Fiamma Nirenstein
Fiamma Nirenstein

Remembrance Day

Remembrance and Holocaust sometimes can be difficult concepts to go together. How to remember: “they pulled us out from under the beds and closets, cursing: “The train is waiting, straight to hell, to the loading yard, to the Umschlag, to death… They dragged us to the street and continued to prowl — The last dress in the closet, the last bit of grain, the last morsel of bread “.

Which memory could stand such a scenario? And yet, this is among many other terrible and sublime verses what Itzhak Katzenelson wrote in his poem, about the moment of deportation, and this is just the beginning; along the way, a first decimation occurs as the children die in the arms of their mothers and their fathers as they hold their sons and daughters; then, Katzenelson, like other millions of Jews, suffers the loss of his wife and of two of his children, the extermination of an enormous population, “the children raised their hands to you as they died”.

Who can live this remembrance day? Who, among the politicians, the religious leaders, the intellectuals, is truly capable, as they lower their heads and place wreaths on this day, of only even thinking of what happened to the Jewish people in those years? The attempt to remedy, or at least try to patch up, an ordeal that only 70 years ago tore apart life in Europe, has lived through many phases, from incredulity to repentance, and has summoned institutions, schools, university courses, ceremonies, trips to Auschwitz. There has been kindness, smiles and apologies, tons of promises, all under the title “Never Again”. But it hasn’t worked.

Today, once again, many Jews are choosing to leave Europe, because in some countries they cannot envisage a future for themselves and for their children. The scandalous as well as indecent proposal to remove yarmulkes and any other distinctive sign after one of the many jihadists performed in Marseille the latest attack with a machete on a Jew, goes in step with the record number – 10 thousand – of emigrations in one year from Western Europe: from France especially, 8,000 people, followed by Ukrainians (5,840), and then British, Belgians, and about 400 Italians – not a small number considering the small size of the Italian Jewish community.

Such a choice is partly explained by the fast sequence of terrorist attacks. In France, for example, if we consider the period from January to December 2015, we first find four killed at the Kosher supermarket in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and then with intolerable frequency a series of personal aggressions, acts of vandalism, beatings, insults hurled at mothers and children at play parks (“Hitler didn’t finish the job”), robbery, sieges in synagogues and in other meeting places, slanderous writings, knifings, poison … Most of the criminals, in tune with the other crimes committed in other European nations, are Islamic jihadists.

But beware: this is not the only problem. The real problem is that the European structure has become, more or less consciously, a welcoming shell. Attacks in Paris have been occurring since 1979, and then along the lines of the Lebanon war of 1982, while in the streets of the French capital demonstrations shouted against a wholly invented “genocide in Lebanon” (as was printed in Le Monde, l’Humanitè, and even in Témoignage Chrétien).

The ancient anti-Israel aversion becomes Israelophobia and thus anti-Semitism among the intellectual classes.

The current jihadist hatred is not a pure supra-structural problem of which, after all, the Europeans could be sorry about while sustaining that they are the side result of the frequent migratory surges. It is not so. The Jews who are leaving feel that the will to fight the phenomenon has vanished; they have seen processions in the streets of Berlin (!) shout out “death to the Jews”.

There is the clear feeling that their home countries no longer wish to curb the spreading anti-Semitism, to stop it or at least to deplore it with all of the feelings, intellectual and moral strength and common sense possible.

Anti-Semitism has gradually become an affluent of the large river of the politically correct, and so the executive classes no longer have the tools to identify the enemy and vanquish it.

In the meantime, to prohibit anti-Semitism among Islamic immigrants would be a gigantic cultural operation that would require grassroots work applied since childhood. Once, sitting in one of the main halls of the European Union, the author of this article heard it said that to put among the conditions for sending aids to Arab countries that of stopping threats against Israel was an absurd request.

Even stopping anti-Semitism is an absurd request. And even calling it by name is absurd. An example: when the banlieue group ‘The Gang of Barbarians’ kidnapped the Jewish boy Ilan Halimi in Paris in 2006and then tortured and killed him while they read the Koran, the police followed every possible track before bowing to the idea that it was a kidnapping, an attack with a Jew as the target.

The police followed the steps of drugs, sex, organized crime … Halimi’s mother in vain insisted on the anti-Semitic track. And so it is today: the background ally of anti-Semitism which physically threatens the Jews, is the Israelophobia that for decades now has been a part of the basic culture both to the right and to the left. Israelophobia allows to affirm absurd things of Israel when it accuses it of genocide (“It does to Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews” is obviously an anti-Semitic blood libel), of apartheid, and, as the article in the Swedish paper Aftonbladet has said, of killing Palestinians to harvest their organs.

It happens in Italy too, when instead of giving the news of the attacks tormenting Israel, the papers title about the Palestinian terrorist killed in the attempt to stop him from attacking again, or when in Sweden Israel is accused of “extra-judicial killing” because it defends itself.

It’s than that anti-Semitism is being supported. Israel, the Jewish State, is guilty and the Jews are guilty, is the easy equivalence. Europe does not fight anti-Semitism. Just look at the recent promotion by the European Union of the “labeling” of goods produced beyond the Green Line. It is a discriminatory choice: there are 200 territorial conflicts going on, some in countries very close to Europe, such as in Morocco or in Cyprus, but the EU has not inflicted this label on any of them.

Only Israel has it, and is once again forced to see Jewish products marked, as in the past.

In the midst of the Middle Eastern violence, Europe pretends to design the borders and therefore the means of defense of Israel, it expects to replace with its decisions the expected negotiation. Or maybe this isn’t the goal. Maybe there is no goal.

May be this is simply an uncontrolled expression of malevolence, of a lack of comprehension that touches upon anti-Semitism, encounters it, incorporates it, promotes it … Yes, even on Remembrance Day.

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Grazia (January 27, 2016)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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