Tonight I had dinner with Shoresh Moradi, a Kurdish surgeon who was educated and lives in Sweden and practices medicine at the Karolinska Hospital. During dinner in Palma de Mallorca, he told me a few moving stories of how his patients react when, instead of getting a Swedish doctor in the emergency room, they get a dark skin Arab looking man, himself. His were stories of prejudice, the prejudice that he has to deal with as an emergency room surgeon every day of his life. Interestingly, in most cases this prejudice is overcome and patients somehow go through a transformation after entrusting their lives to a perceived Muslim doctor. And I said perceived because Shoresh is Muslim in culture more than religion, very much in the same way that I am Jewish. We are both proud of our heritages, but we can also see the inequality in the treatment of women and Goim or infidels, that extreme religiosity entails both in orthodox Judaism and certain flavors of Islam as backwards and damaging to society.
During dinner we spoke about the paradox of prejudice in Europe and we agreed that it had to do with the way immigrants came to Europe. In Europe, immigrants are chosen by the exact type of job they do and that’s what their visa says. So for example an immigrant may come to Spain as a household worker and his visa will allow him or her to do just that, be an “empleado del hogar”. Europeans have no problem publicly arguing that the best jobs should be reserved for natives. This type of discrimination is not seen as prejudice. Americans instead have a system that seeks out immigrants with great qualifications and so do a minority of EU countries like Ireland for example. As a result, in most of Europe, it is immigrants who have the worst jobs and what is worse, they are then blamed for their lack of achievement, a situation that is most unfair considering how they were pre-selected to do them. Europeans conclude that people from those countries where immigrants come from are mostly inept. Now the ultimate paradox is what happens when these immigrants, while driving taxis or cleaning offices, actually go to university and end up, like Shoresh Moradi, as surgeons. Then the prejudice is even worse, as women patients, for example, believe that a Muslim doctor will treat them poorly and it is up to Shoresh to explain how this is not the case. It’s happened to him that he had to justify himself many times ahead of a procedure, or that he had to go in person to interviews in order to try to overcome the fears that his name inspires.
So Shoresh and I both agreed that while poor and unsuccessful immigrants face prejudice, successful immigrants face even more prejudice. Not from the educated elites, but especially from the average citizen in an atmosphere of anonymity (think Youtube comments). The type of citizens that end up voting for anti-immigrant parties. So in the end, both Jews and successful Muslims in Europe suffer a similar prejudice. This prejudice was taken to an extreme in the Holocaust, and is even worse than the prejudice against those who do poorly; it’s the prejudice against those who do very well. Jews have traditionally been detested, not for doing badly but for succeeding. For being one in 500 people in the planet but having one in 5 Nobel prizes or many of the top positions in the billionaires lists, or top writers, or movie makers. And this is still the case in many places in Europe, much more so than in USA where I lived for 18 years before moving here. And yes, we can go about our lives being successful, but in Spain, France and many other countries in Europe if being rich is not well regarded, being a rich Jew or a rich Arab is worse. And this is the other curse. The curse of escaping poverty and finding that prejudice was there all along and remains. If you do very badly you face prejudice because you are a loser, but if you do very well and end up in an “unexpected spot” that defeats the stereotype, there you find an even tougher type of prejudice, the one that confronts Shoresh ahead of many a life saving surgery or me when a newspaper in Spain called me “judío especulador”. If you have doubts about what I am saying and speak Spanish simply google “judío Varsavsky” and read the first 30 results.
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MB on May 31, 2011 ·
Your observations do have truth in them. Having experienced and observed life on both the continents of Europe and N. America, I would come to the same findings based on observations. “Europeans have no problem publicly arguing that the best jobs should be reserved for natives.” I am of the belief that this is driven by the governments rather than by the people. But again, people don’t feel threatened as the government voices this position, which makes them the beholders.
maxi on May 31, 2011 ·
As a murciano friend of mine says: “Europa se pudre en su arrogancia”. Sad, but true.
fayt marilena on May 31, 2011 ·
Sauvez les chiens des rue de la Roumanie .Une loi donne la permission deles euthanasier tous .S’il vous plait.URGENCE!
Juan on May 31, 2011 ·
While fully agreeing with you, in the particular case of doctors from muslim countries I unfortunately have had 2 very bad experiences, one with a Tunisian doctor and the other with a Syrian doctor, and have developed my own prejudice against them, which I must admit is too bad!
Benjamin on May 31, 2011 ·
Martin, I like your post. being married to a half swedish- half tunisian woman, having jewish roots on my mothers side and grandparents who went to war for Germany during WW2 and a father who was very active in the christian democratic party I have a very diverse family 🙂
For Europe, and in particular Germany, people / politicians are afraid of the reputation and judgment by other countries when they change immigration policy. And that’s where it get’s insane
“Europeans have no problem publicly arguing that the best jobs should be reserved for natives. This type of discrimination is not seen as prejudice”
I have listened and witnessed this discussion many times between Germans. As a matter of fact, “we” think raising the bar for immigration like America did is “racist” because you should not judge people by their knowledge and background (as the US does). That’s why visa’s are assigned by “jobs” (to simplify this complex topic).
There where many attempts in trying to do so but being afraid of the opposition in the own country and the judgment by foreign governments.
It’s a kind of dilemma and I don’t know when / how we overcome this situation.
José Luis on May 31, 2011 ·
Excellent post Martin. I can certify that in Spain many people see The Protocols of Sion as a creditable source. It is unusual to read articles like the following, debunking some of the anti-Semitism and its myths: http://www.elconfidencial.com/mundo/2011/entre-realidad-poder-judio-americano-20110529-79337.html
You will observe in any case that some of the comments are just plain anti-Semitism.
Darío on June 1, 2011 ·
I couldn’t agree more with your point on prejudices, but if you look at Google’s first 30 results for “judío Varsavsky”, most of them happen to be your own posts o quotations. I don’t think antisemitism in Spain is (statistically at least) as bad as you think.
antoin O Lachtnain on June 1, 2011 ·
I think we forget how exceptionally open America is, and as a result what a great country it is and will be, despite its many faults and failings.
I really don’t think there is anywhere else that an immigrant can be so readily accepted.
José Luis on June 1, 2011 ·
Well, I just googled “Varsavky judio” and just right after Martinn’s quotationes there is this document:
Even if you do not understand Spanish, the front illustration describes what the document is all about. It is The Protocols of Sion revisitated.
José Luis on June 2, 2011 ·
This latest conspiracy it is new to me…Lincoln, a jewish who surredered to the Rothschilds: http://www.salon.com/technology/how_the_world_works/index.html?story=/tech/htww/2011/06/02/was_abe_lincoln_a_jewish_pawn_of_the_rothschilds&source=newsletter&utm_source=contactology&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Salon_Daily%2520Newsletter%2520%2528Not%2520Premium%2529_7_30_110
Just plain crazy
Elvan on June 5, 2011 ·
Thank you and thank you writing this. I love traveling and during my travels i have to stay in many places with Europeans. Being from Turkey myself .The prejudice is amazing ,especially from Germans.The funny thing is they always at the beginning start with a big smile and bum!!!! ,.They are all also surprised ,i being a women and turkish can travel . and this not make them much happy.
Lina - arte country on June 6, 2011 ·
I Although really hard times I’ve thought of emigrating to Europe always think that it is DISCRIMINATION not having a high fee, which is the only protection offered by the government to the inhabitants of each country, because unfortunately the majority of immigrants either a bad culture and if allowed to enter for amounts end up with the developed, I apologize but it’s just a comment.
Nacho on June 9, 2011 ·
Es horrible lo que sale cuando buscás “judío varsavky”. ¿Cómo podés vivir en España? Sabía que había bastante racismo pero no me imaginaba eso. Mejor ni busco a ver si hay cosas similares también en Francia…
Anthony Hess on June 11, 2011 ·
I wouldn’t use the US immigration system as a model for anything as it’s a mess, but I think our culture is pretty accepting. Even in the case of Mexicans (probably the only immigrant group that is seeing significant backlash right now) us Americans have absorbed words, food, and elements of culture from them as they integrate into our country. I was actually kind of shocked when I moved to Spain how “clannish” many people are here, but it actually makes a lot of sense. We are almost all new in the US, and with the common language we move all over the country, but in Europe families have spent thousands of years in the same place and I think that has an impact on views toward foreigners or people who are “different”.
As far as the internet goes … people say some pretty crazy things and I wouldn’t necessarily view it as indicative of the rest of the population.
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Amine on May 31, 2011 ·
This is So TRUE… Excellent post Martin