The Past As a Yardstick: Europeans, Muslim Migrants, and the Onus of European-Jewish Histories

Amikam Nachmani. Israel Affairs. Volume 22, Issue 2. April 2016.

Various factors shape European and Muslim migrant relations; one of these is European-Jewish and European-Israeli precedents. Hitherto, this factor has not been thoroughly discussed. This article focuses on the use of recent and past histories, by all sides, when describing present and future relations between the European majority and Muslim migrant minority. This discourse often makes reference to European Jewry as a guiding precedent, as well as to Israeli Middle Eastern policies. As a result, a meaningful triangle has been formed, whose sides consist of Europeans, Muslim immigrants and Jewish communities. The shared issues between them include the painful record of European-Jewish relations and its implications for the European-Muslim encounter; the Holocaust; the European Right, its agendas concerning Jews, Muslim immigration and its surprising contacts with the State of Israel; European restrictions against Muslim and Jewish worship and religious rites; among others. Repeatedly, the Muslim issue in Europe is referred to as the Continent’s ‘new Jewish problem’. Moreover, the contemporary integration experience of Muslim migrants in Europe is compared to that of Jews in earlier ages.

The often turbulent relations between Europe and its Muslim minorities stimulate extensive discussion both within and outside the Continent. Europe’s readiness to coexist with its Muslim communities, not to exclude them from its culture and wealth, and not to forcibly Europeanize them, is repeatedly questioned. Likewise challenged is the ability and desire of Muslim migrants to change, to absorb, to adapt themselves to European standards and laws, to Western culture, and so on. Europeans, many of them secular, who have never been too tolerant of the ‘other’, or of their ‘otherness’, now confront different ethnic groups that adhere to a different religion. Europe, for centuries having marginalized religion, now faces the assertive Muslim religion. The encounter, occasionally uneasy and sometimes even painful and violent, often emphasizes the distinctions and differences between Europeans and Muslim migrants, rather than existing or potential shared values and views.

This article focuses on the use of recent and past history, by both sides, when describing present and future relations between the European majority and Muslim minority. This discourse often makes reference to European Jewry as a guiding precedent. For example, ‘[T]heir [the Muslim immigrants’] very integration, however hesitant and gradual, renders the Muslims in Europe vulnerable to the kind of treatment the old continent meted out to its Jews before the Holocaust’.

As a result, a very meaningful triangle has been formed whose sides consist of Europeans, Muslims and Jews and whose angles are their views, images and insights. The shared issues between them, as varied as the possible geometric triangular shapes are, include the painful record of European-Jewish relations and its implications for European-Muslim relations; the Holocaust; the European Right, its views and agendas concerning Jews, Muslim immigration, and its surprising contacts with the State of Israel; Muslim violence, terrorism and anti-Semitic activity against European Jews and Jewish interests; European restrictions against Muslim and Jewish rites and worship.

The future of relations between Europeans and Muslim migrants is often evaluated in the light of lessons drawn from the Jewish-European past. Repeatedly, the Muslim issue in Europe is referred to as the Continent’s ‘new Jewish problem’. Moreover, the contemporary integration and absorption experience of Muslim migrants in Europe is compared to that of Jews in earlier ages. Islamic theology is faced with the need to adjust its thinking to the new circumstances that immigrants encounter as minorities in Europe; the Jewish Diaspora’s jurisprudence is brought as a possible model for this adjustment.

These replay the similar, centuries-old Jewish adjustments to life as a minority in the various European countries. Jewish law solved the problem by recognizing the law of the receiving country (Dina de Malchuta Dina, the law of the kingdom is the law). This rule is valid as long as the kingdom does not impose extreme prohibitions that specifically contradict the Jewish law (Halacha). Clearly, it is an exceptional procedure—to introduce into a body of existing laws the law of a foreign land.

In contrast, traditional Muslim sources did not raise the possibility of Muslims living as minorities. Interaction or cooperation with non-Muslims—and by association living in regimes that are non-Muslim and/or secular—is not favoured by the Koran. True, exceptions are allowed in special circumstances. As many millions of Muslims nowadays find themselves living as minorities among non-Muslim majorities, Muslim thinkers are presently engaged in attempts to develop working interpretations of Sharia law for these immigrants. Islamic theologians are continuously refining the Fiqh al-Aqalliyat, the Muslim jurisprudence on minorities, first developed in the mid-1990s. In theory, the Dina de Malchuta Dina could serve as a model for the emerging Fiqh al-Aqalliyat. However, this suggestion raises big questions: is current Muslim theological law flexible enough to be interpreted and adapted to the new circumstances in which the immigrants find themselves? And a no less compelling question: if the adoption of Western norms means integration and assimilation that eventually lead to the loss of Jewish ethnicity and faith (‘the silent Holocaust’—see below), then Dina de Malchuta Dina is not a model that Muslims would favour.

Today, Jews and Muslims share similar religious rituals and customs that occasionally arouse criticism, reservations and objections in the European setting. Thus, commonality in this sphere might encourage cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities, both striving, for example, to remove European restrictions on male circumcision, the non-stunning slaughter of animals as required in the Halal and Kosher meat industries, bans on wearing ethnic and religious attire and on displaying faith symbols in the European secular, public sphere.

Though Muslim-Jewish similarities and potential cooperation are recognized by both sides nowadays, conflicting forces presently exist within and outside Europe that can and sometimes do set Jews and Muslims on a collision course. European Muslim anti-Semitism is presently on the rise; these clashes are all too frequent to be explained away as mere loose-cannon ‘episodes’. The recent propagation of right-wing parties, espousing anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim policies, are a common enemy of Jews and Muslims alike, and could have been a force for a united Muslim-Jewish front. Ironically, though, some European rightist elements that object to Muslim immigration are also mostly Holocaust deniers. They are also anti-Semitic at home, and stand behind many of the proposals to limit Jews’ religious freedoms, but they support Israel, perceived by them as a staunch enemy of Arabs, Muslims and Islam. This they do because, inter alia, Israel’s conflicts with the Arab and Muslim worlds are seen as the front line of the European bastion. Accordingly, anti-immigrant parties across Europe strive to develop close relations with Israel on the grounds that they have common enemies.

More so, European right-wingers are presently enjoying a bizarre development: they plan to gain legitimacy by courting Israel. They hope to brush aside their hatred of Jews, and the anti-Semitic past of their countries, thanks to their support of the Israeli cause in the Arab-Israeli conflict. A respite from the need to explain their World War II barbarity, and an opportunity to whitewash it, is thus granted to them.

This triad of tangled European, Muslim and Jewish perceptions, images and their implications is the subject of the present paper. At the intersection of the three-way relationship is the impact of Jewish-European histories, inclusive of the Holocaust, and its use as a yardstick in some of the main current encounters between Europeans and their Muslim minorities. Various factors shape European-Muslim migrant relations, and one of these is European-Jewish precedents; hitherto, this factor has not been adequately discussed. A similar factor is the individual European states and their attempts to buttress their status: the states have yielded much of their jurisdiction to the EU, but consider the issue of immigration a perfect means to re-assert their authority. Current European economic hardships; records of intolerance towards minorities; the growing impact of far-right elements, their rise to power and their objection to immigration—these and other variables affect European-Muslim immigrant encounters and mutual attitudes. To reiterate, European-Jewish histories are among several factors that contribute to the above encounter. The determinism that emanates from this history that apparently dictates mutual patterns of behaviour to Europeans and migrants does not exempt or relieve the latter from actively removing the obstacles that they have created and are responsible for. On the contrary, the past’s main mantra and legacy to Europeans and those who have recently joined them is clear: you should strive hard not to repeat me.

The Holocaust: Its Legacy, Rejection, and Implications

The legacy of the Holocaust, often measured against a theoretical and practical yardstick, is intensively used by the Muslim migrant minorities and by the European ‘white’ majority. The fate of European Jewry in World War II has become a highly prevalent, defining element of the trilateral relationship that describes the perceptions and relations between Europe and its Muslim migrants. In categorizing the Holocaust among the influencing factors, one finds that both sides use it more as a declaratory means than a practical policy to pursue. As such, it helps its users to define attitudes and views. When people need to take practical steps to cope with contemporary issues, then side by side with declarative elements that stem from European-Jewish histories they also resort to other means (see below).

One finds that Muslim migrants generally lack a readiness to accept that the Holocaust happened; the inclination is to deny it. Immigrant students are reluctant to hear and learn about it and refuse to discuss its lessons and implications (see below). This is despite the accepted history that concludes that the Holocaust is probably the most important event to occur in Europe in the modern era. Others say even before modernity: ‘But the massacre of the Jews by the Nazis seems to me to have been, without any exception, the most important and the most dreadful thing that has happened in Europe since the beginning of Christianity’. More so, the Holocaust has been Europeanized: ‘The Holocaust is not the history of the Jewish people, its history is our history’, declared French President Francois Hollande. Hence, whoever comes to Europe and does not recognize the centrality of the Holocaust, by definition separates himself from one of the most important elements that defines European history and identity.

On Symbols and Realities—The Yellow Badge and Green Star

The use of the Holocaust as a yardstick in European-Muslim migrant relations adopts various forms and modes beginning with symbols and ending with concrete policies. In spite of the aforementioned inclination to ignore the Holocaust, leaderships of European Muslim migrants do not hesitate to introduce symbols into present reality that recall the legacy of the Holocaust. The Swastika, the Jewish Star of David and Zyklon B gas canisters (the last left in the Jewish cemetery in Malmö, Sweden) arouse chilling memories.

By way of equating the way the Nazis oppressed the Jews to the way Muslims are treated today produced a call from Muslim leaders to France’s 6 million Muslims to wear a Green Star, thus branding themselves as the Nazis branded the Jews and discriminated against them. (France’s 6 million Muslims is an emotive parallel that echoes the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.) Being a symbol of a ‘less than second-class status’ and a badge of shame associated with the Yellow Badge of historic anti-Semitism from medieval times, the Green Star call protested against Islamophobia and the restrictions imposed in France on Muslim migrants—the burka and niqab laws that prohibit this attire in public spheres. Like all symbols, the French Muslims’ Green Star alludes to much more than meets the eye: majority-minority relations, the growing role of the European Right in the present relations between Europeans and Muslim migrants, the secular-religious clash on French and other European streets, the impact of the Holocaust on European-Muslim relations, and more.

However, French journalist Agnes Poirier harshly criticized those who made the call for French Muslims to wear the Green Star. She labelled it ‘the most senseless and offensive political initiative … seen in years’ that makes every Frenchman angry. She called on Muslims to find a better way to express their anger. Moreover, Poirier denounced the act as ‘obnoxious and abysmally stupid’ and not only historically and philosophically wrong, but also ‘extremely pernicious and potentially dangerous for France’s civil peace’. The niqab and burka ban that precipitated the Green Star call are also part of the triangle mentioned above; although it is perceived as a European prohibition on Muslim attire, it also bears relevance to the way observant Jews dress in public places—for example, with or without yarmulke skull cap. As symbols usually do, their impact is highly emotional and raises reactions. Yet the Holocaust has more than symbolic relevance for the tripartite relations.

The Jews Are to be Blamed for so Many Muslims in Europe

Far more Muslims reside in Europe now than Jews ever did, and Muslim immigrant numbers are rising fast. Before World War II some 9 million Jews lived in Europe. It is estimated that altogether 1.12 million Jews presently live in the EU countries in contrast to between 40 and 45 million Muslims living in Europe. Yet the question is posed: ‘Why are there so many Muslims in Europe? Answer: Because of the Jews’. Apparently, Europe’s present-day guilty conscience has become over-sensitive in response to the atrocities that the Continent inflicted on its Jews in World War II. Europe, which was extremely intolerant of its first ‘other’, namely the Jew, is now forced to demonstrate politically correct behaviour and to exhibit tolerance towards Muslim migrants. It has become problematic, for example, in Britain, because ‘”politically correct” multiculturalism … made a fetish of difference instead of encouraging minorities to be truly British’. Thus, the Holocaust, so the argument goes, has produced European political correctness, which eventually has resulted in the admission and acceptance of Muslim immigrants, and thus the creation of a multicultural Europe, ‘a community of communities’ (see below).

European tolerance towards diversity and racial harmony is in fact a camouflage for deep anxieties. Europe is described as practically helpless when facing non-Europeans. No less than ‘monsters’, they pose challenges to which the Continent, alas, cannot react. The reason, it is said, is the Holocaust; the winners are Muslim migrants:

European opinion leaders and elites were so affected by Holocaust guilt and anti-racism that they recklessly celebrated diversity and bred monsters in their midst. These worthy sentiments were transformed by ‘the pressure of mass immigration’ so that ‘post-Holocaust repentance became a template for regulating the affairs of any minority that could plausibly present itself as seriously aggrieved’ while Europeans engaged in … ‘fear masquerading as tolerance’. The main beneficiaries of Europe’s ideological sickness … were Muslims, who were ‘a living, thriving, confident European ethnic group with a lot of claims to press’.

As mentioned above, the charge against Jews is that Europe has been forced to conduct politically correct behaviour towards its Muslim migrants because in the past the Continent exterminated its Jewry. (A related meaningful question appeared in a lecture given recently in Jerusalem by the well-known British novelist Howard Jacobson: ‘Will Jews ever be forgiven the Holocaust?’ and ‘Will Jews ever be forgiven anti-Semitism?) This European behaviour is said to be behind the admittance of millions of Muslims into Europe, and resulted in the Continent desisting from enforcing its culture and norms on the immigrants. Consequently, the latter, living in ‘dish cities’, cling to their sending countries’ politics, culture and ethnicity via satellite TV channels and the Internet.

Like today’s Muslim immigrants who are described as preferring ghettoization and parallel societies, Jews were said to emphasize their separate existence, exclusiveness and rejection of universalism since Biblical times. The renowned Israeli historian Jacob Talmon (1916-1980) mentioned that, as a result, ‘[t]he Jews themselves are blamed for all the calamities that befall them. Modern nationalism is nothing but a copy of the spirit of the haughtiness of the Jewish people, who live according to the commandment: “It is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations”‘ (Numbers 23:9). A step further and one finds the notion that Nazi Germany adopted Jewish teachings of purification and exclusiveness from the Hebrew Bible. This led to the idea of purifying the German nation by removing non-German elements, by ethnically cleansing the ‘other’ by means of persecution and, finally, extermination. German nationalism as conceived by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s practised this policy to excess, beginning with the Jews as its chief victim. And all this was originally a product of Judaism, which was turned on the heads of the Jewish people. In particular, anti-Semites were glad to quote the boomerang effect that was originally created by no less than Jews themselves, and so violently turned against them.

Legacy of the Past: The Present Use of Violence

Radical Muslims often justify their recourse to violence as revenge for the wars carried out against fellow Muslims around the globe. Among these causes are the killings of Muslims in the Palestinian uprisings in 1987 and 2000; Israel’s invasions and wars in Lebanon and Gaza; the massacres of Muslims in Chechnya, Kashmir and of Gujarati Muslims in India; the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia; and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Extremists also ascribe their acts of vengeance to atrocities committed by their ex-colonial masters. In Great Britain, for example, they just claim to follow the British colonial legacy: one has but to look at the British Museum to realize that Britain robbed the world—’There is nothing British in the British Museum’. Britain,

[t]ook over my father’s homeland, the [Indian] subcontinent, they reaped the resources, they raped the lands, even now the Queen’s crown is made from jewels that don’t belong to Britain. I’ll hold my Islamic beliefs. I’m just continuing a trait of the British people.

One finds Europeans—as much as we can generalize and refer to ‘Europeans’—who are suffering from colonial guilt, and Muslim migrants who justify their present, occasionally violent deeds, claiming that they are only following the assertive example of their former colonial masters. In fact, this is colonial debt collection, tit for tat: you violently plundered me; I rob you, use violence against you. This colonial guilt is prevalent, in particular, among the Left and liberals on the European political map, and is a paralyzing drug. These circles feel guilty because of their countries’ imperialism, slavery, ethnocentrism, racism and oppression of minorities in Europe and suppression of national aspirations in the colonial world. Consequently, they reveal their understanding and even express empathy with the Muslim migrant who uses violence against the discriminatory ‘white’ majority. The result is a call for European authorities not to insist on the assimilation of the newcomer, not to block further immigration, nor to expatriate immigrants who have already arrived on the Continent.

On the other hand, the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, in reference to the October 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris carried out mainly by Muslim migrants of North African origin, sought to refute the justification for the ‘what you did to me, I do to you’ trade-off. He vehemently rejected the inevitability of violent Francophobia among Muslim migrants in France, and revealed no sympathy towards the resort to violence that uses the pretext of past or colonial atrocities. Jewish Holocaust survivors have a perfect justification to hate and act violently against the European state because of past atrocities; they generally do not, insists Finkielkraut:

I was born in Paris, but I am a son of Polish [Jewish] migrants. My father was expelled from France. His parents were expelled and killed in Auschwitz. This country [France] deserves our hatred: what she did to my parents was much more violent than she did to the [Muslim and Arab] Africans.

Colonial evils are part of the ‘triangle’: the ensuing Muslim migrants’ reactions against European Jews and Israeli interests because of Israel’s actions against its Arab neighbours and the Palestinians (see below). When one follows the analysis of the renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), then Jews, later Israelis, did pursue the tit-for-tat recipe alluded to above. Toynbee linked the establishment of the State of Israel to the genocide of European Jewry in World War II, hence to the disaster that befell the Palestinian Arabs. Christian Europeans sinned but Muslim Arabs pay the price. According to Toynbee, atrocities committed against Jews were countered by Jewish atrocities against Palestinian Arabs. The Western world was ashamed of the atrocities done to the Jews at the hands of Germany and its European allies, ostensibly Western nations. Consequently, the West sympathized with the Jews and their national aspirations and condoned the violation of Arab rights in Palestine. This cynical principle resulted in making the defenceless pay, insisted Toynbee:

The Zionists on the 14th May, 1948, had set up a State of Israel in Palestine by force of arms in a war that had resulted in more than half a million Palestinian Arabs losing their homes, in compensation for the atrocities committed against Jews in ad1933-1945, not in the Levant, but in Europe, and not by Arabs, but by Germans.

An impartial non-Western observer’s verdict would assuredly have been that, however grievously the Western peoples might have sinned against one another and against the Jewish stranger in their midst, and however desirable it might be that they should make atonement at their own expense, there was neither merit nor justice in their compensating their victims at the expense of innocent third parties.

Therefore, a painful Day of Judgment awaits the Jewish people. According to Toynbee, the quality and heinousness of Jewish outrages in 1948 against the Palestinians were graver and severer than those committed by the Nazis against the Jews and other minorities. Zionism pursued a ‘demonic effort to build a community that was to be utterly Jewish’; Nazism attempted the same for the Arians in Germany. The Nazis’ greatest sin, à la Toynbee, was not the genocide conducted against the Jews, but ‘teaching the Jews to behave like them’. Jews, however, were greater sinners than the Nazis; Jewish disciples surpassed their Nazi masters: the latter did not know ‘how it is to be exterminated’; Jews knew: ‘Jews had had much more experience than the Germans had had of the sufferings that they were inflicting’, insisted Toynbee. Drawing on his amazing storehouse of knowledge from early Greek history and mythology to evaluate modern ‘nationalistic histories’, Toynbee became the greatest ‘historical prosecutor’ of Jews and Israelis of all time. ‘On the Day of Judgment the gravest crime standing to the German National Socialist account might be not that they had exterminated a majority of the Western Jews, but that they had caused the surviving remnant of Jewry to stumble’.

Naturally, this Nazi-equals-Jewish equation is enthusiastically adopted by those who insist that the Holocaust is not unique; hence, nor is German history. Hitler’s atrocities thus have had parallels in no less horrendous sins committed by Israelis (or Stalin). Also, no wonder that Toynbee’s comparative analysis of calamities which prove that Jewish atrocities have been more appalling and dreadful than the Nazi ones brought the Muslim migrants’ persistent requests to include Toynbee’s work, A Study of History, in the syllabi of schools that teach Middle Eastern history.

A Poor Deal: Killing Jews Equals Inheriting Muslim Migrants

European Life Died in Auschwitz

[A]ll of a sudden I understood that Europe died in Auschwitz. We assassinated 6 million Jews in order to end up bringing in 20 million Muslims! We burnt in Auschwitz the culture, intelligence and power to create … the people … who is proclaimed the chosen people of God … the people who gave to humanity the symbolic figures who were capable of changing history (Christ, Marx, Einstein, Freud…).

We must admit that Europe … under the pretext of tolerance to the values of a fallacious cultural relativism, opened its doors to 20 million Muslims, often illiterates and fanatics … the poorest of the nations … who are preparing the worst, such as the 9/11 attack and the Madrid bombing, and who are…provided [for] by the social welfare.

We … have exchanged culture with fanaticism, the capacity to create with the will to destroy, the wisdom with the superstition. We have exchanged … the Jews, who … have always looked for a better, peaceful world, for the suicide bomber. What a grave mistake we made!

One gets the impression from reading the above that all the Jews of Europe before World War II were Einsteins, Freuds, Arnold Schoenbergs, etc. Instead of them came Muslim migrants—all superstitious and illiterates, all fanatics, all living on the dole, all preparing another 11 September 2001; another bombing like 11 March 2004 against the Madrid train system, all suicide bombers, and all wanting to bring death and calamity on Europe—to replace the Jews. A very poor deal indeed. The reaction of the Spanish journalist ‘Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez’ (most likely not his real name; nor is he necessarily Spanish or a journalist) is no less shocking and chilling. Hundreds of Internet sites have replicated Rodriguez’s article in more than 12 languages. This huge circulation testifies to the mood in Europe, but also to the not-so-deep analysis of present European-Muslim migrant relations. An ‘improved’ version of Rodriguez’s article, ‘All European Life Died in Auschwitz’, appeared a few years later in an unidentified Spanish newspaper. At the heart of the new version is a list of Jewish, Muslim and Arab Nobel Prize laureates. The abundance of Jewish winners (129) compared to the handful of Muslims and Arabs (11 as of 2014, including seven Peace Prize laureates) was brought to prove the argument about Europe’s extremely poor deal.

If one accepts Rodriguez’s analysis, then not much hope is left for Europe. But the process of European scientific decline started much earlier than the mass Muslim immigration to the Continent. The emigration of Jewish European scientists, mainly to North America, began in the 1920s and 1930s and indeed depleted the Continent’s scientific community. The 2004 Israeli Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, Aaron Ciechanover (shared with the Israeli Avram Hershko and the American Irwin Rose), explained ‘the Jewish anomaly’ and the Nobel Prize. Jews have largely focused on the world of learning, wrote Ciechanover. About a quarter of all Nobel Prize laureates are Jews, which is rather astonishing as Jews number fewer than 0.25% of the world’s population. One explanation for this impressive phenomenon is linked to the unique history of the Jews. Persecutions, expulsions, wanderings and escapes caused Jews to gravitate to professions focusing on knowledge—an asset that could be carried with them from one place to another—like Jewish religious studies, medicine, science, law, business, trade, diamond cutting, watch making, etc. Learning has thus become a typical Jewish occupation.

Europe’s Jewish loss was North America’s gain. The mass immigration of Muslims to the Continent was more a result of loss of manpower due to Europe’s two world wars and its decolonization than to any vacuum caused by the Jews who either left Europe or died in the Holocaust.

The German Jews’ Legacy: No Hope for Muslim Integration in Europe?

Before World War II the German Jews’ allegiance to the German state was to all intents and purposes total. Did it help them that they were so loyal, familiar, acquainted and conversant with the German state, society and culture? Did it help them that ‘they were more German than the Germans’? Did it help them the moment the European majority came to destroy them? There are those who interpret the fate of German Jewry as an admonition to Muslim migrants. More specifically, it serves as a warning for Muslim migrants not to be fooled and not to believe that Europeans will be satisfied when the migrants integrate or even assimilate into the European culture. Some Muslim migrants perceived the threat to their future in Europe and saw this as a reason to focus on their own culture; to avoid that of the receiving country; to build their own mini-sending ‘countries’ within the receiving countries; and to live and pursue a process that is perceived and defined as ghettoization and parallel societies. Surely, it is easier to avoid the bad influences of the receiving country and preserve and keep your own identity, culture, ethnicity and religion if you are not divided and isolated, but together and part of a community of immigrants of your own kith and kin.

Integration and adoption of the European culture and identity are presented as something that will not solve the clash between the migrant and the receiving country. German Jews proved this in the 1930s and 1940s. Muslim scholars in Britain maintain that Bosnian Muslims proved this in the 1990s; in particular, they blame the Serbian academic world and universities for preparing the ground for the Bosnian genocide:

An instructive illustration is provided by the treatment of Jews in pre-war Germany. Despite the fact that they were well integrated culturally … being leaders in various arenas of German culture, other reasons were readily fabricated to justify genocide.

Bosnian Muslims also contributed greatly to the cultural life of their nation. The Serbs, however, differentiated and isolated the Muslim community by creating a straw-man Islam and Muslim stereotype and by … stigmatiz[ing] Islam and Muslims as alien, backward, culturally and morally inferior, threatening and perversely exotic … Serbian orientalists, by bending scholarship and blending it with political rhetoric, defined Islam and the local Muslim community in such a way as … to make genocide acceptable.

Repeated examples of violent racist attacks on immigrants, even though the victims dressed and behaved like Europeans, were born in Europe and held local citizenships, are enumerated. These immigrants, however fully integrated, have one ‘minor’ problem: ‘they just did not change their skin’; intermingling with Europeans does not help to protect them.

Allegations are made that even a Muslim’s allegiance to his new receiving country during the naturalization process is a pretence; his first loyalty is to his native country and to his religion. Latifa Ibn Zaidan, the mother of French paratrooper Master Sergeant Imad Ibn-Ziaten who was murdered in Toulouse in March 2012 by the French Muslim Jihadist Mohammad Merhah, observed that by encouraging her son to join a French military commando unit and fight for France, ‘it is impossible to integrate more than I did. The word integration is a lie, because you could integrate as much as you wish, but the moment you have an [immigrant’s] name, another colour or an accent, you will always remain different’.

Receiving societies’ perceptions vis-à-vis immigrants from poorer places are also coloured by contempt, and Europeans are no exception: occasionally they look down at Muslim migrants. Integration then seems difficult if not remote. Indeed, the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) recommended that migrants leave a host country if they reject the very notion of integration or feel that they are unable to live within its laws, constitution and culture. (The Commission referred to this scenario as ‘dangerous’.) But cultural differences do exist, and raise serious reservations as to the relevance of integration expectations, assimilation hopes, language courses and national heritage seminars for Muslims in Europe, designed to ease and bring nearer their integration. The following quotation demonstrates the gaps between Turks (hence also between potential Turkish migrants to Europe, and by extension between immigrants from other Muslim and Arab societies), and Europeans. The differences are emphasized: Western, European and Arab social and cultural ills are exposed and presented as the opposites of Turkish merits. They do not make integration an easy option. True, the accuracy of the Turkish advantages is challengeable; they nevertheless furnish us with another explanation of why migrants do not mix with Europeans; why they (the immigrants) look down on their hosts; and why they stick to their own cultures and kin and discourage integration:

Turkish culture is very different from the West. Concepts such as strong family ties, respect for elders and unconditional love of, and commitment to children, sound like clichés in the West but form the basis of Turkish society. Loneliness is a rare phenomenon. Relationships are not based on manipulation, and the foremost motivation of individuals is not greed. The people of Turkey are enamored of foreigners, and racism seems to be distant from everyone’s mind, even though the West tries to portray Turks as ogres … On the political side, Turkey could slowly but politely let Europe stand on the sidelines while the republic looks to itself, to its other friends and to the Turkic nations of Asia. We are culturally more akin to them than to the West, with its excessive and exploitative nature, or to the Arabs, with their strange views of women and their theocratic political systems. Turkish culture, since its origins on the steppes, has always put women on the same horse as men.

Jewish integration has not been easy either, with all the detrimental exclusion and isolation consequences associated with non-integration. The Jewish emphasis on literacy was one reason for the lack of Jewish integration. The Jewish Pale of Settlement in tsarist Russia, traditionally agrarian, was perceived as the most backward and poorest part of Europe. For centuries its population consisted of landed nobility, who were often impoverished and closed to the outside world, yet arrogant and haughty, living side by side with millions of poor serfs, ignorant and woefully humiliated. In their midst were the Jews living under this feudal system, which effectively lacked an indigenous middle class; this lack of a middle class created a niche for the Jews. Underpinning the excessive spiritual and material power that Jews enjoyed, literacy, which had always been a must for hundreds of successive Jewish generations, endowed the Jews with social and economic advantages, ‘something specific to a minority subjected to a constant need to justify its separateness by means of self-projection’. And ‘[e]ven if the Jews were ready to surrender their Jewish identity and integrate within the majority that surrounded them, it is doubtful whether they could do so: the nobility was too high, the peasantry too low’.

For some (Europeans and Muslims), the presence of Muslims in Europe is perceived as probationary. The ‘probation school of thought’ claims that Europe might start deporting its Muslim migrants, and this could be just a terrorist attack away. The painful Jewish precedent is used to predict the future:

[I]n Germany … the Muslims are mostly Turkish. There they have often tended to equate themselves with the Jews, to see themselves as having succeeded the Jews as the victims of German racism and persecution … The phrase which sticks most vividly in my mind from one of them was ‘In a thousand years they [the Germans] were unable to accept 400,000 Jews. What hope is there that they will accept two million Turks?’

Bernard Lewis, the renowned historian and chronicler of Middle Eastern affairs and the source of the above quote, saw this expression as a tricky means used by Turkish Muslim migrants in Germany to undermine German opposition to them. ‘They used this very skillfully in playing on German feelings of guilt in order to inhibit any effective German measures to protect German identity, which I would say like others in Europe, is becoming endangered’.

Education, Schooling, and the Curriculum—A Battleground

The educational arena is the battleground between nationalism (i.e. the state) and ethnicity. The school curriculum is a bone of contention between Muslim migrants and the European state. The weird combination of a Muslim-African pupil and Gallic-French history is emblematic of this conflict:

In history lessons in [French] elementary schools they continue to talk about ‘our Gallic forefathers’. How is a boy who was born in France to parents who came from Senegal, Algeria or Morocco, expected to react when he is told about his Gallic forefathers? These children enter school and immediately feel their identity is divided. It starts in the kindergarten, but the state does not see a problem and … waits until the children grow up and become juvenile delinquents and law breakers. Then it sends out the police.

The poor schooling of their children is a repeated complaint by French Muslims. Muslim pupils regularly leave school unqualified to work—they are below the French average in all educational fields, including French language- and the results are marginalization and discrimination. ‘A child born [a Muslim] is already condemned to be excluded from society, because he lives in a slum and has not been educated properly … There is a ghettoization that creates an injustice’.

In France, Muslim pupils demand the inclusion of Arab and Muslim history in the curriculum, object to European history, and refuse to study the Jewish Holocaust. Some insist that the plight of the Palestinians (the Nakba, meaning catastrophe or disaster) should be taught instead of the Holocaust, or draw a parallel between the two and insist on studying both. The equation is clear: Europeans perpetrated the Holocaust against the Jews; Israelis have committed genocide against the Palestinians; but the Palestinian case tops the list:

The Palestinian Holocaust is unsurpassed in history. For a country … to be occupied, emptied of its people, its physical and cultural landmarks obliterated, its destruction hailed as a miraculous act of God, all done according to a premeditated plan, meticulously executed, internationally supported, and still maintained today, is no doubt the ugliest crime of modern times.

In addition to this, and as mentioned earlier, there is a demand that Toynbee’s A Study of History be included in the syllabi.

Also, the schooling of young Muslim migrants is problematical in a country with a colonial history. The authorities are blamed for being too soft and lenient when it comes to education of Muslim immigrants. The allegation is ‘we don’t teach anymore that the colonial project also sought to educate, to bring civilization to the savages. They [teachers] only talk about it as an attempt at exploitation, domination and plunder’. In response, some French people claim they are made to feel ashamed about their culture and values and need to apologize for their history. ‘[I]s it any wonder that the migrants rise up against it? They do not respect our country. My country has allowed them to speak Arabic and cherish their legacy at the expense of French culture. Today we pay for our indifference’.

In order to avoid conflicts, or because studying the Holocaust ‘offends’ the Muslim population, or because Muslim students claim that the Holocaust never happened, there are teachers who avoid or remove controversial issues from the syllabi. Indeed, teaching the recent history of the Middle East or commemorating the Holocaust is bound to arouse controversy or even violent views. Reportedly, in Malmö, Sweden, Muslim schoolchildren often ignored or deliberately disrupted lectures of Holocaust survivors who talked about their experience in the camps. In Amsterdam, in May 2004, after the National Commemoration of World War II victims, a small group of youths in De Baarsjes, one of the city’s predominantly Muslim immigrant neighbourhoods, played football using the wreathes laid at a monument. In other neighbourhoods anti-Semitic slogans were shouted during the commemoration. In Swedish schools, where religious studies are mandatory, sometimes pupils react very strongly when Islam is described as a religion that grew out of a tradition largely inspired by Judaism; they reject the notion that there could be any connection between the two religions. Incidentally, avoiding the Holocaust is not an exceptional case. Teachers drop from history lessons other controversial subjects such as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Teaching the Crusades is also omitted because teachers do not want to offend ‘children from certain races or religions’. Atrocities committed by the Crusaders, among others, against Muslim communities are considered the epitome of viciousness.

The request to remove the Holocaust from school curricula, lest it offend those who deny it, collides with the previously cited truism that whoever comes to Europe and refuses to recognize the Holocaust, by definition excludes himself from a primary event that defines European history and Europeanness. Still, as the following reaction suggests, perhaps one should not expect a different view from a Palestinian or an Arab immigrant, most probably from places that have seen conflicts and wars with Israel: ‘I owe you nothing. My grandfather did not kill your grandfather. If there has been any contact between them, perhaps it was your grandfather who killed my grandfather’. The situation becomes even more perplexed, and predictions about future Jewish-Muslim relations on the Continent more uncertain, when Muslim and Arab immigrants are elected to public and leadership positions in European countries. This scenario is not hypothetical or imaginary: a top candidate to succeed the current mayor of Berlin in the December 2014 elections was a Palestinian-born immigrant.

All this raises the serious issue of Holocaust denial. On 12 April 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was quoted as saying, ‘I made the visit deliberately [to Ohrdurf, a satellite forced labour camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp network, near Weimar], in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things for the future’. The September 2001 terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers is brought to support Eisenhower’s act:

[W]hen … Eisenhower [saw] the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead. He did this because he said in words to this effect, ‘Get it all on record now—get the films—get the witnesses—because somewhere down the road of history someone will get up and say that this never happened’.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended … Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets. How many years will it be before [it will be claimed] the [9/11] attack on the World Trade Centre ‘never happened’ because it offends some … in the United States?

And yet attempts to cope with the thorny Holocaust issue have been made. Because teaching the Holocaust or the Arab-Israeli conflict unsettles Muslim students, to the great relief of their teachers, the Amsterdam City Council stepped in with a solution. An educational project was organized in which peer educators—university students with a Muslim background—were invited to teach the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in secondary schools with a large Muslim population. After the first year, this peer education project evolved into a Muslim-Jewish peer education project, with an educator of each background going to school together for a series of six lessons: three on World War II and three on the Middle East conflict.

The 1930s Return

Within the 2000s ‘triangle’ of concerned Europeans, Muslims and Jews, references are repeatedly made to the precedent of the European realities of the 1930s and 1940s. The heart of the matter remains—the intolerance towards the ‘other’—though villains and victims often change places. Will Europe treat its Muslim minorities as it did its Jews? Are Muslims a threat? Are the far-right parties the new Fascists? Who has to listen carefully to the ticking bomb and be deeply concerned or even anxious: the Europeans who might be invaded and overwhelmed by political Islam, or the Muslim migrants who might experience the same hardships from Europeans, even extermination, as the Jews did?

The inevitable warning and comparison to Europe’s Jews in the 1930s produced the following: ‘Every society has to be really careful so the situation doesn’t lead us to a time when people’s minds can be poisoned as they were in the 1930s. If your community is perceived in a very negative manner, and poll after poll says that we are alienated, then Muslims begin to feel very vulnerable’. There are media attempts (some would label it as demagoguery) to distinguish and separate between the 1930s Jews and present-day Muslims. They clearly link between the ticking bomb and the migrants; it certainly adds to the latter’s vulnerability if not anxiety: ‘I don’t recall Jews carrying out suicide bombings or calling for their own form of law in Germany’. Or ‘In Nazi Germany … it was Jewish children who were rounded up to be killed. Not the Jewish children who were trained to do the killing’. Within the context of ‘distinctions’ between children, one could recall John Ashcroft, the US Attorney General in the George W. Bush Administration (2001-2005), who reportedly described Islam (later denied), as ‘a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you’.

It is amazing how both sides, Europeans and Muslim migrants, are quick to carry their reactions to the extreme. Europeans lament the idiocy of their having gassed the Jews; graffiti in Muslim ghettos, written by Muslims themselves, warn of gas chambers that will be used against Muslims. The 1930s thus return. ‘Whites’ complain that Europe is too tranquil and heedless. The Continent should wake up, watch, listen and perceive an imminent Muslim peril. Alas, the majority of Europeans are described as remaining complacent in the 2000s, just as the democracies ignored or appeased the approaching Nazi threat in the 1930s. In the context of this ignored imminent threat, some argue that for the most part German Jews were in denial at the approaching danger of Nazism. ‘Do you really want me to quote from the [1930s] newspapers’ headlines how Jews defended the Nazi regime that came to power in 1933, and argued that whatever has been said about Hitler and the Third Reich is one big slander? We have already been in this story before, and we are within it now, at this very moment’. Similarly, anti-Jewish riots in Oslo in early 2009 drew parallel comparisons with the 1930s: democracy then tolerated the Nazis; are we doing the same now?

In the name of democracy and freedom of expression, we apparently tolerate people openly attacking democracy and freedom. How is that possible? Have we learnt nothing from the 1930s? Have we forgotten that the NSDAP [Nazi Party] gained power in Germany by electoral means, on a program that called for the destruction of that very system?

Alternatively, European Muslims warn against impending catastrophes emanating from intolerant, right-wing, white European racists who discriminate, inferiorize and are bigoted against them and treat them violently or plot their extermination, the same as their predecessors behaved towards European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. ‘Are Muslims the Jews of Today?’ was the title given to a discussion among Scandinavian scholars who found resemblance between the way Jews were dehumanized in wartime Europe and the way Muslims are treated today.

Swedish writer and publisher Jan Guillou notes that Nazi-style rhetoric employed against the Jews is now targeted against Muslims. The Nazis declared that all Jews belonged to an international conspiracy to control the world; Hitler’s Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ‘prove’ this. Islam holds up the Koran. It commands every Muslim to fight an uncompromising holy war against non-Muslims. What happened to the Jews, claims Guillou, is now happening again, only this time Muslims are the victims of this hatred, and those Muslims living in Europe are perceived as the spearhead of the campaign to Islamize Europe. Muslim population growth—presently uncontrollable but might be checked in the future—is described as a conspiracy, as a cunning means to be used for political targets. It is said that Islam has a limited time—now or never—to achieve its goal of world supremacy through the exploitation of the poor Arab and Muslim masses. Currently, the West in general, and Europe in particular, are ageing and weak, economically sick, and socially and politically passive and fragmented. Hence the crucial importance of timing, let alone that a secular Europe means an unarmed Europe when facing the actively advancing Muslim religion. Since the mass migration of the presently 30-40 million unemployed or refugee Arabs will be heading to Western Europe, Armageddon will be fought out on European soil:

The Middle East and North Africa are a long-term demographic nightmare. The US Census Bureau estimates that the Middle East is a region where the population will nearly double between now and 2030. Some of the most important, and sometimes troubled, countries in the region will experience explosive population growth. Population growth represents major problems for infrastructure. Much of the region has become a permanent food importer. Employment and education will become critical challenges to regional stability. All these and other features make the Middle East less competitive with the leading developing regions despite the recent boom in oil prices. The trends in population growth actually represent potential threats to security and stability … [A]bout 2010 the pool of unemployed Arabs is expected to reach 25 million. True, this is first and above all an Arab problem … In the focus on the political processes in the Middle East, the demographic issue goes almost unnoticed, although this is the very source of future problems. However, we just ask: what will become of those 25 million idle young men in an Arab world where violence and terrorism seem to be generated by local as well as regional and international political interests, where the perspectives seem locked up and the future unsafe? What would we do if some reports claiming that the next ‘civilization clash’ will not spare the West, since some Islamic thinkers believe that Islam has one generation in which to establish a global theocracy before hitting a demographic barrier? Islam has enough young men, they claim, to fight a war during the next 30 years.

Incidentally, the above population and job-creation estimations might be too optimistic, which makes doomsday predictions closer and more threatening. Latest calculations are that the Middle East needs no fewer than 170 million new jobs by 2020. The inevitable gloomy warning that follows this incredible figure is very clear: ‘If we can’t tackle this issue, we are going to be responsible for the largest talent pool for extremism’.

It is argued that, religiously, Jews could not integrate into Continental society and therefore paid dearly. Alas, similar behaviour characterizes the Muslim migrants. The comparison is evident:

There is a pervasive assumption in the media and public culture that Muslims in Britain are immune from integration because of their religious attachment to a scriptural text (the Qur’an) and foreign law (Sharia), in the same way that Jews were previously perceived as being wedded to the Old Testament and the Talmud.

The critics add that the Koran was relevant in its historical context, but in no way can present-day Muslims claim that every word of it has relevance, especially not the Koranic inevitable, violent or inferior fate that awaits the secular world. Some antagonists have therefore declared the Koran a dangerous, illegal publication, as did the Dutch right-wing Freedom Party (PVV). The party demanded that the Dutch parliament follow suit: ‘Enough is enough. Ban the Koran [which] is a fascist book … that is why this book, just like Mein Kampf, must be banned’.

In this context of apparent resemblance between the 1930s and the 2000s and the similarities between Jews and Muslims, one has to pay attention to the September 2009 warning of Britain’s John Denham, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Governments. He pointed at Britain’s far-right actions to provoke Muslim migrants and recalled the 1930s right-wing marches into Britain’s Jewish neighbourhoods aimed at provoking violence and riots; similar marches occur during the 2000s in Britain’s Muslim neighbourhoods with the aim of achieving the same. The far-right with its hard-line, nationalist, anti-immigrant policies is presently on the rise across Europe, particularly among young men under 30, who are most likely to be unemployed. The Secretary of State spoke about the English Defence League’s provocations in Muslim districts, and ‘the spectre of a return to 1930s fascism, warning of “parallels” between right-wing groups planning protests in Muslim neighbourhoods and Oswald Mosley’s incendiary marches through Jewish East London in the 1930s’.

A Bizarre Combination: Holocaust Deniers, Anti-Semites, Anti-Muslims, Pro-Israeli Right-Wing

The primarily Jewish Holocaust that both Europeans and Muslim migrants point to as a yardstick also displays a bizarre, distorted triangular shape. Right-wing Europeans, among them Holocaust deniers and ardent anti-Semites, frequently decry Arab and Muslim migrants. A simplistic description would have stopped here. But these very circles also consider it ‘natural’ to show sympathy for Israel, perceived by them as a staunch enemy of the Arab nation and Muslims. Accordingly, anti-immigrant parties across Europe strive to develop close relations with Israel, because in their view they share a common enemy. European right-wingers, nationalists and fascists are presently engaging in a freakish turn: they aim to gain legitimacy by courting Israel. They hope to brush aside their hatred of Jews and the anti-Semitic past of their countries, thanks to the support they grant to the Israeli cause in the Arab-Israeli/Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A respite from the need to explain away their 1939-1945 savagery and to whitewash it is thus granted them.

It should be recalled, writes Samuel Goldman, that the same right-wing parties have been behind many proposals to limit Jewish religious freedoms. Some see the proposed bans on circumcision, ritual slaughtering and distinctive religious attire as aimed primarily at Muslims. Jewish law, however, prescribes similar practices. The result is that anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment amounts to anti-Semitism or, more accurately, anti-Judaism.

Declarations of support for Israel coupled with anti-Muslim and anti-Arab immigration policies make European right-wingers more acceptable, as in the case of Holland’s PVV leader Geert Wilders. Various groups, like the Middle East Forum in the US (a Philadelphia-based pro-Israel think tank), whose agenda is to counter Islamic influence in the West, funded Wilders’ police protection and paid his legal defence against charges of inciting anti-Muslim racial hatred.

The liberal, left-of-centre Israeli Haaretz newspaper highlighted this curious recent phenomenon of declared anti-Semites (and anti-Muslims) who support Israel in an article titled ‘The Unholy Alliance between Israel’s Right and Europe’s Anti-Semites: Extreme Nationalists in Israel Have Invited Extremists in Europe and Believe They Have Tamed Them to Their Cause’. Adar Primor opens his lengthy article with news of the visit of Dutch MP Geert Wilders—’almost a permanent guest in Israel’, who reportedly ‘voiced innumerable pearls of wisdom such as “Without Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] Israel cannot protect Jerusalem”‘. Another invitee has been the Belgian politician Filip Dewinter,

a leader of the Vlaams Belang Party, a successor to the Flemish National Movement, many of whose members collaborated with the Nazis … In 1988, he [Dewinter] paid his respects to the tens of thousands of Nazi soldiers buried in Belgium, and in 2001, he opened a speech with an oath used by the SS.

Yet another right-wing emissary to land in Israel was Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s Freedom Party, whose record shows an anti-Semitic past and an association with neo-Nazism. ‘The Austrian press reported this week that the whitewashing undergone by Strache here in our Land of Milk and Honey [Israel] could well pave his way to the Chancellor’s office’, writes Primor.

The highlight of these strange visits described in the Haaretz article was that of Louis Aliot, who visited Israel in December 2011. He is the partner of the French rightist presidential candidate Madame Marine Le Pen and his mission was to persuade Israelis eligible to vote in the French presidential election to give their support to Le Pen’s National Front. According to Aliot, ‘This is the first time a National Front leader has visited Israel. It’s true that relations were tense for a time, but it’s time to warm up the atmosphere’—referring to the National Front’s roots in French fascism and its racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic leanings. The current common denominator à la Aliot is simple: ‘Just as the Jews are defending their right to [the State of] Israel, we in France are fighting to defend our identity and our land’. The common fear of Islam thus helps to build bridges over wide and deep racist rifts.

Aliot challenged the ability of Muslim immigrants to integrate in France because Islam and republicanism could not cohabit. Muslim migrants should therefore repatriate to the Arab countries where they can live according to their Arab ethnicity. Madame Le Pen’s infamous anti-Jewish past should not be permitted to haunt her, nor should she be judged according to past atrocities, memories, declarations or lessons, and last but not least, ‘She has a charming look … She does not look scary or intimidating, on the contrary: she looks nice, she always smiles, she is blond, and she looks like us’. Madame Le Pen is described as a changed person, and certainly different from her extremely far-right father, Jean Marie, who was accused of Holocaust denial and convicted of racism. ‘She belongs to a generation that never knew war, any war; her perspective is different from that of people who went through wars’. Controversial as it may sound, Israeli cooperation with Marine Le Pen and her ilk seems to some Israelis a prudent path to pursue; and as the interview with Aliot shows, what is permissible to say in one country is still taboo and considered not politically correct in the other:

We don’t always see eye-to-eye on Israel’s foreign policy but we have the same position on the dangers posed by radical Islam, which exists in Europe and also threatens Israel, which we call ‘the Western island’ …

Today there is a global problem of immigrants, and here there is a specific problem of the rise of religion, what we call Islamization …

The Frenchmen we met in Israel all strongly believe that Marine [Le Pen] is not the monster they might have thought. They share our stance with regard to immigrants in France …

By contrast, we have a very balanced position on the [Arab-Israeli] peace process, while the French people we met in Jerusalem are far more nationalistic. Sometimes they say things that we can’t say in France.

The 2011 Breivik Attack: Far-Right Terrorism, the Israeli/Jewish Conspiracy

The rise of the far-right is now discernible in liberal Western countries such as those in Scandinavia, hitherto thought immune to trends seen in Britain, The Netherlands and France. The Andreas Breivik attack in Oslo on 22 July 2011 was particularly vicious. His first assault on government buildings resulted in eight deaths. Later the same day, Breivik massacred 69 people, mostly teenagers, in a Workers’ Youth League camp of the Norwegian Labour Party on Utoya Island, north-west of Oslo. In all Breivik killed 77 and wounded 242 innocent people.

The chief motive for the attacks, specified by Breivik himself, was his obsessive and extreme objections to multiculturalism. Breivik expressed his loathing for the creation of ‘Eurabia’. He made clear his abhorrence of Muslim immigrants and objected to the individual European national governments’ admission of Muslim migrants; he called for the aggressive and, if necessary, violent expulsion of all Muslim immigrants from Europe in defence of Continental Christendom.

One of Breivik’s friends argued that the killer’s motivation stemmed from his lack of high school and university qualifications that made him fall further and further behind his peers. Yet in ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’, an extremely long manifesto of 1516 pages, distributed electronically to thousands of people just an hour or so before his attack in Oslo, Breivik claimed to be a self-declared ‘warrior in the present European civil war’. In 1683, the Ottoman thrust into Europe was stopped at ‘the gates of Vienna’. Hence, the symbolism of Europe’s successful resistance of Islam. Breivik predicts that by the year 2083, four centuries after 1683, following a long and bloody civil war, all European Marxists will be eliminated and all Muslims expelled from the Continent. Note that Breivik’s way of eliminating the ‘other’ (i.e. the massacre of July 2011) was not directed against immigrants but against Norwegians who support immigrants’ rights.

Incredibly, among the ‘explanations’ given for Breivik’s atrocities was a Jewish/Israeli conspiracy, the act of agents-provocateurs to foment anti-Islam retaliations in the West. Accordingly, Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, uses these agents as a ‘Shabbat Goy‘ (see below) who are often not aware of this manipulation. When it comes to Muslim agents-provocateurs, the rationale behind the Mossad’s sophisticated capacity to manipulate them is ‘obvious’ and is to be found in no less than an inherent defect in Muslim mentality:

The Mossad can ‘motivate’ any Muslim group to become ‘terrorists’ … The Muslims are often emotional and unsophisticated … rather lousy material for terrorists. They bomb and then usually declare to the whole world that they did it; which is exactly what the Mossad wanted them to do, or instructed them to do.

Notwithstanding that Breivik was not Muslim, operating and manipulating him as agent-provocateur was also in Israel’s interest: it was done to ‘discipline’ Oslo for its indication that Norway was prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, had the Palestinian Authority proclaimed independence. Breivik and ‘the Judeo-Christian side of his network’ were paying Norway back for the July 1973 arrest of the Israeli agents following a botched Mossad operation in the town of Lillehammer in which a hit squad mistakenly killed a Moroccan waiter. Their intended target was Ali Hassan Salameh, a leading Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the September 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes.

Accordingly, the aim of Jewish/Israeli interests was to arouse Norwegian anger against Muslim migrants and to ‘punish’ Norway. Thus Breivik, in committing crimes for the Jewish state, became the Jews’ Shabbat Goy, the non-Jew who performed certain services, like lighting a fire for Jews on the Sabbath which, were a Jew to do it, would desecrate the day of rest. Hence, Breivik, motivated by Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-Communism (all portrayed as Israeli interests), creates a link between the Shabbat Goy (those who act at the behest of the Jews) and Israeli Zionist strategy. All this, claimed the supporters of the conspiracy theory, sounded ‘very sensible and logical’ and ‘clearly’ and ‘convincingly’ led to an Israeli/Jewish involvement in Breivik’s massacre. In fact, this and many other calamities, as quoted by anti-Semitism researcher Gunther Jikeli and Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Centre, had their origin in the same ‘convincing logic’ which ‘totally supports’ all the above pertaining to Jewish and Israeli involvement, and corroborates the following:

This 9/11 thing, I don’t believe it was actually Muslims who’ve done that. This is just bullshit because … these two planes would not have taken this building down … And it’s not only that. When the bomb went off … there’s so many Jews working in that block. None of the Jews were working that day, so what happens here? … It’s all planned out.

Among others, Professor Ola Tunander, a researcher at the renowned Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), presented this Breivik conspiracy analysis. Tunander published his work on the collusion between Breivik and Israel in the Norwegian academic journal Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift (New Norway Journal). Tunander claimed that the date of Breivik’s homicidal rampage on 22 July 2011 was chosen to recall the 22 July 1946 Jewish terrorist bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, which housed the administrative headquarters of the then British Palestine Mandatory Government. Incredibly, for Tunander this constituted the ultimate evidence linking the Mossad to Breivik’s attack. Not surprisingly, Tunander’s explanations were not accepted by all. One of the reactions against Tunander’s theory maintained, ‘There is about as much evidence to link Israel to the Breivik attacks as there is to New Zealand’. One finds it rather easy to second the following comment: PRIO is a respectable research centre, and ‘This [Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift] is a peer-reviewed journal, so what the hell is wrong with the reviewers and the editor to allow such a slanderous and bizarrely nuts article into what is supposed to be an academic journal?’

Israeli-born Gilad Atzmon is another chief proponent of the Sabbath Goy theory. Alas, his theory about Breivik’s Israel/Jewish connection is no less hallucinatory and grotesque than is Tunander’s. Atzmon, a gifted jazz saxophonist, novelist and writer who lives in London, renounced his Israeli citizenship and persistently advocates anti-Israel views in his publications via numerous Internet sites such as Al Jazeera TV. On 24 July 2011, two days after the Oslo event, Atzmon presented his views on his Internet site. Here he reports on an interview with the Norwegian AUF’s (Labour Party’s youth movement) leader Eskil Pedersen, given to Norway’s Dagbladet newspaper two days before the massacre.

Pedersen stated that he ‘believes the time has come for more drastic measures against Israel, and [that he] wants the Foreign Minister to impose an economic boycott against the country … [and] we in Labour Youth will have a unilateral economic embargo of Israel from the Norwegian side’.

[Atzmon comments]: ‘Yesterday we also learned that the mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik was openly enthusiastic about Israel. … I am not in a position at present to firmly point a finger at Israel, its agents, … but assembling the information together, and considering all possibilities may suggest that Anders Behring Breivik might indeed, have been a Sabbath Goy … [who] kills for the Jewish state … even … voluntarily. Being an admirer of Israel, Behring Breivik does appear to have treated his fellow countrymen in the same way that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] treats Palestinians. … [I]n Israel, Behring Breivik found a few enthusiastic followers who praised his action against the Norwegian youth’.

[According to a] Hebrew article that reported about the AUF camp being pro-Palestinian and supportive of the Israel Boycott Campaign, I found the following comments amongst other supporters of the massacre: ‘It’s stupidity and evil not to desire death for those who call to boycott Israel. … We have a bunch of haters of Israel meeting in a country that hates Israel in a conference that endorses the boycott [on Utoya Island]. So it’s not okay, not nice, really a tragedy for families, and we condemn the act itself, but to cry about it? Come on! We Jews are not Christians. In the Jewish religion there is no obligation to love or mourn for the enemy’.

[Atzmon blogs in conclusion:] Western intelligence agencies must immediately crackdown on Israeli and Zionist operators in our midst, and regarding the terrible events of the weekend, it must be made clear who it was that spread such hate and promoted such terror, and for what exact reasons.

European-Muslim-Jewish Relations: Mixed Futures

The encounter between Muslims and the West has never been easy. On the other hand, several issues that exert detrimental effects on the European-Muslim perspective are largely missing in the relations that Jewish minorities have had with their European host countries. European Jews are generally full citizens, eligible to vote and to run for office. In comparison, many of the Muslim migrants, including second and third generations, are disenfranchised. Only about 3 million Muslims living in France—less than half their population—are eligible to vote. About 1.5 million, that is, around 50%—are allowed to vote in Britain.

Unlike Muslims, Jews neither want to nor are obligated to spread their faith. On the contrary, Judaism discourages converts. (Judaism does its utmost to deter converts: male circumcision—a must in order to be accepted into the Jewish religion—also has a very strong discouraging effect against joining the faith). Not only do the Jewish people seek not to increase their numbers through conversion, but integration and assimilation of Jews into mainstream population also exerts a heavy toll on the population of Jewish minorities. For example, in the 2000s the rate of assimilation among American Jews was 58%, and 71% among non-orthodox American Jews. (For comparison, in the 1970s assimilation among Jews was 17%).

Those Jews who do practise religious rites are a minority. Intermarriage is common throughout Jewish communities in the Western world. According to the Jewish law, Halacha, the offspring of a marriage between a Jewish man and non-Jewish woman is not considered Jewish, while children born to Jewish mothers, whatever the father’s faith, are defined as Jews in Jewish law. The phenomenon has been dubbed as no less than the ‘Silent Holocaust’ or the ‘Sweet Holocaust’. The post-war European guilt and Western politically correct behaviour towards Jews, as discussed above, has played a large part in the assimilation process.

The almost complete absorption of the most recent Jewish generations into European populations and the subordination of Jewish law to the laws of the receiving country (Dina de Malchuta Dina) are not models Muslim migrants are likely or willing to emulate. The result of integration would mean the loss of ethnicity and faith, which is not something that Muslims would favour. The irony of Islamophobia is that it helps Muslim migrants guard against cultural and religious dilution.

A good example that reflects the obstacles before the possibility of Muslim integration into Western cultures is the reaction to the renowned Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan’s suggestion in March 2005 to cancel corporal punishment (flogging, stoning, amputation of limbs and the death penalty) as demanded by Sharia law, which Western societies consider unacceptable. If Ramadan’s suggestion is accepted, the Muslim Friday prayer is in danger:

According to Ramadan, ‘these [corporal] penalties are applied almost exclusively to women and the poor, the doubly victimized, never to the wealthy, the powerful, or the oppressors’. … Ramadan’s call is based [in part] on the argument that … by maintaining a superficial relationship with scriptural sources, ‘we betray the message of justice of Islam’.

The ulamas‘ [religious scholars’] responses to his call were negative. ‘If we call today for an international moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty, then tomorrow I am so worried that they may ask Muslims to suspend their Friday prayer’.

Europeans share similar concerns that a few concessions to Muslims might lead to an avalanche of other demands, to a slippery slope: ‘What next [will Muslims ask for]? Will Easter eggs be banned from the city [Brussels] because they make us [Muslims] think of Easter?’ In Brussels protesters pointed to a pattern that might follow the scrapping of the traditional Christmas tree in the Grand Place—that is, a ban on Christmas trees in the city’s law courts, the suppression of religious symbols in schools, and removal of pork from school canteens.

European Jewish history, particularly the Holocaust, could paralyse Europe’s relations with its Muslim minorities. The point has been made that because of the genocide of the Jews in the 1940s, Europeans today are compelled to conduct themselves in a different manner towards their minorities (‘You can’t repeat now what was common and tolerated in 1933-1945’). In that case we are talking about a positive paralysis. Another bizarre interpretation is that Jews are held responsible for their own fate; their extermination is the reason for the European helplessness vis-à-vis the Muslim immigrants. Or, again, in the words of Anglo-Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson, ‘Will Jews ever be forgiven the Holocaust? Will Jews ever be forgiven anti-Semitism?’

Warnings continue to arise out of the specific history of German Jewry: namely that no matter how successful their integration, minorities should be ever on alert for a precarious if not impossible future in Europe. What has been described as the imminent return of the 1930s is a shocking prospect, and lack of vigilance could easily lead to a repetition of various phenomena that prevailed in the 1930s and 1940s. The possibility of this menace recurring is thrown out by both Europeans and Muslims against the other side (as much as one can generalize about a certain attitude representing the view of ‘all’ Europeans or ‘all’ Muslims). One way or another, the past serves as a warning, telling us: do not repeat my mistakes. In that sense, the past is also a prophylactic.

Whether emanating from the European majority or migrant minorities, anti-Semitic factors in Europe (as well as in other places) are symptomatic of much deeper and larger societal and ideological crises. It happened in the socially and politically sick European systems during the 1930s and has since repeated itself. (Also earlier, whenever the Russian tsarist regime weakened and Russian social systems collapsed, these downswings were reflected in anti-Jewish pogroms.) The question Europeans must face up to is whether there is a chance that the Continent will ever behave differently towards its minorities. Can Europe ever outgrow the brutality and savagery it has regularly displayed towards the minorities in its midst throughout history, including in modern times?

As our investigation has shown, measures taken against Muslim immigrants can also affect Jews. In fact, laws and directives directed against Islamic tenets (the halal method of slaughtering animals for food, male circumcision, etc.) are perceived by some as primarily aimed at Jews and Judaism. But in order to disguise the true target—post-war, post-Holocaust, European Jewry—it is more prudent to initiate a conflict with Muslim migrants.

As usual, the media and public opinion tend to pay more attention to divisions and controversies than to areas of common interest. Yet common interests do exist between Europe’s Muslim immigrants and Jewish communities. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s resolution on ritual male circumcision, passed in October 2012, and Europe’s non-stunning slaughtering policy have produced cooperation and mutual support in the Jewish and Muslim communities. In light of their common stands against European restrictions, Muslim migrants keep a low profile and leave the struggle to the Jewish community because, as noted, the European authorities find it harder to deal with Jewish objections. Moreover, Jews are citizens whereas the majority of Muslim immigrants are not, an element that makes the latter easier prey.

Also, the individual Continental nations are undergoing an ‘identity crisis’, which impacts on the European-Muslim-Jewish triangular relationship on countrywide and local levels. The establishment of the European Union has reduced the powers of the individual states to govern themselves. Thus, countries now look to other areas like minorities and immigrants to prove their regnant status and unique nationalism. ‘It’s as though some Europeans are confused about their identity and are now trying to construct individuality in opposition to Islam’. Alternatively, in most cases the separate European states are practically left alone to deal with the inundation of refugees and immigrants. The ‘supranational approach’ that, for example, authorities in southern, Mediterranean Italy are yearning for from the EU and the UN fail to emerge. Some 59,880 would-be asylum seekers and refugees landed on Italian coasts between January and June 2014 alone—almost as many as in the whole of 2011, which had held the record. Altogether, some 165,000 migrants reached Europe in the year 2014, with Italy alone receiving 140,000 of them. (‘My volunteers are really, really tired. I am very afraid. … We continue to talk of an emergency about migrants … it’s not possible to talk about an “emergency” after 20 years. … We need to have a plan’.) ‘We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery’, lamented Pope Francis I to European legislators, repeating the cruel fact that the Mediterranean has become a graveyard for thousands of migrants. ‘In this sense, the seek-and-rescue operations would be a quixotic effort … in absence of a more coordinated effort on the European level.’ Still, while there are tough European restrictions on tuna fishing, hardly any effective policies pertaining to (alas, dead) migrants have been legislated, which shows how immigration is practically excluded from EU jurisdiction, leaving the individual member states to cope with:

A Europe that tells the Calabrian fisherman that he must use a certain technique to catch tuna, but then turns its back where there are dead bodies in the sea [of drowned illegal immigrants], cannot call itself civilized.

Issues relating to the temporal vs. religious in the public sphere, many of which were established since the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and resolutely resolved in favour of secularism, are re-emerging today in Europe. Consequently, the secular European states are individually facing Muslim religious demands in the public and cultural spheres. At the local level a mayor or city council are likely to find it difficult to yield to religious demands, for these authorities are usually born in a Europe that for centuries has marginalized religion and practically and officially lived without it. Also, modern Christianity no longer exhibits its ‘triumphalist attitude’ of old when facing the ‘triumphalism’ that characterizes the younger Muslim religion. A passive and even impotent Christianity seems to be caught off-guard by an active, energetic Islam whose interests, moves and policies are gaining ever more traction. In contrast, programmes like the British Council’s ‘Our Shared Europe’ emphasize histories and narratives as well as current events in which Europeans and Muslims have acted together to pursue common interests. ‘Our Shared Europe’ clarifies that the word ‘Muslim’ for its purposes signifies those who profess the Islamic faith, as well as those originating from Muslim cultural backgrounds and states. ‘One of the project’s central themes [is] the substantial and multifarious contributions made by Muslim individuals and communities to European culture and identity.’

Terrorism and Anti-Semitism: The Kidnapping and Murder of Ilan Halimi

It would be inaccurate and dishonest if, in recounting the (not so many) similarities and shared values and beliefs, we gloss over the conflicting forces that presently exist in Europe and occasionally launch Jews and Muslims on a collision course. A sharp increase in violent anti-Semitic incidents has lately (2014) been noticed in Western Europe, particularly in Germany and France. (In France there were 527 such incidents during January-July 2014; in January-July 2013 there were 276 incidents). In May 2014 the Jewish Museum in Brussels was attacked and four people were murdered in a blaze of gunfire. Earlier, in September 2012, a grocery store was bombed in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles. In July 2012 five Israeli tourists and their local driver were killed by a suicide bomber in Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. In March 2012, three Jewish children and their rabbi were murdered at the Ozar HaTora religious school in Toulouse. All these terrorist attacks were perpetrated by Muslims. Another common thread is the conflation of Jews with Israeli conduct that leads to a spike in anti-Semitic incidents, in particular when the conflict in the Middle East escalates.

But January-February 2006 is considered by many a crossroads in the relations between Muslims and Jews in France, where Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations live. Some would say that a new chronology started up in January-February 2006 and has carried on since then. The reason: a young French Jewish man of Moroccan parentage by the name of Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured for three weeks and eventually murdered on 13 February 2006. The murder was motivated by money, but there are very strong reasons to believe that anti-Semitism was the fundamental explanation. This was the first inter-ethnic or inter-religious killing of a French Jew by a non-Jewish French person since 1945. Some have labelled the Halimi case as the ‘new anti-Semitism’, emanating from the Muslim and black African minorities. The event was compared to the Alfred Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s and linked to infamous conduct during World War II when the French Vichy government enthusiastically rounded up their Jews, including children, and turned them over to the Nazis for extermination.

During the three-week period, Halimi’s kidnappers, at least 19 of them, tortured him, beating him all over his body, especially his testicles, completely wrapping his head in duct tape, except for his mouth, so he could breathe and eat through a straw, stabbing him, burning his body and face with lighters and cigarettes, sodomizing him with broom sticks and breaking his fingers. Halimi’s captors shaved his head and sliced his cheek with a knife, photographed him with blood running down his face, and emailed the picture to his family. As the days wore on, his captors turned increasingly cruel, stripping off his clothes and beating, scratching and cutting him. A burning cigarette was pressed into his forehead. They urinated on him, kept him naked, scratched him, cut him with knives, and finally poured gasoline on him and set him on fire. Reportedly, neighbours came by to watch and even participated in the torture and no one called the police; the silent bystanders were thus complicit in the crime.

On the evening of 13 February 2006, Halimi was found in a wood behind the Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois train station south of Paris. He was naked, bleeding from at least four stab wounds to his throat, handcuffed, adhesive tape covering his mouth and eyes, and bound with nylon rope to a tree about 36 metres inside a woodlot near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris. More than 80% of Halimi’s body had been burned with acid, as well as gasoline (possibly to destroy evidence of his captors’ DNA), to the point that he was difficult to recognize. He had severe contusions, blood blisters and hematomas covering most of his body, to the point that he was more blue than flesh-coloured. He suffered multiple broken bones, one ear and one big toe missing, and his testicles looked like ‘blackened oranges’. Halimi died en route to a hospital.

Though France recorded over 1500 anti-Semitic incidents in the two years before Halimi’s killing—venomous graffiti, vandalism, swastikas painted on synagogues and gravestones, attacks on Jews in public places—this was, as mentioned above, the first occasion since World War II that a Frenchman was killed by a Frenchman because he was Jewish. (Palestinian terrorists killed six people in the popular Chez Jo Goldenberg Jewish Deli in the Paris Marais district in 1982. Earlier, in October 1980, Palestinians planted a bomb in a motorcycle saddlebag outside the Jewish synagogue in Rue Copernic, in 16th Arrondissement of Paris. Four were killed. This was the first fatal attack against France’s Jewish community since the Nazi occupation in 1942. The Palestinian who placed the bomb was arrested in Canada in October 2007).

Halimi’s killers belonged to the Gang des Barbares (the Gang of Barbarians). They included people of different backgrounds: the children of blacks from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean; Arabs from North Africa; at least one Iranian; and whites and non-Muslims from Portugal and France. The majority were, at least nominally, Muslims. The authorities in France prosecuted 27 people, accused them of entrapment, kidnapping by an organized group that resulted in death, acts of torture and barbarism, failing to assist a person in peril, and premeditated murder. All but three were found guilty. The gang leader Youssouf Fofana, who was born in France to a Muslim family, fled to his parents’ homeland, Ivory Coast, but was extradited back to France. He received a life sentence, eligible for parole not before 22 years. All the convictions were upheld on appeal in December 2010, in the appeals court in Creteil, near Paris.

To show that the Halimi case was part of a wider storm that rages in Europe, memories of Josef Mengele who experimented on Jews during World War II were evoked. It was said that this Nazi doctor now has a parallel in Ilan Halimi’s torture and murder. Then came the virulently anti-Semitic, anti-American Turkish film Valley of the Wolves, which was shown to ‘cheering’ Turkish communities in Germany and also became a hit in Turkey. In the film Israeli soldiers, shown, entirely fictitiously, deployed alongside US forces in Iraq, were harvesting the innards of dead Iraqi prisoners as well as of Palestinians, to be sold on the US organ market, the same as Mengele did. Together with the anti-Israel propaganda that was targeted to malign all Jews, the ransom part of the Halimi kidnapping has also been attributed to traditional anti-Semitism. It was hardly a coincidence that Halim’s captors told his family that if they did not have the money, they should ‘go and get it from your synagogue’; later, his captors contacted a local rabbi, telling him, ‘We have a Jew’. The Washington Times summed it up:

The anti-Semitism felt in France may be ideologically rooted in anger against Israel, but it is fed by a new generation also taking up old anti-Semitic delusions—that all Jews are rich, that all Jews are powerful, that Jews are to blame for all the poverty and problems faced in immigrant communities.

Conclusion: Proximity—Breeds Contempt or Temperance?

The conclusions of the Pew Global Attitude Project pertaining to the relations between Europe, the West and the Muslim world found that a real divide exists between Western and Muslim peoples. However, the same project detected surprising positive changes in views and more optimistic attitudes specifically among Muslims living in Europe. Also, Emanuel Sivan, an Israeli expert on modern Islam and the Middle East, has found that a quarter of Europe’s Muslim migrants is dissatisfied with their host countries and consequently they direct their wrath and aggression against them. Surprisingly, this result leaves some room for optimism, because the past 20 years have shown a positive decline from 40% to 25% in those who feel discontented and alienated in their receiving countries.

Our adage, ‘proximity breeds contempt’, is a take-off from the moral of an ancient Greek fable by Aesop, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. For example, British Muslims have been found more prone than other Muslims in the West to hold intemperate perceptions of Westerners, with more than half believing that Western populations are selfish, arrogant, greedy, immoral, violent and disrespectful towards women. And yet when proximity enables a closer look and adds more detail to the picture, sometimes uncertainties and doubts can be removed from the negative image. Muslims who reside in Europe see up close the positive facets of Western culture (political tolerance, democracy, human rights, etc.). Their views of Jews are less hostile than among their counterparts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. Our last quotation—which goes against much of the material shown in this work—ends our essay with a small but good reason to be more hopeful about the future:

European Muslims hold more temperate views of the West than do Muslims in the Mideast, Africa and Asia. Muslims in Great Britain, France, Germany and Spain have more positive views of Westerners than do Muslims in the Mideast and Asia. They largely hold positive views toward Christians and have fewer negative views of Jews than do Muslims in the Mideast and Asia … Their attitudes and the general populations in the host countries suggest that exposure may lead to improved understanding.