The vehement denunciations triggered in Europe by recent manifestations of anti-Semitism are fully justified.
The painting of swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans on dozens of graves in a Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg, France, can only be described as racist crimes. They are an insult to all faiths.
Last year, a group called “Muslims Against Anti-Semitism” took out a full-page ad in a UK newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, condemning anti-Semitism.
“We understand that many in our country empathise with the Palestinians and their right to a sovereign state,” it said. “However, we must be ever vigilant against those who cynically use international issues to vilify Jews or promote anti-Semitic tropes.”
As they strive to integrate into their host societies, Arabs and Muslims have no inspiration to receive from advocates of anti-Jewish bigotry.
In free societies, there are better ways to defend legitimate Arab and Muslim stances than slandering others.
Denouncing anti-Semitism, whatever its likely implicit innuendos, should not, however, justify the censorship of views that are critical of Israel or of Zionism. Putting such criticism beyond the pale of legitimate free expression would be unfair to large segments of Western public opinion who espouse such views.
A survey by the Institut Francais d’Opinion Publique stated that 57% of the French respondents stated a negative perception of Israel and 69% claimed a negative view of Zionism.
In France, pro-Macron MP Sylvain Maillard proposed legislation that would have criminalised anti-Zionism. The measure ended up being withdrawn but not before triggering a polemic. French thinker Dominique Vidal criticised the initiative as “starting down a totalitarian slippery slope.”
Much like anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Jewish racism is not protected free speech. It is too often advocated by the same intolerant groups in the West that promote intolerance towards Arabs and Muslims.
It is also a staple of extremists’ narrative. The terrorists who killed Jews in Paris in 2012 and 2015 happen to believe in the same distorted interpretations of faith, which justify the slaying of Muslims who do not share their views.
Much like anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry, anti-Jewish racism has no place in today’s world.