If one is Jewish, it’s impossible to not have noticed the enormous rise in anti-Semitism all across Europe. In just a few weeks, the French Yellow Vests protests have become infected with anti-Semitism; cemeteries across the Old Continent have been vandalized with swastikas; Jewish schools have been threatened; political parties have forced out their Jewish MPs or engaged in Holocaust denial; soccer teams have shouted racist slurs; stereotypical & bigoted figures have appeared at Mardi Gras parades; and both sides of the political aisle have tried to “goysplain” away anti-Semitism.
French President Emmanuel Macron has joined other European politicians in condemning anti-Semitism, and took a shot at Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) and other anti-Zionists who do their part in fueling such sentiment. And yet, for all the marches, slogans, statements, and debates, Europe’s true character has been awakened. Jews have been warning of the reawakening of the “world’s oldest hatred” for years, yet nothing was done. Who took action after the murders of Sarah or Ilan Halimi? No one, except, of course, to deny that it was a hate crime and to vandalize the memorial of the murder.
The European Union, as a whole, has talked a lot but refused to walk the walk. Too afraid to hurt the feelings of racists, it has taken little-to-no action to address anti-Semitism. The EU instead refuses to label Hezbollah in its entirety as a terror group, bizarrely contradicting the group by claiming there is a “political wing” that is OK to talk with. Hezbollah has called for the genocide of Jews and is responsible for the attacks against Jewish centers in Buenos Aires during the 1990s. At the epicenter of this is Germany, the country responsible for the Holocaust. Perhaps this is not a surprise, yet Germany has claimed to hold a “special responsibility” for the well-being of Jews and Israel. However, Berlin strangely claims that Hezbollah is part of “Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” Just recently, Germany’s President, Frank Walter-Steinmeier, congratulated the Islamic Republic’s anniversary in Iran. Despite the regime’s egregious abuses of human rights and calls for genocide against Jews, Germany has chosen to praise it while “expressing concern” repeatedly at the Trump Administration for its abuses. This is hypocritical and disappointing, yet transparent. Europe’s true colors are on display, and there’s no going back. No matter what they say, claim, or have been “working on,” anti-Semitism remains deeply enmeshed in Europe’s DNA. Today, rather than commit to fighting it, too many Europeans (including those in government) are willing to brush it aside or justify it. Others ignore Jewish concerns and try to tell us what is or is not anti-Semitic.
There can be no sticking our heads in the sand like camels in the Negev. Not unless one is a “Jew with weak knees”–the kind so reviled and mocked by Menachem Begin. For decades, since the end of the war, too many Jews and anti-racists have tried to convince themselves that Europe had changed. Many Europeans joined in on the facade, and some actually did try to make the Old Continent a more progressive place. But it was all for naught. Europe is incapable of such a change. The rise of racist far-right parties throughout prove this, with hate crimes on the increase. The inability or unwillingness of “progressive” political parties to combat anti-Semitism within their own ranks only underscores this truth. Continuing to think otherwise or hope that Europe changes is a foolish choice to make, as current trends only point to it getting worse. A deepening East-West divide in the continent, along with economic troubles, demographic shifts, and a spiteful ruling class fearful of losing power points to a darker trend common throughout European history–trouble for Europe’s minorities: chief among them, Jews.
Throughout the ages, some segment of Jews chose to stay despite the danger. They included the conversos, Jews in Portugal & Spain who had to live their truth in secret or abandon their faith for imperial Catholicism. They included open Jews in the same countries who were burned at the stake for refusing to convert. They included the Jews who believed that the pogroms and the Nazis would pass quickly and with minimal violence, only later to end up victims of mass murder and genocide. We mustn’t let this tragedy repeat itself–especially when we have safer countries to flee to, and an independent, strong homeland. Europe has chosen to stand behind those who oppress indigenous peoples and desire genocide of our people. Whether wisely or not, Europe has chosen its friends–and we must choose ours, and draw our red lines. Icelandic pop star Pall Oskar Hjalmtysson recently claimed that “Jews didn’t learn the lessons of the Holocaust.” Many well-meaning people will claim that Jews, as victims, aren’t the ones who need to “learn the lessons” of this tragedy. I can understand that, and agree with them that such a comment is racist. But I also think there is a lesson we can (and mostly have) learned from that tragedy: that Europe is not to be trusted, and we can only rely on ourselves for our safety, survival, and well-being. So, to Brussels, I say “thank you for the reminder over these past few weeks.” To Israel, I say “you need to make it economically easier for Jews to return home.” And to European Jewry, I say “get out before it’s too late–yet again.”