The suppressed Arte antisemitism documentary in historic perspective

By
June 22, 2017 21:49

This time, however, the suppression of information on antisemitism backfired.

4 minute read.



An image from the film that was dropped because it depicted antisemitism in a "pro-Israel" light.

An image from the film that was dropped because it depicted antisemitism in a "pro-Israel" light. . (photo credit: screenshot)

The initial suppression by the public and EU-subsidized French-German Arte TV station of a documentary about European antisemitism fits well into a lengthy history of hiding information about Jew-hatred and its perpetrators in Europe. Three extreme such cases since the beginning of this century that are discussed below illustrate a far more general phenomenon.

After the beginning of the Second Intifada in autumn 2000, there was a major outbreak of antisemitism in Western Europe. The first country where this manifested itself was France. Many of the violent antisemitic incidents were caused by Muslims. The then-Socialist government of prime minister Lionel Jospin did not want to admit the facts, let alone identify the community of the main perpetrators.

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French sociologist Shmuel Trigano related that antisemitic violence went largely unreported by both the press and public authorities for several months. The police categorized many of the incidents as “hooliganism.” We now understand that in those years the mental infrastructure for the sizable emigration of French Jews in recent years was created.

Another important case which elucidates the same “hiding truth policy’” occurred when the European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia – an EU agency since replaced by the Fundamental Rights Agency – asked the then 15 EU member states to report on antisemitic violence and viewpoints in 2002. The information the European Monitoring Center obtained was passed on to ZfA, the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the Technical University in Berlin, with the request to analyze the data.

An American scholar, Amy Elman, analyzed how this issue developed in her 2015 book, The European Union, Anti-Semitism, and the Politics of Denial. She said in an interview: “The Zfa completed its document in October 2003. It found that violent attacks against Jews often rose from virulent anti-Zionism across the political spectrum. Moreover, it specifically identified young Muslims of Arab descent as the main perpetrators of physical attacks against Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues. Many were victims of racism and social exclusion themselves.”

The European Monitoring Center decided not to publish the Zfa report, claiming that it was not meant for publication. Zfa responded that the frequent mention of Muslim perpetrators of antisemitism and anti-Zionist attacks was what had put off the European Monitoring Center. The Zfa also made public that the European Monitoring Center repeatedly asked it to change its findings, which it refused to do.

This shelving of the report and the reaction of the Zfa led to a scandal. The World Jewish Congress then published the Zfa’s unchanged report on the Internet.

In April 2004, the European Monitoring Center issued a lengthier study on antisemitism which was largely based on the Zfa report. Despite it being longer it hardly mentioned any perpetrators, thus hiding many cases of Muslim and leftwing antisemitism.

In 2012, a four-part Israeli television program called Allah-Islam, The Spread of Islam in Europe, was broadcast by Channel 10. An Israeli journalist, Zvi Yehezkeli, presented himself in Europe as a Palestinian.

He filmed the Muslim ghettos in a number of European countries. The program focused attention on violence, drugs and weapons possession, as well as other criminal activities occurring in parts of Muslim communities.

Yehezkeli mentioned the religious fanaticism, the intimidation of dissenting Muslims, the discrimination against women, and “honor killings.” He also devoted attention to the widespread antisemitism in these communities. The rare European TV programs that discussed such issues usually dealt with a few specific problems relating to Muslim communities in a single country.

After the entire Channel 10 series was broadcast, a Belgian journalist came to interview me about it. My first reaction was that such documentaries should have been made by a variety of broadcasters in European countries in previous years. It would then have been logical for Channel 10 to acquire one of these, add Hebrew subtitles and broadcast it. I noted that it was telling that since there were no such programs, Channel 10 had no choice but spend substantial money to produce the series.

I said also that the fact that such documentaries had not been made by European broadcasters showed that many problematic issues with parts of Muslim communities were being swept under the carpet.

The interviewer agreed with me. He added that his bosses probably would not like what I said. Indeed, they did not broadcast the interview.

Arte’s initial decision to suppress the new documentary, Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe, created by German producers Joachim Schröder and Sophie Hafner, continues this pattern. The German public broadcaster WDR through which Arte had commissioned the documentary continued to hesitate to broadcast it.

This time, however, the suppression of information on antisemitism backfired.

The German daily Bild made the documentary available on its website for 24 hours. Hundreds of thousands of people viewed it on that day. It now appears on YouTube. Thereafter Arte reversed its decision and decided to broadcast the movie.

All this will likely be the beginning of an international career for the documentary.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has already announced that it will show the film with English subtitles at its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman emeritus of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.


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