|9:00||Introduction:||Radek Sikorski, NAI|
|Debaters:||Ruth Wisse, Harvard University|
|John O'Sullivan, United Press International|
|Moderator:||Radek Sikorski, NAI|
Are Europeans anti-Semitic? Recent articles by America's top journalists point to the burning of synagogues, defamation of Jewish cemeteries, and a rise in anti-Israel rhetoric as evidence of resurgent anti-Semitism. How much truth is behind these accusations, and how do they affect the transatlantic relationship? On October 30, 2002, NAI hosted a debate between Ruth Wisse and John O'Sullivan on these questions. Ruth Wisse, professor of Yiddish literature and comparative literature at Harvard University, argued that Europe has important lessons to draw from a history of anti-Semitism. John O'Sullivan, editor-in-chief of United Press International, took the position that anti-Semitism in Europe today is more a result of the beliefs held by immigrant populations than resurgent prejudice. Both debaters agreed that anti-Semitism exists in Europe, but presented differing views on its origins, nature, and significance.
Similar processes are now at work in the Middle East. Anti-Zionism, a form of anti-Semitism, is used by Arab countries both to generate pan-Arab unity and to popularize their cause in Europe. Europeans are not explicitly rejecting this overture, seeing instead the political gains of an alliance with Arabs--expanded regional influence and placated domestic Muslim populations. Europe must remember, however, that it is not enough for European countries to frown upon anti-Semitic violence. Anti-Semitism poisons democracy, and action must be taken to discourage these views and related criminal activities. Furthermore, Arab countries should be condemned for constantly violating the United Nations Charter, which states that all member states have a right to exist--a right the Arab countries permanently deny to Israel.
United Press International
After the cold war, many predicted that nationalism and anti-Semitism would swell in Central and Eastern Europe. With the exception of post-communist nationalism in Yugoslavia, this did not happen. Instead, anti-Semitism in Western Europe has been politically marginalized. Not a single politician in Britain has used an anti-Jewish platform successfully. Far-right French presidential candidate Jean Marie Le Pen and German liberal Jürgen Mölleman were rejected by voters for their association with anti-Semitism. Ruling social democrats who have emerged from the far left retain no discernable trace of leftist anti-Semitism. European policies toward Israel are not a reflection of anti-Semitism, but rather are shaped by a desire to oppose the United States.
The numbers of anti-Semitic incidents per capita in Europe and in America are comparable. Furthermore, anti-Semitic incidents in Europe are largely the work of citizens of North African or Arab origin who reject the notion of being British, French, Belgian, etc. They draw inspiration not from a European anti-Semitism, but from anti-Zionist literature published in the Middle East and propagated in some European mosques.
Although anti-Semitism is a problem Europe must continue to address, it is not a problem posed by Europe.
About the NAI Debate Series
This debate was the first in a New Atlantic Initiative series on anti-Semitism, anti-Europeanism, and anti-Americanism. On November 7, Patrick Chamorel of the Woodrow Wilson Center debated AEI's Danielle Pletka on the question of American anti-Europeanism--do the Europeans deserve the criticism now common in Washington, or are Americans becoming anti-Europe? For further information, visit our website. A third debate on European anti-Americanism will be held on December 10.