Odense: Strained relations between Palestinians and Jews

Odense: Strained relations between Palestinians and Jews

For people looking for more information about the Odense shooting: Odense: Attack against Israelis, Odense: Danish-Arab arrested for shooting attack, Odense: Muslims denounce shooting, Jews call for self-restraint.

Danish blog Uriasposten points out that the principal in question is listed as a supporter of the Danish Boycott Israel campaign.

I corrected my translation of Fathi El-Abed's statement


The principal in question is being called in by the municipality to explain his statement.

Jane Jegind, children and youth alderman, says it's unacceptable that he comes with such statements. Public schools are for everybody regardless of origin.

She will meet with him and she's convinced that he'll agree with her when the meeting's over.



The relationship between the Danish-Palestinians and the Danish Jews are now so strained that the principal at Humlehaven school in Vollsmose (Odense), Olav Nielse, will be very careful about signing up Jewish students. 30% of the students at the school have a Palestinian background.

Olav Nielsen doesn't have students of Jewish background just now, but if he were to be approached by Jewish parents he would ask the family to think it through whether they want their child to start in the school. He says that Humlehaven school is a public school and that therefore everybody is welcome, but at the same time he will advise the parents to find another school for their children.

He fears that a Jewish student will have serious problems among the many Arab children. Particularly now, when the long standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas developed into a regular war. In local perspective it has meanwhile culminated with the shooting of two Israeli salespeople in the Rosengård mall on December 31.

"The conflict is very much present for every single Palestinian in Vollsmose. Every evening they can follow the war on the Arabic channels and it stresses how they stand as losers. That, taken together with that many of them have difficulties succeeding in Danish society, causes violent frustrations. It could therefore become a very hard environment for a Jewish student to go about so many Palestinians, like we have here in the school," says Olav Nielsen.

Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Denmark, Bent Lexner, isn't surprised.

"Since this is the case in a nutshell. These are unfortunately the conditions. Not just in Odense, but also in other places in the country," says Bent Lexner.

He's heard of schools in Copenhagen where the principals gave Jewish families the exact same advice.

"If a Jewish mother came to me and asked me if it was a good idea for her son to begin in a school with many children of Arab background, I will also say no, as things are right now," he says.

Chairman for the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Association, Fathi El-Abed says Olav Nielsen's declaration is discouraging.

"It's so depressing if it's come to this that our children can't go to the same school because of an international conflict. It's sad," he says.

Both Bent Lexner and Fathi El-Abed are calling for an intensive political discussion about how the youngest generations in Denmark - regardless of ethnic background - can eliminate the mutual prejudices.

"We mustn't let our children import the conflict in the Middle East directly into the classroom," says Bent Lexner.

"We should teach our children that we are all Danes regardless of where we come from," says Fathi El-Abed.

It wasn't possible to get a comment from Jane Jegind, children and youth alderman in Odense.


Two prominent Jewish Jews were both attacked in Odense. One of them, Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner thinks that antisemitism if worse in Odense than in Copenhagen and Aarhus.

"The first time a group of Arab looking young men started to throw empty bottles at me while I waited for a taxi, and the second time a group came up to me and was threatening and asked what I was doing here in Odense," says Bent Lexner, the religious authority for 2,400 Jews in Denmark.

"My feeling is that it's harder to be a Jew in Odense than in the other large cities. In Copenhagen and partially also in Aarhus Jews are more visible. And in both cities there's established cooperation between the Jewish and Muslim community. That's lacking in Odense and therefore things like that happen here," he says.

Itzi Loewenthal, rabbi in the Chabad organization's Danish branch, which is in Copenhagen, says that he also experienced physical attacks from what he describes as "Middle-Eastern looking men."

According to the rabbi he was followed by a group of young men at a train platform four years ago. He hasn't experienced similar episodes before or since.

"I waited for the train, which was late, when they approached and began to hit me. They could see I was a Jew because I had my kippah on. When one woman on the platform began to shout, they disappeared again," says Itzi Loewenthal.

The rabbi had been in Odense several times since.

"In Copenhagen I go with a kippah, but when I come to Odense, I remove all external signs that I'm a Jew. I just don't dare," says Itzi Loewenthal.

Like Bent Exner he thinks that the not particularly visible Jewish community in Odense contributes to creating prejudices and enmity.

"I can in any case say that I've never experienced problems in Copenhagen and in Aarhus due to my religion," says Itzi Loewenthal.

There is no data regarding how many Jews live in Odense or Fyn. It's estimated that there are about 5,000 to 7,000 Jews in the whole of Denmark.

Sources: Fyens Stiftstidende 1, 2 (Danish) h/t Snaphanen

No comments: