When Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer launched their campaign against "The Israel Lobby" with an article in the London Review of Books (March 23, 2006)and subsequently in a book of the same name they asserted that European anti-Semitism was largely the by-product of the Arab-Israeli conflict: "No one would deny", they opined, "that there is anti-Semitism among European Muslims, some of it provoked by Israel's conduct towards the Palestinians and some of it straightforwardly racist."
According to this view, anti-Jewish incidents are mostly the misguided reaction of disaffected Muslim immigrant youth they themselves the target of European prejudice to the injustice that Israel inflicts on Palestinians. If the attacker is a Muslim, it is not "straightforward anti-Semitism" but rather the result of legitimate Palestinian grievances. Even if the nature of the attack involves depicting Jews as Christ-killers, it should not be treated as anti-Semitism because, so the thinking goes, it gives blanket cover to Israel's supporters to silence their adversaries.
For Israel's critics, the best answer to these inconvenient incidents is renewed efforts to bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians, mostly through Israeli concessions and change of policies. That may explain why Belgian media were reluctant to report on the brutal assault endured by a 13-year-old Jewish girl in mid-November. Five of her female classmates, all of Muslim background, kicked her in the head while screaming: "Dirty Jew, go back to your country."
It is a strange view indeed why is the nature of anti-Semitic attacks determined by the ethnic origin of the perpetrators or their motivation? What if the five attackers had been Christian skinheads?
Instead of providing an answer, Howard Gutman, the US ambassador to Belgium, recently chose to join the choir of denial. In a speech delivered at a conference on anti-Semitism in Brussels in late November, Ambassador Gutman stated: "Every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry."