75 years since Kristallnacht and antisemitism is on the rise again

Burning synagogue on Kristallnacht, 1938

75 years ago this week the brutal pogrom, which came to be known as Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass – in which hundreds of synagogues were burnt down, thousands of Jewish shops and business were destroyed and thousands of Jews arrested, deported or murdered, was carried out against the Jews of Germany. This marked the “visible” beginning of the Holocaust, although it had already begun back in 1933 with the election of Hitler and the enacting of the racist and antisemitic Nuremberg Laws discriminating against Jews.

We all know the rest of the dreadful story. If you are interested you can read my father’s experience on Kristallnacht as a child in his story here (you can also read the rest of my family history at the various links within the Family History page in the main menu above).

75 years on, one would have thought that the world had learned a painful lesson and that antisemitism would have been eradicated. One would be wrong. Certainly the levels of antisemitism today, at least in Europe, are nowhere near what abounded in the 1930’s. Nevertheless there are worrying signs everywhere, added to which, hatred of Israel and discrimination against it appears to have replaced the old-fashioned kind of antisemitism.  Many of these cases of anti-Israel hatred and anti-Zionism have been documented on this blog, but here are some items relevant to this week’s anniversary.

CiFWatch (via the British-Jewish Community Security Trust – CST) reports on the findings of the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) about Jewish experiences of antisemitism in EU countries and it gives rise to some concern:

The survey covers the UK, France, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy Hungary, and Latvia: around 90% of the estimated Jewish population in the EU. It will enable European politicians to understand Jewish concerns and to better respond to them.

CST wrote a preview of the survey, with some of its pre-released findings, on the CST Blog last week. The full survey has been published today and is available here, with a summary here (pdf). The full data of the survey can be explored here. It is highly detailed, with dozens of questions answered for each country.

[…]

Key findings – Europe general and UK:

Across Europe, 66% of respondents consider antisemitism to be a “very big” or “fairly big” problem in their countries. The UK is lowest, at 48%, and France is highest, at 85%.

Across Europe, 76% say the situation has worsened in the last five years. In the UK this figure is 66%; France is again the highest, at 88%.

Antisemitism is considered the fourth most-pressing social or political issue across the countries surveyed.

Across Europe, in the 12 months before the survey, 26% of respondents experienced one or more incident of antisemitic harassment, which includes verbal abuse or other threatening behaviour in the street, hate mail and antisemitism on social media. The figure for the UK was 21%. Across Europe, 4% of survey respondents had suffered antisemitic physical attack or a threat of violence during the previous year (3% for UK). 76% of victims of antisemitic harassment did not report the most serious incident to the police or any other organisation. (71% in the UK).

Perpetrators of the most serious incidents of antisemitic harassment were described by respondents. Across Europe, 27% of perpetrators were perceived as someone with “Muslim extremist views”; 22% were perceived as “left-wing political views”; and 19% as “right-wing views”. The survey report does not give individual country analysis.

Close to half of all respondents (46%) worry about being verbally insulted or harassed in a public place. One third (33%) worry about being physically attacked because of being Jewish. The UK has the lowest levels of fear, with 28% worrying about verbal abuse and 17% worrying about physical attack. Highest is France, at 70% and 60% respectively.

Across Europe, 19% experienced discrimination due to their religion  in the past 12 months. For the UK this figure was the second-lowest at 16%, but the UK showed the highest rate of reporting such discrimination, at 24%.

Across Europe, 27% at least occasionally avoid local places because they do not feel safe there because they are Jewish. Belgium (42%), Hungary (41%) and France (35%) are the worst places for this. 23% at least occasionally avoid Jewish events or sites for the same reason. 68% of respondents at least occasionally avoid wearing items in public that might identify them as Jewish. The figure for the UK is 59%; the highest figures were in Sweden (79%) and France (75%).

Across Europe, 11% have either moved or considered moving out of their neighbourhood in the past five years due to concerns for their safety as Jews. 29% have, at some time or other, considered emigration: this rises to 48% for Hungary, 46% for France and 40% for Belgium. In the UK, 18% have considered emigration.

Across Europe, 94% of all respondents consider somebody who says “The Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated” to be antisemitic. 81% consider somebody who says “Israelis behave ‘like Nazis’ towards the Palestinians” to be antisemitic. 72% consider somebody who supports boycotts of Israeli goods or products to be antisemitic. 34%  consider somebody who criticises Israel to be antisemitic. In the UK, the figures are 96%, 76%, 65% and 32% respectively.

Across Europe, 75% of respondents considered antisemitism on the internet to be a problem, and 73% thought it had increased over the past 5 years. In the UK, these figures were 63% and 64% respectively.

Across Europe, 68% of respondents said that the Arab-Israeli conflict impacts how safe they feel as a Jewish person in their country. This falls to 57% for the UK, but rises to 90% for France and 93% for Belgium.

The survey also showed significant differences between countries. For example, in the UK, 9% of respondents said they had often heard the statement “Jews are responsible for the current economic crisis”, while this figure rose to 59% for Hungary.

It will be interesting to read the detailed survey about the UK next week.

Via Elder of Ziyon, two excellent articles. The first is by Thomas Sandell, Founding Director of European Coalition for Israel, at Times of Israel:

Europe marks 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht with new calls for boycotts

As Europe prepares to mark the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht this weekend, there will be a certain sense of déja vu in the air. Earlier memorials have been characterised by emotional speeches and complex analysis as to how Kristallnacht could have come about in the first place. This year, the 75th Anniversary of the pogroms against Jews, their homes, their businesses and their synagogues, will be marked by – you guessed it – new calls to boycott  Jewish businesses!

[…]

This year however, it will be rather difficult to pretend that anti-Semitism belongs only to the past. In one parliament after another, neo-Nazi parties are gaining ground. This is also true of the European Parliament in Brussels, where extreme right wing parties are expected to score new victories in the upcoming Spring election, and where the European Commission is busy preparing for new guidelines to boycott Jewish businessnes in the disputed territories. When the new guidelines come into effect, on January 1st, 2014, any Israeli entity located ”on the wrong side of the 1967 lines” will be facing a financial embargo from the EU, as they forbid EU grants, prizes and loans from going not only to Israeli entities located beyond the Green Line, but also to Israeli entities that have any activity beyond the the post- 1967 lines.

Other measures are already in place to start marking Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories. Once the EU starts implementing the new guidelines and marking Israeli goods, life will become increasingly difficult for any Jewish person, I mean ”settler”, who chooses to stay on in the territories, as they will now be considered international outlaws.

The lessons from Kristallnacht should not be forgotten. It all started with boycotts and demonstrations against Jewish businesses, academia and culture, but it did not stop there. Today’s campaigns of the delegitimisation of Israel have all the same ingredients as the events leading up to Kristallnacht.

[…]

International law does not stipulate where citizens of a particular ethnicity can live. It seems as if the Jews are the only exception to this rule, as Mahmoud Abbas has declared that ”there can be no Israelis living in a future Palestinian state.” Brussels, hello?!

Nothing much seems to have changed in Europe since 1938. Yes, the EU has sworn never again to let down the Jewish people, but since the Yom Kippur war of 1973, the European Union has consistently taken the side of the Arabs. One month after the war, the European Community issued a declaration recognising ”the legitimate rights” of the Palestinians and calling for an Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. What international law could not settle, the combined weapons of Arab oil and the threat of Palestinian terrorism could determine once and for all.  As a consequence, the EU is now forcing the Jews out of the disputed territories, using financial instruments as their main weaponry.

Having concluded that by and large, the European political class has long abandoned Israel, it would be nice to state that this is not the case for European civil society. Romantic perceptions would have it that, at the very least, ordinary European citizens would be on the right side of history. Sadly this is not the case. In parallel with their political leaders, much of European civil society, consisting of trade unions, academia, churches and other non-governmental organisations, has stepped up its dipomatic war against Israel and is pressing for more sanctions and boycotts. When the World Council of Churches met recently for its annual meeting in Geneva, there was little concern for its persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East; but there were four workshops on the issue of – you guessed it – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The problems in Europe in 2013 are the same as in 1938. When the boycotts and singling out of the Jewish people began, the good people chose to look the other way. It is now high time to look in the right direction.

The second link is from the Commentator: Christianity is based on love but sometimes hate prevails:

The World Council of Churches (WCC), the inter-Christian organization of mainstream Protestant churches, is at it again in its continuing campaign against Israel. In 2013, one of its units, the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), invited WCC member churches, faith-based communities, and civil society organizations working for justice, to join together for a week in a proclaimed World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (WWPPI).

The purpose was advocacy and action in support of an “end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and in Israel.”

Everyone with stakes in the Middle East, Christian, and non-Christian, must welcome a just peace, but does the WWPPI really do so? Churches and other groups in at least 22 countries joined this initiative of the PIEF in September 2013. The theme of the Week held in September 2013 was “Jerusalem, the city of justice and peace.”

The aim of the event was clearly stated. It was to promote a just peace in Palestine, but also an end to the “illegal Israeli occupation.”

For the WWPPI, justice appeared to be limited geographically and confined to one group.

[…]

It has always been puzzling why the WCC, and similar mainstream organizations purporting to pursue peace continue to use extravagant, biased rhetoric and misleading historical statements in their approach to the controversial issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That rhetoric degrades rather than attempts to repair relations between the competing parties.

It also refuses to acknowledge the historical consequences, in territory and refugees, of the Arab invasion of the State of Israel after its establishment on May 14, 1948.

The PIEF claims to be a forum intended to rally churches and groups to “end the illegal occupation of Palestine in accordance with UN resolutions” and to press for a “just peace in Palestine-Israel.” However, the real nature of its objective is clear from its approval of the Kairos Palestine Document.

This Document was titled “A Moment of Truth” and was issued by members of Palestinian churches in December 2009. It called on the international community to support the Palestinian people who were described as facing oppression, displacement, suffering, and functional apartheid for more than six decades.

This document was based on an earlier Kairos Document launched by South African theologians in 1985 that called for the end of apartheid in South Africa. The association of the infamous South African regime with Israel, if implicit, is clear in the resemblance of the wordings in the two documents to each other.

[…]

The WCC and its unit PIEF flatter themselves on their “audacious courage” in upholding the Kairos Palestine Document. If courage is defined by historical inaccuracy and travesty and wholly slanted politics, they may be justified. It is one thing to challenge what they call misuse of the Bible by those who disagree with them, and it is proper they should pray for justice.

It is quite another for them to call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions and other forms of non-violent action against Israel while not calling for unconditional peace negotiations without preconditions.

The real truth is that the WCC lacks balance — of which its members should be ashamed, not proud — and that this is profoundly un-Christian.

Theodore Herzl, in his seminal book Der Judenstaat (the Jewish State) where he proposed the establishment of a Jewish state in order to eliminate antisemitism did not take into account that the modern State of Israel would become the Jew amongst the nations, and that antisemitism does not die, it just changes its outward appearance. Not only has antisemitism not disappeared completely, but it has morphed into an additional mutant – anti-Zionism, or rather anti-Israelism. Instead of targeting Jews antisemites now target the Jewish state.

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7 Responses to 75 years since Kristallnacht and antisemitism is on the rise again

  1. cba says:

    Anyone who doubts Jew-hatred is alive and kicking need only read the comments on this article at the Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-will-attack-if-you-sign-the-deal-french-mp-told-fabius/#comments.

    By the way, I strongly urge everyone to call it by its name: Jew-hatred (or its milder cousin, anti-Jewish bigotry).

    “Antisemitism” was coined by Jew-haters who thought “Judenhass” (Jew-hatred) sounded “low class” and bigoted, whereas being against so-called “Semitism” was scientific and intellectual. Furthermore, you’ll always have some idiot pulling out the “Ashkenazim aren’t Semites, but Arabs are” line.

    • anneinpt says:

      Crikey! And these are comments at an Israeli site! Can you imagine what the talkbacks are going to be like at the BBC, Guardian et al? I was reading a Jeffrey Goldberg column at Bloomberg yesterday and you could almost see the drool dripping from the keyboards of the talkbackers. Their antisemitism Jew-hatred would have done Der Sturmer proud.

      You are right about using the word antisemitism. We should say Jew-hatred. Judenhass might be too “intellectual” for the mouth-breathers who have crawled out from under their rocks and out of the woodwork.

      • cba says:

        I know, I was shocked.

        However, there’s no geographic limit on who can comment where, so if the Jew-haters all decide to assemble BTL on a ToI story, it shouldn’t necessarily be a huge surprise.

        For my sins, I still sometimes read comments below CBC stories. CBC commenters are as bad BBC/Guardian ones.

  2. DavidinPT says:

    Slightly off-topic, but I wanted to tell you about a strange experience I had this last Shabbat. I was staying at the Kibbutz Lavi Hotel (in the lower Galilee), and during the light breakfast prior to morning prayers there were about 30 to 40 highly religious men all dressed in their Sabbath-best, including many in Chassidic garb. And mixing with them was a group of about 20 German Christians having a cup of coffee before departing for a tour of the nearby holy sites. And I thought to myself – how weird is it that exactly 75 years after Krystallnacht here we all are together, in peace and quiet in the Jewish state where we are the majority and they are the minority – guests of the Jews.

    • anneinpt says:

      Very weird indeed. Just imagine what our grandparents would have thought. They wouldn’t have believed such a thing would be possible. And yet we more or less take it for granted to see German and other European visitors here. How the wheel of history turns.

  3. peteca1 says:

    I was just looking at a Yahoo News article – this time commenting on Bibi’s vehement objections to the proposed nuclear deal between the US and Iran. Most of the reader comments focused on Israel, and not on Iran at all. Many comments were either anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. Few readers seemed to be able to analyze the Iranian position with regard to nuclear capabilities, and hardly any readers considered the real implications of a future Cold War in the ME.

    So based on these reader comments … I would say YES. I does appear that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world today. I am not sure how much of this emotion is really aimed at Jews because of their religious views – it seems to be an effort to attack Israel’s public image as a nation. But the negativity is very real.
    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      You hit the nail on the head Pete. As I said at the end of my post, antisemitism in these days has to a great extent (though not entirely) morphed into hatred of the Jewish state, i.e. Israel, and the hatred is more political rather than religious. This is mainly because people are less religious today.

      And yet ironically, there are certain branches of Christianity which still hate the Jews for religious reasons. They also manage to tie in political antisemitism (aka anti-Zionism) into this as Israel represents the Jewish nation.

      And this is without going into Muslim antisemitism which runs very deep and exceedingly vicious.

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