|Yes We Can": Jihadists in Belgium|
It seems, as he told his late-night audience, that the affable Mr Gutman and the President have quite a bit in common. But judging from his speech in Brussels Cathedral to mark the anniversary of 9/11, and this one regarding the Palestinian admission to UNESCO, for which Belgium voted, Mr Gutman isn't blessed Mr Obama's gift of oratory.
However, what he said in Belgium on 30 November to a conference of the European Jewish Union, entitled "Fighting Anti-Semitism in Europe: What Is Next?" has certainly been heard loud and clear, and has unleashed a storm of criticism.
In his speech (full text here), which was undoubtedly approved by his political masters back home, Mr Gutman, the son of a Holocaust survivor from Poland and himself a professing Jew, said, inter alia (update: video here):
'I follow closely and think often about issues of anti-Semitism in Europe. In the past few months, Jacques Brotchi, a Federal Senator and leading neurosurgeon, quit his affiliation with a Brussels university over issues of anti-Semitism and we are in the process of following up on those developments. We have been following up since last week when a Jewish female student was beaten up at a Belgian school by other students spewing racial epithets.
....There is and has long been some amount of anti-Semitism, of hatred and violence against Jews, from a small sector of the population who hate others who may be different or perceived to be different, largely for the sake of hating. Those anti-Semites are people who hate not only Jews, but Muslims, gays, gypsies, and likely any who can be described as minorities or different. That hatred is of course pernicious and it must be combated. We can never take our eye off it or just dismiss it as fringe elements or the work of crazy people, because we have seen in the past how it can foment and grow....
So in some sense, that is the easy part of the analysis.
Let’s turn to the harder and more complex part.
What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena.... It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.
Thus for example, I have been received well by Belgians everywhere in this country. I always get polite applause and sometimes more.
But the longest and loudest ovation I have ever received in Belgium came from the high school with one of the largest percentages of students of Arab heritage. It was in Molenbeek. It consisted of an audience dominated by girls with head scarves and boys named Mohammed, standing and cheering boisterously for a Jewish American....
These kids were not anti-Semitic as I have ever thought of the term. And I get a similar reaction as I engage with imans, at Iftars, and with Muslims communities throughout Belgium.
And yet, I know and I hear at the same time that the cheering occurs for this Jew, that within that same school and audience at Molenbeek, among those at the same Iftars, and throughout the Muslim communities that I visit, and indeed throughout Europe, there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes and all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.
This is a complex problem indeed. It requires its own analysis and solutions. And the analysis I submit is not served simply by lumping the problem with past instances of anti-Jewish beliefs and actions or those that exist today among minority haters under a uniform banner of “anti-Semitism.”....
But it is the area too – both fortunately and unfortunately -- where the largest part of the solution remains in the hands of government leaders in Israel and the Palestinian territories and Arab countries in the Middle East. It is the area where every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry here in Europe.
|Islamist Antisemitism Across The Herring Pond|
I said that it is both fortunate and unfortunate that the largest part of the solution for this second type of problem – too often lumped under a general banner of anti-Semitism – is in the hands of Israel, the Palestinians and Arab neighbors in the Middle East. It is fortunate because it means that, unlike traditional hatred of minorities, a path towards improving and resolving it does at least exist. It is crucial for the Middle East – but it is crucial for the Jewish and Arab communities in Europe and for countries around the globe – that Mid-East peace negotiations continue, that settlements abate, and that progress towards a lasting peace be made and then such a peace reached in the Middle East.Were a lasting peace in the Middle East to be reached, were joint and cooperative Israeli-Arab attentions turned to focus instead on such serious, common threats such as Iran, this second type of ethnic tension and bigotry here in Europe – which is clearly growing today – would clearly abate. I can envision the day when it disappears. Peace in the Middle East would indeed equate with a huge reduction of this form of labeled “anti-Semitism” here in Europe.'
At first glance, some of this might appear plausible. However, it ignores the historical and theocratic legacy of Jew-hatred in the Islamic world, as several commentators (here's one) have been quick to point out. In what is among the best of the many sound critiques of the Ambassador's position, Elder of Ziyon, observes, inter alia:
'If his theory was correct, that Israeli actions cause Arab Jew-hatred and that diplomacy would reduce it, then the least amount of Jew-hatred in the Arab world must be seen in Egypt and Jordan, who have peace treaties with Israel.
But the exact opposite is the case - those are the states with the most hatred of Jews!'Read also this excellent take on the subject by Ted Belman,
As for the nexus between antisemitism and anti-Zionism in Belgium, see this video, uploaded earlier this year by the estimable, Belgium-based philosemitismeblog.blogspot.com/ but which has not had the amount of hits it merits:
And with regard to the attack on the young female Belgian Jewish student (a girl of thirteen viciously set upon and racially abused by five girls of Moroccan parentage) mentioned briefly in Howard Gutman's speech, Italian legislator Fiamma Nirenstein (pictured) pulls no punches:
'As chairperson of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP), I would like to express the great concern of our organization for the recent violent attack on a 13-year-old Jewish girl by five Muslim teenagers of Moroccan descent.
The assault took place on November 18th at an athletics center in Brussels. The Muslim girls beat their Jewish classmate, calling her a "dirty Jew” and telling her "return to your country.” The victim was badly injured and continued to receive threats for days following the attack.
The aggression was publicized by our colleague, Belgian MP Viviane Teitelbaum, member of the ICJP Steering Committee, who denounced the indifference of political leaders and the majority of the media toward the heinous act.
Over the last few years, we have witnessed the worsening of anti-Semitism towards the Jewish community in Belgium, which has been suffering from the vertical growth of anti-Semitic episodes, including verbal attacks, physical violence, synagogues set on fire, etc. Sadly, this is a well-known worldwide trend that is particularly sharp in Europe, as indicated in various reports on the subject, including a recently released report by the Inquiry Committee on anti-Semitism held by the Italian Parliament.
The attack against the Jewish girl in Belgium is a violent and shocking episode that takes us back to Europe’s darkest days. The local Jewish community, counting 40,000, is angry and exasperated. As the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, we express our solidarity and support for the Belgian Jewish community. It is time for Belgium to come to terms with the alarming rise in anti-semitic incidents, a fact that can no longer be taken too lightly. We invite our colleagues from all political parties, Jewish and non-Jewish, to raise their voices and undertake relevant parliamentary action to urge the government of Belgium to counter this inconceivable form of hatred.'