The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


British newscaster to Israeli journalist: Is walking through Paris in Orthodox Jewish garb a "provocation"?


Israeli journalist Zvika Klein filmed himself walking through Paris for ten hours in Orthodox Jewish garb, a kippah (skullcap) and tzitit (ritual fringes). The resulting short video shows him being stared at, spit upon, insulted and otherwise harassed, primarily by people who appear to be part of France's Muslim minority. The video has been viewed over four million times.

In some ways more indicative of the problem facing Jews in Europe is the followup interview Klein did with Britain's Channel 4 News. The interviewer seemed to want to talk about anything but Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe, questioning Klein repeatedly about whether Muslims face similar harassment in parts of Europe. This issue that not only has only the barest tangential relationship to Klein's video (if Muslims are being harassed on the street, it's not by Jews, and hardly mitigates the harassment of Jews), but on which there is no reason to think Klein would have any expertise.

At around 2:45 in the video, the interviewer asks Klein, whether, as "a Zionist" with "an agenda" he accepts what "some [unidentified] critics say," that the video or the way the video was made, was a "provocation." Klein quite properly responded that he in fact wears a kippah in his day to day life, and that he wasn't making any political statement, just walking and minding his own business, and that such walking could hardly be considered provocative.

At least, unlike other European newscasters, she didn't ask whether it's all Israel's fault. Nevertheless, it strikes me that if any other group-women, Muslims, blacks, fat people, gypsies-was being harassed on the streets of Paris, reporters would be asking someone in Klein's position a very different, and much more sympathetic, set of questions. Anti-Semitism in Europe's Muslim minority is a serious problem; the difficulties the Christian majority seems to have in taking it seriously, even in the wake of recent murders of Jews in Paris and Copenhagen by Muslim extremists, is perhaps an even bigger problem, because Jews are far too small a minority (approximately .2% of Europeans) to deal with harassment and violence on their own.