What Jonathan Freedland doesn’t get

Cross posted by SnoopyTheGoon at Simply Jews

I’ve stumbled on a (new to me) appearance of Jonathan Freedland under the auspices of Open Zion section of the Daily beast, edited by Peter Beinart. It was surprising, since I thought that being a columnist for the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle makes him busy enough, without resorting to another venue. But the article, titled What U.S. Jews Don’t Get About European Anti-Semitism was interesting enough by itself.

The general purpose of the article (and the venue used), if I get it right, is to prove to American Jews that the fears displayed by some of them about the allegedly precarious situation of the European Jewry are just undue histrionics. 

The article is full of arguments in favor of this attitude: from the mistaken outcry by prof Rubin (6 years ago, what a memory!) through the finely nuanced analysis of different anti-Jewish sentiments in different European countries and the right wing extremists supporting Israel (proving what, exactly? – but let’s leave it alone) to the rosy perspective for the British Jews…

There even is an illustration of the idyllic life led by the British Jews in that article:

BritishJewsWith a capture: “Jewish men walk along the street in the Stamford Hill area of north London, Jan, 19, 2011.” Wow, man, you don’t say…  unfettered Jews working around Stamford. How cool. 

All this sounds like a serious and overwhelming tranquilizer attack, but more about it later. What really made me mad is the following: 

“Beneath these two headline cases are a hundred other lesser points of friction, often on campus, situations where Jews and Muslims have clashed, frequently over the politics of the Middle East. A consistent trend, noticed by those who monitor anti-Semitism, is a surge in anti-Jewish hatred whenever the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalates.”

One does his best, trying to ignore that “situations where Jews and Muslims have clashed”, as if European Jews are equally guilty in the “clashes”. Of course, one should be careful not to favor any side, especially when that “Islamophobia” label is circling the air, looking for another warm body to stick to – but imagine the folks like the ones in the picture above attacking innocent London Muslims…

But Freedland’s matter of fact acceptance of the inevitable “clashes” (read “European Muslims attacking European Jews”), whenever the Zionists perform their usual dastardly deed – this is what really gets my goat. Ten years ago that point of view was aired by one of the biggest stains on British journalism, one Seumas Milne, in his slimy Guardian piece ‘This slur of anti-Semitism is used to defend repression. Its lead sets the tone:

“Ending Israel’s occupation will benefit Jews and Muslims in Europe”

While it’s unclear how European Muslims will benefit, the benefit for the Jews, according to Milne, is obvious: stop the occupation and the attacks by Muslims stop.

Which, in effect, makes the European Jews into hostages for the Muslim rage, whenever and for whatever reason they become unhappy with Israel (or anything else, for that matter – after all blaming the Jooz is customary). And it’s quite painful to see how a “progressive” Jewish journalist repeats this deranged viewpoint as accepted and acceptable by using it as a side remark, without any comment.

Speaking of comments, it would be interesting to understand Freedland’s personal view of the other passage in that text:

“Others have long been alarmed by the case of Malmö, Sweden, a city whose 45,000 Muslims make up 15 percent of the population and where Jews have been on the receiving end of persistent anti-Semitic attacks—a fact denied by the town’s Social Democratic mayor, who instead criticized Malmo’s Jews for their failure to condemn Israel. As he put it, “We accept neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism in Malmö.””

Why didn’t Jonathan comment on this is unclear, and I would love to be certain he thinks what I do about that dreck of a mayor. But how could one be sure?

Very sad. And now about the general thrust of the article, the tranquilizer attack. It is hard to argue the fact that some responses, coming from US Jews to the shenanigans of the various antisemitic elements in Europe, could be over the top. But the sad tradition of European Jewry to stick its collective head into the sand and to ignore the signs of danger couldn’t be overlooked. And no matter how much Valium does Jonathan shove down our craw, a brief detour to a moment of European history could put it into perspective:

  • From hereBy the end of 1920, the Nazi Party had about 3,000 members.
  • From here: In the 1928 German elections, less than 3% of the people voted for the Nazi Party.

The humble results brought up above are easily dwarfed by current popularity of Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary etc. One would say that there are very good reasons for the Jews (and other minorities) in Europe to feel somewhat shaky, especially as the economic crisis takes it toll. But no, Jonathan has an easy answer for that one too: 

“Episodes that Americans see as evidence of growing European hostility to Jews are often understood by European Jews to be criticism of Israel—in fact, not even criticism of Israel itself, but rather of a specific strain of Israeli policy: what we might call the Greater Israel project of continuing and expanding settlement of the West Bank.”

Clumsy. Very clumsy, Jonathan.

But probably heartily approved by Peter Beinart. So be it.