A rightwing blowhard spouting racist nonsense, even when he is a high ranking official at the German Central Bank, does not become an international scandal, but Thilo Sarrazin made one big mistake. He targeted the wrong ethnical group:
Over the weekend, Sarrazin went even further. In an interview with Welt am Sonntag, Sarrazin waded into the fraught field of genetics, saying “all Jews share a certain gene, all Basques have certain genes that make them different from other people.”
The comment came as he was discussing the identities of different European cultures, but the reference to a Jewish gene has unleashed yet another storm of critique. Such references have been largely taboo in Germany since World War II.
When asked by the interviewer if perhaps he meant to talk of “races” rather than “cultures,” Sarrazin responded “I am not a racist.”
Had he only kept his racism to the usual Islamophobia, it wouldn’t have mattered, but talking about a “Jewish gene” when you’re a German banker? That’s asking for trouble. As The online archive at Der Spiegel shows Sarrazin has been Islamophobic for a long time without it harming his career much. He might have faced censure by his own party (the social democratic SPD!) and criticism from the usual quarters, but his job was safe and he has been described as a “provocateur” and “blunt talking” rather than “racist bastard” in respectable newspapers. One little mention of the “Jewish gene” has changed all that….
Geert Wilders is smarter; not only a “critic of Islam” but also a “friend of Israel” (and you do wonder how much of his Islamophobia is caused by this friendship and imbibing the Israeli views of it, or vice versa). He has kept his racism confided to acceptable targets and as a result is taken seriously as a coalition partner in the next Dutch government. That’s the bad news. The good news is that one of its intended coalition partners, the Christian Democrat CDA has gotten cold feet at the last moment, as many of its members do not feel comfortable with Wilders. As well they should: rightwing or leftwing, no non-racist politician should want anything to do with somebody who wants to use a specific ethnic group of citizens (and in the vocabulary of Wilders’ followers, if not always with Wilders himself, the word “Islam” is interchangable with “Moroccan”) as the scapegoat for all of our country’s problems.