A wave of anti-Jewish violence has taken place in France and Sweden over the past few weeks. The difference in government response is notable, and yet there is something similarly disquieting about their actions. The Swedish government alternately denies the problem, blames the Jews and blames Israel -- it recently funded a book on Israeli "apartheid." The French are more complicated. French counter-terror police have been good at tracking domestic radical Islamists, but the government has made overtly anti-Israel gestures that appear to be nothing so much as "compensation" to its increasingly angry and radical Muslim community and to the Arab world.
For the 600 Jews of Malmo, living alongside 60,000 Muslims, Jewish life has been difficult for years, with harassment of individuals and vandalism of the cemetery and synagogue. What makes it harder is a city administration that believes the Jews are asking for it. In a 2010 interview, Mayor Ilmar Reepalu told Skanska Dagbladet, [Jews] "have the possibility to affect the way they are seen by society," urging the community to "distance itself" from Israel. "Instead, the community chose to hold a pro-Israel demonstration," he said, adding that such a move "may convey the wrong message to others." He said, "There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo."
Presented with information that Jews had, indeed, been attacked in Malmo, the mayor retreated just a step and said, "We accept neither Zionism nor anti-Semitism or other forms of ethnic discrimination." Zionism thus defined becomes the reason people in Malmo attack Jews -- who should be distancing themselves from "ethnic discrimination" rather than supporting Israel, according to Repaalu.
This may be why the Jewish community in Malmo, not the government, pays nearly all the cost of its own protection. The Simon Weisenthal Center called it a "Jew tax." Even then, according to the community president, Swedish authorities twice refused permission to install security cameras outside the Jewish community building, home to a kindergarten, meeting rooms and Chabad apartments, because it is a "quiet street." After the latest brick and firebomb attack on the Jewish Center, police spokesman Anders Lindell told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "The suspects (two 18-year old men) never said or indicated they were perpetrating a hate crime," which was good enough for him, so he charged them simply as criminal vandals. Only after an angry international response, including from the U.S., were the charges upgraded.
France at first glance would seem different.
The French government responded quickly and firmly to an attack on a kosher market in Sarcelles, a Paris suburb, with raids in Strasbourg, Paris, Nice and Cannes. President François Hollande said the government would introduce bills for stronger counter-terrorism measures, including allowing police to access Internet communications. He added that places of worship would receive increased surveillance and protection, "because secularism, one of France's fundamental principles, directs the state to protect all religions."
On the other hand, Hollande also visited the head of the French Muslim Council, to reassure him there would be no "scapegoating" of the Muslim community. "French Muslims must not suffer from radical Islam. They are also victims," he said, channeling his predecessor. After a rabbi and two children were killed at a Jewish school in Toulouse in March, then-President Sarkozy announced that both Jewish and Muslim schools would receive protection, saying, "I have brought the Jewish and Muslim communities together to show that terrorism will not manage to break our nation's feeling of community… We must not cede to discrimination or vengeance."
No one called for discrimination or vengeance against Muslims and there were no discernible acts of either. But last week's series of raids by French police points to a broad and wide effort by Muslims across France to build a network, create an arsenal and attract recruits. At some point, the French government will have to acknowledge two things: that the purpose is to attack French Jews; and that there is no "Muslim community" that sits apart from its own radical elements. It is the sea in which the radicals swim – to paraphrase Mao – and it has a share of the responsibility.
Where Israel Fits
In what appears to be a sop to Arab and Muslim interests -- or what it hopes will be protection from additional Muslim anger -- the French government has taken an aggressive stance against Israel in UNESCO -- where it voted to accept "Palestine" as a full member country, and signed an agreement with "East Jerusalem" for French-Palestinian "cooperation."
A French-Palestinian effort to repair the roof on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem was announced this week. The French Consul General in Israel praised French archaeologists for "helping to discover Palestine." In this context, he mentioned the Qumran Caves – where the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls were found. And in perhaps the oddest move of all, France was the only European country to vote against a Russian motion in UNESCO to ward off an attack on Israel by Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was in France recently to thank the Hollande government for the French contribution of 10 million Euros to the Palestinian Authority (PA). While saying he was concerned about anti-Semitism, he added, "A two-state solution" is the "only way to bring lasting peace to the region." Linking anti-Semitism to the lack of Palestinian independence, suggests that French Jews should understand their victimization the same way Repaalu said Swedish Jews should understand it -- as the result of Israeli policy.
In France and Sweden -- and in the UN -- authorities fail to acknowledge that Europe's Jewish communities are under attack by Muslims who have formed insular, radical and often criminal enclaves. They are attacked NOT because of what they do or do not do; NOT because of what Israel does or does not do, and NOT because their tormentors face discrimination in Europe, but because they are Jews.
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.