måndag 22 oktober 2012

Excusing antisemitism

As is well known, some Jewish communities in Sweden have been at the receiving end of a wave of antisemitism, including violent incidents. This is not coming from native Swedes but from Muslim immigrants from the middle east, or from their children. An article in Svenska Dagblad yesterday set out to explain why knowledge of the holocaust is irrelevant to the perpetrators.

The author, Helena Mechlaoui, argues that those responsible have themselves suffered from the actions of the Israel and the US, and feel that their sufferings are being ignored whilst attention is still being given to those of the Jews more than half a century ago. She appears to justfy the hostile actions on the grounds that Jews generally support the actions of the Israeli government, which is possibly true. From this she draws the conclusion that Sweden's Jews deserve what they get: bullying in schools, street attacks and vandalism of synagogues and other Jewish communal buildings.

She then goes to point out that the Holocaust was a consequence of European anti-semitism of Christian origin, and that people in the middle eastern countries are being made to pay for their guilt.

Now it is undeniable that New Testament texts can be interpreted as an incitement to antisemitism, but taking them as a whole, it is clear that such a reading would be a serious error. Historically, the church authorities at the highest level have usually spoken out against antisemitism. The waves of incidents that occurred at the time of the Crusades and again in Spain in the sixteenth century, whilst disgraceful, were exceptional. Moreover, they were motivated primarily by politics and economics rather than religious doctrine, which of course still does not excuse them. And it should not be forgotten that it was the Polish king Casimir who offered refuge to the persecuted Jews of the Rhineland at the time of the Crusades.

Mechaouli then goes into cover-up mode, with a statement that antisemitism in the middle east has no long history but began only in the twentieth century when it became clear that Jews wanted to establish their own state in the area "inhabited by Palestinians". This is obfuscation of the highest order. Antisemitism is woven into the very fabric of Islam. The prophet himself led the massacre of 600 Jewish men in the year 627. The Koran is full of passages which are an incitement to hatred of both Jews and Christians. The Muslim religious authorities have never unabiguously taken a distance from these statements, for instance by asserting that they should not be taken literally. Saudi Arabia, originally inhabited by large number of Jews, was quickly made Jew-free, and Jews in other lands where Islam came to dominate were always treated as inferior and for thirteen centuries subjected to penalties and outbreaks of violence. So the problems of the Jews in the middle east did not begin in the 1900s.For Mechaouli, who is described as a historian, to brush this under the carpet, is rank dishonesty.

Of course none of this helps the present situation. The issue that is really at stake is whether the recent Islamic immigrants to Europe, and their descendants, are to comply with the current values and standards of behaviour regarded as decent in the countries in which they have taken refuge. If they are unwilling to do so then they need to move on and take fresh refuge in countries where their views are more in line with the prevailing ethic.

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