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Europe Needs to Confront its Anti-Semitism

Europe Needs to Confront its Anti-Semitism

After Copenhagen, here are the next steps I wish Europe would take.


Once again, the jihadists have attacked, this time in Copenhagen.

Once again, they have murdered innocent people.

Once again, they have targeted both democratic values – freedom of speech and the press – and a minority community – the Jews.

And once again, Europe has been reminded that it is at the center, not the periphery, of this global challenge.

As a result, we will have all the right symbolic gestures, which I don’t wish to minimize.

There will be visits to the synagogue, solidarity events, statements of anguish, and affirmations of collective will and determination.

But will they really change anything on the ground? That remains to be seen.

With each such bloody outrage, we earnestly hope that something might be learned because we don’t want to believe that history must continue to repeat itself in this all-too-familiar cycle of killings, vigils, and mourning.

And yet, after 15 years of engaging with European leaders to get their attention, help them understand what stares them in the face, and press for sustained action, I’m not quite ready to bet the family farm that the day after tomorrow will be all that different than the day before yesterday.

Even so, I desperately want to believe that Europe, with all its dazzling achievements since the end of World War II, can still strengthen its resolve, stiffen its spine, and fully understand the stakes involved, however late in the day it is.

Here is what I wish would happen now.

First, the European Union should quickly organize a high-level conference to discuss the rise in anti-Semitism, as evidenced by repeated terror attacks, EU polls showing rising fear among Jews, and statistics in countries like France and the United Kingdom revealing a major spike in anti-Semitic incidents. It ought to discuss and adopt a comprehensive plan of action, and then implement and monitor it.

Second, European leaders must understand, as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has, that anti-Semitism is not only an attack on Jews, but also an assault on Europe and its values. The two cannot be separated. That was amply illustrated in the attacks in Paris last month and in Copenhagen this month. In the end, if there is no other choice, Jews will leave Europe, but where will Europe go, unless, that is, it is prepared to succumb to the jihadist threat?

Third, call a spade a spade. For many Europeans, there is no hesitation in identifying the source of anti-Semitism when it emanates from right-wing extremists. But when anti-Semitism, including deadly violence, springs from within a segment of the Muslim population, verbal acrobatics all too often come into play. If you can’t name the adversary, how can you effectively fight it?

Of course, this problem is not unique to Europe. In the United States, we saw the massacre at Fort Hood ludicrously labeled “workplace violence” rather than the jihadist violence it so obviously was, and our government’s refusal to refer to “Islamist” or “jihadist” terrorism, even when the perpetrators themselves do.

Fourth, stop tying anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, as if the two are Siamese twins. AJC’s Brussels office has been trying for months to encourage a European Parliament hearing on anti-Semitism, only to be met with insistence that any such meeting include Islamophobia. Why this demand to join the two together, when the majority of incidents occurs against Jews, when Europe has a particularly ugly history of anti-Semitism, and when the principal attackers of Jews invoke their Islamic faith?

Fifth, recognize that we confront both a short- and long-term menace that won’t be overcome by even the most eloquent of speeches and the most symbolic of acts. Rather, it requires a full-court, sustained effort by individual governments (and, of course, by the EU) using the resources they have the capacity to mobilize, joined by the determined efforts of civil society.

Sixth, connect the lessons of the Holocaust to the present-day threat to the Jews. I’ve witnessed too many Holocaust-related events where murdered Jews are mourned – Jews who, tragically, cannot be brought back to life – but that totally ignore the current dangers to living Jews. A refusal to connect the two quite frankly empties these commemorations of much of their meaning and sincerity.

Seventh, don’t apologize for European values of democracy, human dignity, openness, and pluralism. Europe has built something to be proud of and that is well worth defending. It is, after all, to Europe that refugees and immigrants are seeking to go by any means possible to escape failed or failing societies, and not the other way around. It’s high time to stand up in defense of these noble values and do everything possible to ensure that newcomers embrace them as well.

And last, but by no means least, it is important to understand that the jihadist barbarism which Europe is experiencing first-hand is not much different from what Israel has been facing for decades. Why, then, does Europe continue to try drawing a distinction, when, in reality, none exists? The same jihadists who hate Europe detest Israel, and the same jihadists who wish for Israel’s annihilation aspire to no less for Europe as we know it.

Since hope springs eternal, here’s hoping for the dawning of a new day, starting right now.

February 16, 2015

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 17

(15) Anonymous, May 15, 2016 3:25 PM

I, wholeheartedly, agree with everything you wrote. Has there been any progress with the EU, to date?

(14) eugene Mazzilli, February 18, 2015 10:22 PM

Enough already!

It's time to pack up and leave for Israel or the U.S. Don't waste another moment thinking about what you will leave behind. Europeans are a cruel bunch. They say one thing to your face and another behind your back. All of Europe has taken whatever they could from America and in return show the least amount of respect, kindness or common decency. It is true that it is not that all are bad, but when the agitators get into the picture, you see things happening today that remind us of the events in Europe prior to WWII. Please get out now and save yourself and your families. Come to America or Israel where you will be loved and protected.

(13) shayna, February 18, 2015 1:58 PM


Most importantly, we must turn our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to Our Father in Heaven, who is in complete control of all events on this world, and we must not rely on anyone else but Him.

Dvirah, February 18, 2015 5:38 PM


We should certainly "turn our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to Our Father in Heaven", but free will means that he does NOT control human actions. Turing to and trusting in G-d does not mean taking no actions for ourselves, including urging others with influence or power to act with us.

(12) Jacob, February 18, 2015 1:05 AM

We are dead-scared

Truth of the matter is that everyone in Europe is dead-scared of the gradual islamization of the continent. Over the last decades, politicians have invited millions of muslims into Europe, and have thereby have completely ignored the violent, expansionist nature of Islam. Even most supposedly moderate muslims sympathize with radical Islam and ISIS. Now politicians have a problem on hands that they can't ignore any longer nor can't really resolve. We Jews are the first to be targeted by the Muslims immigrants, and European politicians hope that by not addressing the nature of modern-day antisemitism (i.e. Islam), they will somehow save their own skin. Churchill said: "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last." Ultimately, this will also turn against christians; the beheadings of copts in Libya are an omen of what is to come.
What we need are not discussion on Islamophobia (a cynical ploy to demand even more special rights and space for muslim expansionism), we need to have an open discussion about antisemitism and its roots (i.e. Islam).

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