This week, the Spanish Foreign Minister felt compelled to defend Prime Minister Zapatero from charges of anti-Semitism.
Zapatero had donned the black-checked keffiyeh that is the symbol of Palestinian determination to destroy the Jewish State and criticized Israel for using “abusive force that does not protect innocent human beings.”1
It was all too familiar.
On any given day one can find some eminent European – a university professor, high-ranking churchman, a parliamentarian – gravely explaining to reporters that harsh and disproportionate criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic.
And their protestations sound plausible. After all, this is not your grandfather’s anti-Semitism. Israel’s highly-educated critics do not refuse to dine in restaurants that serve Jews, use epithets like “kike,” or believe that Jews control the international financial markets and are more likely than others to engage in shady business practices.
At least that is what I assumed until someone did the study.
Two Connecticut professors got curious about the constant denials that extremely harsh critics of Israel were anti-Semitic. Edward H. Kaplan, the William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Management Sciences, and Charles A. Small, Director of Urban Studies, Southern Connecticut State University, decided to examine the issue in formal way. Their paper, “Anti-Israel Sentiment Predicts Anti-Semitism in Europe,” appears in the August issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution. 2
Kaplan and Small ask whether individuals expressing strong anti-Israel sentiments, such as the statement by Ted Honderich, Emeritus Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London, that “those Palestinians who have resorted to necessary killing have been right to try to free their people, and those who have killed themselves in the cause of their people have indeed sanctified themselves,” are more likely than the general population to also support in such old-style anti-Semitic slurs as “Jews have too much power in our country today.”
The correlation was almost perfect. In a survey of 5,000 Europeans in ten countries, people who believed that the Israeli soldiers “intentionally target Palestinian civilians,” and that “Palestinian suicide bombers who target Israeli civilians” are justified, also believed that “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind,” “Jews have a lot of irritating faults,” and “Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.”
The study’s other interesting finding was that only a small fraction of Europeans believe any of these things. Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism flourish among the few, but those few are over-represented in Europe’s newspapers, its universities, and its left-wing political parties.
For Americans who do not read the European press, the level of raw anti-Semitism in European intellectual circles can be shocking.
A couple of years ago the French Ambassador at the Court of St. James, Daniel Bernard, told his companions at a London dinner party that Israel is a “shitty little country,” “Why,” he asked, “should the world be in danger of World War Three because of those people?”3
Those people? Moderates heard echoes of old-fashioned anti-Semitism. But t he French Foreign Ministry stood behind their ambassador, calling assertions that Bernard’s remarks were anti-Semitic “malevolent insinuations.”4
The British press agreed. Columnist Deborah Orr defended Ambassador Bernard in the Independent. “Anti-Semitism is disliking all Jews, anywhere, and anti-Zionism is just disliking the existence of Israel and opposing those who support it,” explained Orr, who holds “the honest view that in my experience Israel is shitty and little.”5
Columnist Richard Woods summed up the attitude of the European intelligentsia when he rote that Ambassador Bernard’s remark was only “apparently anti-Semitic”.6
Kaplan and Small have shown otherwise. When you read, for example, the opinion of Marc Gentilli, president of the French Red Cross, that the idea of allowing Israel to join the International Red Cross and use the Star of David on its ambulances is “disgusting,”7 you can be pretty sure that he, along with Ambassador Bernard, Prime Minister Zapatero, President Chirac, and the rest of Europe’s harsh critics of Israel, are very probably the kind of old-fashioned anti-Semites who just don’t like Jews very much.
1 “Spanish Minister Objects – Says Criticism of Israel Not anti-Semitic” International Herald Tribune, July 20, 2006 http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/07/20/news/spain.php
2 Kaplan, Edward H. and Small, Charles A., “Anti-Israel Sentiment Predicts Anti-Semitism in Europe,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 50 No. 4, August 2006, pp. 548-561 www.yale.edu/isps/seminars/antisemitism/kaplan.pdf
3 Tom Gross, ” ‘A Shitty Little Country,’ Prejudice and Abuse in Paris and London,” National Review, Jan 10, 2002. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-gross011002.shtml
4 “’Anti-Semitic’ French Envoy Under Fire,” BBC Dec. 20, 2001 news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1721172.stm
5 Deborah Orr, “I’m fed up being called an anti-Semite,” Independent, December 21, 2001, cited in Tom Gross, ” ‘A Shitty Little Country,’ Prejudice and Abuse in Paris and London,” National Review, Jan 10, 2002. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-gross011002.shtml
6 Richard Woods in the, “When silence speaks volumes” London Sunday Times, December 23, 2001, cited in Tom Gross, ” ‘A Shitty Little Country,’ Prejudice and Abuse in Paris and London,” National Review, Jan 10, 2002. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-gross011002.shtml
7 Davis, Avi, “A Star-Crossed Resignation,” Washington Times, Jan 2, 2002, http://www.mideasttruth.com/mda2.html
Ms. Muir is the author of Reflections in Bullough’s Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England. The working title of her current project is: What Good is a Nation; A Clear-Eyed Look at Nations and Nationalism.