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Europe’s Estrangement from Israel

By distancing itself from the Jewish state, Europe seeks to deflect the anger of its Muslim population.

by
Frank Furedi

Bio

January 17, 2009 - 12:00 am
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In reality, many Western European officials are worried not just about peace in the Middle East, but also about managing the radicalization of their own Muslim population. Distancing Europe from Israel is seen as necessary for appeasing the anger of Europe’s Muslim population. From this perspective, the problem is not simply Israel but also Europe’s Jewish population. So in order to accommodate what are taken to be Muslim sensibilities, Jewish interests often become a negotiable commodity. For example, in England some teachers are reluctant to discuss the experience of the Holocaust in the classroom in case it alienates children from a Muslim background. An illustration of a similar dynamic at work is shown by the example of Denmark.

It is worth noting that historically Denmark is one of the most enlightened societies in Europe. During the Second World War it stood out as the one country where Nazis could find virtually no one who would collaborate with their anti-Jewish policies. That is why it is so sad to find out that a number of Danish school administrators have recently recommended that Jewish children should not enroll in their schools. It all began last week when Olav Nielsen, headmaster of Humlehave School in Odense, publicly stated that he will “refuse to accept the wishes of Jewish parents” to place their children at his school because it would create tension with the Muslim children. Other headmasters echoed this sentiment, claiming that they were putting children’s safety first. Apparently they are worried that the enrollment of Jewish pupils would upset those of Arab descent and that such tensions could provoke violence. Whatever their intention, these pedagogues were signaling the idea that in the interest of “health and safety” the ghettoization of Jewish children was a sensible idea.

Thankfully many Danes were horrified by this episode, as are many Italians who were shocked when they discovered that a group of trade unionists demanded the “boycott of all Jewish shops in central Rome linked to the Israelite community” on the grounds that these businesses “are tainted by blood.” And many decent people have felt more than a tinge of unease when confronted with the disturbing tendency for anti-Israeli protests to mutate into anti-Semitic ones. But European societies appear disoriented by events in the Middle East and unable to deal with their own problems, so they look for demons elsewhere.

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Frank Furedi is a professor of sociology at the University of Kent and author of Paranoid Parenting: Why Ignoring the Experts May Be Best for Your Child.
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