The question of whether Jews have a future in Europe is an, unfortunately, timely one, as anti-semitic attacks are increasingly taking place on European soil, most notably in Paris and most recently in Denmark. A panel convened at JHU this afternoon to discuss what is happening in Europe and, if indeed, European Jewry should considering leaving Europe. Benjamin Ginsberg, the Chair of the Center and David Bernstein Professor of Political Science at JHU, opened the discussion by reframing the question, noting that it is perhaps better to ask, "do Jews want to have a future in Europe?" because a lot of cities in Europe have become increasingly uncomfortable for Jews. That is, while the situation for Jews is nowhere near the level of say, the days preceding Kristallnacht, it is becoming abundantly clear that it is harder for Jews to be openly Jewish in Europe without being harassed. Ginsberg offered three reasons behind the growing anti-semitism in Europe:
1) The rise in the Muslim population, the majority of which, as surveys show, dislike Jews. The root of most of the anti-Jewish violence in Europe is done by Muslims, who are not as well integrated in European countries, as say, immigrants in the United States, thus they highly identify with causes from their home countries.
2) The emergence of anti-zionist discourse, principally from the Left in Europe. At the end of WW II, socialists in Europe supported the creation of the state of Israel, seeing it as the embodiment of the socialist vision. There was a major shift among the European Left after the 1967 War, when Israel emerged as a regional power and as part of the US security empire. The Left saw the arrival of Muslim immigrants in Europe as a source of power, mobilizing new voters by capitalizing on the one thing they had in common, anti-zionism.
3) European welfare states have difficulty confronting violence, whereas radicalized Muslim groups make violence their recruiting tool. Europeans in charge of police and security forces are unable to respond to serious violence.
Dr. Ginsberg concluded that he thinks Jews probably don't want to have a future in a Europe which requires that they hide their Jewishness to stay safe.
Justin Geist, a professor at George Mason University, believed that you can't address the problem of Jews in Europe without connecting it to a broader question of do immigrants have a future in Europe? By isolating attacks against Jews as primarily anti-semitic in nature, he argued, Europeans lose sight of the larger problem that they all must face. For Geist, Europe may be uncomfortable for Jews, but it is also uncomfortable for all minorities, who are not absorbed and assimiliated into the culture. Similarly, Geoffrey
Harris, the Deputy Head of the European Parliament Office with the US Congress believed that all minorities are experiencing difficulties in Europe. He noted that anti-semitism is hardly new but is part of the Jewish experience in Europe. The inoculation against anti-semitism of the post war years has now worn off, and Jews do have every reason to feel threatened he argued. That said, he finds anti-semitism in Europe to be part of a larger problem or question: "Is multiculutural Europe going to survive?" as he put it.
The panel discussion was followed by a lively question and answer period in a room filled to capacity -- a very good exchange of views took place, led by moderator Robert Guttman, who teaches at both JHU and George Mason University.