Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lost in the Spiral of Intolerance - AHO Day 1

At the Association of Holocaust Organizations Conference
Holocaust Memorial Center, Detroit, MI

The opening presentation from Alvin Rosenfeld, author of The End of the Holocaust and the Beginning of a New Anti-Semitism, focused largely on the tremendous anti-Israel propaganda in the Arab world that also expresses itself as virulent anti-Judaism. In the vernacular these views can be recognized as the 'we'll destroy Israel and push all the Jews into the sea' variety.

Dr. Rosenfeld has his share of critics who voiced their concern that this wasn't particularly new. His main source of evidence for his analysis was a survey of books or articles published over the last few decades, the historical anti-Zionism of political leaders such as Nasser and Sadat, and the possibility Iran will one day launch a nuclear strike creating a second Holocaust. (The facts that Nasser and Sadat are long gone from the stage, or that Sadat made a historic and bold peace with Israel, received no ken.)

While I agreed there was little that was engaging in his analysis, Dr. Rosenfeld did shift my thinking a little bit. I told him I didn't find it shocking that countries and people that had always been the enemy of the Jews and Israel going back at least to the 6 day war and even the War of Independence are still our enemies. But what I would like to know is whether in a future paper he would be talking about the extent of anti-Semitism in Western Europe today. That information would be new.

In his response he told me about a study that analyzed the attitudes towards Jews harbored by Muslims living in three European cities, including London. The results showed a strong degree of disturbingly negative attitudes.

I didn't find this response wholly satisfying; the study Dr. Rosenfeld cited only shifted his focus from Muslims in Muslim countries to Muslims in European countries. He said nothing about the attitudes of the much larger numbers of non-Muslims in Europe. But here is where the shift in perspective occurred. European anti-Semitism is going to be increased through Muslim immigrants moving there and bringing with them the attitudes of their home countries. I sympathize with Muslims who been victimized by intolerant as minorities in Europe. But how do I separate out my support of these victims when I know they are intolerant themselves? This spiral of intolerance makes my head spin.

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