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Is Europe Becoming Anti-Semitic?

After the EU Commission cancelled a conference with Jewish leaders and a Swedish museum displayed works by a Palestinian terrorist, many DW-WORLD readers expressed concern that Europe is becoming anti-Semitic.

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Swedish artists Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, left, and Israeli born Dror Feiler with their restored art installation, "Snow White and the Madness of Truth."

At the beginning of January, EU Commission President Romano Prodi came under attack for announcing he would cancel a high-profile seminar on anti-Semitism scheduled to take place in February. The seminar, to be held with representatives from the World Jewish Congress, was intended to focus on accusations of growing bias against Jews in the European Union. Prodi called off the meeting after he was specifically named in the press as being responsible for a controversial study in November last year naming Israel as Europe’s greatest threat to peace.

Since then Prodi and the chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, have made amends. Preparations are now underway for the seminar to take place. But the fuss surrounding the seminar is indicative of the attention such accusations of anti-Semitism garner in Europe.

Just over a week ago, anti-Semitism was once again in the headlines after the Israeli ambassador to Sweden vandalized a work of art depicting a Palestinian suicide bomber as Snow White. Calling it an "act against growing anti-Semitism," Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon endorsed the ambassador’s action.

DW-WORLD readers responded to the news with a variety of comments. Read what they had to say:

"The saddest thing in all this is that every time someone tries to understand what leads a human being to such desperate actions, some Jewish fanatics step up and denounce it as an endorsement for the act and call the understander purely anti-Semitic, which is quite laughable since the artist is a Jew. These same fanatics call critics of the state of Israel anti-Semites and those who try to make true peace with their neighbors are called traitors. So in response to the ambassador’s accusations of anti-Semitism, I call him an anti-understander of suffering and desperation and a traitor for denouncing a fellow Jew’s curiosity of such desperation and suffering." -- Mike Messiah, Montreal, Canada

"Attacking that piece of work in Sweden was an incredibly dumb thing to do. Understandably, such a ‘neutral’ depiction of violence can cause pain to any victims of terrorism. Yet for the ambassador to vandalize another country’s art is an act of base juvenilishness and should be punished by Sharon, not praised." -- Eric H. West

"I find it tedious that any pejorative action, comment or reference toward the Israelis or Jewish people is being considered by Sharon to be anti-Semitic. It seems sometimes that the Jewish people (not as a whole, but when it comes to public reactions) have become used to a victim status and have trouble getting out of that mindset; everything is a personal attack, because of their religion. I support the efforts against anti-Semitism that still threatens Jews all over the world, but I would hail the recognition that not every negative comment against a Jewish person is an anti-Semitic remark." --Andrew Aitken, Canadian in Berlin

"It is difficult to agree with the actions of the ambassador. Whatever his motivations and his sentiments, it is an extreme act to destroy a work of art in a museum. On the other hand, the suicide bombings in Israel have left so many dead, wounded and scarred that it is no ordinary subject for an artist to select. He knew he was being provocative when he selected his theme and certainly when he treated the subject as he did. So the artist sets out to provoke a reaction and he provokes a reaction – would the artist call the ambassador’s response ‘performance art’? The two of them ought to be ashamed." -- Glenn Easton

"I do not believe the Israeli ambassador was right in destroying the art work. The world needs to know that being pro-Palestinian, pro peace or even anti-Israel is NOT synonymous with anti-Semitism. One can hate a government without hating it’s people." --Katherine Juestel, American in Australia

"Both the ambassador and Ariel Sharon have behaved abominably in this case. I am not anti-Semitic, but am very quickly losing patience with the actions of the Israeli government." -- Harry Calkins, Illinois, U.S.

"I think the artist’s exhibit in Stockholm was anti-Semitic and praised terrorist murderers of innocent civilians. I think that Israeli ambassador Mazal most definitely did the right thing." -- name withheld

"The artist himself being Jewish quite appropriately depicts the wrongs on both sides, and ever since Sharon took office it seems that even the truth is perceived to represent anti-Semitism. The truth is that horrible suffering is experienced by both sides, but Sharon’s actions have only fed the flames of hatred of a people who have no options left." -- Inge Perreault

"The Israeli ambassador behaved very unprofessionally and he did not improve the image of Israeli politicians and diplomats in Europe. I fear such behavior will lead to more Israel critical voices in Europe." -- Atilla A. Iftikhar

"A pool of ‘blood’ with Snow White is not a work of art. I agree with the destruction. Too bad it was not permanent." -- E.P. Coughlin

"The artist must be given an opportunity to explain the intent and motivation for the creation of the work. After this the rest of the world can debate the intent and whether one would support the display in their own neighborhood. The destruction or defacing of art must be held as a criminal act with severe penalties." -- Thomas Clark

"I see the act of the Israeli ambassador as a strong political act. I do not believe it is an attack against art itself, and the fact that he understood or not he meaning and intent of the artwork is meaningless. I believe he used this piece as a simple opportunity to push his political views and make a slam. I find it sad that the Israeli political establishment is so violently attacking the rest of the planet, i.e. the vast majority of people (including most Europeans) who observe that their politics are utterly blind and drive the Middle East into a deep end. I believe history will record Sharon and his supporters as some of the worst politicians in Israel. Instead of acting for the population’s good, they instead may be creating the conditions for the demise of Israel." -- Jerome Brun, Paris

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