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European Anti-Semitism

European Anti-Semitism

And why it’s not only the Jews who should be concerned.


Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe.

A recent Tel Aviv University report found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe increased by 30 percent between 2011 and 2012.

A separate analysis of anti-Semitic incidents in France noted a jump of 58 percent in that same period, and that half of all racist acts in that country are committed against Jews, though Jews constitute just one percent of the population. Most striking last year was the targeting and murder of four Jews, including three small children, outside a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Moreover, there are today two aggressively anti-Semitic, xenophobic political parties represented in the parliaments of European Union member states– Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece. Other extremist political movements operating on EU soil have had some success on the local and regional levels.

As the British newspaper The Independent pointed out in a May 5th editorial referring to Jobbik, “Hungarian populists have come from nowhere in only a few years by attributing all their country’s ills to the enemy within – in this case, half-a-million Roma and 100,000 Jews.”

And Golden Dawn invokes Nazi-like images as it demonizes Jews and migrants to advance its agenda, making its relative success in a country brutally occupied by the Third Reich all the more shocking.

Further, polls show that anti-Semitic attitudes are stubbornly high in certain EU countries, including, notably, Spain and Poland.

In addition, anti-Semitism is expanding in cyberspace, prompting at least one government, the French, to seek aggressive ways of combating it.

And finally, the campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel grows stronger.

This goes beyond criticizing specific Israeli policies, which is a normal part of life for any democratic nation. Rather, per the EU Fundamental Rights Agency Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, it is about “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” “applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nations,” “using the symbols and images of classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis,” or “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Rising anti-Semitism in Europe is fueled by three main sources: the extreme right, largely boosted by concerns about the economic crisis and growing migration; the extreme left, which refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist; and those Muslims who espouse hatred for Jews and Israel. Apropos, a recent study in Belgium found that nearly half of Muslim teenage students held anti-Semitic views.

Why should Europe, amidst its many other challenges, be concerned?

The reasons are crystal-clear.

Europe, more than any other continent, knows something about the slippery slope of anti-Semitism – how it begins and where it can lead.

Moreover, history teaches that anti-Semitism may begin with Jews, but, ultimately, threatens the well-being of entire countries.

And finally, the EU has responded to centuries of war and persecution on European soil by championing humanistic values. Action is surely called for when these values are threatened.

Start by acknowledging the problem; stop the denial.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the age-old pathology of anti-Semitism, but a good place to start is to acknowledge the problem.

It sounds obvious, but such acknowledgement encounters resistance. Some European officials prefer to believe that attacks against Jews are acts of “hooliganism,” not anti-Semitism. Some spend endless hours questioning the methodology of polls, rather than digesting the consistently worrisome results. And some would rather debate ad nauseum where the line between “legitimate” and ‘illegitimate” criticism of Israel lies, instead of recognizing the stark fact that anti-Semitism has all too often been transferred from the individual Jew to the Jewish state of Israel.

The four layers of democratic nations must be fully mobilized – (a) regional bodies, such as the EU, Council of Europe, and OSCE; (b) the state – its political leadership, law enforcement and judiciary, and educational system; (c) civil society – religious groups, human rights organizations, and the media; and (d) individuals of good will.

There are, of course, many current examples of precisely this kind of mobilization. The OSCE has a special representative to combat anti-Semitism. Some governments have taken tough action to fight anti-Semitism. There are Christian and Muslim leaders who demonstrate solidarity with Jews, and vice versa, in confronting acts of bigotry. And there are spontaneous acts of good will, such as the students in Italy who stood up for a Jewish classmate shockingly attacked by her teacher.

Yet, as the problem grows, more such action is needed, on every level and in every country. Otherwise, not only the Jews are at risk, but the very fabric of society.

This op-ed originally appeared in El Pais, Spain's best-known and most influential daily newspaper.

May 25, 2013

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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: 41

(34) Shlomo Lev Ben Shaul, April 29, 2018 9:20 PM

The Talmud suggestion for self preservation

Sanhedrin 72 a-b

(33) Barajas, August 3, 2015 10:00 PM

I think that everything is happening according to the plan of the general egoistic development of humanity, which must bring a wave of anti-Semitism and general mutual hatred. The people of Israel will be the focus of this universal hatred. This appearance of egoism as total evil is necessary for activating pressure on the Jews, forcing them to implement the method of uniting humanity and in this unity, the discovery of the Creator. Hitler was a reflection of the people, as Jews we were not united! All leaders are a reflection of humanity, and all humanity puts these evil people in power. We must put love and bestowal as the leader!! Let's stop being arrogant people and lets show BINAH!!!! LOVE!!!

(32) Beverly Margolis, August 2, 2015 6:21 PM


It has dawned on me that the purpose of Jew hate in Europe and other places around the world is to force us to get to Israel. Hashem knows what he is doing.

(31) Beverly Margolis-Kurtin, November 16, 2014 5:13 PM

Polish are reaping their rewards

I clearly remember when the "Sun never set on the British Empire." Now? They're a pathetic little island that thinks it still rules the earth.
But the Poles? Ah, there is a nation that deserves to still be using horses and wagons on their farms. When a Pole is born, Jew hate is as much a part of their make up as is their liver and spleen.
After WWII, Jews returning to their homes were taken out and shot or worse. "Filthy Jew, we own what was once yours." They knew perfectly well who owned what prior to the war, but they gleefully stole everything down to the last smidgen of lint o a rug.
My grandmother ran to her predetermined hiding spot when a wild mob came to her hamlet in a pogrom and somehow hid while her family members were murdered one by one. She remained in a state of shock until she was discovered by one of the groups that found young people and shipped them out of Poland.
My maternal grandfather was living in Ukraine near the Belarus and Russian borders. He walked to France, made some money, then got on a boat to the United States Jew-hate has made us travel to the ends of the earth and back. Sure hope that Messiah gets here before we blow ourselves to smithereens.

(30) Anonymous, November 12, 2014 1:41 PM

time to arm ourselves

It's time; past time; to arm ourselves and be ready to fight back. Otherwise what? more monuments to martyrdom? Forget it. Give them what they want to give us. I don't have to spell it out, do I.

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