by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
A journalist attests: "I feel more at ease in some neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including the ones with Palestinian residents, than in the Netherlands."
Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Cnaan Liphshiz
“While covering Europe as a journalist over the past years, I have seen a recrudescence of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism almost everywhere on the Western part of the continent. In such a brief interview, I can only mention a few examples to illustrate it.
“In October 2012 I wrote about the synagogue in Marseille, France’s second largest city: ‘At a time when Jewish institutions across France resemble military fortresses for their security, entering the great synagogue and main Jewish center of this picturesque city on the Mediterranean coast is as easy as pushing open the front door.’
“In Marseille, this is no longer the case. Jews fortify their institutions almost everywhere in Western Europe and an increasing number of them hide their identity. In January 2015, the Jewish schools of Marseille, which is home to France’s second-largest Jewish community, were put under permanent police protection provided by officers armed with machine guns.”
Cnaan Liphshiz is the European correspondent of the Jewish Telegraph Agency since 2012. He has previously worked for Haaretz, Maariv and The Jerusalem Post.
“One response in Paris is rather unique, but it means little within the general European context. In 2013, some members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) chased the Arabs they suspected of having perpetrated an attack a day earlier. The JDL also went into action when a Parisian synagogue was attacked during Israel’s Protective Edge campaign in the summer of 2014. They are on a collision course with the Jewish community which has always been opposed to taking the law in one’s own hands.
“In the Paris suburb of Sarcelles during the summer of 2014, I stood in a cloud of tear gas with Jews who were defending their shul from a pogrom-like rabble. An Arab mob numbering two hundred, armed with sticks and stones, tried to attack the synagogue. They set garbage cans alight and shouted, ‘Slaughter the Jews.’ A police force prevented their attack. The hundred or so JDL supporters who were at the scene, armed with baseball bats and clubs, sang the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, in honor of the police. The Arabs were unable to reach the synagogue but managed to torch two cars and throw a firebomb at a smaller synagogue which was slightly damaged. Over the summer, nine French synagogues were attacked.
“Around that time I reported from Paris that during an illegal demonstration, I had heard a young black man with a Parisian accent declare loudly to a dozen of his friends, ‘OK, guys. Let’s go hunt some Jews.’ One of his friends answered, ‘Let’s break their heads’, to which the man replied, ‘Catch them fast, kill them slow.’
“One of the few other places where I found some members of a Jewish defense force, be it under very different circumstances, was the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. A small group of Jews were practicing self-defense in case of urban warfare. All of them had some form of Ukrainian or Israeli army background, but their skills were rusty.
“My own environment has changed as well. My wife and I lived within a small gated Jewish enclave in the Schilderswijk, a neighborhood of The Hague. This is one of the most problematic neighborhoods in the Netherlands. There is high unemployment and in the summer of 2014, a number of Muslims marched there in support of the Islamic State. The problems go far beyond the fact that my wife cannot walk in public wearing a skirt.”
Liphshiz quotes from an interview he gave a Dutch news site at time. “I said during the interview that, although it is distressing to say so, I feel more at ease in some neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including the ones with Palestinian residents, than in the Netherlands. In Israel, there is much acceptance of minorities’ sensitivities. In Europe, minorities are often resented for those sensitivities.”
He adds that in The Hague “I went to have my phone repaired in a shop. When the Turkish owner heard that I was Israeli, he said, ‘Wait a moment. I’ll fetch my gun’. He laughed a bit to indicate that he was not serious. I asked him what he had against Israelis, or against Jews. The shop owner answered that he ‘simply’ hated Jews. In the summer of 2015, during the Ramadan holiday, there were riots after an Aruban national was strangled to death by the Dutch police during his arrest. The unfortunate event had nothing to do with Jews, and yet many protesters shouted anti-Semitic slogans.”
Liphshiz concludes: “In the past when I would mention to friends where I resided, I would always add that we never had any issues with our neighbors. I would also remark that I did not hide being a Jew. Nowadays that is no longer true. We have relocated, in part because of the rapid radicalization we experienced.”
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
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