European anti-religious legislation could learn a thing or two from Martin Luther King Jr.

European legislation against the free practice and expression of Judaism is fundamentally anti-democratic, justified by subjective logic and reflects a legacy of pre-World War II discrimination against the continental Jewish communities.

The rise in anti-circumcision legislation, laws against kosher slaughter and restriction of yarmulkes (among other religious articles) from being worn in schools, correlate with the spike in anti-Jewish vandalism and violent crime, including murder. The rise in anti-Jewish legislation also correlated with calls to boycott Israel because of double standards applied to Israel’s rights in international law, including 1) penalizing the Jewish state for maintaining similar settlement policies to EU trade partners Morocco (Western Sahara) and Turkey (Northern Cyprus), plus 2) Israel’s delayed permission to sit on vital international committees like the United Nations Security Council, a right any UN member reserves yet never afforded to the Jewish state.

The European Union’s two-faced approach to its own Jewish community, combating anti-Jewish crime, and finally its hypocritical stance on Israeli policy, breach the Union’s credibility with Jews all over the world.

Incidents of anti-Semitism on the continent do not have to be analogized with the grim prelude to World War II. They can be compared to innumerable waves of anti-Jewish action in Europe over the centuries; during its dark ages and even its supposed enlightenment. Never minding Europe’s foreign policy, the oppressive attitude successive European governments have taken against Jewish communal and individual rights are in direct contradiction to fundamental principles of European rights identified in its core documents and by its central Council of Europe.

No matter what promises memorials and museums represent to the Jewish communities of Europe, it is clear that Europeans are either unaware of or disinterested in the lessons that prior prejudice and discrimination have given us: that hate begets oppression, oppression begets violence and that violence begets murder.

The best equivalent that my American upbringing affords me is the experience of the black community of the United States. Its trials went on for centuries. The US Constitution even guaranteed their civil liberties, but only a century later thanks to agitation and redundant (relative to the post-Civil War amendments to the American Constitution) Civil Rights legislation were those liberties begun to to be realized.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a legendary presence in American history for many reasons, but probably most of all for his most eloquent illustration of the injustice Black America faced leading up to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. His famous “I Have a Dream Speech” provides us with a template to express the inadequate rights that Europe has afforded its Jews despite the harsh consequences of prior suppression of minorities’ freedoms on the European continent.

To rephrase Dr. King:

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Declaration of Independence Council of the European Union, they were signing a promissory note to which every American European was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black Jewish men as well as white gentile men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” “fundamental right” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” “freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.” It is obvious today that America Europe has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color Jewish citizens are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America Europe has given the Negro Jewish people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

As I burn the midnight oil writing this, trying to express the anger I feel whenever I read about Belgians mocking Jews on trains passing by Auschwitz, or Frenchmen marching in the streets telling Jews to leave, or Poles writing off Jews’ protests at the ban against Jewish dietary customs, I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed by the level of prejudice my people face, a people I chose to fully embrace despite my mixed heritage. I am overwhelmed by the unfulfilled promises Western principles of religious freedom and democracy have told me. I am overwhelmed with agitation.

The European Union pretends to have resolved its conflicts by uniting under a single flag and a single currency but still treat the Jew like a second-class citizen who is entirely alien to their continent. And while as a Zionist I am inclined not to protest a disassociation from European land, as a Jewish human being I will not be placated by the security of the Land of Israel when many Europeans seem to deny that Land of Israel’s Jewish State its rights in international organizations. The European Union bullies the smaller Jewish State while whipping its kin in Europe. We are made to feel neither secure on European lands nor secure in our own, so I am inclined toward a different mode of thinking. Again, with Dr. King’s words as a template.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.


There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro Jew is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police civilian brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s Jew’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only” “Jews: Out of France!” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro Jew in Mississippi Poland cannot vote eat and a Negro Jew in New York Ukraine believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream! (Amos, 5:24)

!וְיִגַּל כַּמַּיִם, מִשְׁפָּט; וּצְדָקָה, כְּנַחַל אֵיתָן

About the Author
Gedalyah Reback is an experienced writer on technology, startups, the Middle East and Islam. He also focuses on issues of personal status in Judaism, namely conversion.