The tragedy in Toulouse has received much attention throughout the world. As carefully as thoughtful observers may read the expressions of sympathy and support, especially by French politicians, they’re also aware that what’s being said and written must be understood in the context of the forthcoming presidential elections in France.
That’s one reason why apparent experts on anti-Semitism often refuse to take the words of politicians at their face value. Instead, they may point out that only a day or so after the murders in Toulouse the media quoted statistics about a further increase in anti-Semitic incidents in France. They tend to hold similar views about the rest of Europe.
Writing in this vein Barry Rubin, Israeli professor and expert on Jewish affairs, declared in the aftermath of the Toulouse massacre that while the outpouring of sympathy came from many quarters, “the next round of murders and inciting antisemitic lies are being perpetrated by respectable people and institutions.” And: “There is no real soul-searching, no true effort to do better, no serious examination about how the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hysteria is paving the way to murder and potential genocide.”
Rubin’s data may be sound but his conclusions probably reflect the prejudices of many Israelis who seem to have a deep psychological need – perhaps rooted in their own insecurity – to prove that Jewish life outside Israel is doomed. That doesn’t prevent Israelis to want to live abroad, but, of course, “only for a couple of years.”
Corresponding prejudices that lead to opposite conclusions come from many spokespersons of the Jewish Diaspora. They aren’t blind to anti-Semitism but refuse to see it in as dramatic terms as does Rubin. That doesn’t mean, of course, that they’re more objective than he but it does remind us how well-nigh impossible it is to make sense of the various pronouncements and know how to interpret facts on the ground.
Matthew Gould, the British ambassador to Israel, who accurately describes himself as “a member of Britain’s Jewish community,” presents a very positive picture. Writing in the March 23 edition of the Jerusalem Post he repudiates the notion “that Britain’s Jewish community is cowering from an unstoppable wave of anti-Semitism sweeping the country.”
Gould writes: “The UK is not an anti-Semitic country, and Britain’s Jewish community is proud, strong and flourishing. The community’s leadership is robust, and speaks up about its concerns both in public and with the government.”
It would be comforting if Canadian Jewish leaders could respond to the tragedy with greater insight then simply words of condemnation. It would be a sign of our Canadian Jewish community’s strength if at times like this we were offered some analysis of the impact of such events, rather than calls for renewed vigilance.
Emotionally and rationally, I’d like to think that there’s more truth in the Gould declaration than in the Rubin presentation, but I also know that both speak from their own perspectives: the Israeli may very well be inclined to side with A.B. Yehoshua’s anti-Diaspora stance and Gould is more likely to reflect the desire of Anglo-Jewry to see itself as fully integrated.
Both may be right to describe things as they see them, but it’s doubtful that either tells us how things really are. Perhaps the picture is just too complex and too confusing.
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