Nazi Germany capitalized on latent anti-Semitism in German society and fused it with systematic violence and intimidation to forge one of the most autocratic and brutal regimes the world had ever seen. The Third Reich’s defeat and horrific evidence of Nazi crimes discredited anti-Semitism as a political ideology on the European continent for more than half a century. However, the passage of time and the rise of Muslim populations in previously Christian Europe have led to an impressive revival of anti-Semitism.
A March 2012 ADL poll indicated that about a quarter of Europeans have anti-Semitic views such as that Jews are too powerful in business, are more loyal to Israel than their country, and exploit the Holocaust for political gain. The same poll showed that Europeans see increased violence toward Jews as the result of Jew-hatred, rather than anti-Zionist sentiment. France, the cultural and intellectual hub of the continent, is home to Europe’s largest Jewish population though many are leaving en masse, and thus, along with Germany, serves as a good representation for the rest of the continent.
Contemporary French anti-Semitism contains two primary sources: Islamism and the Socialist Left. Socialist and Islamic anti-Semitism in France have entered into a political marriage. This was illustrated in May when 93% of French Muslims voted Francois Hollande for President. Hollande’s governing coalition will likely be less pro-Israel than that of Sarkozy, be more inclined toward Muslim political and social interests, and do less about France’s burgeoning Jew-hatred.
Recently, French Arabs committed many acts of violent anti-Semitism. On July 5th, a French Jewish teenager was beaten up and verbally assaulted by two North African men on a train travelling between Toulouse and Lyon after speaking on the phone with his brother, “who has a Jewish name.” The victim, who miraculously survived the attack, is a student at the Ozar HaTorah Jewish Day School in Toulouse, where on March 19, a 23-year-old French-Algerian man opened fire, killing a Rabbi, his two young sons, and a schoolgirl. The attacker, a Muslim Salafist, claimed to have perpetrated the murders to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children. 90 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in France in the ten days following the shootings, and some Muslims hailed the killer as a hero or even as a victimized child. Muslims felt like they, not the Jews, were the real victims of Toulouse, as they would now be subject to more discrimination.
This Muslim violence, however, is not possible without broader support from French society and culture. The Socialists who run the country have stood by and done nothing about the recent violent incidents and the proliferation of poisonous Islamic anti-Semitic material available via satellite television. Socialists even purged their party of four Jewish parliamentarians, possibly because of their personal faith or sympathy toward the Jewish state. Socialists also turn a blind eye to no-go zones, functionary microstates in France where non-Muslims are unwelcome and Sharia rules supreme. This cost the French Jewish community dearly in 2006, when Parisian Ilan Halimi was kidnapped by a group of Muslims and taken to a no-go zone, tortured for three weeks, and killed for being Jewish.
However, this trend of rising Jew-hatred is not limited to France. Germany, which has a scandalous Jew-hating past and is Europe’s strongest economy, also experienced a revival in anti-Semitism, with 20% of Germans holding anti-Semitic views.
On June 25th, a district court in Cologne issued a ruling that bans circumcision in the most populous German state, saying that freedom of religion is not enough to justify the purportedly barbaric practice. Banning circumcision is anti-Semitic and is akin to banning Judaism, as criminalization causes practitioners of circumcision to not perform the surgical procedure out of fear. If German Jews feel that their right to their ancient rite is not respected, they will leave.
50% of Germans also believe that Israelis are the Nazis of today. During the second intifada, which was characterized by Palestinian suicide bombers and Israeli self-defense, German media irresponsibly portrayed the Jewish state as the aggressor.
On top of other anti-Semitic trends in Europe, neo-Nazism is reviving. Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Nazi party that denies the Holocaust and is accused of vandalizing Jewish sites, made big gains in last month’s parliamentary elections. For the first time this year, the president of Latvia endorsed an annual march that pays tribute to Waffen SS soldiers. And in recent times, football supporters in Poland and Ukraine, the hosts of the 2012 Euro won by Spain earlier this month, have used the Nazi salute. Evidence points to a revived appreciation for anti-Semitism across Europe.
With the traditional threat of far-right anti-Semitism compounded by new forces, one thing is certain—Jews cannot afford for Europe to have the same laissez-faire attitude toward anti-Semitism they had in the 1930s and 1940s. Though today’s European Jews may enjoy first world comforts, as did the European Jews of the 1930s, the community must look within and decide whether it is worth continuing living on the continent. Perhaps they would be more welcome in Israel or America. Because never again means never again, not yet again.
And with all the violent anti-Semitism that remains in Europe, tomorrow’s fast day of Tisha B’Av continues to be relevant as it is still worthwhile for even the most secular Jew to reflect upon the tragedies that have befallen and are still befalling our people.