Tuesday, September 7, 2004

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It's arrival day!!

Crooked Timber's Eszter Hargittai points out that today is the 350th anniversary of Arrival Day, "the first Jewish immigrants’ arrival in New Amsterdam (today’s New York City) on September 7, 1654." She has a lovely post about going to a Jewish wedding, and closes with these words:

There are several reasons why I live in the U.S. and although no one factor is fully responsible, one contributing reason is that no matter how people try to downplay it, anti-Semitism is alive and well in Europe. I prefer to live in a country where I do not have to be on my guard all the time about being Jewish. (I realize experiences must vary across the U.S., but this is my experience having lived in seven states in rural, suburban and urban areas and I appreciate it.) At my friends’ wedding, Jews and non-Jews of numerous backgrounds came together to celebrate in the joy of two wonderful people. In my mind, this story is the perfect tribute to Arrival Day.

Having spent most of my life in this country, but a few years in Europe, I must reluctantly concur with Eszter [Reluctantly?--ed. Why should anyone be happy about anti-Semitism in Europe?].

For more on Arrival Day, check out the Head Heeb.

posted by Dan on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM


I am a secular American. My son went to a Jewish pre-school and experienced a remarkable environment full of love and brightness. I, however, work with a number of Jewish guys, and the story could not be more different. These guys are completely nice and respectful toward me personally. What horrifies me about them is their virulent anti-Arabism and anti-Islamism. It is clear to me that they do not consider people of Arab or Islamic background to be fully human. Thus while we ever hear the drone about anti-semitism (not to mention the constant Xian evangelical drone about the unfortunate spread of secularism), who chronicles this growing mania of anti-Arabism/anti-Islamism? I find this especially poignant right now as, day after day, we read of the U.S. military having killed another 120 Iraqis here, 230 there, 74 in this city, 15 in that city...it is unending - and we know, we certainly know by now, that these are native Iraqis defending the honor of their own soil - as most of us would probably do under similar conditions.

posted by: comenius on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]


What is your point? Are you saying that the existence of anti-Islamic sentiment among some Jews invalidates the whole story? Or are you saying that it's good that anti-semitism exists in Europe? You seem to be extrapolating from your experience that "Jews" are anti-Muslim. I think that is extremely unfair. My guess is that the vast majority of Jews have gone out of their way to avoid anti-Muslim sentiment and to keep it out of Jewish institutions. At my daughter's Jewish day school and at home, she is taught not to harbor animosity toward people (including Muslims) because of their religion. My daughter plays regularly with the Muslim children next door. I would dare to say that that is far more typical of the Jewish community than the "guys" you work with. I would say, in fact, that you are much more likely to hear anti-Jewish sentiment at a mosque in the US, than you are likely to hear anti-Muslim sentiment at a synogogue. I'm glad your child had a good experience at the Jewish pre-school. Now I think you owe the Jewish community wherever you live an apology for your comments. Or do you think it's appropriate to tar an entire community because of the attitudes of some?

As for anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., it is obviously terrible. I do not condone it in the slightest. But to call it a "mania" seems to me an exaggeration, especially given the virulent hatred expressed for Americans and Jews in large parts of the Muslim world, including the United States. (Not to mention, of course, 9/11, which is obviously the genesis, however ill-conceived, of the war.)

posted by: MWS on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

If the US is the least "anti semitic" country in the world, how come it hasnt had either a Jewish premier or even a jew running for premier? Australia and the UK have had both (but the UK has, I think, never had a catholic pm)

posted by: Giles on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

Well, but for a few thousand elderly Jews in Florida, there would have been a Jewish VP in 2000.

I would argue that the reason that there haven't been very many Jewish presidents is that there haven't been very many Jewish state governors. That's just my guess.

posted by: Klug on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

Well because the US has never had a premier. We have a president.

Seriously, no Jew has never been president because no Jew has been a major party candidate for president. And to be a major party candidate one has to be able to gain popular support across the country. The Jewish population of the US isn't that high percentage wise and is concentrated in the northeastern US, so as a constituency they don't have enough mass to pull in votes and are thus less likely to get nominated. In a parliamentary system where there is no direct election of the executive what matters more is the party and ones standing amongst elected MPs of the party. It's probably easier for a minority to gain standing amongst a smaller group of peers than the population as a whole.

posted by: ZZ on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

Blogger doesn't support trackback, but here's my contribution to the discussion, dates of Jewish political emancipation for various countries:

America's Freedom, Jewish Freedom

posted by: Tom Parmenter on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]


Point well taken. I wish to limit my reference of "mania" to just that immediate circle of people I am exposed to, work with. But, among them, it is most certainly a mania.

posted by: comenius on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

Thus while we ever hear the drone about anti-semitism (not to mention the constant Xian evangelical drone about the unfortunate spread of secularism), who chronicles this growing mania of anti-Arabism/anti-Islamism?

When Zionists start driving airplanes into our skyscrapers and killing thousands of our citizens, perhaps I will feel about Zionists the way I feel about Islamists.

When Mormons do the same, I may become wary of Mormons.

When members of Women's Christian Temperance Union blow up our embassies and bomb our ships in harbor, I will begin to develop some ill-feeling towards them.

I think there was very little "anti-Arabism/anti-Islamism" in the US before 9/11. Those feelings are the product of historical events. I grew up in the 1950's. At that time, there were still strong negative feelings in the US towards Japanese and Germans, for obvious reasons. Those feelings have dissipated over the years, as Japan and Germany have behaved responsibly in the world. Negative feelings towards Arabs and Moslems will dissipate, too, when terrorism ceases and Arab/Moslem countries develop democratic governments that respect human rights.

Even now, the number of hate crimes against Jews in the US is greater than those against Arabs, and both are about 2% of the US population.

posted by: Slithy Tove on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

As a Jewish-American I would like to say... above the bickering... that America is a great place where discourse and debate can occur. The debate over whether it occurs is another issue. I have been in America, and in Israel and I love both countries. This is a great country and worth fighting for. Hurray for discourse and defiant debate thus blogs and my website ctx3.com (not an ad). There are not many countries where I can be a Jew, disagree with the admin and have a website.

posted by: Craig Press on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

Like our host I must reluctantly agree that there is still anti-semitism in Europe, but I came across it while I lived in the states too (I don't feel competent to comment on the relevant prevalence, but some of what I encountered in the US was pretty virulent).

I feel that in Europe the problem today is a lack of philo-semitism. In recent years as the post-war sympathy for Israel has died away this has become more important - and left more Europeans open to accusations of anti-semitism which are often unfair.

The US by contrast is strongly philo-semitic especially in the crucial regions of California and the NE United States. So, for example film and literature in the States will deal with Jewish experiences. By and large this has not been the case in Europe (clearly there are many individual exceptions).

Europe however ought to be philo-semitic. The Jewish experience is crucial to the development of modern Europe, and by that I mean the broadly liberal, social democratic inclined liberal democracies which now make up Europe. But by creating and accepting a European identity which now essentially excludes its jewish component Europeans can be seen as, and in fact are, accepting the outcome of Hitler's genocide.

How far this is inevitable and how far today's Europeans could and should reject this 'fact' and consciously emphasise the centrality of jewishness in the history which formed them is unclear, but the current construct certainly does not go far enough in my mind.

This I think is why the Anti-Semitism encountered in Europe is so much more disturbing than that in the US, because it is happy with the inheritance of the 20th century of a "Judenrein Europa" (even if it itself is not murderous)

(An aside, living in Basel,Switzerland, which has a not insignificant Jewish population, I felt it was where the place of the "Jewish Experience" was most similar to that in the US, by contrast Frankfurt, to me, had a feeling of a city with a huge hole at its centre.)

posted by: Tadhgin on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

It seems to me that people set unrealistic standards for whether a country is anti-semitic or racist or whatever. There is always going to be some racism, anti-semitism, bigotry, whatever as long as human nature exists. It's all relative. There is much less anti-semitism in the US today than, say 50 years ago, but it still exists. Same with Europe. I agree with Tadhgin; what seems to be the problem with Europe is that the population, especially the left, seems to have lost sympathy with Jews generally as they have become more "normalized" in society. It has also become more tolerant of anti-semitic actions by Muslims because of animosity toward Israel. Perhaps I'm wrong but I get the sense that one source of European animosity toward the US is the strong Jewish cultural presence here.

As far as a lack of Jewish presidents, et al, I think that's largely because relatively few Jews have entered politics. Up until the last 20 or 30 years, it would have been unrealistic for Jews to become national candidates.

IMO, one reason you have seen Jewish and female prime ministers in other countries is the parliamentary system, which places more weight on the ability to work within the party than on specific personalities or direct appeal to voters. In the US system, a candidate has to develop a very broad base of support (and raise a lot of money) and, given the conservatism in much of the country, this was impossible for Jews or women. I think this is changing, in part because Jews are more acceptable now to religious conservatives.

posted by: MWS on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

MWS wrote "Perhaps I'm wrong but I get the sense that one source of European animosity toward the US is the strong Jewish cultural presence here."

But the thing is that the parts of the US where leftish Europeans actually feel at home is where the Jewish influence is strongest. I don't think that people have so much lost sympathy with Jews, rather that jewishness is not a factor in their everyday lives as it once was (the result of the Nazi period). I don't agree that much anti-americanism is some kind of "undercover" anti-jewish feeling. As I was saying what is missing in Europe is philo-semitism and an ongoing engagement with the importance of jewishness in Europe.

The loss of sympathy for Israel is not usually anti-semitic in origin (and this is the hardest thing to convince most Israelis or Americans about) I would compare it with feelings towards South Africa during apartheid (and I am not trying to give offense, just searching for understandable comparisons for peoples attitudes) and the feelings of many Europeans that the Israeli state is oppressive are genuine - irrespective of their validity. But today white South Africans today are not considered outside the pale - and in the end are a group who Europeans have much in common with. A soloution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would, in my opinion, allow Europeans to develop relations between Europe and Israel very close relations with Isreal essentially being a 'European' country in the region even if not belonging to European structures (think Eurovision).

Regarding a toleration of anti-semitism in the muslim population (which really should be understood distinctly from European anti-semitism) the truth is that Europeans are very unsure about how to approach these populations on any level. As long as these people are excluded from much of Society many people don't feel that their anti-semitism is that relevant - the right, because they are outsiders who have nothing to do with Europe the left because they are oppressed and this would all fade away if they were integrated fully into society.

Neither view is tenable and the issue of significant muslim minorities will be one of the biggest in Europe over the next 20 years (especially given the need for increased immigration). Ironically an appreciation of the importance of the European jewish heritage would go a long way towards solving it - just as liberal East coast jewish thinking was vital to begining to deal with US rascism.

posted by: Tadhgin on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

Just as there is a lot of anti-semitism in Europe, there is still much racism towards blacks in the U.S.

Does the suffering of a people in a lead perversely lead others to hate them?

posted by: Boronx on 09.07.04 at 02:17 PM [permalink]

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