I am Jewish. As many other Jews and non Jews I am concerned by the fact that only 60 years ago around 40% of all the Jewish people in the world at that time were killed. But what these percentages hide is how few Jews there were before the holocaust and how many there are today.

The math is simple. I will use round numbers. According to some estimates that I have seen there´s around 13 million Jewish people in the world. At the same time there´s over 6 billion people living in the world today. That means that Jews make only 1 in 500 of the people of the world. Unfortunately, Jews are disproportionately well known in the world. While there are many many global minorities with more than 13 million people that most other people in the world have never heard about (think of all the Indian and Chinese minorities for example), us Jews are…well, too famous for our own good. All Jews have tests for antisemites. There´s the well known “some of my best friends are Jewish” phrase that tends to worry us when it pops up out in a conversation. I have another test somewhat more subtle. When I have the suspicion that I am talking to an antisemite I ask him/her, so how many Jews do you think are there in the world? Interestingly antisemites consistently tend to exagerate the number of Jews that there are. In Spain (where I live), this is particularly the case. Most people in Spain have never met a Jew over here as there are only around 10,000 of us in thecountry (we were over 15% of the population before they threw us out in 1492). That means that we are 10 thousand in a country of 40 million! Still if you ask an antisemite he will tell you that there are a hundreds of thousands of Jews in Spain, as it is hard for an antisemite to believe that only 10,000 people could “own” the country.

Now my problem, and that of many Jews, is that antisemites in many countries – in Europe for example – are few in percentage terms, yet they are many in absolute terms. That is the horrendous math of antisemitism if you are Jewish. It is hard to know how many antisemites there are in Europe but in most countries in the EU around 10% of the population is visibly racist and tends to vote racist parties if given a chance. But let´s say that out of those half of them have gotten over the issue of antisemitism. Still that leaves us with around 5% of the people of Europe being stronly antisemitic. While this percentage may sound low, in absolute terms it is huge. This means that there are 5% of 400 million people or 20 million people in Europe who are antisemitic. But we are only 1.5 million Jews in Europe!

Now let´s apply this math to Muslims. There are around 1.2 billion muslims in the world. I think I would not exagerate if I said that around 20% of Muslims nowadays are strongly antisemitic. And lets again assume that only a third of those would actually harm Jews if they had a chance. Again, 7% of all Muslims being stronly antisemitic does not sound impressive. Frankly probably 7% of all Jews would also harm Muslims if they have a chance. But again the math is scary for Jews. 7% of all Muslims make up 84 million people, while 7% of all Jews is less than one million!

Being hated is bad enough. But being hated by many, being only a few, is a curse! And that is the curse of the Jews.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Marcelo on September 12, 2005  · 

jew in murcia on February 12, 2006  · 

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