Anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise. It is pervasive and all-encompassing. There are many reasons for and examples of this, which I will discuss below. To many observers with a sense of history, the situation is beginning to resemble that of the 1930s. Thankfully, however, there is one crucial difference. In the 1930s no state was willing to accept the large numbers of Jews who wanted to emigrate to escape persecution; today, however, Jews have a safe haven in the State of Israel. In fact, many Israeli politicians, most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have issued statements encouraging European Jews to emigrate to Israel to escape what they characterize as a “rising tide of anti-Semitism.” Mr. Netanyahu has stated that: “All Jews who want to [emigrate] to Israel will be welcomed with open arms. We will help you in your absorption here in our state that is also your state.” Mr. Netanyahu may be unpopular in some quarters, but he deserves much praise for those supportive comments.
Unfortunately, incidents of anti-Semitism have become almost commonplace. Some of the more recent and notable examples include:
1. In July, 400 protesters attacked a synagogue and Jewish-owned businesses in Sarcelles, France shouting “death to the Jews.” Some observers have compared these actions to the progroms of Czarist Russia in that the terrorists had the arrogance to distribute posters beforehand advertising the impending attacks.
2.In Toulouse, France in May 2012 a terrorist gunman shot up a Jewish school killing seven.
3.In Liege, Belgium a café sported a sign that said dogs were welcome, but not Jews.
4. Last May a terrorist shot up the Jewish Museum with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, killing four.
5. In 2011 Somali police found documents on a senior al-Qaeda terrorist that described planned attacks on various neighborhoods in London that have sizeable Jewish populations.
6. In 2012 nine Jihadists were convicted of plotting terrorist acts against a rabbi and other Jews in Manchester, England.
7. Right wing extremist political parties have been gaining considerably in elections in France, Greece, Hungary and Germany.
8. A senior Hungarian minister has been advocating the development of a list of Hungarian Jews that work in the government as they constitute a “national security risk.”
9. Malmo, Sweden has become a hotbed of anti-Semitism. There have been many troubling incidents. The one that struck me as particularly egregious was that of a single mom and her five year-old son on a train. The boy was wearing a kippah, which, obviously, identified them as Jews. The woman reported that they were repeatedly harassed by an “Arab” for the entire trip. None of the other passengers, nor the conductor came to their aid or even said anything to the man. Interestingly, in Sweden kosher butchering is against the law, but Hallal butchering is not.
10. Recently, there have been several instances in which groups of men have attacked worshippers in synagogues. London and Copenhagen come immediately to mind, but I am sure there have been others.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. What are the reasons for this development? I believe there are several, but the primary ones are as follows:
- The European countries have sizeable Muslim populations, which, to a large extent, have not been assimilated adequately, or at all. Many Muslims prefer to live separately and retain their own laws and customs, such as Sharia Law. For example, in Paris there are several “no-go” zones that even the French police know to avoid.
- Many of these Muslims are the children and grandchildren of laborers who were encouraged to emigrate 50-60 years ago to provide cheap labor in factories. Many of them are unemployed, disaffected, and prone to violence.
- The countries with the largest Muslim populations are France (500,000), the UK (290,000) and Germany (119,000), but Belgium (30,000), Sweden (15,000) and Spain (12,000) also have large populations relative to their overall populations. These populations have become influential politically.
- Historically, in bad economic times people have sought to blame others for their problems. Governments, whether the kings in the Middle Ages or politicians of more modern times, have always turned a blind eye or even encouraged this. Jews have always made for a convenient scapegoat, and that is true now.
- We are in an age of excessive political correctness. Many people, especially politicians, are very reluctant to say or do anything that could be construed as anti-Muslim.
Anti-Semitism is often disguised as criticism of Israel and its policies toward the Arab states in the Middle East and the Palestinians. I view this as bogus. Any objective person would recognize it for what it is. It reminds me of the 1950s in the US when bigots would attempt to disguise their racism by espousing “states’ rights.” Then, as now, most people are not fooled. They know what the real deal is.
So, what is the solution? Is there one? I think it is unrealistic to expect basic human nature to change. Bigots and terrorists will always be with us. They are not suddenly going to modify their beliefs and actions toward Jews after 5,000 years. The human tendencies to blame someone else for one’s shortcomings and hate those who are different are too engrained.
Jews have to be wary and vigilant. I can understand one’s reluctance to leave their country with all that entails. Personally, I would not want to do so. But, at least now, if one feels that his situation has become intolerable, one has the option to emigrate to Israel.
In addition, Jews in the US and elsewhere must be supportive of the State of Israel. For example, vote for and support politicians that support Israel. Do not be fooled by duplicitous politicians, such as President Obama and many in his Administration, whose actions are not consistent with their words.