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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
An increase in anti-Semitism
An Unsafe Place for Jews
U. S. News and World Report
How will Europe respond to the rise and spread of a new anti-Semitism?
The targeting and murder of four Jews in the Hyper Cacher kosher
supermarket during January’s terrorist attacks in Paris highlighted a
somber fact: Seventy years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is again
growing more virulent in Europe. From Toulouse to Paris, London to
Berlin, Brussels to Copenhagen, Jews are being harassed, assaulted and
A just-released study confirms that this is hardly a recent phenomenon.
According to Pew Research Center, by 2013, Jews were harassed in 34 of
45 European countries, and anti-Semitic harassment worldwide had reached
a seven-year high.
Today’s anti-Semitism differs from that of the 1930s. There is no single
counterpart to Hitler. There is no one European government or leader
fueling most of today’s anti-Jewish acts. Nonetheless, Europe’s leading
heads of state acknowledge that Jew-hatred is spreading. Jews are seeing
their religious freedom violated, their grave sites vandalized, their
synagogues desecrated, and Jewish lives lost.
Who are committing these acts? While some are nativists, neo-Nazis and
skinheads, many others are religious extremists radicalized by those who
distort Islam to fit their intolerant agendas. All are deeply hostile to
pluralism and democratic liberties.
How will Europeans ultimately respond? Will they simply watch the threat
grow? Or will they take the lead, confront the danger and stand with
their Jewish neighbors?
The Hyper Cacher murders underscore the problem in France, home to
Europe’s largest Jewish community. During one week last July, eight
synagogues were attacked, a kosher supermarket and pharmacy trashed and
looted, and mobs were yelling “death to Jews.” The annual number of
anti-Semitic incidents is seven times as high as in the 1990s. Last year
alone, the number of violent anti-Jewish acts doubled. The problem is
serious enough to prompt Serge Cwajgenbaum, the secretary-general of the
European Jewish Congress, to explain that the Hyper Cacher victims would
be buried in Jerusalem so no one would desecrate their graves.
In the U.K., the Jewish Community Security Trust reported more than
1,100 anti-Jewish incidents last year, 81 of which were violent
assaults. These incidents ranged from the desecration of Jewish
cemeteries to graffiti on Jewish homes to attacks on Jewish
schoolchildren to assaults on Jews entering or leaving synagogues. The
number of incidents had doubled from 2013, and was the highest figure
since the trust began monitoring anti-Semitism in 1984.
Some say that hatred of the state of Israel, not the Jews of Europe, is
behind this upsurge. Yet the cry of many haters is “death to all Jews.”
Make no mistake. Acts of terror perpetrated against Jewish
schoolchildren in Europe have no conceivable connection to Israel’s
policies in the Middle East. Anti-Zionism often is a cloak for
anti-Semitism which comes through when people deploy words designed to
delegitimize Israel, demonize its people and hold it to standards far
above other countries.
Yet we’d be mistaken to attribute the most virulent expressions of
European anti-Semitism to Middle East sources alone. To be sure, history
has shown that Muslim societies in centuries past were not immune to
anti-Semitism. However, beginning nearly a century ago, Europe’s modern
totalitarian ideologies like fascism combined with like-minded
nationalist strivings and politicized Islam in the Middle East to
produce an even more potent anti-Semitism.
From promoting belief in blood libels to peddling the Protocols of the
Elders of Zion, the notorious anti-Semitic forgery describing a Jewish
plot for world domination, extremists acting in Islam’s name are
mimicking millennia of European anti-Semitism. Moreover, according to
some polls, nearly one in four Europeans holds anti-Jewish attitudes.
Most have no Middle Eastern or Muslim background but deep roots in
Europe’s soil. Given this history, Europe has a special responsibility
to combat the return of this ancient scourge.
What can be done? Governments must protect lives and religious freedom
by increasing security in Jewish neighborhoods and religious sites.
There are signs that this is happening. France has deployed 10,000
troops and other security personnel for that purpose. However,
considering the depth of these problems, this security must be extended
for the foreseeable future.
Second, there are cases where Muslim communities are protecting Jews,
and vice versa, against the haters, including the recent protective
encirclement of a Danish synagogue by Danish Muslims. Such examples of
humanity, decency and good citizenship must be highlighted to encourage
Finally, people must understand how much of Europe’s tradition of
monolithic culture and ideology – from yesterday’s monolithic state
religion to today’s monolithic state secularism – breeds attitudes that
view today’s most pious adherents to Judaism, Islam, Christianity and
other beliefs as the “other” who are deemed appropriate targets for
exclusion. Today’s Europe must reflect greater pluralism and inclusion.
It is time for people of all beliefs and nationalities to stand together
against anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance and hatred.