Comrades in Guilt

By Nita Chicooree

Europe and particularly France must be relieved that the burden of two thousand years of anti-Semitism and their voluntary or forced contribution to the extermination of six million Jews during the Second World War has been taken off their shoulders and hanged around the neck of immigrant extremists of Arab descent. Just as the responsibility for slave trade of Africans is shared with African chiefs and Arab merchants.

The French president and the Israeli PM are both capitalizing on the horrendous murder of Jewish children and their father in the recent spate of killings in Toulouse. The French president scored points in a recent poll while his Israeli counterpart is likely to close the ranks of the right-wing party. Even the Talibans might find a further cause for anti-western aggression and say : ‘Look, the western media dismissed the killing spree of a US soldier as the act of a deranged individual, yet there were seven children among the seventeen Afghan victims.’

The anti-Israel hostility of the Arabs has been going on for over half a century or so, which means that it is quite a recent phenomenon in modern history. It is wrongly dubbed as anti-Semitism. Arabs and Jews used to live peacefully side by side for centuries. Conversely, anti-Semitism, a term coined by a German ideologue, is deeply imbedded in Europe and it partly takes its root in Catholic fanaticism and intolerance. It would be naïve to believe that the two millennia of anti-Jew hatred has totally disappeared in Europe. The pro-Palestinian stance in French public opinion smacks more of veiled anti-Semitism. If you think that the average Frenchman or woman feels sorry for the slain Jewish family, you are getting it wrong.

Anti-foreign prejudices are well entrenched in the mindset of European citizens, notwithstanding the flow of immigrants in European countries for decades and their integration and access to more or less equal opportunities in their host countries. A century-old mentality does not change overnight.

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The Indian Exception

The symbiosis between American politicians and the Zionist lobby produced a weird curiosity this week. The US Congress adopted a new law that makes it easy for Israelis to immigrate to America for good. This mark of American friendship might sound anti-Zionist in that it might empty Israel of its people. The murderous act of a young Arab raises the question of French Jews returning to Israel while the Zionist US Congress entices Israelis back into ‘exile’! Anti-Semitism in the US used to be very strong in the days of the immigration of Jews from Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries.

India is probably the only country in the world where Jews fleeing persecution were heartily welcomed. Indians and Jews have lived beautifully together. While they observed their religious customs and rites, they also integrated Indian culture. Meet elderly Jews who left India to settle down in Israel, they are still fond of Indian films, music and songs. People with different religion and culture who come to live peacefully next to them do not pose a problem for Indians.

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The idea of persecution, that they live in an antagonistic world which constantly threatens to annihilate them permeates every generation of Jews. Part of the narrative is said to take its source in Biblical (mythical) stories such as the slavery of Jews in Egypt.

The Israeli right is alleged to have politicized the religious festival of Purim recently by reminding the public of the Biblical story of a Persian plan to annihilate all Jews. The plan backfired and the Jews came out victorious and destroyed all the people of Persia, today’s Iran. Iranian nukes, imaginary or real, are boosting the idea of crushing down Iran’s nuclear power to smithereens.

Historical narratives of the butchery of the Crusaders, the Spanish Inquisition, Russian and Ukrainian pogroms and the culmination of anti-Jew hatred in Nazi Germany leading to the Holocaust have reinforced the mental attitude of victimhood. Is there a cynical exploitation of the Holocaust to justify aggressive policies today?

Israel should stop being afraid, Saudi King Abdallah stated two years ago. The onus is on the Israeli people and the government to come to terms with the urgency of a Palestinian state, the absence of which is unleashing the destruction spree of radicalized angry young Arab men.

* Published in print edition on 30 March 2012

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