Monday, March 16, 2015


Jeffrey Goldberg's opus on the future of European Jewry isn't quite as panic-stricken as the title - "Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?" - suggests. Some thoughts:

-It's an extensively-reported piece, and not an easy one to brush off, not that it isn't being brushed off by some who've read it. Anyone who requires further evidence that Jew-hatred persists might want to check out the comments the piece is getting. It's hard to see, though, how an article about European anti-Semitism could exist that wouldn't attract charges of being overblown and propagandistic.

-That said, there are a couple small but crucial... I'm not sure if they're errors, exactly, so much as misleading moments. How is Dieudonné indicative of "[t]he union of Middle Eastern and European forms of anti-Semitic expression" and what does he - a non-Muslim (see the correction here) - have to do with "the European Muslim community"? And there's nothing particularly sinister about the Brussels Jewish museum being empty - I visited a couple years before the attack and, as is often the case with tiny museums, I don't remember it being overrun.

-There are some issues, too, with the framing, in the title but also in the piece itself. Repeating the idea that The Jews are a coherent entity, and that The Jews might up and leave an entire continent where they are, on a day to day basis, quite safe, is a bit... problematic might be the word. The sorts of questions you ask can determine the sort of answers you'll get. If you head out asking, "Is it time for the Jews to leave?," you're not going to hear from the people who are French, etc., of Jewish origin, and not considering emigration, or not any more than non-Jewish Europeans might be.

-There's also a question of methodology - if you're looking for Jewish Opinion, you sort of have to seek out people who are in one way or another active in the Jewish community. When plenty of Jews aren't, and may have different experiences. I had this issue when writing my dissertation - to figure out where 19th century French Jews stood on intermarriage, the obvious place to look was the Jewish press. But this offered only hints of how other Jews felt on the matter (hints like, columnists complaining that Jews weren't panicked enough). While I was able to counterbalance some of this with Alfred Naquet's writings (a fiercely secular and twice-intermarried politician of Jewish origin), the balance was inherently skewed. I think Goldberg, by necessity, runs into some of this issue as well.

-But Goldberg gets at something key with his follow-up question: "Is [Europe] still a place for Jews who want to live uncamouflaged Jewish lives?" That's precisely the issue - the "uncamouflaged" bit - and is a different one than whether individuals who happen to be culturally/ethnically Jewish are on the cusp of being hunted down. This comes up again later in his piece: "Of course it is possible, in ways that were not 80 years ago, for Jews to dissolve themselves into the larger culture. But for Jews who would like to stay Jewish in some sort of meaningful way, there are better places than Europe." It's not, to be clear, that it's somehow OK - somehow not anti-Semitism - if the only Jews who are in danger are the ones who worship at synagogues, or go to kosher supermarkets, or wear identifying clothes or accessories. It's anti-Semitism, but it's not racial anti-Semitism. And racial anti-Semitism is no-choice, no-opt-out, echoes-of-the-1930s anti-Semitism, and thus a different beast. Such is, at least, the impression I got from the piece. (See also, again, the UCLA controversy.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

re:your last paragraph

It can very well be racial antisemitism. The Jews are simply "passing" or racial anti-Semites might see anti-religious Jews as a secondary target, with the primary target being those Jews who are comfortable with public displays of their culture.