A few years ago, in one of many lively discussions with my friends about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and how it seemed to go unnoticed by the media and general public, I remember bursting out: “What needs to happen for people to react? Does someone have to die?”
Sadly, that’s exactly what had to happen, and I still don’t think the European leaders truly realize the danger we are all facing, or truly understand the enemy living within: an enemy that will grow stronger and more brave with every new successful terror attack.
Just like everyone else I was glued in front of the TV on January 11, to watch the rally that took place after the horrific terror attacks in Paris. The display of solidarity, the march of world leaders walking arm in arm, and the millions of people crowding the streets of Paris with signs saying “Je Suis Charlie”, brought tears to my eyes. For a few hours the world was peaceful, all was right and I felt hope for humankind.
Then came the sobering morning after and the realization that nothing had really changed, except for more security, including armed soldiers outside Jewish schools and synagogues. And I started thinking: if Charlie Hebdo hadn’t been attacked, if it had “only” been the killings at the supermarket, would we have seen the same display of solidarity on the streets of Paris? Had we seen millions of signs saying “Je Suis Juif”?
Sadly, I think not. There were no marches when a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse were murdered by an Islamist terrorist in 2012. There were no marches when four people were brutally murdered at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014. The fact that the victims were killed because they were Jews, and that they were killed by Islamist terrorists seemed to be of no real importance. Instead, the media and the European leaders seemed, as per usual, more concerned with a potential rise of Islamophobia. “This has nothing to do with Islam” are words I keep hearing after every terror attack, even though this has EVERYTHING to do with Islam. Granted, the terrorists are extremists, but to not acknowledge that these attacks are based in religion is dangerous. Most of the anti-Semitism of today: the hate, the attacks, the harassment, the stereotyping and the killings, are not from the traditional culprits, the Neo-Nazis and other right-wing organizations, but mainly from the Muslim community. And it’s not only from the extreme Islamists: research shows that anti-Semitism is much more present and alive in this community than any other.
This is hard for the Swedes and other Europeans to deal with: one minority being responsible for terrorizing another minority. Hence the need to always warn for Islamophobia when talking about anti-Semitism. Hence the need to ask Jews to distance themselves from Israel since this will otherwise cause more friction. Hence the offensive questioning on a radio show where the Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, was asked: “Aren’t the Jews partly to blame for anti-Semitism?”.
It took a terror attack of non-Jews for people to react and realize that this was now also concerning them and the way of life we love so much: democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equal rights and an open free society. Even the “stick-our-heads-in-the-sand-of-denial-so-we-stay-protected-from-all-evil-in-the-world” Swedes woke up, at least partly, to smell the coffee, when Copenhagen was attacked on February 14. Even so, and despite beautiful words by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, I can’t help but feel that it’s just a little too late. This problem didn’t arise overnight, it’s been going on for years, and sadly, as I suspected, it would take people dying in order for the establishment to wake up.
In the aftermath of the terror attacks in Copenhagen, a “Ring of Peace” rally was held outside the synagogue in Oslo. A nice gesture and a real feel good story. But I wonder, will you stand out there every week? Will you still stand out there to protect “your brothers and sisters” when things get worse (and they will)? Will your beautiful words of solidarity have any real substance if there’s an attack, or will they disperse in the wind just like your support? Will you take up arms with us and for us, to protect us and fight for us? Or is it all just pretty words to make you feel better about yourselves?
What will you do if I show up with an Israeli flag? Will you still stand strong in the ring of peace and ask me to join, or will you ask me to leave? Jews are leaving Europe for Israel due to anti-Semitism, while Europeans blame Israel for the rise in anti-Semitism and tell Jews they have to distance themselves from the only Jewish State in the world, and the only country where we can truly be free. Why is your solidarity, your ring of peace, only there to protect the Jews who you perceive as good: the very few who don’t support Israel?
This weekend there was yet another “Ring of Peace” rally outside the synagogue in Stockholm. My Facebook news feed today was flooded by pictures and words of how beautiful it was to stand united and having Muslims, Christians and others show support for the Jewish Community. I agree, it was a beautiful initiative, but once again, will they still be there tomorrow? Will it stop the terror attacks? Will heavily armed police officers no longer be needed in Sweden to protect us?
It reminds me of the Swedish Kippah Walks, for Jews right to wear religious symbols without fear (I wrote about here), that didn’t allow any Israeli flags to be waved “because then no Swedish politician will show up”. One of the main speakers at this event was the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, the same Prime Minister whose government just a few months ago recognized the so-called “State of Palestine” and whose sister party is Fatah: the same “country” who are led by terrorists who are determined to annihilate all Jews and wipe Israel off the map.
The Prime Minister ended his speech with these famous words from Sophie Scholl: ”How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause.” And I wonder, where are your actions behind these words? Did you think about these words when you chose not to stand by Israel or denounce the hate and anti-Semitic slurs that flooded your Facebook wall during Operation Protective Edge last summer? Did you think about those words when you shook Mahmoud Abbas hand a few weeks ago? The hand that belongs to a man whose words incite terror attacks in Israel and whose party recently posted a photo of skulls of dead Jews on their official Facebook page when celebrating their 50th anniversary.
I’m an idealist, and I truly wish that this world was a better place filled with love, peace and understanding. But I’m also a realist, and no matter how much I wish this was enough, I know that you can’t fight these murderous Islamist thugs and other extremists, with words of love. And you can’t fight an assault rifle with a lit candle of hope. It will only make a difference for the people attending these events, warming their hearts, making them feel good and united, and afterwards they can go home feeling like they’ve made a difference.
But the military will still be there tomorrow. The people wanting to kill us are still out there and growing in numbers.
In the end we have to remind ourselves that, no matter how many rings of peace or love-bombing of synagogues or pretty words from politicians, European Jews now live in societies that are no longer free. The Jews are the only ones fleeing Europe and the only ones needing protection. It’s not acceptable, it will not get better and we can’t let ourselves get used to this reality. The time has come when we will have to fight back. For real. Or just abandon the sinking ship called Europe.
Leaving you with these words by Mordechai Anielewicz (leader of ŻOB, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943): “The most difficult struggle of all is the one within ourselves. Let us not get accustomed and adjusted to these conditions. The one who adjusts ceases to discriminate between good and evil. He becomes a slave in body and soul. Whatever may happen to you, remember always: Don’t adjust! Revolt against the reality!”