Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld, from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), is no stranger at the Tundra Tabloids. Besides having the privilege of knowing the man personally, it is always a great honour for me to be able to post on anything that he has written. Manfred’s writings never fail to both impress and enlighten.
In today’s J’lem Post, Dr.Gerstenfeld has an op-ed that cuts through the dross, concerning the false comparison of “Islamophobia” with that of traditional anti-Semitism.
In the Western world Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are often falsely presented as equal forms of discrimination. French President Nicolas Sarkozy referred to this recently during his visit to Algeria, when he said that nothing is more similar to an anti-Semite than an Islamophobe.
Indeed anti-Semitism and Islamophobia share a common element in the rejection by many Westerners of the “other.” Yet the difference between these two types of fear and stereotyped discrimination is much greater than their similarity.
Anti-Semitism has its origins in many centuries of religious and ethnic hate propaganda. Islamophobia derives not only from perceived aggression but also from actual violence supported by many in the world of Islam.
Contrary to nationalist terrorists such as the Basques or Corsicans, those with a Muslim background typically seek to murder large numbers of civilians. They usually state that the acts they intended to commit derive from their religious convictions. The same goes for many suicide attacks by radical Muslims elsewhere. This terrorism is supported theologically by Muslim religious leaders, though others oppose such actions. This attitude toward violence puts a great distance between Islam and Judaism. Jews who have committed murderous acts have hardly ever attributed them to religious convictions.
Furthermore Muslims are responsible for a disproportionately large number of violent anti-Semitic incidents in Europe in the new century compared to their share in the population. A leading promoter of Jewish-Muslim dialogue in France is Rabbi Michel Serfaty of Ris Orange, a Paris suburb. In October 2003 he had been the victim of physical aggression by a North African. Later he explicitly exposed North African minority racism, writing: “One cannot deny that, during these three years of anti-Semitic outbursts, there have been persecutors and persecuted. The North African Muslims were among these persecutors, the Jews among those who were persecuted.”
CONSIDERING Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as equal is part of a much broader effort to confuse the reality about contemporary Jews and Muslims. Sarkozy, who sometimes makes very positive remarks about Israel, increasingly shows himself to be a master at speaking from both sides of his mouth.
Letting third parties lump Jews and Muslims or Israelis and their persecutors together can only bring further trouble to both Israel and the Jewish people. That is why such statements should not go unchallenged.
I have encountered similar juxtaposing of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism here in the Finnish news media as well. A few years ago, a foreign news journalist at the Keskisuomalainen once tried to compare the situation of European Jewry during the rise of Bolshevism at the turn of the last century, with that of Muslims in present day Europe and political Islam.
Such a comparison showed a gross display of historical ignorance and a sloppiness with the facts, which I corrected with my own published response. The political situation that faced Jews way back in the late 1800’s- early 1900’s, is entirely different to the situation facing Muslims in Europe today. One stark, noticable difference being, that all citizens and residents are afforded the same equal protection under the law, which is something that Jews back then, could only have dreamed of. More here. *L* KGS