JEWISH HERITAGE Jewish refugees Jews vs. Arabs Manfred Gerstenfeld


Dr.Gerstenfeld’s new article on how European Jews moved from the diaspora to exile without relocating. It was recently published in the Jerusalem Post and republished here with the author’s consent.

NOTE: This is an excellent quote, howevver, it’s my opinion that they (Muslims in general (trying to impose the very same cultures that they left behind) could never have been successfully) integrated into European society. With the benefit of historical knowledge as to how a liberal society (a product of the enlightenment) transforms communities, they will reject integration, let alone assimilation.

We are still waiting for the first Jewish leader in Europe to state the truth – that the non-selective, mass immigration of large numbers of Muslims is the worst thing to happen to the European Jewish communities since the end of the Second World War. To be fair, one should add that this is partly the fault of the government authorities who let them in indiscriminately and were not prepared for their integration in society.

How European Jews Moved into Exile without Relocating

Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr.Manfred GerstenfeldAfter 1948, many Jews in the Western world gradually began to consider themselves as living in the diaspora rather than in exile. The establishment of the State of Israel gave Jews abroad an increased self-confidence, and their self-perception changed accordingly. In addition, many Israeli institutions increasingly began to use the word diaspora to describe Jews living outside the country. Like many of its predecessors, the current Israeli government has a ministry which has the term “diaspora” in its title.

In the new century, however, an increasing number of European Jews have moved – without relocating – from living in the Israeli diaspora to becoming Jews in exile. This change in perspective is a result of being the targets of violence and of feeling outsiders who, when they gather, must take security precautions which for others are unnecessary. There is also an increasing fear of expressing one’s identity as one would wish, and it is often becoming impossible to freely state one’s opinions.

Thus, these Jews are de facto in exile, even if their living conditions differ from those of the European Jews immediately following the Second World War. The Holocaust had taught most Jews that they were not considered part of the native population of their countries, no matter what passports they might hold. This was not because of what the German occupiers did to them, but rather due to the attitude and behavior of many of their co-nationals during that time.

Over ten years ago the late Israeli historian David Bankier eloquently described the Polish reality, the country which had the largest pre-war Jewish population in Europe. When I interviewed him, Bankier said, “The Jews were never considered part of the fabric of Polish society. Their ancestors may have lived there for 900 or even 1,000 years, but, as they did not belong to the national majority, they remained foreigners. Most people did not see in the catastrophe befalling the Polish Jews a tragedy affecting the Polish nation. At best, they saw two parallel disasters caused by the Germans. One concerned the Polish nation, the other the Jews.”1

Bankier also quoted a Polish underground leader who claimed that it had been her duty to help save Jewish lives during the war. She added, however, that after the war, the Jews should leave Poland, because she wanted to live only among fellow Poles.

The Holocaust was a giant murderous challenge for all Jews in German-occupied countries. For assimilated Jews, however, it was also an intellectual challenge. Self-identification which included denying one’s Jewishness was made irrelevant. A third party, the occupiers, now determined whether or not you were a Jew.

Once the State of Israel was established, the Jews of Western Europe gradually began to feel like other citizens. Anti-Semitism had largely become latent. All positions were open to Jews. In the Netherlands, for instance, certain official positions had been de facto closed to Jews before the war. These included appointments such as those of city mayors. Since the war, there have however been a number of Jewish mayors. In Amsterdam alone, there were four. The diplomatic service was also closed to Jews before the war. After the war there have been Jewish diplomats – one of them an Orthodox Jew.

In the 1950s, when I was a pupil at the Jewish high school in Amsterdam, the janitor would open the door when the doorbell rang without first checking who was standing outside. In the Jewish elementary school, during recess, we kids played in the street in front of the school. Today, when I walk through Amsterdam, I see gentile kids in public schools playing freely in the schoolyard. There is no fear that somebody might attempt to hurt them. In stark contrast, children attending the Jewish schools do so in fortress-like buildings, and they are often told not to wear outside anything which identifies them as Jews.

In this new century, various Jewish leaders have recommended that Jews hide their identities in public places. In a radio interview in 2003, for instance, then French Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk told French Jews to wear hats, rather than kippot, so as to avoid being attacked in the streets.2

One small example of how Jews are verbally attacked in the workplace for what Israel does, or allegedly does, was given by a Jewish hospital nurse from Amsterdam whom I interviewed. In view of the Dutch reality she requested to remain anonymous. She said: “Whenever the Dutch media wrote something about Israel, people would start a political discussion with me. They behaved as if I shaped Israeli politics. No one would ever say to someone with family in Italy: ‘What crazy thing has Berlusconi done again?’”3

People tell me that while Jewish representatives try to show a stiff upper-lip when speaking publicly in internal meetings there are sometimes expressions of panic. Even stating the truth proves to be problematic for Jewish leaders in some countries. In February of this year, Roger Cukierman, the head of the umbrella body of French Jewish organizations, CRIF, said that all violence against the Jewish community was perpetrated by young Muslims, “even if they are a very small minority of the Muslim community.”4 Thereupon, French President François Hollande called for a ‘reconciliation’ meeting between Cukierman and a Muslim leader. The purpose of the meeting was essentially to obfuscate the truth.

We are still waiting for the first Jewish leader in Europe to state the truth – that the non-selective, mass immigration of large numbers of Muslims is the worst thing to happen to the European Jewish communities since the end of the Second World War. To be fair, one should add that this is partly the fault of the government authorities who let them in indiscriminately and were not prepared for their integration in society.

The reactions of many Jews to these developments show that their attitudes are becoming increasingly similar to the classic mentality of Jews in exile. This became clear from a 2013 study conducted by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency. It was undertaken in France, Belgium, Hungary, Denmark, Latvia, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The study found that on average, 20% of the Jews in these countries said they always avoided wearing, carrying, or displaying things that might help people identify them as Jews in public.5

Of the countries included in the study, Sweden had the highest percentage of Jews who tried to avoid being identified, with 34% of those interviewed stating that they avoided such identification most of the time.6 This cannot be explained solely by the frequent anti-Semitic incidents taking place in Malmö, which are mainly perpetrated by Muslims. The Jewish population in that city represents far less than 10% of Swedish Jewry.

In 2011, Islin Abrahamsen and Chava Savosnick conducted a qualitative study for the Norwegian Jewish community, regarding the experiences of Jewish children and young people with anti-Semitism in the country. Twenty-one young Norwegian Jews, of school age up to twenty-five years of age, were interviewed. The study found that young Jews often do not reveal their religious identity. Some have changed schools, or their parents have even changed residences because of the anti-Semitism they have experienced.7

While the hiding of one’s Jewish identity may be the main indicator of this reborn ‘exile’ mentality, there are many others.

While the ‘exile’ phenomenon is quite established in Europe, it does exist in the United States as well. A typical example is the moot Jewish reaction to a variety of statements made by US President Barack Obama who regularly uses double standards against Israel.

As pressure on Jews abroad augments, the ‘exile’ mentality among many Jews will intensify. It will become even clearer than today that we should no longer speak about a Jewish diaspora, but about European Jews in exile.


1 Manfred Gerstenfeld, Europe’s Crumbling Myths, The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism, (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Yad Vashem, World Jewish Congress, 2003), 93-101.

2 Philip Carmel, “Proposals on yarmulkes, Yom Kippur given mixed reaction by French Jews,” JTA, 14 December 2003.

3 Manfred Gerstenfeld, “ Jewish and Cautious in Amsterdam,” Israel National News, 24 February 2014.

4Propos sur les musulmans: Hollande réconcilie Cukierman et Boubakeur,” Le Parisien, 24 February 2015.

5 “Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in EU Member States: experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism,” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights,2013, 36

6 Ibid.

7 Stein Gudvangen, ”GNorske barn tør ikke stå fram som jøder,” Dagen. (Norwegian)

6 June 2012.


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