Ethnic strife in Europe...

A precursor of Balkanization, or birth pangs on the way to full integration of immigrants?

kurdish 88 (photo credit: AP)
kurdish 88
(photo credit: AP)
The problems involving non-Western immigrants in Europe may have escalated a step further on October 28, when major riots broke out between Turkish and Kurdish immigrants in Berlin. On that day an authorized demonstration was held, initially in favor of fraternity between Turks and Kurds. On its margins, however, were two unauthorized demonstrations. The subsequent riots were directly related to the battles around the Turkish-Iraqi border between Kurdish nationalists and Turkish soldiers. During the Berlin disturbances 18 policemen were wounded and 15 demonstrators arrested. In past unrest the police had always considered the attacks as coming from the Kurdish side. This time the initiators were Turks, some of whom chased Kurds with machetes. Claudia Schmid, head of the domestic security agency's Berlin branch, warned that similar events might recur. There are close to 2.5 million Turks in Germany, among them an estimated 500,000 Kurds. German domestic security has been watching an estimated 300 members of the Gray Wolves, an extreme right-wing Turkish organization, and about 1,000 sympathizers of the Kurdish militant party PKK. ALSO, IN the center of the Dutch town Doetinchem on the night of October 27, 40-50 Kurds and Turks fought. Large police forces were called in to separate the two groups. Local sources claim the disturbances are unrelated to the border fighting because it is more comfortable for Europeans to blame hooliganism than ideology for such violence. There have been many peaceful demonstrations by both sides in other towns in Europe, with tens of thousands participating. Yet at the beginning of November, fights also broke out between Turks and Kurds in Oslo. There was a sigh of relief in Vienna when a clash on November 4 turned out to have been "just" a fight between two Turkish families rather than between Kurds and Turks, as initially published. The spilling over of Middle Eastern conflicts into Western Europe is not new. Over the past decades there have been many attacks on Jews and Jewish communities in Western Europe by Arabs and their supporters. So, once again, what happened first to the Jews was an indicator of what would happen to others later. There is, however, one fundamental difference: In the case of the Jews, all the perpetrators of violence came from the Muslim side, whereas in the current disturbances both parties are fighting. THE NETHERLANDS has been faced with another type of ethnic trouble. On October 14 a Moroccan with a criminal record entered a police station in the Western part of Amsterdam where many immigrants live and stabbed two police officers. One of those attacked, a policewoman, shot him dead. As one talkback on a leading newspaper Web site remarked, if the police are incompetent in the street, they will be attacked in the police station. For two weeks, on most of the following nights, cars were set aflame in and near that neighborhood. A special police unit had to guard the police station. The Amsterdam police did not manage to catch even one perpetrator despite heavy patrolling of the relatively small area. With the many problems of non-integrated immigrants in Europe, one sees two alternative scenarios emerging with respect to the future of their descendents: The optimistic one is that in a few decades, as with all previous immigrations, they will ultimately be integrated. The other, more pessimistic, view says that Europe will be Balkanized. There are already several no-go areas for the authorities in some countries. These may evolve into de-facto self-governed foreign ghettos amid the larger population. One Dutch academic, who requested anonymity, wrote me cynically that "there are some Muslims in the Netherlands who think that in the future there will be Muslim enclaves with Islamic schools and banking, where the Shari'a is law and the residents will probably be speaking Arabic or Turkish." He added: "Are we going to recognize the passports and identity cards from these enclaves? Do we supply them with gas and electricity, and what do we do if they don't pay? What do we do with the criminals who flee to such an enclave?" This is probably exaggerated. The examples of ethnic strife mentioned here, however, are only several among many. Even a more optimistic version of the Balkanization scenario could well mean that, as has happened so often in other matters, the Europeans will, a few years from now, find themselves emulating some of the same security procedures Israel has had to implement to protect its civilian population. The writer, chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has published four books on European attitudes toward Jews and Israel.