pragueBlog

2003-10-31  

LINKED: Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in Europe. From Iberian Notes. This is a favorite topic among ex-pats and I'm no exception, so if this produces yawns you have only yourself to blame for reading on.

It's also one of those intractable unpleasantnesses on which neither side will ever see eye to eye. I do not doubt that a lot of European reflexive anti-Americanism is fueled to a great extent by good old fashioned anti-Semitic ravings. But western Europe, let's agree, is distinct from the eastern part in this regard. In the west, they have decades of practice in blaming America for their own troubles, and the prominence of Israel on their news horizons in recent months and years provides a nice little opportunity for a little lazy mental synergy that can't be missed.

I really don't find Czechs to be anti-American. Surely they are out there. The odd hand-wringing pundit worried about American hegemony running out of control, etc. But a lot of that is just cut and paste content piracy from foreign sources like the BBC. (Please note I am talking about reflexive anti-Americanism, the jargon-filled, relevance-free, on-holiday-from-reality variety, which if you don't agree is pretty much the dominant strain these days, then I'm afraid we're way off the same page.) Besides, the only ones who really put their heart into their hatred are communists, and Jan Kavan, and do we really care that much? It's a toothless, arthritic old lion of a movement just like nine-tenths of its members.

Anti-Semitism is a different story. Any ex-pat American who has lived here a while and, rather importantly, got to know real, live Czechs in any numbers, is likely to have had this experience: while mixing socially with people who rather touchingly make an effort to be nice and hospitable and to make complimentary, if occasionally ingratiating, statements about America, you can witness the most amazing segues into Jew bashing. I've had it from both young and old, educated and ignorant. The same person who only a moment ago was saying nice things about the US suddenly unleashes a well-practiced rant against Jews and how most of America's problems are down to our lack of resolve in keeping them out of positions of power and influence. Several people - these do tend to be the older ones - have actually referred to "the Jewish question". I don't say by any means this phenomenon is widespread or shared by the majority. But it's there.

And it's so reprehensible and so offensive that the fact that this bullshit carries any currency at all - and is tolerated - taints the whole society. Nobody has an excuse for this behavior, much less people who were subject victims of the Nazis as well.

End of comment, except to add that Iberian Notes hits a nail on the head by noting how very annoying it is when Europeans assure you that they aren't talking about you, they have lots of American friends, zay like and admire ze Amerikan peeples, and how their beef is with the American government and its policies. You see, yes?

Don't you hate that?

Steve | 16:47 |
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