Why Anti-Semitism Is Dangerous for All People, Not Only Jews

Many Jewish people no longer feel safe across both the US and Europe — and with good reason. More and more cases of anti-Semitism are being reported daily. What’s even worse, people seem to think this is perfectly acceptable. When recently there was a case of somebody asking why a Jewish person smelled, as discussed by Jeff Robbins, there was no outrage on the American campus where it happened. Yet, if the same thing were to happen with a black person the whole campus would have been up in arms. That’s a double standard; and a dangerous one. And it points to a worrying trend. A new normal as it were.

In Europe, we can see where that might lead, as there anti-Semitism has become far rifer, with violence having turned deadly several times over the last years. What is more, the nature of the anti-Semitism there points to some far deeper trends that shouldn’t just frighten the Jewish populations that live there but the governing classes as a whole.

The problem in Europe

Dave Rich of the World Affairs explains: “The problem of European Muslims killing European Jews… is not explained by anger over Gaza, or by tensions between Muslims and Jews. It is part of the broader problem of extremism that has found purchase within European Muslim communities. There are manifold reasons why around 4,000 Muslim men and women have traveled from Western Europe to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Grievances real and perceived, identity crises, the struggle with modernity, a thirst for adventure and the excitement of a utopian mission in which anything is justified for the creation of a new, perfect world all play their part. This is a problem that Jewish communities cannot solve for themselves, but is one for which European governments need to find the answer.

The question is, are they able to do so? As things currently stand Europe doesn’t seem to be able to find a solution to any of its problems, including the immigrant crisis, the growing number of jihadists, the continuing problems between the periphery and the core, the rise of right-wing populism, the threat of Breexit and EU fatigue. With all those threats looming over the majority of Europe, how are they going to find the time to dedicate serious resources to protecting a minority of their population? And yet that they do so is absolutely vital. For ant-Semitism is far more than one group swearing and beating on another. It’s a clash of cultures and a war for the very heart of what it means to be European.

Since the end of the Second World War the European project has been an attempt to bring peace and prosperity to all peoples of Europe, whatever race, religion or creed. And for 60 years they have broadly succeeded. Now, however, that is under threat and that threat starts with the way that certain culture groups feel they do not need to follow the broad guidelines of the European project and can strike out at other groups with impunity. This start with simple abuses, like are happening in the US, and from there, as people realize there are few to no repercussions, escalates into attacks with lethal intent.

Now this is not to suggest that all people of these communities will end up becoming fanatical killers. That is not at all what is being suggested here. There will only be a few in any community, whether Muslim or otherwise, that can be pushed to that extreme, but it will be far easier for them to be radicalized when an atmosphere exists in which forms of discrimination such as statements of anti-Semitism are seen as acceptable.

From shouting to shooting

We are a groupish species and take our cues as to what is acceptable behavior not so much, as Jonathan Haidt argues in his book, The Righteous Mind, by logical reasoning, but far more by simply absorbing the opinions of those we associate with and look up to. This means that when people grow up in these communities and are exposed to anti-Semitic sentiments, they are much more likely to adopt and express them themselves. The more extreme these sentiments, the more extreme they become in expressing them. Of course, character plays a role, with some being less discriminatory than others, while others are more so. These, however, are just variations from the baseline and the higher that baseline, the more likely people are willing to embrace lethal intent.

Therefore, by not fighting anti-Semitism, even expressed at its lowest level, the governments of Europe (and the world) are making it far easier for individuals in these populations to radicalize. In other words, steps need to be taken to tackle the racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Europeanism that these communities express, with community leaders needing to be made aware that even a simple mild expression of anti-Semitism can ultimately snowball into something more violent and dangerous.

That is not to say that this is the only thing that needs to be done. The blaming of the Jewish people for all their woes would be far less of a problem if their actual woes were reduced, by making certain these populations did not feel marginalized and excluded themselves (which by and large they do). And that means tackling discrimination against Muslim populations as well. But in the process of trying to include these groups and avoid having any of them adopt views that are anti-Western, it is vital that we do not forgive them the transgressions that they are already committing. Western governments must not turn a blind eye to anti-Semitism as they try to prevent anti-Muslim sentiments from radicalizing youths, for it is those anti-Semitic views that are radicalizing those young people just as surely as their marginalization is.

So by all means fight marginalization, help them get work, make them read books that have them question themselves, but all of that can’t allow us to allow them to violently express opinions that strike at the core of the European project and endanger our western values. Because if we allow that to happen the radicalization and violence will never end.

About the Author
Ethan Dunwill currently resides in Hong Kong and works as an independent blogger.