the anti-Semite; what matters for him is to attribute them negative or even sometimes positive qualities3 in order to discriminate and exclude them.
To this very general definition, one can add that anti-Zionism can sometimes, not always, lead to anti-Semitic conclusions4: when Jews are accused of exaggerating the Holocaust; when they are denied the right to self-determination, granted to all the other peoples living on this planet; when classic anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic clichés are used to characterise Israel or Israelis; when Israeli policy is systematically compared to that of the Nazis; when Jews are considered as a “fifth column”, a “lobby” of “cosmopolitan” people who are only loyal to Israel, etc.
Anti-Muslim racism (“Islamophobia” for the European Union and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) is an ideology which sees Islam as a “monolithic bloc”, sharing “no common values with other cultures”, “inferior to the West and barbaric”, more “sexist” than all the other religions, “supportive of terrorism” and of an agressive politics leading to military conflicts and war.
Anti-Muslim racists justify “discriminatory practices towards Muslims and their exclusion from mainstream society”, practices which they want to enshrine in laws.
To the elements of this FRA definition, one can add that anti-Muslim racism is often mixed to (and fuses with) anti-Asian, anti-African, anti-Arab or anti-Turkish racism, up to the point it’s difficult to distinguish between them.
Today in the Western world, anti-Jew racism and anti-Muslim racism are not, most of the time, religiously motivated. They can mobilise “anti-capitalist” or “anti-imperialist” plot theories which denounce the role of “the Jews”, or present Islam as the main threat to human civilisation today. Anti-Semites and anti-Muslim racists hide their political agenda behind all sorts of radical, leftish or pseudo-humanist reasoning: some pretend they are particularly moved by the sufferings of the Palestinians; others that they only want to defend women’s rights and democracy; some pretend European Muslims should not be blamed for what happens in the Middle East and North Africa, but constantly blame European or American Jews for what happens in Israel; some consider Europeans Muslims should spend all their time condemning Daesh (ISIS), Boko Haram or al-Qaeda, but defend any military aggression of Tsahal, any “targeted murders” with their inevitable “collateral damages5”, or find lousy excuses for racist Israeli settlers or Israeli far right politicians. It’s rather easy to unmask these discourses, including in our own ranks, provided we open our eyes and are ready to lose... some “friends” or “comrades”.
Before analysing these phenomenon and their extent today, one has to recall some of the important political changes which started in the mid-1970’s and set the context for anti-Semitism and Muslim racism today.
I. A long-term outlook is necessary to understand the present situation
In the last chapter and conclusion of Racism in Europe, 1870-2000 (Palgrave, 2001) Neil Macmaster underlines that, since the Second World War, two different periods have taken place.
The first one stretches from 1945 to 1974: it was characterised by an “unprecedented economic growth, a low unemployment and a solid welfare provision” which went along with a growing immigration of foreign workers.
Both their living conditions (slums, dormitories, overcrowded houses or flats) and working conditions (low pay, no respect of elementary security rules, dangerous and dirty jobs, etc.) were inhumane but the social problems generated by their growing presence (problems which the European states could have easily solved) did not enable, at that time, small racist and fascist movements to take advantage of the situation (they could not collect more than 5% of the votes).
After 1975, a new period started6, in which we are still living now, with growing manifestations of violence against migrants: street-level murders, fire bombings by fascist youth gangs, skinheads attacking migrants or ethnic minorities, police “blunders”, etc. According to the British Home Office, “racially motivated incidents” rose from 4,283 in the early 70s to 7,793 in 1992 in the UK. (We can add that “In 2011/12, there were 47,678 ‘racist incidents’ recorded by the police in England and Wales. On average, that is about 130 incidents per day”, according to the Institute of Race Relations website.)
Neil Macmaster recalls there were around 250 racist incidents per year in Germany before 1990 but the numbers rose to 6,721 incidents in 1991 and several murderous attacks were organised on refugee hotels between 1991 and 1993.
Exactly like the anti-fascist movement in France, the Anti Nazi League in Britain, “depicted these young males as fascist descendants of Mosley, Hitler, Goebbels and Mussolini.” According to Macmaster, this was a political mistake, and I think he is right, although he does not propose any alternative politics. Most of these “fascists” were often coming from “a deprived background of family breakdown and educational failure who used anti-immigrant scapegoating as a means to assert their own self-esteem and priority as ‘German’ or ‘English’ over and against ‘parasitic outsiders’” and did not belong to fascist groups. The youth subculture of these marginal violent men praised “masculinity”, “bravery”, “group solidarity”. They despised women and homosexuals when they did not harass or beat them up.
According to Neil Macmaster, this new social process coincided with three new political phenomenon:
• The appearance of a “new racism”, based on culture and not on race, called in France “differentialist racism” and propagated by the “Nouvelle Droite” (New right), the GRECE and Alain de Benoit. This ideological operation enabled far right or neo-fascist leaders, once they had assimilated the lesson, to deny they were racists and to reverse the accusation against the left, or today against the “bourgeois-bohemian” middle classes (“bobos” in France), labelled as anti-British in the UK, “anti-White racists” in France, etc.;
• The formation of national-populist parties which stressed much more the importance of national identity and surreptitiously introduced a hidden cultural (anti-Muslim) racism: French Front National; Sweden Democrats; True Finns; Austrian Freiheitliche Partei Österreich — FPO; Italian Northern League, Lega Nord; Dutch Party for Freedom — PVV; Belgian Vlaams Belang, etc.;
• The adoption by mainstream right and left parties (including social-democracy) of a “common sense racism” based on the refusal to mix cultures and wishing to impose the national “culture” of the majority on the new foreign-born minorities. In France, Giscard d’Estaing, Charles Pasqua and later Nicolas Sarkozy promoted this line7.
British comrades have certainly heard of Margaret Thatcher’s famous declaration in January 1978: “people are really rather afraid that this country might be swamped with a different culture 8.”
The same evolution took place in Germany, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands: in each nation-State, mainstream politicians and conservative intellectuals tried to reshape and impose a supposedly century-old definition of French, German, Dutch or Swedish “culture”, “national” or “Republican values”, invoking a strong “Christian” or “Judeo-Christian” tradition, according to the countries.
Neil Macmaster notes that this general right-wing turn was hidden by a “Janus-faced attitude towards racism.” European governments adopted many laws, resolutions and recommendations against racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination; they condemned “Islamophobia” and “anti-Semitism”, promoted “multiculturalism” and even “inter-cultural” or (worse, at least from an atheist point of view) “interfaith dialogue”; but this was only a “smokescreen for anti-immigrant acts that have undermined ethnic minorities and reinforced highly negative stereotypes”.
One can quote two striking examples to illustrate this “Janus-faced attitude” of the European Union:
• Of 800,000 Romanian Jews, 400,000 were exterminated during the Second World War. Among the remaining 400,000 Jews, most of them progressively emigrated to Israel or the United States. Today, only 7,000 to 9,000 Jews live in Romania, most of them being quite old.
It was not until 2004 that President Iliescu acknowledged that the Jews had been persecuted in Romania – and he did that only to comply with the European Union recommendations and evade sanctions. Therefore, he decided that 9 October would become Holocaust Day. But the Romanian political life remained unchanged and the Greater Romania Party, Romania Mare, continued to spread its anti-Semitic propaganda in the media.
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who gathered 3.3 million votes when he was defeated by Iliescu (6.6 million votes) in 2000 declared on national TV that “we [the Romanian people] are not at their [the worldwide Jewish mafia] mercy, and we are not one of their colonies” and he was not prosecuted; the anti-Semitic Iron Guard is hailed in all sorts of events, Jewish cemeteries are regularly desecrated, etc. And Romania has never been condemned by the European Union.
• The European Union pretends to defend refugee conventions and migrant rights but, for example; the way it treats Syrian refugees (specially France which refuses to welcome more than a handful of them) does not speak in favour of its “humanistic principles”...
What is the function of anti-Muslim racism in this general pattern? Neil Macmaster’s hypotheses, although formulated in 2001, help us to better understand how some far right and fascist leaders of the 70s and 80s have managed to create national-populist “respectable” national-populist parties which have gained more and more electoral influence.
He considers “anti-Muslim” racism has a double function:
• external: to denounce big “folk devils” like Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden or Gaddafi (today we can add Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad to his list);
• internal: Muslims are labelled by almost all parties as a potential “fifth column”. As several specialists have accurately noted, there is no way to escape from this accusation because it rests on a circular reasoning: Muslims are urged to prove their loyalty to the nation-state, and when declare their loyalty to the nation, they are immediately accused of lying and hiding their true feelings. The size of this “interior enemy” varies, according to the parties, given the necessity to differentiate good (“moderate”) Muslims from bad (“fundamentalist, terrorist, extremist, jihadist”) Muslims.
According to some social scientists, Muslims are not so much denounced today as the members of an “inferior race” or an “inferior religion” but of an “inferior civilisation”. For Neil Macmaster, they are portrayed as “an internal danger to European culture and identity symbolised by mosque construction, veiled women and Muslim schools.”
He then asks a very useful question for us today. Does anti-Black racism (I would add: can anti-Muslim racism) combine easily with anti-Semitism, or are they contradictory ideologies?
According to him, they may appear separated but are in fact connected, both in the mind of reactionary individuals and national-populist leaders. “Such ‘respectable’ racist parties operate at two levels: at the ‘open’ surface level, the entire message, directed at potential voters, sympathisers and ordinary members is aimed against blacks and ‘immigrants’” (today I would add “Muslims” to his list) but also “at a concealed level, aimed at an inner core of militant party activists, the key message is based on anti-Semitism. Party leaders manipulate a field of prejudice in which a dynamic relationship exists between the two racisms”.
This is exactly what is happening now inside the Front National, even if French and international media want to convince us that Marine Le Pen and her party are no longer anti-Semitic. A leader of the CRIF (federation of more than 60 professional, cultural and religious Jewish associations) recently claimed Ms Le Pen was an “irreproachable” politician, even if the National Front was not. Journalists who have participated in internal local meetings of the Front National, as well as militants who have recently left the Front National and recounted their experience, testify that anti-Semitism is still very vivid inside the party.
There is a sort of division of labour: even if Marine Le Pen regularly expels anti-Semitic militants when they post racist comments or photomontages on Facebook (provided antifascists discover and denounce them), violent fascist groups keep very friendly relationships with the leaders of the Front National… when they are not co-opted inside the party, provided they keep silent about their anti-Semitism in public.
According to Neil Macmaster, the present far right leaders who pioneered the shift from an openly racist discourse to a cultural war against the left, and towards national-populism and anti-immigrant politics, were politically educated in fascist and anti-Semitic movements.
As noted by Brian Klug 9, “ [Nick] Griffin is notorious for his denial of the Holocaust in the past. In the 1990s he edited a BNP magazine called The Rune, whose anti-semitic content led to his criminal conviction.” Even if today “the BNP website ‘at the same time demonises Islam and the Muslim world’ “ and “Jews, at least for the time being, are not in the gunsights of the BNP”, and even if “support for Israel has become a stick with which to beat Muslims and to try to attract Jewish support”, “it is a change of tune and not a change of mind, or change of heart”.
So the new racist discourse of the national-populists based on cultural differences “enables coded anti-Semitic messages to be conveyed to the initiated, to party hard line militants while remaining opaque to a wide public who might otherwise be alienated.” National-populist parties use coded words (which, I would add, are also unfortunately used in the counter-globalisation movement and the radical left) like “Zionists”, “globalism”, “cosmopolitanism”, “oligarchy”, “elites”, “international finance”, etc. These coded words serve also to reassure the fascist groups which stay outside the mass national-populist parties and make them understand that they are sharing the same line.
How can anti-Semitism and anti-Black, or anti-Muslim, racism combine in national-populist ideology?
For Neil Macmaster, national populists and fascists identify an imaginary double threat coming from two complementary adversaries:
• the “inferior” Black, Arab or Muslim (generally belonging to the working class and lower-paid proletarian groups, and/or to the “illegal” workforce); today Roma are clearly added in the list of minorities targeted by the far right. They are victims of vicious street violence as well as administrative discrimination all over Europe;
• the intelligent and highly organised Jew (more socially integrated, belonging to the middle or ruling classes).
For national-populist or fascist militants alike, conspiracy theories offer a simple explanation to a “chaotic and fast-changing world”. In their fantasy world, the “Zionist lobby”, “ZORG” or “Jewish elites” promote multiculturalism, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc., in order to destroy “Western Christian” societies based on traditional values: family, attachment to an ancestral land, obedience to the State, respect of “natural hierarchies”.
For them, “Jews” are secretly organising a global chaos: from the construction of the European Union (which aims at “destroying century-old nations”) to the wars in the Middle and far East, “Israel promotes war to reign over humanity.” These plot theories can now be easily modified by including new useful scapegoats: the oil-rich Arab monarchies and Islamic fundamentalists who can also embody new “powerful and global conspiratorial forces”. It’s symptomatic that in France, for example, on France Culture radio, an influent Republican left journalist recently used the expression “the Qatar party” to label the right (UMP) and Socialist party. Such an expression betrays the influence of one of the leitmotifs of the far right: the denunciation of Qatar interference into French politics and economy....
Having explained the general context, we can now turn to the concrete manifestations of anti-Muslim racism and “new”/old anti-Semitism.
II. The growth of anti-Muslim racism
If one is interested in anti-Muslim racism, one has to study not only the statistics of the crimes documented by the cops and Muslim associations, but also the structural, institutional, discrimination operating in education, housing and employment.
Anti-Muslim racism takes different forms, according to the specific history of each nation-State. In some countries (France, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Greece) the majority of so-called “Muslims” enjoy, at least officially, the same rights as the “natives” because they have been naturalised or because their parents already had local citizenship. In other States – Italy (3%), Switzerland (20%) – only a small fraction of Muslims enjoy citizenship rights, which is obviously a very powerful obstacle to them being treated as equals by the “natives” and the local “democratic” State.
Some European states have a long experience of direct colonial rule, while others have not had colonies in Africa or Asia. The colonial past obviously influences the way “native” citizens treat migrants, including Muslim workers.
Although there are important national differences inside the European Union, we can spot three common patterns to the discriminations and social exclusion affecting “Muslim” workers, be they “native” or “foreign”:
1) A higher level of unemployment and a lower level of education.
As basic anti-working class discriminations blend with national and religious discriminations, the statistics presented here are obviously affected by a certain bias (apart from the ideological bias of those who collected these numbers).
One has to take into account that a greater school failure rate or an inferior job qualification do not always reflect racist or religious discriminations but cultural inequalities linked to very different class standards. For example, when young migrants decide to quit studies and not go to university, because they want to help their parents who have low paid jobs; because they can’t study and work at the same time; because they want to escape from their parents’ and community’s control; or even because they don’t master the local language as well as native-born youth, it’s not always because these young people are victims of a specific racist discrimination. It’s because they are working class boys and girls with limited financial means at their disposal and because, belonging to the working class, they don’t master the right strategies to climb up the social scale as easily and quickly as the children of the lower and upper middle classes.
In Belgium, 38% of the Moroccans and Turks are unemployed and only 6.1% have a higher education degree. “One large temporary employment agency told [us] it had a special unit to record requests from clients that could be at odds with anti-discrimination legislation with the aim of making those clients comply with it. In one third of such requests, clients expressed a refusal to hire Muslims in general10.”
In France, among Franco-French university graduates, unemployment reaches 5%, as opposed to Northern-African university graduates whose unemployment reaches 26.5%. “A 2010 study highlighted the specific role of religion in discriminatory patterns against French people with a Muslim background in access to employment. The study found that a French candidate with a Senegalese Christian background was two and a half times more likely to receive positive feedback when applying for a job than a French candidate with a Senegalese Muslim background11.”
Discriminations against youth with foreign parents are acknowledged by all French institutions, including the FASILD12. Discrimination against young foreigners or youth of foreign origin are recurring phenomena and tend to increase. These discriminations are very accurately described in a FASILD report: discrimination by skin colour and / or name; housing discrimination and a third one, strangely labelled “community discrimination”: for example when a Chinese restaurant manager hires only Chinese cooks or waitresses; or when a building company hires only workers coming from the same country, region or ethnical group.
But the FASILD acknowledges that “the multiplication of positive discrimination towards young ‘white’ Europeans inevitably increases the degree of rejection and exclusion of the other categories of youth.” This report describes discrimination in education, and in the housing sector, both private and public. Even if it does not mention the religion of these youth we know, for sure, that a good proportion of them are “Muslims” – or treated as such.
Women are also especially discriminated against: “(...) Muslim women frequently hold jobs in the mobile tertiary sector, comprising work as private or domestic service and shop-keeping; only 16% are salaried in the public sector with its associated benefits13.” “Muslim wearing a hijab choose to be self-employed or to work at home to avoid discrimination14.”
In the United Kingdom, “‘South Asian Muslims are one of the most disadvantaged ethnic minority groups in the country.’ Statistics show that ‘over 60% of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are in poverty compared to 20% of whites’, moreover they have the largest percentage of school leavers without any qualifications15.” “Muslims have the lowest rate of employment of any religious group with only 47% of men and 24% of women in employment16.” Muslims tend to be concentrated “at the lowest end of the job market. Many hold part-time, flexible, temporary jobs and are invisible in statistics.”
“The United Kingdom presents a rare example of educational data collection that specifically identifies students as Muslim. (..) In 2004 a third (33 per cent) of Muslims of working age in Great Britain had no qualifications – the highest proportion for any religious group. They were also the least likely to have degrees or equivalent qualifications (12 per cent)17.”
In Germany “Muslim children are “being over-represented in the less academic schools (Hauptschulen and special education) and under-represented in the schools for academic ‘achievers’ (the Reichschulen and the Gymnasien, the latter being the gateway to university18.”
As regards the workers, “ (...) the sectors with the highest levels of unemployment are those with the highest proportion of Muslim immigrants” (for example 20 % for the Turks, 11 % for the Germans). “In Switzerland, permanent resident migrants are three times more likely to be unemployed than Swiss nationals. In Italy, (…) the majority (of Muslim workers) change or lose jobs frequently, leading to precarious employment. (…) As a consequence of the difficulties in securing employment in the formal sector, they become over-represented in the informal economy and are therefore employed by unscrupulous bosses who use clandestine workers for long hours and small pay.
“It’s not surprising, therefore that one can identify ‘a significant rise in Muslim entrepreneurship in all of the 8 European countries’ studied. Muslim workers tend to ‘take advantage of social networks (e.g. family labour) and ethnic niches in the economy (e.g. halal food)’.’” To fight discrimination “Muslim workers retreat into sectors such as shop-keeping and catering” and are “favoured by the rise of the service sector”, according to the author19. I would not exactly call it “favourable” to be a nanny, to take care of handicapped or ageing people, or to clean the messy flats of middle-class “natives”!
In the Netherlands, “Only 27 per cent of women with Moroccan origin and 31 per cent of women with Turkish origin participate into the labour market. The share of women of Moroccan and Turkish origins with a low level of education is considerably higher than the one of Dutch women (67 per cent to 20 per cent respectively)20.”
Ireland seems to be a “happy” exception, at least for the previous generations of migrants.
According to Victoria Montgomery 21 “Muslim communities are comparatively well-off” because, between the 1950s and the 1990s, students who came for higher education and stayed had good jobs (of 50,000 Muslims 8% are doctors) and set up businesses. But today, the situation has changed. The new Muslim migrants and refugees coming from Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Nigeria, Libya and Iraq are much poorer than their predecessors as testified by the EUMC 2010 report: “In Ireland, the 2002 census revealed that 44 per cent of Muslims in contrast to 53 per cent of the total population were in work, and 11 per cent of Muslims were unemployed as opposed to a national average of 4 per cent 22.”
2) Muslims are the target of an extended paranoia.
This is exemplified by Muslim Demographics, a seven-minute video watched (so far) by 15 million people. It was shown by cardinal Trukson to a bishops’ synod in Rome about the “New evangelisation” in October 2012. This film includes many absurdities and lies including the claimed that, given the difference between “French” and “Muslim” (?) fertility, France will soon become an “Islamist republic.” This film was endorsed by the Front National because this absurd fear of a “Great Replacement” (French expression for a mythical “Eurabia”) nurtures anti-Muslim feelings.
The media and new social media use local grievances and fears (in other words, real social problems linked to the functioning of capitalism) and put the blame on (Muslim) “foreigners” and radical Muslims. Scapegoating Islam offers the possibility of delivering a so-called “explanation” and a simple “solution” to evils which affect all workers, whatever their origins or beliefs.
Muslims are supposedly “prone to espouse anti-Western values which lead many to condone so-called Islamic terrorism23”. Muslim individuals as well as Muslim associations are constantly “invited” to dissociate themselves from jihadist groups, a pressure which becomes sometimes so unbearable that a few pupils expressed some provocative remarks in classroom discussions, in France, after the 17 jihadist executions of 7, 8 and 9 of January in Paris.
The silly reactions of a tiny minority of very young pupils (one was 8 years old!) were used and dramatised by the media, a manoeuvre which reinforced the dangerous equation Muslims = fundamentalists = terrorists.
Many Europeans explain that “Muslims threaten national security24” (38% of British, 28% of Germans); “object to their own child marrying Muslim” (31% of British, 37% of Germans, 28% of Italians); “hold unfavourable opinion of Muslims” (23% of British, 38% of French and 50% of Germans); think that Muslims “do not respect other cultures” (37% of British, 42% of French, 48% of Germans, 60% of Italians and 42% of Dutch), etc.
Obviously, the questions of this international poll, as of many other polls and enquiries, are phrased in a certain way, and we know that the formulation strongly influences the answers. Most people who answer this kind of polls know little about Islam and have few Muslim friends or none (55% of British, 61% of Germans, 67% of Italians and 70% of Spaniards possess no Muslim friends); they react in function of what mainstream TV programs show them everyday: images of bloody murders and attacks, violent demonstrations, wars, etc.
The accumulation of negative polls about Muslims also contributes to reinforce racist stereotypes which obviously we have to fight with our limited means.
According to recent research 25, the tabloid press (Sun and Daily Mail) as well as a more “respectable” daily (The Independent) regularly show a negative image of Muslims on all subjects: faith schools (which are a minority in the UK compared to Christian ones), madrassas, forced marriages, domestic violence, etc. Muslims are presented as “outside the nation” and Muslim men as dangerous predators for English women 26, etc.
In Norway, the Progress Party wages a permanent campaign against Islam; its sympathisers blame Muslims for the growth of criminality and consider “they” exploit social security benefits, “don’t contribute to national culture” and “should not be given the same rights”, but, strangely enough, xenophobic bigots do not dislike Muslim migrants more than migrants in general, even if their leaders present them as a “fifth column that wants to change the core values and the political system in Norwegian society27.”
Having pointed all this negative media propaganda against Muslims, one has also to recognise that in the countries where “multiculturalism” is the official ideology (like Britain) the situation is maybe less bad than in countries where “multiculturalism” is looked at with suspicion (France) or rejected (Hungary).
Even if “multiculturalism” is, in reality, a more or less subtle way to impose a universal capitalist pseudo-”culture” based on the maximisation of profit, technical domination and commodification of ideas, products and human beings; even it if does not enable deep and rich connections and interactions between different cultures (outside the academic elites), multiculturalism can give the illusion, to the oppressed members of national or religious minorities (in this case Muslims), of being better regarded by the dominant national-religious culture.
3) Muslim religious practices are severely criticised (while Christian and Jewish practices are considered as “normal” and “civilised”).
This is shown by all the polemics generated by the desire to build new mosques, the right of women to wear a hijab at work or in public institutions, the question of halal food in schools, hospitals and prisons, the existence of prayer rooms in big company premises, etc.
Right and left French politicians have been active in promoting laws against the hijab and burqa, but did not move a finger to guarantee the right for Muslims to have decent places to pray.
In Italy, Maurizio Gasparri, a former minister of Berlusconi who started his career in the “post-fascist” MSI, declared in January 2009: “The pseudo-prayers in Milan and in front of the Colosseum have nothing to do with religion – they are threatening and intimidatory acts towards the Italian people. Those who take part should be identified by the police and possibly expelled from our country. People must not use prayer as a political weapon28.”
A declaration which echoes the program of the Platform for Catalonia 29: “The Islamic immigration, massive in Catalonia, threatens our European identity heritage (respect for personal and collective freedom, democracy as a mean to take decisions, Greco-Latin culture, Christian religion, languages of Catalonia or popular traditions).” Therefore it’s not surprising that local populations “held public protests opposing the opening of new places of worship, sometimes as soon as Muslim organisations made public their intention to seek a licence to do so 30.”
In Switzerland, between 1968 and 2000, seven “popular initiatives” were organised around the restriction of foreigners’ rights and helped to spread xenophobic, and therefore anti-Muslim, ideas. In this context, the Swiss People’s Party of Christoph Blocher developed its nationalist program and was the driving force which successfully organised the “popular initiative”, which consists in collecting more than 100,000 signatures, and then provoked the anti-minaret referendum in 2009, obviously in the name of the defence of women’s rights, democracy and to “maintain peace among members of different religious communities” (new article 72 of the Federal Constitution)!
And Switzerland became the first country in the world to include a ban on minarets in its Constitution, while there were only four minarets on the whole of its territory!
III. The growth of anti-Semitism in Europe
If one wants to measure the existence of anti-Semitism one can’t just rely on criminal statistics even if these numbers are appalling. For example, in Europe, anti-Semitic violent incidents oscillated around 150 per year in the 1970s and 1980s; since the 1990s, they reach between 500 and 1,000 per year. Anti-Semitism is growing, even if the left strongly denies it.
The statistical quantitative rise of anti-Semitic incidents corresponds also, at least in France, to a qualitative rise of barbarism: in 2012, when a French jihadist entered in a Jewish school and killed one by one three Jewish children, French anti-Semitism evidently entered a new phase.
According to the Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism “acts of violence (arson, weapon attacks, weaponless attacks, serious harassment) and vandalism perpetrated against Jewish individuals and Jewish private and community property worldwide” have consideraly grown from 1989 to 2013: from 78 to 554 violent incidents with a peak of 1,118 in 2009 31.
To understand this phenomenon, one has to read the numerous testimonies (collected by the European Fundamental rights Agency – FRA – or NGOs) which describe how daily life has become difficult for European Jews since the last twenty years.
In France, for example, according to the SCPJ32, “In 2014, the number of anti-Semitic acts recorded on French soil has doubled. They increased to 851 versus 423 in 2013.(...). There were 241 violent acts in 2014 versus 105 in 2013. (...) 51 percent of racist acts committed in France in 2014 targeted Jews. (...) The 30-percent increase in racist acts committed in France in 2014 compared to 2013 comprises exclusively an increase in anti-Semitic acts. Indeed, racist acts, excluding anti-Semitic acts, that were recorded in 2014 decreased by 5 percent compared to 2013.”
In general, European Jews have the (fully justified) impression that the main media (not to speak about the Net, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) have a “pro-Palestinian” and often implicitly or explicitly anti-Semitic orientation (caricatures of Israeli leaders published in the mainstream press; permanent comparisons between Nazism and Zionism, use of old Christian anti-Judaic clichés, etc.).
This distrust towards the media is not the product of “Jewish paranoia” as leftists (including anti-Zionist Jews like the French UJFP which is mainly composed of... non-Jews despite its title) often say, but it obviously depends on each newspaper, radio station and television channel. If we take al-Jazeera English as an evaluation criterion, even the most critical programs on the BBC and Radio France Internationale will appear complacent towards Israel. But one has also to keep in mind that the 6,000 Jews and many associations consulted by the European Agency for Fundamental rights or the various Jewish community organisations are not “anti-Zionist”.
And what’s true about the Jewish perception of anti-Semitism also applies to the Muslim perception of so-called “Islamophobia” by Muslim community organisations funded or not by “Muslim” States which have their own agenda.
All community perceptions are biased, as regards discrimination, especially when such discrimination are not included in legislation and depend on hidden relations of power and force between the “autochthonous majority” population and “foreign” national, ethnic or religious minorities.
“On 21 February, 2014, the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung published a caricature of Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, showing him as an octopus with a big hooked nose trying to control the internet. (...) the caricature of Zuckerberg is very similar to a Nazi caricature from 1938 depicting Winston Churchill as an octopus clasping the world. The caricaturist (...) apologised and explained he hadn’t been aware of the parallels to the antisemitic representation done by the Nazis 33(!?).”
“On 5 August 2012, the German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung published a caricature (...) of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, showing him poisoning the ‘dove of Middle East peace’ 34.”
In Italy, “(...) a cartoon (...) appeared on the front page of the Italian newspaper La Stampa on 3 April 2002. This was during the second Palestinian Intifada, when the Israel Defence Forces were besieging the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. The cartoon depicted a baby Jesus in a crèche. Seeing an Israeli tank, little Jesus asks, “Are they going to kill me for a second time?”35.
In Italy, about 100 websites propagating anti-Semitism have been listed, not to mention the chat forums and blogs which disseminate their references and texts on the major social networks.
In Hungary the fascist party Jobbik “does not try to hide its true face. During a demonstration in front of the Israeli Embassy in November 2012, the party leader, Gabor Vona said that ‘Israel operates the world’s largest concentration camp’ 36.”
The daily El Mundo published in November 2012 an article by Antonio Gala claiming that Jews were “more a race (?!) than a people” and comparing the Israeli government to the Nazis.
left anti-Zionism takes a more and more anti-Semitic direction as testified both by left and radical left analysis and political alliances with far-right Islamist groups (Muslim Brothers, Participation et Spiritualité Musulmane37, etc.) which lead to anti-Semitic slogans in “pro-Palestinian” demonstrations in Europe, every time the Israeli army attacks the Gaza strip, during the two intifadas, etc.
According to a research made by the Technical University of Berlin, 60% of the 14,000 hate messages, letters and emails sent to the Israeli embassy in Berlin and to the Central Council of German Jews were sent by educated Germans, including university professors and priests, and only 3% came from right-wing extremists.
European national-populist or far right parties have liberated the expression of xenophobic and racist feelings as well as anti-Semitic prejudices (with coded words or not – in the case of Holocaust mockery or denial).
In Hungary, Jobbik, the third largest party, gained 17% of the vote. It has a militia, the Hungarian Guard, which regularly attacks Roma and is inspired by the Hungarian Nazi Arrow Party which participated in the extermination of Hungarian 530,000 Jews. It uses anti-Semitism including blood libel, as one of their MPs (Zsolt Baráth) did in April 2012, without any intervention from the Chamber’s president38. In 2012, Marton Gyongyosi, a Jobbik MP, “called for the authorities to compile a national list of Hungarian Jews, especially those in Parliament and government, who represent what he described as a ‘ national security risk’”.
The example of Golden Dawn in Greece is the most well-known: In June 2012, this fascist party won 18 seats in the Greek parliament. “On 7 February Golden Dawn MP Ioannis Lagos submitted an interpellation to the Greek Parliament questioning the country marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January and the teaching of Holocaust in Greek schools. In mid May 2013 Golden Dawn lawmaker Papas re-affirmed his admiration for Hitler and national socialism during a session of the Greek Parliament. Later in the same week Greece’s parliament ejected a Golden Dawn lawmaker and shouts of ‘Heil Hitler’ were heard in the chamber. (...) Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, had publicly and repeatedly denied the Holocaust in Spring 2012, a few weeks before the elections. (...) In July 2013 GD played the Horst Wessel Lied, the anthem of the German Nazi party, during a charity food handout attended by more than 2,000 (after checking recipients’ identity cards to ensure that non-Greeks were excluded) (...)39.”
As noted by the ENAR: “There is a dichotomy in Hungary and Greece, which feature high levels of indigenous anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi activity, but lower levels of physical violence than countries such as France and Belgium in which anti-Semitism is much less socially acceptable, but violence is more common40.”
Jews tend to hide their religious symbols, no longer walk in certain districts, and even not visit “Jewish” places, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental rights.
“A report published 2013 by the FRA showed that 49 per cent of the Jews in Sweden don’t wear Jewish symbols, like a kippah or Star of David pendant, or even avoid going to Jewish community centers, synagogues or cemeteries for fear of antisemitic incidents. The European Union average is 20 percent, according to the report41.”
In Germany, “63 per cent of those polled in the FRA report on Jewish perception on antisemitism, avoid wearing, carrying or displaying anything that might suggest they are Jews42.”
In many countries, a significant fraction of the youth has left the State education system to join Jewish or even Catholic schools, because they fear being bullied or harassed at school because of their religious beliefs. In the United Kingdom, 60% of the Jewish youth study in faith schools. In France, the number of pupils studying in Jewish faith schools has exploded: 8,000 in 1978, 30,000 today, that is 26% of Jewish youth.
To be fair, one has to say that, at least in France, there is a revival of interest in Judaism. Partly thanks to the confusion of the left which has lost the sympathies of many Jews since the Six Days War in 1967; and partly related to the effects of the economic crisis, identity politics43 has considerably grown and influences all non believers and believers in Europe, including Muslims and Jews. Jews who, forty years ago, would not have been interested in Jewish religion are, like Muslims, rediscovering their “roots.” This phenomenon has reinforced conservative trends inside Jewish “communities”; therefore, the most obscurantist Jews don’t want to send their children to non religious schools. That may explain also why there are less Jews in state schools in France today.
If one compares social discriminations affecting Muslims and Jews in Europe, it’s obvious that Jews are less affected by overt, institutionalised, racism in employment and education than Muslims, given their century-old presence on the continent. As a Jewish students’ organisation told Amnesty International: “anti-Semitism in France does not primarily manifest itself through discrimination in employment or access to services but rather as verbal and physical attacks or threats against Jews, real or perceived 44.”
European Jews don’t need to learn the language as most migrants need to do, be they Muslims or not; they can help their children with their schoolwork and give them good advice for their education strategies (including leaving the state education sector for the private education sector); they know how to survive in a hostile or foreign society; they don’t lack temples to pray; their capacity of adaptation has been tested through centuries of struggles and persecutions; the European Union has included in its agenda the struggle against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial for several decades (recognition of “Islamophobia” is much more recent).
Muslims born and educated in other continents have not yet acquired this vital experience, and it will take them a long time to get it, and to oblige European administrations to respect their basic human rights. Nevertheless, despite all these “advantages” (if one can call the fact of having survived centuries of bloody persecutions and to the Judeocide an “advantage”), Jews are still a target for social frustrations in all Europe.
As explained by Moishe Postone in an interview with Martin Thomas in Solidarity45, anti-Semitism has a specific social function in capitalism — and also in anti-capitalist ideology and movements — a reality denied by many leftist intellectuals and far left or anarchist activists.
Even if many specialists and anti-racist militants claim that the old Christian anti-Judaic46 and racial anti-Semitism has almost disappeared and that the “new anti-Semitism” is just a regrettable but understandable reaction against Israeli war crimes, other social scientists have a more realistic and accurate view.
Unfortunately, they are generally labelled as “neo-cons”47 — which is often true when they defend everything that Israeli governments do!
IV. France: a pioneer of Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism
France has always been very creative in building anti-Semitic and racist theories, and using both in internal and external political struggles.
Although Zeev Sternhell’s interpretation about the decisive role of French ideologues in the birth of fascism is very controversial, he has documented in detail the role of the French anti-Semitic far right and left from the 19th-century onwards.
From Edouard Drumont, exponent of a “national socialism” and historians like Hyppolite Taine and Ernest Renan who promoted the notion of race at the end of the 19th century, to the fascist ideologue Alain Soral (a self-proclaimed “national-socialist” very active on the Net as well as in real life) and popular stand-up comedian Dieudonné48. From the anti-Judaic views expressed by Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire and Diderot (although their philosophical contribution can’t be reduced to this sinister aspect), to French novelists like Louis-Ferdinand Céline (also a pro-Nazi collaborator), Renaud Camus, present defender of the “Great Replacement” pseudo-theory (close to Eurabia ideologues like Bat Yeor), France has produced an impressive number of influent anti-Semitic propagandists.
And as regards anti-Arab, anti-African racism or anti-Muslim racism, one can quote many famous names, from Enlightenment stars like Voltaire and Diderot to 20th-century novelists: Jean Raspail (in close contact with the National Front), Michel Houellebecq (who considered Islam was “the most stupid religion in the world”... until he read the Koran) and Richard Millet (who wrote two essays to explain Anders Breivik’s murders in Oslo which, according to him, “are a desperate and despairing sign of how Europe underestimates the havoc of multiculturalism.” Breivik’s actions are “ at best a paltry manifestation of the survival instinct of civilisation.” “In this decadence, Breivik is no doubt what Norway deserved, and what awaits our societies which continue to blind themselves to better deny themselves.”).
France enjoys also an exceptional situation in Europe because it’s the country which hosts the biggest Jewish and Muslim “communities.”
Jews have been targeted as such by terrorist groups several times in France during the last 40 years :
– four people were killed and 46 wounded by a bomb put in front of the Copernic synagogue in Paris, on 3 October 1980, probably by the PLFP-SC of Wadie Haddad;
– six people were killed and 22 wounded in Paris, on 9 August 1982, by a terrorist pro-Palestinian commando which attacked Goldenberg’s restaurant;
– in Toulouse, on 19 March 2012, three Jewish children (seven, five, and four years old) and one adult were killed by Mohamed Merah, a French islamo-terrorist,
– and in Paris, in a kosher supermarket, on the 9th of January 2015, Amedy Coulibaly, a French jihadist, killed 4 Jewish clients and threatened to kill more before he was himself shot by the cops.
One can add to this list a non political crime, but certainly of an anti-Semitic nature, despite the left’s denial 49, the 23 days of torture and final death on the 13 February 2006 of Ilan Halimi, a seller in a phoneshop, kidnapped because his murderers thought the “Jews have money”. This murder was an important signal because it involved at least 20 persons, in a working class suburb, and young people of all origins, French, Portuguese, African, Iranian and North African. A real melting-pot of anti-Semites!
If we compare anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in its most violent consequences (murders), there has not been any political group publicly promoting the killing of “Muslims” in France.
But, certain years, the number of racist murders targeting “Arabs” has been quite impressive. Most of the time they are linked to police actions, what the cops call “blunders”, crimes for which it’s almost impossible to say if they are racist, xenophobic or religiously-motivated crimes.
This violence, until recently, was not labelled “Islamophobic” but as racist, because Islam was not the main target of the offenders, and, more important, because French authorities refused to admit such a thing as “anti-Muslim racism” or “Islamophobia” could exist in the “Fatherland of the rights of Man.” It’s only since 2009 that the police distinguishes between anti-Muslim crimes and other hate crimes.
If we compare the numbers given by the French minister of Interior, the Jewish and Muslim organisations, it’s quite obvious that anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism are growing in France. Nevertheless, the number of anti-Semitic acts is much more important than anti-Muslim acts, given the fact that Jews are between four and ten times less numerous than “Muslims” in France.
According to the 2014 SCPJ report, anti-Semitic acts recorded in France have been on a rise from 1998 until today, with peaks at 974 anti-Semitic acts in 2004 and around 400/600 anti-Semitic acts in the more “quiet” years.
If we compare the SCPJ report with the 2014 CCIF report, we can see that, in the same period, racist and xenophobic acts and threats (which include those affecting “Muslims” without specifying them) have also steadily grown, for example there were 117 racist and xenophobic acts and threats in 1998 and 595 in 2004; 75 anti-Semitic threats and acts in 1998 and 970 in 2004.
V. Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism as seen by the (radical) left
Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism have developed in parallel. Usually (when the left deigns to admit its existence), it relates anti-Semitism to Israeli war crimes and anti-Muslim racism to the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the 9/11 attacks 50.
Obviously both phenomenon have complex roots, which are also related to the attempts of European powers to dominate the rest of the world, from the medieval crusades to the colonial conquests and neo-colonial wars.
On both sides, the controversy is raging among social scientists often driven by a hidden political agenda. The most extreme “Zionists”, the proponents of the “clash of civilisations” theory and the internationalist jihadists of al-Qaeda and Daesh, all share the same premise: religions run the world, and the war between them will never end.
Each community tries to put its case at the centre of public attention: Jews claim anti-Semitism is growing and Muslims that Islamophobia is growing.
This absurd dynamic tries to incite us to choose between one of these two evils to deny the existence of the other. Confronted to this catastrophic alternative, the European far left groups and of the counter-globalisation movement have been much more interested in denouncing anti-Muslim racism than in denouncing anti-Semitism.
This attitude is based on several weak arguments:
• Generally far left militants explain that anti-Semitism does not exist, is only a marginal phenomenon, limited to small far right groups (Golden Dawn in Greece, the German neo-Nazis, etc.). Or, like the Palestinian academic Joseph Massad they argue that the term is “anachronistic and ahistorical”, “since today anti-Semitism’s major victims are Arabs and Muslims. “Anti-Semitism” is no longer the hatred of and discrimination against Jews as a religious or ethnic group; it “has metamorphosed into something that is more insidious”; “the transference of popular antisemitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same 51."
Behind this argument of an intense kinship between Jews and Muslims, there is the desire to conceal the discriminatory character of the dhimmi status in Islam and the fact that Islam considers the Jews as “traitors” who falsified the message delivered by God to Abraham and Moses. Academics like Gil Anidjar 52 (often cited as a reference) presents indeed the Jew as the original internal enemy of the Christian West and the Muslim as its original external enemy.
Obviously there is a bit of truth in this hypothesis. But it’s mainly a very convenient version which erases fourteen centuries of discrimination, racketeering and pogroms in Arab-Muslim countries and the expulsion of 900,000 Jews from these countries after the creation of Israel. This allows also to blame the “Christian West” for all these problems, while at the same time concealing Muslim anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism imported from Europe that influenced movements related to Arab nationalism and political Islam.
• When far left militants deign to recognise the existence of an anti-Semitism manipulated by mass national-populist parties (like Jobbik in Hungary or the Front National in France), they tend to say this form of anti-Semitism is not very important because these mass nationalist parties are more “anti-Arab” and “anti-Muslim”, than anti-Jew.
To support their claim, they quote right-wing Jewish intellectuals and reactionary Jewish community leaders who whitewash the anti-Semitic image of these parties or mention the good relationships between some Israeli politicians and European national-populist leaders: the meeting between Avigdor Lieberman and Geert Wilders of the PVV in 2010; the support to the English Defense League expressed by Rabbi Nachum Schiffren, of the Tea Party, and leaders of the French fascist Bloc Identitaire; the visit in Israel of two MPs of the Austrian FPO (H.C. Strache and Andreas Mölzer, publisher of fascist books), and of representatives of the Belgian Vlaams Belang and Sweden Democrats who met with Israeli settlers and politicians in November 2010 – all that with the blessing of the extremist and racist Israeli intellectual Hillel Weiss and of Ayoub Kara, member of the Likud, who both defend Marine Le Pen 53.
The maneuvers of the national-populist parties only fool those leftists who don’t understand the basic function of anti-Semitism in the mystifying criticism of capitalism defended by the extreme fascist or fascistic right. It’s true some members of the Jewish community are tempted to vote for Marine Le Pen and the Front national, but their fear of Islamism chanels them in the wrong direction. If the FN and European national-populists seem to target today “immigrants”, “Arabs” and “Muslims”, the Jews would quickly be added to the target list if the extreme right came to power, as it is already the case with the Hungarian Jobbik.
• When anti-Semitic slogans are shouted, or anti-Semitic aggressions occur during “pro-Palestinian” demonstrations like in the summer of 2014, far left militants tend to accuse “police provocateurs” or a minority of “nuts”. Anyway, they think this form of anti-Semitism is wrong but represents an understandable reaction to Israeli war crimes.
Some French left propagandists, like Ms. Houria Bouteldja, spokesperson of the Indigènes de la République54, invited to all sorts of national and international anticapitalist events, even think that anti-Semitism can have a “progressive role” and for that purpose she used and distorted a quotation from C.L.R. James (more precisely from a resolution of the Workers Party) 55.
• Last but not the least, Ms Houria Bouteldja (as well as many other left militants) refuse to consider that battles against anti-Semitism and against anti-Muslim racism could be waged together. Only two months after four Jews were killed in a Parisian kosher supermarket, she declared French governments had a “philo-Semitic policy” since 1945 – “philo-Semitic” and “philo-Semites” being, in far right circles, coded words for Jews or gentiles-manipulated-by-Jews, from the Dreyfus Affair to today.
For this super-”anti-racist” militant “the Jews” are used by French State to “soothe the whites’ conscience and turn the Shoah into a new civil religion56”, to conceal “the memory of the slave trade”, “the memory of colonisation”, “the memory of the genocide of the gypsies” and this supposedly nourishes “resentment against the Jews who are rightly considered as the ‘sweethearts of the Republic.’ Here lies the first source of antagonism by post-colonial subjects towards the Jews.”
Obviously, in this viciously reactionary text where she recycles the old French far right coded language (“philo-Semitism”) and mixes it with fashionable concepts from postcolonial and subaltern studies, Ms. Bouteldja does not forget to blame “the Jews” who became “the spokesperson of the western world or more accurately – to use a metaphor – its Senegalese Riflemen (‘tirailleurs sénégalais’), in particular by means of another colonial nation state: Israel, whose mission is to secure the western world’s interests within the Arab world.”
On the top of those disgusting arguments, she presents a totally false image of the French left as being mesmerised by the memory of the Holocaust, totally ignoring how the Stalinist parties, Russia and “popular democracies” obliged the Jews, after 1945, to be enlisted as victims of fascism and not as victims of anti-Semitism.
She ignores how much this Stalinist vision of the Jewish question (and its overall anti-Semitic subtext as evidenced by the history of Eastern bloc) has shaped French anti-racism.
With her opaque glasses, she is obviously unable to explain why the MRAP eliminated anti-Semitism from its acronym in 1977, the “Movement against Racism, Anti-Semitism and Peace” suddenly becoming the “Movement against Racism and for Friendship between the peoples.”
Such a political change is at the opposite of the imaginary “philo-Semitism” of the socalled “White left” invoked by Ms. Houria Bouteldja to justify her support to the “progressive anti-Semitism” of the dominated “postcolonial natives” (“indigènes”) she pretends to represent.
To be honest, this tendency to underestimate the importance of modern anti-Semitism has often been present, in a more or less conscious form, in Trotskyist groups, as exemplified by the astonishing silence of Ernest Mandel. His biographer Jan Willem Stutje, in Ernest Mandel: A Rebel’s Dream Deferred (2009), recalls that Mandel, who was himself deported by the Nazis and escaped twice from their bloody hands, wrote hundreds of articles and around twenty books, but only twice in forty years about the Judeocide, once in a 1946 article and once in his book The meaning of the Second World War in 1986!
Obviously, Ernest Mandel knew about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism from personal experience, but like many Trotskyist, or “Communist”, militants (specially when they had Jewish parents) he decided that fighting against capitalism, imperialism, colonialism and fascism was more vital than underlining the importance of the Holocaust.
Because this essential transmission work has not been done by the revolutionary left, and has been taken over, for opportunist reasons, by American and European governments, we see now how the new generations of left militants lack a basic sensibility and knowledge of anti-Semitism. They think all this is “outdated” and don’t understand, for example, why the fascist “humour” of a stand-up comedian like Dieudonné and his “quenelles” (inverted Nazi salute) should be criticised and we should have long ago have started demonstratin against his shows.
Today, it’s very clear that, when the (radical) left prioritises the fight against “Islamophobia”, it tries in fact to evade the question of “global anti-Semitism” which today mixes various forms of anti-Semitism in a lethal cocktail. This cocktail is very influential in the social media, because each form of anti-Semitism reinforces the other ones, thanks to the world-wide confusion and disinformation generated by the global interconnection 57 of all reactionary ideologues on the Web: century-old Christian and Muslim anti-Judaism; medieval social anti-Semitism directed against certain small minorities within the Jewish communities (moneylenders, bankers, traders), while the vast majority of Jews lived in extreme poverty (servants, peddlers, clerks, artisans, apprentices, etc.) 58; 18th-century European atheist or secular anti-Judaism; 19th-century pseudo-scientific anti-Semitism based on racial concepts; 19th-century European nationalist anti-Semitism which grew with the formation of nation-states on the continent; anarchist, socialist and communist anti-Zionism with anti-Semitic tones which developed when the influence of Zionism grew in Palestine before the Second World War; Nazi anti-Semitism; Stalinist Russian and Eastern European anti-Semitism; third world nationalist anti-Semitism influenced by Nazism; anti-Zionist anti-Semitism which used the war crimes of the State of Israel after 1948.
In The Working Definition of Anti-Semitism – Six Years After (Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, 2010), several contributors give convincing examples of two forms of anti-Semitism:
• Traditional anti-Semitism, deeply rooted in popular culture for religious reasons (in countries dominated by centuries of Catholic, Protestant, Christian Orthodox or Muslim propaganda against the Jews) and political reasons (the left and right stress on the so-called dominating role of Jewish bankers and capitalists);
• And “new” anti-Semitism which uses the pretext of Israel war crimes to revive old racist clichés. From Turkey to Brazil, from Russia to Belgium, from Latvia to Chile....
This definition is rejected by many left social scientists and militants. For example, the Marxist Barrie Levine 59 explains that a social worker should be an “agitator” and link the struggle against all forms of racism – which is a very good proposal. But, as he denies the value of the working definition of Anti-Semitism, he refuses to envisage the limits of anti-Zionism and its potential, but not inevitable, anti-Semitic content. At the same time, as he is much more honest than many leftists, he very clearly describes how intellectuals who are preoccupied by struggling against racism and anti-Islam paranoia almost never mention anti-Semitism as if it was at the very bottom of their list of priorities – or even did not exist.
The so-called radical left must solve its internal contradictions, its hesitations about anti-Semitism and set precise boundaries to its anti-Zionism, if not, it will be totally contaminated by the ideas of the far right, as it is already obvious on dozens of its websites, mailing lists and forums.
It’s never too late to recognise our errors and wage a clear fight against all forms of racism. For this we must understand their specificities, without negating the existence of any form of racism and without building an absurd hierarchy between them.
1. A good example can be found in an article written in 2012 by Alain Gresh in Le monde diplomatique about Charlie Hebdo: “Let’s imagine that in 1931, in Germany, while anti-Semitism was rising at full speed, a left weekly publishing a special issue on Judaism (the religion) and writen several articles, without any anti-Semitic connotation, to demonstrate that Judaism was backward; that the Bible advocated violence, genocide, stoning; that religious Jews were wearing funny outfits, visible religious symbols, etc. Obviously, we could not have separated this publication from the German political context and the rise of Nazism. (...) Of course, all this does not prove that we are on the eve of the takeover of fascism, and apart from a few lunatics (like Breivik), nobody calls for a Muslim genocide.” (“Charlie Hebdo, la liberté d’expression et l’islamophobie”, Thursday 20 September 2012). To compare the present situation of 1.8 billion Muslims backed by more than 60 States and their armies to the 12 million Jews in the 1930s, deprived of any state and army to defend them; to compare a small population, abandoned by all States including the so-called “Socialist Fatherland” of that time, with one third of humanity today is not absolutely absurd, but revolting. Retrospectively, this article offers us also a cruel proof of the left’s blindness today: in 2012, the author mocked the “courage” of Charb and ironically mentioned the “risks” taken by Charlie Hebdo in participating to an “Islamophobic” campaign. Well, today we know the answer: Gresh is alive, and Charb has been murdered. Who took the real “risks” and who was “courageous”, whatever we think of the ambiguities of this magazine which labelled itself “stupid and nasty”? (About Charlie Hebdo’s political limits one can read two articles published by Solidarity in 2012 — www.workersliberty.org/node/19607 — www.workersliberty.org/node/24485 )
2. The word “Jews” refers to members of the Jewish people (conceived as a nation or a cluster of ethnic groups with similar origins... 2000 years ago) and defines even those who feel strong cultural affinities with Jewish cultures. It describes also practitioners of Judaism (including those who converted to Judaism), and the two meanings are far from overlapping, the second being more restrictive than the first one. The term Muslim is also equally ambiguous, since we can talk about Muslim atheists (individuals brought up in one of the Muslim cultures but who do not believe in Allah) and Muslims (in Bulgaria and Bosnia, for example) to describe members of an ethno-religious group almost considered as a national minority.
3. Wilhelm Marr, the inventor of the word “anti-Semitism,” admired Jews because they were, according to him, smart enough to... dominate the world!
4. See the “working definition” elaborated by an European Union commission and rejected in 2013 without adopting another: www.european-forum-on-antisemitism.org/working-definition-of-antisemitism/english/
5. In his last book Le grand malentendu: Islam, Israel, Occident (The great misunderstanding: Islam, Israel and the West), Odile Jacob, 2015, Daniel Sibony accuses the Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields. He accepts without blinking the IDF’s explanation according to which the Israeli army contacts the families before destroying their houses and killing their stubborn (or “fanaticised?”) occupants. What a divine comfort to receive a preventive invitation to your own funerals via SMS just before you die!
6. This chronological division into two very different periods does not apply exactly to France: 1973 was the worst year in terms of racist crimes directed against Arab and Berber workers (around 50 were killed that year, mainly by ordinary Frenchmen, not by cops or fascist militants). The difference lies maybe in the fact that there were many autonomous struggles among migrants (the Sonacotra rent strike lasted three years, from 1973 to 1976; the national marches for equity and against racism in 1983 and 1984 were major political events) which possibly prevented the racist violence spreading more. This division may not apply to Scandinavia’s political chronology either, or to other countries where the fascist or far right groups were weak and rather quickly outperformed by mass national-populist parties. It provides anyway a useful hypothesis to understand recent changes.
7. Sarkozy declared in a meeting on 20 March 2015: “We want to keep our lifestyle. Whoever joins us must assimilate, adopt our way of life, our culture. (...) Does one keep his shoes on when visiting a foreign mosque? (...) We want that the people we continue to receive [in France] take into account our way of life, the one our grandparents, our parents have given us and that we want our children to maintain. (...) We are a country with Christian roots, which belongs to a civilisation, the European civilisation.” Comparing France with a mosque (actually — in the subtext — with a church) is quite an innovation from a French so-called secular politician! Actually Sarkozy is just repeating what Marine Le Pen said in 2008: “Europe will no longer be Europe, it will turn into an Islamic republic. We are at a turning point, and if we don’t protect our civilisation it will disappear. Yes, I’m attached to the nation. I want to preserve our cultural and historic identity.” (Quoted in Choice and prejudice discrimination against Muslins in Europe, Amnesty International, 2012, p. 17)
9. “What do we mean when we say ‘ anti-Semitism’? Echoes of shattering glass” (2013, available on the Net. bit.ly/krug-13).
10. Choice and Prejudice. Discrimination against Muslims in Europe, Amnesty International, April 2012, p. 36.
11. Ibid., p. 40.
12. Fonds d’action et de soutien pour l’intégration et la lutte contre les discriminations, Les discriminations des jeunes d’ origine étrangère dans l’accès à l’emploi et l’accès au logement, La documentation française, 2003.
13. Pandeli M. Glavanis, “Muslim voices: class, economic restructuring and the formation of political identity”, chapter 5, in Ethnicity and Economy, Race and Class Revisited, edited by Steve Fenton and Harriet Bradley, Palgrave, 2002. The examples quoted by Glavanis are partly extracted from “Muslim Voices” in the European Union: The Stranger Within. Community, Identity and Employment, a project conducted in 8 European countries : Belgium, France, Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland and the UK during the years 1996/1999 which can found on the Net: bit.ly/s-within.
14. Pandeli M. Glavanis, “Working on the margin. Class, Economic Restructuring and the Formation of Political Identity”, bit.ly/giava
15. Racism, Governance and Public Policy, by Katy Sian, Ian Law and S. Sayyid, Routledge, 2013, “Muslims and the workplace”, p. 41-58.
16. Lavalette, M. and Penketh, L. (eds.) (2013), Race, Racism and Social Work: Contemporary Issues and Debates, Bristol: Policy Pres, introduction, p. 1-16.
17. EUMC, Muslims in the European Union — Discrimination and Islamophobia, p. 53.
18. Yasemin Karakasoglu and Gerd Nonneman, “Muslims in Germany, with special reference to the Turkish-Islamic community”, p. 241-268, in Muslim communities in the New Europe, ed. by Gerd Nonneman, Tim Niblock and Bogdan Szajkowksi, Ithaca Press, 1997.
19. Pandeli M. Glavanis, op. cit., “Muslims voices...”
20. Choice and prejudice..., p. 53.
21. Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, volume 3, Brill, 2011, country report about Ireland.
22. Muslims in the European Union — Discrimination and Islamophobia, p. 13 and 14, European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, 2006.
23. Clive D. Field, “Revisiting Islamophobia in contemporary Britain, 2007-10”, p. 147-162, in Islamophobia in the West, Measuring and explaining individual attitudes, ed. by Marc Helbling, London, 2012.
24. Islamophobia in the West, op. cit.
25. Racism, Governance and Public Policy, by Katy Sian, Ian Law and S. Sayyid, Routledge, 2013, “Muslims and the news media”, p. 80-116.
27. Islamophobia in the West, op. cit., “Attitudes towards Muslims in Norway”, by Z. Strabac and M. Valenta, p. 56-69.
28. Quoted in Choice and prejudice..., p. 17.
29. The Platform for Catalonia is a small regional far right party, mainly anti-Muslim, which is slowly progressing (from 17 to 67 municipal councellors), even if it collected only 2.3% of the votes in 2011. It was warmly greeted by Marine Le Pen at that time, as she was and is following the same line aimed at getting strong local roots, with unfortunately a much greater success as shown by the latest local elections in France (1546 municipal councillors in 2014, and 62 departmental councillors in 2015).
30. Choice and Prejudice..., p. 85.
31. Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis, p. 63.
32. Jewish Community Security Service, 2014 Report on Antisemitism in France, www.antisemitisme.fr/dl/2014-EN.pdf
33. Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis, p. 46.
34. Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis, 47.
35. Quoted in Brian Klug, “What do we mean when we say ‘anti-Semitism’? Echoes of shattering glass” (conference of 2013 available on the Net).
36. Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis, p. 47.
37. Participation et spiritualité musulmane (PSM) is a reactionary organisation which participated in the massive anti-gay marriage demonstrations organised by the Catholic Church, the far right and part of the right in 2013 and is linked to the Moroccan Islamist movement Al Adl Wal Ihsane.
38. More details are provided in this article: bit.ly/b-libel
39. Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis, p. 41-42.
40. European Network Against Racism briefs, January 2015.
41. Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis., p. 31.
42. Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis, p. 45.
43. In France, “identity politics” is denounced as “communautarism “ but it’s a much larger phenomenon beyond the left/right, division and French conservatives have also their own agenda which is as bad...
44. Choice and prejudice..., p. 41.
46. This does not seem to apply at all in Spain for example, “during the Holy Week, when religiously motivated antisemitism is traditionally revived”. “One custom related to the Holy Week is called “matar judíos” (killing Jews). It still exists in some Spanish regions in different variations, one of which is drinking a glass of wine on Good Friday, another is making noise in a dark church, symbolising the killing of the persons guilty for the murder of Jesus. Another popular ceremony was practiced during carnival in the part of Extremadura. On this occasion a straw doll was prepared, exhibited and carried around the village before being judged, condemned and executed in various ceremonies. The doll represented a Jew who, according to the tradition, had once lived in the area. The “conviction” of the doll represented the general condemnation of Judaism. The repertory of songs for this custom is also strongly antisemitic”. (Anna Menny, “Antisemitism in Spain: A Religion-based Anti-Judaism”, 2013 www.jmberlin.de/antisemitism-today.
47. See for example the publications of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and its (defunct) journal Antisemitism International, of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), the books of Robert Wistrich (specially From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The left, the Jews, and Israel, at least the first 400 pages), D.J. Goldhagen (The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism) and many other conservative or “moderate” authors which participate in international congresses about anti-Semitism.
48. Dieudonné regularly posts anti-Semitic videos on youtube and they are quite popular including those in which he claims that “all big crooks on earth are Jewish”, he makes an allusion to the gas chambers when he evokes Patrick Cohen, a Jewish journalist who wants his shows to be banned, or his 2008 show during which he invited the Holocaust-denier Faurisson on stage at the Zenith theatre, in front of 5,000 spectators. He made several “sketches” with his friend Faurisson about the judeocide: one for example received 193 000 views; in this video, the Holocaust denier interprets a Jew and mocks Simon Wiesenthal. Dieudonné offered his theatre to the “anti-Zionist” Neturei Karta for a press conference in 2010 (590,000 views), his interview (dubbed in English for those interested in discovering the extent of his anti-Semitic propaganda) on Iranian TV received 144,000 views, etc.
49. At that time, the Trotskyist LCR as well as several antiracist and anti-Zionist groups preferred to reduce this murder to a “fait divers” (ordinary crime) rather than labelling it “anti-Semitic”. The fact that the leader of the group pretended to be “Muslim” and that the perpetrators came from a working-class milieu prompted the left to minimise the obvious anti-Semitic background of this kidnapping. Cf. “Le meurtre d’Ilan Halimi et le malaise de la gauche multiculturaliste” (The murder of Ilan Halimi and the discomfort of the multiculturalist left, mondialisme.org/spip.php?article632) and the discussion with some libertarian comrades who unfortunately hold the same views (mondialisme.org/spip.php?article913).
50. Actually, as noted by Amnesty International report, “according to some research, negative views on Muslims were already present in Europe prior to 2001. For instance, Europeans were on average less willing to have Muslim neighbours than migrant neighbours. Particularly high levels of discomfort were observed in Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Malta and Romania.” Choice and Prejudice...., p. 12.
51. Quoted by Esther Webman “Arab Reactions to Combating Antisemitism”, Antisemitism Worldwide 2013, General Analysis, p. 31.
52. Gil Anidjar, The Jew, the Arab. A History of the Enemy, Stanford University Press, 2003. A similar kind of thesis is used by Matti Bunzl to explain the role of so-called “Islamophobia” as an important factor in the construction of the European Union. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: hatreds old and new in Europe, Prickly Paradigm Press, Chicago, 2007.
53. More details are provided in this video in French: Cf. www.dailymotion.com/video/xjog5x_extreme-droite-europeenne-pro-israelienne_news
54. In 2014, she received the “struggle against Islamophobia” prize awarded by the Islamic Human rights Commission. See also “The Republic’s Natives (Les Indigènes de la République), the debate about French colonialism and its consequences” (June 2008) http://www.mondialisme.org/spip.php?article1170 . And other articles in French: “Mohammed Merah, Houria Bouteldja et la compassion à deux vitesses” www.mondialisme.org/spip.php?article1822 (2012); and a text of the Luftmenschen “Indigènes de la République: derrière le ‘féminisme islamique’, le racisme et le patriarcat” (2011) www.mondialisme.org/spip.php?article1632
55. indigenes-republique.fr/dieudonne-through-the-prism-of-the-white-left-or-conceptualizing-a-domestic-internationalism/ (C L R James’ s quotation is at the very end.) My answer to Houria Bouteldja can be found (in French) here: “Mme Bouteldja falsifie C L R James au service d’ un “antisémitisme progressif”... imaginaire!” (Mrs. Bouteldja falsifies C L R James to honour an imaginary “progressive” anti-Semitism), mondialisme.org/spip.php?article2089.
56. www.alanalentin.net/2015/03/12/on-state-racism-and-philosemitism-by-houria-boutledja/ — and my critique: “Edouard Drumont, maître à penser de Mme Houria Bouteldja: les Indigènes de la République réussissent leur examen d’entrée dans l’extrême droite gauloise”, mondialisme.org/spip.php?article2263
57. For more details see (in French): “Multiplicité des formes de l’ antisémitisme et antisémitisme mondialisé actuel” (Multiplicity of the forms taken by anti-Semitism and present global anti-Semitism) www.mondialisme.org/spip.php?article2128.
58. Seventy years later, one can still find sociologists – not to mention radical left militants — who believe, and want us to believe, that Jewish communities were mainly composed of bankers and big international traders (see for example Abdellali Hajjat and Marwan Mohammed, Islamophobie. Comment les élites françaises fabriquent le problème musulman [Islamophobia. How the French elites produce the Muslim “problem”], chapter 11, “Antisemitism and Islamophobia”, p. 177-195, La découverte, 2013) as if these communities had not experienced any internal social differentiation. Hajjat and Mohammed did not bother to read the work of recent specialists in Jewish history, such as the four volumes of La société juive à travers l’histoire [Jewish society throughout history] (Fayard, 1992), investigations much less antiquated and outdated than those quoted as “pioneer references” (Abraham Leon, Hannah Arendt, Jules Isaac, and James Parkes). Some historical arguments against this schematic vision developped in the section on “Historical Research’s Progress” in “Limits of anti-Zionism n° 1: A criminal amalgam” www.mondialisme.org/spip.php?article2121. Unfortunately, A materialist conception of the Jewish question, written by a Trotskyist militant, Abraham Leon, but hidden in an attic under Nazi occupation of Belgium, has little scientific and historical value, but remains a reference for many activists. Those who quote this book ignore (or “forget” to mention) that he wrote it when he was 25 years old, not in a comfortable, well-heated and well-furnished library or a study centre specialised in Jewish history,
59. “Anti-Semitism and anti-racist social work”, in Lavalette, M. and Penketh, L. (eds.) (2013) Race, Racism and Social Work: Contemporary Issues and Debates, Bristol: Policy Press, p. 85-114.
Sources used in this article
• Anti Defamation League
A right wing organisation which collects information mainly based on polls and a standard list of questions. This method is certainly not the most scientific way to measure anti-Semitism in a sophisticated way. Nevertheless it provides graphs which are useful, if used with caution...
• Kantor Center
— The Working Definition of Anti-Semitism — Six Years After Unedited Proceedings of the 10th Biennial TAU Stephen Roth Institute’s Seminar on Anti-Semitism, August 30 — September 2, 2010
— Many useful information can be found on this website
• Anti-Semitism Worldwide 2013 General Analysis
• CCIF — Annual Report 2014.
Useful information in English about Islamophobia in France
• EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia)
– Muslims in the European Union- Discrimination and Islamophobia
– The fight against Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Bringing communities together
– Anti-Semitism. Summary overview of the situation in the European Union 2002–2012
– Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in European Union Member States: experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism
These institutional reports are often boring and full of legal remarks which are of no interest for anti-racist militants. Nevertheless it contains useful concrete information and testimonies even if the main ideological trend, as regards anti-Muslim racism, is to favour “intercultural dialogue” which means “interreligious” dialogue, a way to exclude atheist and non believers, and to give all power to Churches and believers to define what are the freedom of expression and freedom of thought.
• Organisation of Islamic Conference annual reports like the following
Useful for the impressive collection of facts involving all the aspects of anti-Muslim racism, xenophobia and anti-Arab, African or Asian racism. Ideologically biased and reactionary as it is sponsored by 57 States...
• 2014 Report on Anti-Semitism in France Source of statistical data: Ministry of Interior and SPCJ
• Muslim rights, Rapport annuel sur l’islamophobie en Belgique