Antisemitism in Europe has gone unabated in spite of the legacy of the Holocaust. The apathy most European Christians have shown toward the plight of the Jews has contributed to the growing antisemitism throughout the continent, and the increasing insecurity felt by European Jews. A major difference between the Jew-hatred of pre-WWII days and today is that the old antisemitism focused on race and religion, and it was also motivated by economic gain. Today, political correctness has stifled the openly racist attitude, and pervasive secularism has drowned religious belief. Nevertheless, racist and religious prejudice still exists deep in the subconsciousness of many native Europeans, and antisemitic hate finds expression in anti-Israelism, or hatred for the collective Jew, which is the Jewish state of Israel. One would be wrong to assume that all Europeans are infected by the antisemitic virus, unfortunately however, a two-thousand year legacy of antisemitism is hard to erase, especially since the Church, Marxist ideology, and Nazism have contributed richly to extend it.
Of course, much of the antisemitic violence in Europe is being carried out by radicalized Muslims, and it has received a major impetus with the recent arrival of Middle Eastern refugees primarily from Iraq, and Syria. In France in particular, but also in Belgium, and the Netherlands, North African Muslim immigrants have been radicalized by some of their jihadist imams. In Britain, Pakistanis and Arabs have also been radicalized by Jihadi preachers, with the British government largely ignoring such dangerous Jew-hatred, due once again to political correctness, and fear of being labeled Islamophobes and racists. The French and British authorities have paid lip-service to “fighting antisemitism” by appointing investigating commissions.
The European Union (EU) has recently unveiled a new strategy to combat growing antisemitism and hate speech in Europe. The EU plans to raise awareness about Jewish life, protect places of worship, and ensure that the Holocaust cannot be forgotten. There is only one obvious problem, the very need to protect Jewish places of worship, i.e., synagogues, exposes the endemic problem of antisemitism in Europe. Needless to say, churches and mosques do not require such protection. Many Muslim students and their parents in Germany, Scandinavia, and elsewhere in Europe oppose the teaching of the Holocaust in schools. The increasing political weight of Muslim constituents particularly in countries such as Germany, France, Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands, stifled initiatives by the EU and the individual member states to combat antisemitism. These initiatives end up being on paper only, with little or no impact.
According to Europe’s Fundamental Rights Agency, “90% of the Jews (in Europe) consider that antisemitism has increased in their country and it is a serious problem. More than one in three (Jewish people) have considered emigrating to escape the abuse.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared that, “The strategy we are presenting today is a step-change in how to respond to antisemitism.” Von der Leyen, the former German Defense Minister added, “Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and prosper.” Her words are certainly poignant and well said, but reality has shown us a different picture.
In May, 2021, during Operation Guardian of the Walls, Human Rights Watch reported that in Germany, a Rabbi was attacked in the street, and a synagogue was daubed with a swastika. In London, England Palestinians and a pro-Palestinian mob in cars, hoisting Palestinian flags, drove through Jewish neighborhoods in north London, using loudspeakers and shouting antisemitic obscenities, including threats “to rape the Jewish women.” According to the BBC-News (June 15, 2021), “Alex Menashe and Joseph Cohen described walking home from a Kosher Restaurant on Baker Street, Marylebone, when they were approached by two men in their teens or 20s, at about 5PM, on May 23, 2021. The two Asian men followed them before screaming antisemitic abuse, pushing and punching them.” French authorities, to their credit, banned pro-Palestinian protests on that Saturday in Paris during the recent Gaza war, arguing that such protests in 2014 led to violence. In Germany earlier this year, German-Israeli singer Gil Ofarim, was turned away from the Westin-Leipzig hotel because he was wearing a Star of David pendant. The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, responded on twitter, saying, “The antisemitic hostility against Gil Ofarim is appalling.”
Researchers from the University of Budapest compiled a survey made up of 70 questions to uncover prevailing attitudes of non-Jews toward Jews in European countries. They found that the strongest antisemitic sentiments existed in Greece, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania. The least prejudice was surveyed in Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK. Germany ranked somewhere in the middle for most of the questions. However, Germany was the country with the greatest number of violent antisemitic attacks in the EU in 2020 – with 59 recorded cases.
The authors of the study said that the majority of people in Greece, Poland, and Austria harbor either strong or latent antisemitic attitudes. The number for Germany is 28%, while in Sweden and the Netherlands it is 10% and 8% respectively. In 2009 interviews with young Jews in Sweden and the Netherlands, this reporter was told that in Europe and even in their respective countries, “there is no future for Jews.”
Jewish leaders meeting in a European Jewish Association forum, asserted that the European Commission strategy to combat antisemitism with plans to outlaw trade in Nazi memorabilia should only be a first step. Right now, not all member states of the EU record antisemitic attacks. Joel Mergui, head of the Jewish Central Consistory in France told reporters in Brussels that, “The Jews are leaving Europe.” The young people in particular are leaving for Israel and the US because they no longer feel safe in Europe. Mergui told the reporters that Jewish people must be able to live their lives without requiring continuous protection by police at synagogues, schools, and kindergartens.
Next January will mark the 77th year since the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp, yet antisemitism in Europe has reached new heights. In the years immediately following WWII and the Holocaust, antisemitism did not disappear with Nazism, it lay beneath the surface. In those years, the Jewish state appeared vulnerable and weak. Europeans were busy building up their devastated countries, and antisemitism was still under a moratorium. As Israel got stronger and the moratorium on antisemitism got weaker in recent decades, Israel – the collective Jew, became the traditional scapegoat for antisemitic hate, which exploded into the open. It was fueled by Arab-Muslim migrants, and far left-wing activists who joined their ranks in attacking Jews, using the pretext of Israeli (defensive) actions to abuse Jews in Europe. The extreme right-wing antisemitism, while still stinging, is no longer as potent as in the past.
If the European Commission is serious about combating antisemitism in Europe, it has to first and foremost address anti-Zionism (or anti-Israelism) as a pretext for antisemitic hate and violence. The EU has to overcome the fear of being accused of racism or islamophobia, and deal harshly with violent Muslim rioters and their European bedfellows. Thus far it has been all words and little action. Let’s hope the European Commission will consider basic morality and justice rather than political expediency.
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