Friday, November 13, 2015

13-Nov-15: Outside an Italian kosher pizzeria, a reminder of what being Jewish in Europe now means

Yesterday's Milan knifing attack victim [Image Source]
Those of us whose appearance fits people's idea of how Jews look, or who wear recognizably Jewish garb or head-coverings, already know pretty well how this works in today's multi-cultural Europe:
A Jewish man was stabbed multiple times in the face outside of a pizza shop this evening in Milan, Italy. The victim was identified as Natan Graf, a husband and father in his 40s... The attack happened at 8:20 p.m. local time outside the Carmel Kosher Pizzeria in the heart of Milan’s Jewish neighborhood, mere meters away from a Jewish school... According to [a local source] a number of young Israeli students standing not far from the scene heard the victim’s screams and came to his aid while the assailant, who they said appeared to be Arab, fled with a waiting accomplice. The attacker has not yet been apprehended. “There is always police protection outside the community school, the Chabad school, synagogues and other Jewish institutions, and there is also a local Jewish protection group,” explained [the source] “We all hope and pray nothing like this happens again” [and] while there’s no general feeling that the Italian Jewish community will have to face circumstances similar to ones in nearby France or Denmark, “we have to be extra careful.” The victim’s family has requested that people say Psalms on behalf of Natan ben Chaya Sarah. [Chabad News, November 12, 2015]
IBT says the assailant attacked from behind, repeating "I kill you" twice in Italian, before leaving without uttering more words. The victim suffered a 7 cm slash across the face and three additional slashes to the back. The suspicions in Milan are that the attacker was an Arab female. No suspect has been apprehended at the time we write this.

An analysis in The Guardian last year ["Antisemitism on rise across Europe 'in worst times since the Nazis'", Jon Henley, August 7, 2014] touched on how things are looking lately for Jews in Italy where
the Jewish owners of dozens of shops and other businesses in Rome arrived to find swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans daubed on shutters and windows. One slogan read: "Every Palestinian is like a comrade. Same enemy. Same barricade"; another: "Jews, your end is near." Abd al-Barr al-Rawdhi, an imam from the north eastern town of San DonĂ  di Piave, is to be deported after being video-recorded giving a sermon calling for the extermination of the Jews... [The Guardian]
Desecrated tombstones in the Jewish cemetery of Cronenbourg
near Strasbourg, France - 2013 [Image Source: The Telegraph UK]
An example of that Moslem religious leader's hateful sermons is the focus of a MEMI video clip here.

The US-based Anti-Defamation League's global audit, a widely-watched survey of attitudes and events, showed that in 2015, some 29% of Italians, about 15 million people, harbored views that ADL interprets as antisemitic. (The ADL 2015 Update is here. Our post about its 2014 results, when Italy's antisemitism index stood at a mere 20%, is here: "13-May-14: Understanding who hates us".)

Italy, compared with other European states, is in about the middle of the pack. Based on the 2015 data, Italy is much less afflicted with anti-Jewish bigotry than either Greece (67%) or Turkey (71%) are. But Belgium (21%), France (17%), the UK (12%) and Denmark (8%) all do much better. 

The issue is not only (and not mostly) a matter of surveys and attitudes, though. A report this past summer ["Attacks On France's Jews Surge Amid Concerns Of Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe", International Business Times, July 13, 2015] notes that
The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in France increased exponentially during the first quarter of 2015, compared to the corresponding period the year before, a French watchdog group found. The country has seen an 84 percent uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes since four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris were killed by an Islamist gunman [in January 2015]... Almost a quarter of those attacks were classified by the organization as violent. Most of the other incidents were reportedly death threats... CRIF, an umbrella of Jewish organizations in France, issued a statement saying that the... findings represent just a sliver of the full extent of incidents. ''Nothing seems to stop the dramatic increase of anti-Semitism in France, which today reached appalling levels"... A growing number of Jews have been moving to Israel from European countries in recent years. France, a country with 500,000 Jewish people, saw some 7,000 leave their country for Israel last year...[IBT]
A European Union office called the Fundamental Rights Agency, created in 2007, provides Brussels with data on "access to justice; victims of crime; information society; Roma integration; judicial co-operation; rights of the child; discrimination; immigration and integration of migrants; and racism and xenophobia". It issued a report on European "manifestations" of antisemitism this month (PDF online here). It defines those as
"verbal and physical attacks, threats, harassment, property damage, graffiti or other forms of text, including on the internet."
The video clip [here] from which this frame was grabbed shows a Moslem
preacher, Abd Al-Barr Al-Rawdhi, delivering a viciously anti-Jewish
Friday sermon at the Al-Rahma Mosque in San DonĂ  di Piave,
near Venice, Italy, July 2014. 
From the start, the report presents in a surprisingly candid way the limits on its value as a tool for addressing the problem:
  • Few EU Member States operate official data collection mechanisms that record antisemitic incidents in detail, leading to "gross underreporting of the nature and characteristics of antisemitic incidents" and restrictions on the "ability of policy makers and other relevant stakeholders at national and international levels to take measures and implement courses of action to combat antisemitism effectively and decisively, and to assess the effectiveness of existing policies
  • So what if incidents are not reported? Well, this means they are also "not investigated and prosecuted, allowing offenders to think that they can carry out such attacks with relative impunity".
  • Where the data do exist, "they are generally not comparable, not least because they are collected using different methodologies and sources across EU Member States". 
  • Police and criminal justice data "do not always categorise incidents motivated by antisemitism under that heading". 
  • Italy's official system for tracking crime-related data (Sistema di Indagine) lacks the ability to break out antisemitic events. No official data therefore exists (and the same is true in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and Portugal - all of them EU member states). On the basis of the available unofficial data noted in the FRA document, there was a doubling of Italian antisemitic attacks between 2005 and 2014.
On that not-so-promising basis, FRA finds that
antisemitism remains an issue of serious concern which demands decisive and targeted policy responses to tackle this phenomenon. The effective implementation of these responses would not only afford Jewish communities better protection against antisemitism, but it would also give a clear signal that across the EU the fundamental rights of all people are protected and safeguarded...
But as an FRA critic, Manfred Gerstenfeld, points out in "Europe’s feeble fight against anti-Semitism" [Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2015], there's a systemic reluctance to reach some obvious conclusions:
This Associated Press syndicated photo appears
 in a BBC online article about Muslim protests 
in London, and has remained online there for almost
a decade. It's evidently authentic. 
The FRA report mentions the main perpetrators of anti-Semitic incidents in the following order: “neo-Nazis, sympathizers of the far right and far left, Muslim fundamentalists and the younger generation, including school children. There are also incidents of public anti-Semitic discourse on university campuses.”
The order of the perpetrators as presented by the FRA is suspect. Those familiar with European anti-Semitism know that on an overall European basis Muslims should be placed at the top of the list. The murders of Jews because they were Jews in the current century in France, Belgium and Denmark have all been perpetrated by Muslims.

In view of the social climate in Western Europe only a few Jewish experts have dared to point out that the majority of anti-Semitic incidents in their country are caused by Muslims...
For the record, we checked and found that apart from that solitary reference to "Muslim fundamentalists", the 70-odd pages of the FRA examination of Europan antisemitism mentions Moslems or Muslims or Islam four times in total: (1) "...dialogue bringing together members of Jewish and Muslim communities"; (2) "anti-Muslim hostility"; (3) "Representatives of Jewish and Muslim communities"; (4) "...anti-Muslim hatred".

Europe, it turns out, is not so different from the rest of the world.

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