|A child among her elders in Dusseldorf, 2009|
The meeting was one of those semiformal occasions at which little is said, and a great deal of time taken in saying it. Concerned at the return of anti-Semitism to Europe within living memory of the Holocaust, I decided that the time had come to break protocol and speak plainly, even bluntly.
I gave the shortest speech of my life. Sitting directly opposite the three leaders, I said this:
So recalled the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Britain and the Commonwealth, Lord Sacks, earlier this year, against the backdrop of Germany's assault on circumcision. He went on:"Jews and Europe go back a long way. The experience of Jews in Europe has added several words to the human vocabulary -- words like expulsion, public disputation, forced conversion, inquisition, auto-da-fe, blood libel, ghetto and pogrom, without even mentioning the word Holocaust. That is the past. My concern is with the future. Today the Jews of Europe are asking whether there is a future for Jews in Europe, and that should concern you, the leaders of Europe"....
"I have argued for some years that an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age. Throughout the Middle Ages the highest authority in Europe was the Church. Hence anti-Semitism took the form of Christian anti-Judaism.
It's back, in Budapest
In the post-enlightenment Europe of the 19th century the highest authority was no longer the Church. Instead it was science. Thus was born racial anti-Semitism, based on two disciplines regarded as science in their day: the "scientific study of race" and the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel. Today we know that both of these were pseudo-sciences, but in their day they were endorsed by some of the leading figures of the age.
Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, science no longer holds its pristine place as the highest moral authority. Instead, that role is taken by human rights. It follows that any assault on Jewish life -- on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state -- must be cast in the language of human rights. Hence the by-now routine accusation that Israel has committed the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity. This is not because the people making these accusations seriously believe them -- some do, some don't. It is because this is the only form in which an assault on Jews can be stated today."
This week, coincidentally not long after a rabbi was brutally attacked (by youths of Arab origin) on a Berlin street and his six-year-old daughter threatened with murder, the second phase of research undertaken online towards a major study of antisemitism in Europe gets underway.
Says Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, who heads the Department for Equality and Citizen’s Rights at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which commissioned the research,:
"Antisemitism remains an issue of concern today, not only to Jews, but to everyone in the EU. The ways in which it manifests itself vary according to time and place, and it affects Jews living in the EU in different ways. The FRA is conducting this survey to collect reliable and comparable data on antisemitism. This type of robust evidence will assist EU institutions and national governments in taking the necessary measures that will ensure that the rights of Jewish people are fully respected, protected and fulfilled across the EU, and the survey has been specifically designed with this goal in mind."Adds Jonathan Boyd, Executive Director of the UK-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), which is conducting the survey in partnership with Ipsos MORI, and with the involvement of well-known experts in Britain, Israel, and elsewhere:
"It is clear to all observers of contemporary Jewish life that antisemitism continues to be a major preoccupation and worry in Jewish communal circles. If it is ever to be effectively tackled, it is essential to have shared, reliable data. This survey is designed to provide that data: this is an important and unique opportunity for thousands of European Jews to share their experiences and voice their concerns with policy makers working at the highest European and national levels."
|In the heart of Auld Reekie|
Data collected "will provide important evidence both for European Union and national policy makers, as well as for national and European Jewish organisations concerned with security and antisemitism" and will be used by all these "to tackle discrimination and hate crime against Jews, as well as rights awareness and under-reporting of incidents".
For further information (including, it appears, in Hebrew and Russian), and to participate in the online survey, see here
(Hat tip: reader Rita)