„Large part of American Jewry considers Judaism as being liberalism complemented with a selective variety of Jewish rituals” – told us the the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, warning that we will see more frequent tensions concerning the migrant crisis in Europe after Coronavirus pandemia. An interview by Ivett Csere.
| Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the Chairman emeritus of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has also been a strategic advisor for more than thirty years to some of the Western world’s leading corporations.
Among the honors he received was the 2019 International Lion of Judah Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism.
His main book on the subject is: “The War of a Million Cuts: The struggle against the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews and the growth of New antisemitism”.
In one of your latest articles you highlighted the malicious language (with terms such as “apartheid” or “occupation”) as a tool against Israel that have been used and widely promoted in the past mostly by BDS activists in the Western world. How could this language be silenced?
It will probably take a long time to partly mute the extreme critical voices aiming Israel in the western world. The incitement against our country derives from a variety of roots. These include (not necessarily in order of importance), the poorly understood fact, that antisemitism has been an integral part of western culture for many hundreds of years. The way this antisemitism expresses itself changed over the years. One can relate part of the unjustified incitement against Israel by the European Union to this tradition. This also has to be seen together with the EU’s looking the other way, when it comes to extreme Palestinian criminality and the death culture that permeates their society.
A typical statement was that of Josep Borrell, the European foreign policy chief. He told Politico: “Iran wants to wipe out Israel; nothing new about that. You have to live with it.” It is very symbolic for one of the many ugly attitudes of this appeaser of genocide promoters.
A second major root cause of Western incitement against Israel is ideology. This comes mainly from the left and not necessarily only from the extreme left. Socialists often play an important role in hate mongering.
Left wing violence against Jews in Europe is far less physical, than the aggression, which comes from the Muslim communities and increasingly also from the extreme right wing circles. Yet language abuse and extreme incitement against Israel by western media, politicians, trade unionists, academics, church leaders is too often dominant. It is part of a complex European progressive perversity. To mute this – if at all possible – will be a lengthy exercise.
You have mentioned the Palestinians. What role do they have in it?
Studies show that there is a massive belief among European populations that Israel is „behaving toward the Palestinians like the Nazis” or „aiming for the extermination of the Palestinians. Tens of millions of Europeans believe this.
The size of the problem becomes clear for instance from a detailed report commissioned by the Hungarian Action and Protection League and prepared by the Hungarian pollster company Inspira Ltd. This company interviewed representative samples of the adult population between the ages of 18 and 75 by gender, age group, settlement size and education in 16 European countries. Twenty-five percent of the interviewees disagree that Israel acts in legitimate self-defense against its enemies. Twenty-seven percent disagree that Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East. While 25% think of Israel’s politics, they feel they understand why some people hate Jews. Twenty-four percent think Israeli policy toward the Palestinians justifies the international boycott of Israel.
The same percent thinks Israelis behave like Nazis towards the Palestinians.
Is it possible that growing openness of Arabic countries – such as Bahrein or United Arab Emirates – will help to change the international perceptions on the Jewish State after Abraham Accords?
The Abraham Accords may slowly have some influence. One should not be too optimistic here. There are already some voices in the Arab world, far more critical of the Palestinians than of Israel. Others may follow. Yet their influence on the Western world’s anti-Israel hate mongers will be at best minor.
One should however also mention that the Israeli government has been very negligent and incompetent in fighting verbal attacks against the country. The Abraham Accords provide the Israeli Government the opportunity to straighten its back and start fighting better against the verbal abuse. Yet it is a mistake to expect from bureaucrats of government ministries to rapidly understand the opportunities created by these accords.
We are at the peak of coronavirus crisis, and you have already given an overview about post-pandemic era making connection with European migrant crisis. What kind of dangers do you expect?
It is likely that we will see more frequent tensions concerning the migrant crisis in Europe. As a result of the Corona pandemic European unemployment will increase. It will hit the unskilled particularly hard. These people see competitors in migrants for scarce jobs. Simultaneously the difficulty in increasing economic situation in many African countries lead more people from there to want to find a way into Europe.
Furthermore there will be recurrent problems caused by various radical and violent Muslims already living in Europe. Currently, a major example is the unrest in France resulting from the beheading of a teacher by a Muslim immigrant [after our interview France was shocked again when three more people were killed by an islamist terrorist in Nizza- reporter].
In Western Europe police has already lost control over many heavily populated Muslim neighborhoods. This situation in last years indicated large groups of Aliya moving to Israel, and we also hear news of violence from the American streets. Should Israel be prepared for a new wave of immigration – even from the US?
The great majority of Jews outside Israel live in democratic countries. This makes it unlikely that there will be mass movements away from there. There are several factors, that keep people in the places where they live. (Not necessarily in order) such as for instance family connections. Another one is that their professional skills are specifically linked to their country of residence and its language. A third factor is cultural affinity with the environment where one was brought up. A fourth one is inertia. To emigrate requires a certain will and energy and resourcefulness, in particular if the “push factor” is not very big.
We have seen in past years that Jews, if they want to move away from the country where they live, weigh alternatives to Israel. There has for instance been substantial emigration of French Jews to Montreal and — probably to a lesser extent– to Miami. We have also have seen an influx of Venezuelan Jews to Florida and of Argentinians to the U.S.
Furthermore finding employment in Israel is not easy. After the end of the pandemic it will be even more difficult due to the rise in unemployment.
Regarding the US, Black Lives Movement (BLM) has the goal to defund the police and the country may be on the road to overtaking European levels of mayhem. Even these dangers triggered by BLM will not make Jews to move to Israel in a large number in the long run?
The current emphasis in the media and public domain on Black Lives Matters and the troubles it causes will probably largely fade away. BLM is not more than one factor in the overall picture of the US’ troubled situation. The fear of antisemitism among American Jews has increased as a result of several murderous terrorist incidents. Yet there is currently no indication whatsoever of a potential mass aliyah from the US to Israel.
We are few hours away from the American elections. The latest Pew Research Center poll shows Joe Biden ahead among Jewish voters 70% to President Trump’s 27%, while many Jewish Republicans fantasize of a “Jexodus” of Jewish Democrats switching parties. Can you imagine this kind of shift, a change among Jewish Democrats?
The Jewish majority support for the U.S. Democratic party is for many of these voters almost a matter of their bloodstream or DNA. Already their parents voted that way. Another reason is that they have longstanding links with the democratic congressman and senator who represent their constituency.
Large parts of American Jewry are assimilated. There is major intermarriage. Whatever many of these Jews say about their links to Israel these are often very superficial.
It is a platitude, but there is truth in saying that a large part of American Jewry considers Judaism as being liberalism complemented with a selective variety of Jewish rituals.
The major disorientation of a large part of organized American Jewry found its expression in a recent advertisement in the New York Times. There 600 Jewish organizations identified with the black anti-white racist, neo-Marxist BLM movement which is permeated by antisemitism.