Many Jews know that Europe has witnessed a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the past decade. But how bad is it? Which countries pose the greatest threat? To what extent are Muslim immigrants influencing their host countries?
These questions and others are addressed in Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s latest book, Demonizing Israel and the Jews. In it, 57 journalists, academics, and politicians address various aspects of anti-Semitism – one chapter per person – under such headings as “The BBC: Widespread Antipathy toward Israel” and “Distorted Dutch Views of the Jews.”
The Jewish Press recently spoke with Dr. Gerstenfeld.
The Jewish Press: You open the book by citing several polls that indicate that 40 percent of Europeans – over 150 million people – are anti-Semitic. That is an extraordinarily high figure. Can it possibly be accurate?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: Look, I am merely quoting the numbers. The University of Bielefeld [which conducted one of the polls] has published first-rate research on discrimination for many years. There is no reason to assume that its poll is not accurate. The polls done in Norway, Switzerland, and Germany also showed similar figures.
All these polls asked either “Do you agree that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians?” or, alternatively, “Do you agree Israel behaves toward the Palestinians like the Nazis do?”
The belief that Israel is attempting to exterminate the Palestinians seems rather illogical. Israel, after all, is not a weak country. If it wanted to exterminate the Palestinians, it could have easily done so many years ago in a matter of weeks.
Look, my conclusion from this is that large percentages of the European population are as irrational as their ancestors were six or seven hundred years ago when they thought that the plague broke out because the Jews had poisoned the wells.
People generally like to think we’ve made progress since then…
Yes, people like to think that. But this proves that we are living in a world that has a totally wrong perception of itself. I think there is no structural development in the irrationality of people in the western world.
Is there no hope, then, for mankind?
Of course there is hope. But basically we should be very skeptical of the optimists and many of the people in the liberal part of society. In fact, you find among these [liberal] so-called anti-racists a lot of racists. For example, the NGOs who condemned Israel at the United Nations’ anti-racism conference in 2001 in Durban were racists dressing up as anti-racists. The United Nations Human Rights Council is a racist body even though it says it protects human rights.
Bias against Israel is so obvious sometimes that even a Spanish translator at the United Nations recently reacted to a flurry of anti-Israel resolutions by blurting out to her colleague – while her microphone was still accidentally on – “It’s a bit much, no? … There’s other really bad [things] happening [around the world], but no one says anything about the other stuff.”
Look, what do you want? Even the United States speaks about the illegality of the settlements even though it is not clear at all that the settlements are illegal. There were a thousand lawyers and jurists who recently signed a statement that Israel has full rights to settle in the West Bank. But a man like [Secretary of State John] Kerry makes statements which have no substance in law, and he speaks about it as if it’s the most normal way of [discussing the subject]. There are many things which Kerry says which aren’t logical at all.
Jewish activists often argue that Israel needs better PR to combat statements from people like Kerry. Others, however [like MK Moshe Feiglin], argue that the root of the problem is Israel’s refusal to announce forthrightly to the world, “The land is ours.” It always stresses Arab terrorism, but that doesn’t address the heart of the dispute – which is, “Whose land is it?”