Europe’s “New Jews”: France, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in the Era of Mass Migration
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Are Muslims the “new Jews” of Europe? The spectacle of Middle Eastern and African refugees shuttled by train from camp to squalid camp has understandably drawn parallels to the darkest pages in twentieth-century continental history. Such a historical comparison between Islamophobia and antisemitism, however, risks missing their ongoing interrelation. This article examines that interrelation, arguing that Islamophobia and antisemitism now most resemble each other as complementary mechanisms for diverting the anxieties bred by the global economic order. Antisemitism has long scapegoated the Jews for capitalism’s tendency to produce outsized winners. But there has been no comparably global shorthand for the anxiety prompted by capitalism’s losers—until now. Muslim refugees help give a name, Islam, to the masses seemingly encroaching from the margins of the world system. The result, I argue, is the hardening of Islamophobia and antisemitism into the inextricable poles of a reactionary worldview. Taking France as a case study, the article reads the burkini bans prompted by the July 2016 terror attack in Nice as an expression of middle-class fear about downward mobility. Targeted at both internal Muslim leisure and external Muslim encroachment, the bans evoke how European unease about globalization increasingly takes Islamophobic form. Such intolerance threatens not only to lodge Islamophobia at the heart of a reconstituted Europe but also to erode the vigilance against antisemitism once characteristic of the postwar European project.
KeywordsAntisemitism Islamophobia France Migrant crisis Terror attacks Income inequality
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