July 2007
Notes on nowadays expressions of intolerance in Israel and Europe
Elaborated in a process of on-line communication with Balkan Center for Regional Development (Plovdiv, Bulgaria).

Valery Novoselsky

Negative attitude toward the religion of Islam and people affiliated with it, whether by belonging to ethnic Muslims or by conversion to Islam. Islamophobia may have open and latent forms and can be shared by persons belonging to other religions and/or agnostics. Open forms of this phobia may have official, semi-official and/or non-state manifestations. It is equally connected with the sharp demonizing criticism against the theology of Islam and/or with the depicting of all Muslims as the ones who are potentially working for establishment of world Caliphate and the destruction of other state entities (“terrorism” label is only the part of such demonization).

Anti-Semitism is a negative perception of Jews, which may be expressed as a hatred or/and distrust toward Jews, as a collectivity or/and individuals. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals (perceived as Jews) and / or their property/housing facilities, toward Jewish community institutions, religious facilities and cultural sites linked with Jewish history. In addition, such manifestations could also the state of Israel, conceived as a manifestation of Jewish statehood and ethnic collectivity. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong”.

Antiziganism is the form of hostility, prejudice and racism directed against the Romani people and the ones who are perceived as such. In Europe it had more violent character and more brutal manifestations through the history, then Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The Roma - who have often been stereotyped as thieves, tramps, con men and fortune tellers - have been subjects to various forms of discrimination and genocidal policies, especially in XX century. This phenomenon is very much widespread among mainstream societies of Europe and even Middle East. And even the ones who declare themselves as “non-racists” and “tolerant” ones very easily jump to hateful tones as soon as the conversation turns to Roma ethnicity.


Religious Toleration and Intercultural Dialogue


Religious tolerance is the peaceful attitude, first, to the individuals from the other religious communities, then, the talent to live in harmony with their spiritual convictions and lifestyles. It should not be mistaken as ecumenism and should not mean compromises in theological realm. However, the main concept for such trend should be vocalised and this is “There is one God for all!”.  The next step ahead after the religious tolerance is the Inter-faith Dialogue.


Intercultural Dialogue is a different notion, then Inter-faith Dialogue. It should be seen in a light of cultural exchange, i.e. groups of people illustrating their ethnic, sub-ethnic, ethno-religious culture in forms of folklore, visual art, theatre, etc. Such Dialogue is generally held via people’s diplomacy, commonly supported by the governments withing the frames of “soft diplomacy” strategy.



Minority/Disadvantaged Youth


Young people from ethnic minority background are usually the source for revolutionary movements. Due to the combination of blatant discrimination and social problems, which majority of them experience since childhood, these folks are ready to turn this sinful world around. Due to the lack of education they can be easily misguided by political con artists, even when the latter ones from their own ethnic background. The main key to address the challenges minority youth is facing is the progressive evolution and not the revolution anymore.


Local and Regional Context of Islamophobia, Romaphobia and Anti-Semitism


  1. What is the level of violence, related to Islamophobia, Romaphobia and Anti-Semitism in your country?


The physical violence against Muslims, definitely, exists in Israel. It was manifested strongly in autumn 2000 – spring 2001 in the beginning of “Intifada Al-Aqsa” when the groups of Israeli Jews were attacking and beating Israeli Arabs of different ages, mostly in Tel-Aviv area. However, the authorities stopped the pogroms and none was killed.


Usually, the verbal kind of violence exists in Israel and this notion, known as “hate speech”, is not punished there, as long as there are no calls to kill any person or a group of people. Such “liberal” attitude of authorities to what “has been just said” allowed not only anti-Islamic or very rare anti-Romani manifestations to be shown, but also to the anti-Jewish ones.


The articles posted on a website http://pogrom.org.il report about the cases of physical attacks on Jews due to their ethnicity … committed in the state of Israel.

Those things are happening because the society lacks the tolerance toward the ones who are different and the understanding of the culture of a neighbor.


  1. What is the size of the Muslim minority (if applicable) in your country? 

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, 16.2% of Israelis are Muslim – about 1.15 million people. The majority of Muslims are Sunnis, as for Shiites and Wahhabis, then they are the minorities and not influential. The religious groups of Druze, Bahai and Ahmadiah are not considered as Muslim, but the tiny group of Alawites (Gadjar village) is still considered as such.


There are Arabs who are Christians. There are non-Arabs who are Muslims: Cherkess, Tatars, Azeris, and Uzbeks. Non-Arab Muslims mainly affiliate with Israeli Jews and loyal to the state of Israel. The ethnic Muslims from former USSR (up to 50 000 persons) are in need for basic Muslim education, which would not be in contradiction with relatively tolerant in religious issues Israeli laws.


More in details on http://www.middle-east-info.org/gateway/arabsinisrael/index.htm


  1. What are the most disadvantaged youth groups in your country?

Youth from Russian-speaking families, regardless of ethnicity or religion of their parents. Usually, they are from mixed families (Jewish-Russian), but not exclusively. It is rather the problem of being from an immigrant family. As a person from the former USSR I would like to add the negative attitude toward all kinds of Russians to the other three anti-.


Also, the youth from poor neighborhoods of Tel-Aviv area, whose grandparents came in 50-60s from Northern Africa. In contrary to their Russian neighbors they do not have such problem with housing or social connections, but in the area of education they are even more disadvantaged then Russian youth.


  1. What are the main obstacles for youth participation in your country/region? 

Diverse and enthusiastic Israeli youth may have only one kind of obstacle – different priorities in life and carrier. But as long as they are interested in a subject, they will perform miracles in a process of participation anywhere.


There may be the opposition to the statements regarding Islamophobia, since someone can blame the Muslims for anti-Israelism, anti-Judaism, etc. and regard the expressions of Islamophobia as the reaction on the Muslim attitudes toward the state and the people of Israel.


There may be the lack of understanding on why to combat Romaphobia, if the number of Roma living in the Holy Land is very small and this topic is not typical for Israeli society.


There may be a hard time to explain them that the fight against Jew-hate should start from their own street and not just from closest European town, that around the globe these days anti-Semitism has the demonic forms, which they will not find even among Hamas militants of Palestine.



Governments and Minority Issues


What are the governmental (central and local) institutions that deal with Minority Issues in your country?Please prepare a list.


Actually, the ethnic minorities are not recognized de jure in the state of Israel. Even the Jewish majority is having the status of religious, not an ethnic one.


The Religious Communities Division within the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs deals with more than two million non-Jewish individuals, including Muslims, Druze, Christians, Baha'is, Samaritans, and Karaites.


There is also the minority minister Raleb Majadele, who since March 2007 is a Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport. But the issue of ethnic minorities is an open field for judicial elaboration for the governing system of Israel.


Overview of Israel's Ethnic Minorities



Media Stereotyping


1. Does it use stereotypical images when portraying Muslims, Roma or Jews?

Please bring examples on specific stereotypes and answer separately for each group.


I regularly read publications in Russian, therefore may say only regarding the “Russian street” of Israel.


Portrayal of Muslims – due to the permanent conflict over the land the negative stereotypes tend to show Muslims, as individuals and as a whole entity, as potential or open terrorists with “hidden agenda” wherever they go. There is also strong opinion that even in the time of peace Muslims should not be trusted in economical issues and, even more, in romantic ones that may lead to the marriage, thus make problems for the families on both sides.


Portrayal of Roma – it is usually not negative in a Jewish sector due to the fact that Roma were affected by nazi extermination policies along with the Jews. In Arabic sector the illustration of Domari Gypsies as criminals and associals usually frequent, but due to the activity of Jerusalem-based Domari Gypsy organization is enreached by realistic articles of Palestinian journalists writing about social challenges of the community and the positive role of her international ties.


Portrayal of Jews – too broad question to answer even in 1000-page volume J

In brief, there is a positive perception of Israeli-born Jewish person (in Hebrew – sabra) and diminishing toward the one who lives in diaspora (galutnik). There are also negative stereotypes against each single Jewish sub-ethnic community, except the Bulgarian one. Only Bulgarian Jews have normal name and reputation in Israel. The others blame and insult one another in a market style…


2. Does your local/national media refer to other religious groups with negative stereotypes?

Please give examples.


In my opinion, such stereotypes are directed against Muslims, including the ones who hold Israeli passports and regarded as “fifth column”. The strange and sad thing is that in Muslim countries Israeli Arabs (of any religion) are viewed as potential “Israeli spies” too.

The opinion of mass media about the Christians is soft as long as they are not missionaries and as long as the historical issues are not discussed in depth.

The most surprising for you thing can be that the attitude of a secular Israel toward the religious one can be regarded as antagonistic and if existing expressions of it would take place in Europe, then the ones who treat religious Jews so would be considered as anti-Semites. There is too much of internal diffamation within the civil society in the Holy Land. Certainly, such trend should be professionally addressed.


3. If you don`t come from a Muslim majority country, how does the media in your country represent the problems of Muslim minority?


Actually, there are enough Hebrew-, English- and Russian-speaking journalists in Israel who write insightful and realistic articles on the situation of local Muslim communities. I do not see the problems with the reporting in Israel/Palestine.


But, still, in between the lines there is a trend to view Islam as non-tolerant religion and the Muslim society as closed and non-tolerant. Nevertheless, for me as for the one who lives in Galilee with very mixed population this tendency seems to be a kind of nonsense easily refuted by numerous encounters with the local Muslims, plus, ethnic Muslims from the former USSR.

Migration and Hate-Related Problems

Can restricted migration policies prevent migration problems?

Obviously not. Despite the strong efforts of Israeli government to stop the “repatriation” of the descendents of Ethiopian Jews who have been forced to become Christians (up to 30 000 in various places across Ethiopia and Eritrea) now the country experience the influx of Sudanese refugees, who neither Jews, neither Muslims, not in each case Christians, who speak neither Arabic, neither English. And they do not even claim to be “the tribe of Israel”, but simply heard that the life in Israel is convenient and made their way there via Egypt by crossing the Sinai and Negev deserts, without any visa request or inquiry. There are already several thousands of them here and the number of such refugees is still growing each single day… Amazing!

Another issue is the “repatriation” of grandsons and granddaughters of the Jews, which in theory seems to be a problem for someone in local establishment. The efforts to restrict their coming here do not have success, because usually such people are having reliable family links with the “real” Jews and know too much about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism to be denied the right to get settled in Israel.


Is EU enlargement a catalyst or an obstacle for raise of Islamophobia?


In my opinion it is an obstacle for Islamophobia, because western Europeans do not have too much time to increase their anti-Muslim attitude while they learn eastern Europeans in numerous encounters, not always positive ones. In addition to it, eastern Europeans yet do not have strong anti-Muslim ideology and even their anti-Jewish attitude usually is not connected to middle-eastern controversy or opinion of Muslims.


I see the EU enlargement also as a tool for European Muslims to locate friends in eastern Europe, to promote the tolerant attitude to Islam and Muslims via formal and non-formal  education (according dawa principles). Thus, the enlargement may serve as a catalyst of Islamophilia. But here the Muslim community should not take the defensive tactics of “victims”, but educative approach withing the frames of public diplomacy.


Youth Cooperation and Networking


Please list the 3 most important benefits of youth networking in the field of prevention of Romaphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe.


  1. Young generation is a future of any country, any society, any group. The sooner they learn on the danger of hate the better and safer future they and their countries will have.


  1. The process of prevention of Romaphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia includes the intercultural and inter-faith learning module, which will extend the educational capacities of young people and will provide for them opportunities to exersize their talents in cultural and religious spheres.


  1. The high-quality level of trainings and communication with VIPs may inspire some of the current youth activists to search broader horizons in the field of politics and diplomacy for the sake of the rule of law and equality.

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