The Triple-Threat Facing Jews in Europe

Melanie Phillips recently published an essay based on her Simon Weisenthal memorial lecture delivered on Holocaust Memorial Day. In it, she details the threats that Jews in Europe are facing today, and the picture she draws is both worrying and depressing. As she outlines, it is now a serious question for European Jews whether Europe is to be their home for much longer. Jewish emigration from Europe to Israel has increased. Many more are asking whether they should make Aliyah to Israel. Europe’s Jews face what Maajid Nawaz calls, in a broader context, a “triple-threat” from Islamism, Far-Right extremism and Far-Left extremism. These three movements feed off each other and need each other to grow. They all have hatred of the Jews at the heart of their ideologies; today, for various reasons, each is growing, putting European Jews at increased risk.

Because this is a big subject, I want to split it into a series of five posts. This one will look at some of the data on the situation. The second will consider today’s Right-wing anti-Semitism. The third will look at Left-wing anti-Semitism. The fourth will look at Islamist anti-Semitism, and the fifth will conclude and wrap it all up. First, let’s look at some of the data.

The Data

As I laid out in an article on Labour’s anti-Semitism, 2017 was the worst year on record for anti-Semitism in Britain, as recorded by the Community Support Trust (CST). There were 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents across the UK last year, which was the highest recorded since the CST’s formation in 1984. 2016 had been the worst year recorded, but 2017 beat this by 3%. This is added to the aforementioned Labour anti-Semitism scandal, which started back in 2016 and exploded earlier this year. The fact that so much of the current Labour Party is hostile to Israel, and holds hateful and conspiratorial views of Jews is alarming, especially given that it reaches right to the top, and penetrates down to the activist level. There does not seem to be a single cause for this uptick in hatred, as Israel could not be used as a scapegoat during these years.

The situation in mainland Europe is far worse. Jews have been facing increasing persecution for years. France has 475,000 Jews, who represent less than 1 percent of the country’s population. Yet, in 2014, the French Interior Ministry recorded that 51 percent of all racist attacks targeted Jews. Most recently, a study from the Centre for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo found that in France, Sweden and Germany, perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks were mostly from an Islamic background. In France and Sweden, there were more anti-Semitic incidents where the aggressor was left-wing than right-wing. This was not the case for Germany, where the reverse was true (p. 18). From this, those on the Left one would expect to defend Jews from attack were often those who were most hateful of Jews.

In Eastern Europe, in the bloodlands that saw the greatest number of Jews sent to their deaths in World War II, the hostility towards Jews is far worse. Pew Research polling found high levels of anti-Jewish sentiments across Eastern Europe: from the 2,000 people surveyed, “Twenty percent of respondents said that they didn’t want Jews in their country, and 30 percent didn’t want them as neighbors.” Meanwhile, 22% of Romanians wanted to remove Jews’ citizenship rights, followed by 18% of Poles, 14% of Hungarians, 23% of Lithuanians and 19% of Czechs.

As Andrew Roberts recounts in his short book, The Modern Swastika: Fighting Today’s Anti-Semitism, The Friedrich Ebert Foundation carried out a survey and found that 72.2% of respondents in Poland believe Jews abuse their status as Holocaust victims, with 48% saying this in Germany, 40.2% in Italy and 32.3% in France. When asked if they understood why people disliked Jews, 55.2% of Polish people said yes, with 48.9% in Germany and 40.2% in Italy also agreeing. When they were asked if they thought Israel was conducting a war of extermination against Palestinians, 63% in Poland and 47.7% in Germany answered yes.

In 2014, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights surveyed 5,847 Jews in 9 European countries between September 2012 and September 2013. Their results were:

  • Two-thirds of respondents said that anti-Semitism is a problem in Europe, and over three-quarters noted said there had been an increase in anti-Semitism over the last five years.
  • Nearly half (46%) said they were afraid of being verbally attacked or harassed in public, and one-third worried that such attacks could turn physical.
  • Roughly half who were parents or grandparents of school-aged children feared their children or grandchildren might be victimized or harassed at or on the way to or from school if they wore visible Jewish symbols.
  • More than half of respondents (57%) said that they had recently heard or seen someone claim that the Holocaust was a myth or that it was exaggerated.
  • Over a quarter of respondents said that they had experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment over the previous year.
  • Almost a quarter (23%) said they had been discriminated against in the last year for being Jewish.
  • 11% said they are most likely to experience discrimination for being Jewish at the workplace, while 10% said this was the case when they were looking for work. Nearly a third of respondents said they ‘seriously considered emigrating’ as a result of this treatment.

This data makes for depressing reading. However, cold numbers alone are insufficient when looking at this problem. We also have to look at where it is coming from in more detail, particularly in terms of the ideas that drive each source of modern anti-Semitism in Europe. The next post will look at the anti-Semitism that comes from the Far-right in Europe, which while not as big a source as Left-wing and Islamist anti-Semitism, is still a concerning phenomenon.

About the Author
Henry George is from Buckinghamshire in the UK. He is currently a freelance writer and is a graduate of King's College London, where he studied for an MA in War Studies.
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