A new kind of insidious antisemitism, far different than the familiar variety of old, has emerged as hopes for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict have been dashed by realities on the ground.
Responding to President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, pro-Palestinian youths went on a rampage in three European cities, erasing the thin and porous line between hatred of Israel and animosity of Jews.
In Amsterdam, a man holding a Palestinian flag and wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf smashed the windows of the HaCarmel kosher restaurant. The police arrested the perpetrator, who holds a temporary residence permit.
A few days later, 200 or so demonstrators gathered in a square in Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, and shouted incendiary slogans about killing and shooting Jews. Shortly afterwards, masked protesters dressed in black threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in the Swedish port of Gothenburg, setting its courtyard alight. Police arrested three men in their 20s on suspicion of arson, but they may yet be charged with committing a hate crime.
These ugly incidents underscore a sobering reality that authorities in Europe have been slow to recognize until very recently. The individuals who vent their anger at anti-Israel protests all too often tend to breach the narrow gap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. And in most cases, the offenders are Arab Muslims rather than European Caucasians.
To his credit, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven immediately understood what had happened in Malmo and Gothenburg. “There is no place for antisemitism in our Swedish society,” he bluntly declared. “The perpetrators will answer for their crimes.”
Later, Lofven said that both the far right and the extreme left have targeted Jews. And in a comment that speaks to these unsettling times, he voiced concern about the specter of antisemitism among Middle Eastern immigrants.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, was upset as well. As she tweeted, “The attack against the synagogue in Gothenburg and the threat of violence against Jews in Malmo is deplorable and totally unacceptable. Antisemitism, threats and violence have no place in our society.”
These disturbing episodes should be seen in the correct perspective.
Criticism of Israel is perfectly legitimate, particularly in the era of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose dead-end policies are leading Israel astray and transforming it into an international pariah and a binational state, Netanyahu’s facile counter arguments to the contrary.
But when opponents of Israel attack Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish community buildings in the Diaspora, they are engaging in antisemitism, pure and simple. Their motives may not match the motives of traditional European antisemites. Indeed, they may sincerely believe they are not antisemitic. But in the final analysis, they belong to the same despicable camp.
This is a dangerous development. If protesters fail to see the difference between anti-Israel advocacy and antisemitism, Arab-Jewish tensions in Europe are bound to increase, much to the detriment of both communities and the nations in which they live.
It’s therefore incumbent on Muslim community elders to educate their members and steer them in the right direction. If they fall short of this vital objective, they will have to be held partially responsible for the consequences.
At the same time, national leaders should adopt a zero tolerance policy toward citizens who malign fellow citizens and launch attacks on their institutions. Wild behavior of this sort cannot be tolerated in a country where the rule of law and the principles of humanity are respected.
As the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, said in a recent statement: “It is unconscionable that Jews are under attack on the streets of Europe, whether by terrorists hurling Molotov cocktails or openly and brazenly calling for the mass murder of Jews in Malmo, Vienna and Paris. We call on European governments to take strong punitive action against those who perpetrated these acts and call for the immediate arrest of anyone who makes anyone making murderous chants.”
To recap: It is one thing to call out the Israeli government for its unacceptable and self-destructive policies toward the Palestinians. It is quite another thing to allow anti-Israel protests to degenerate into antisemitism.
This is where the line must be drawn unequivocally.