Europe – bad for the Jews?

Supporters of France’s National Front political party hold flags and banners as they gather at a rally in Paris in early May {Reuters}

The question mark at the end of my headline is probably not really necessary. The latest European election results, combined with a rising tide of antisemitic sentiment and violence, makes it clear that the time is rapidly approaching for the Jews of Europe to make contingency plans at the very least.

Starting with the latest acts of antisemitic violence in Europe, the worst was the attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum in which an Israeli couple as well as two museum employees were murdered. The killer is still at large.  In a separate incident a Belgian Jewish activist complained he had received a death threat.

On the same day in Paris, two Jewish brothers were attacked and badly injured outside a suburban synagogue:

Two young religious Jews were attacked Saturday evening in Creteil near Paris as they left a synagogue, the French Interior Ministry announced Sunday.

According to the ministry, the incident occurred around 8:30 pm. when the two brothers, aged 21 and 18, and both wearing kippot, were severely beaten by two unknown men, who then fled, one on foot and the second on a bicycle.

The instability in Ukraine has also led to antisemitic attacks. The head of United Hatzala in Ukraine, Rabbi Hillel Cohen, was stabbed on his way to visit a sick person:

Cohen was on his way to the Kiev hospital to visit a sick Jewish tourist who had been hospitalized a few weeks earlier.

Passing through an alley on the way to the hospital, Cohen was attacked in broad daylight by two youths, at 10 AM on Thursday.

Cohen was hit hard by the attackers, who yelled “Zhid” (Jew) at him, and other words in Russian.

Cohen was knocked down, injuring his hand in the fall. At that point the attackers began to stab him in the leg and back.

After the attackers ran away, Cohen managed to drag himself to the main street and catch a taxi which took him to the hospital.

In January of this year, an Orthodox student in Kiev (picture above) was also attacked in a violent antisemitic attack. The attack was part of a series of attacks that were specifically targeting Jews.

In Hungary, the rise of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party has also led to a wave of very disturbing antisemitic discourse, and its influence is spreading across Eastern Europe.

Graphic of the European election results

The Jobbik Party’s rise is but one example of Europe’s extreme rightward shift in this week’s European elections. The Simon Wiesenthal Center published a list of those parties which require monitoring:

Below is the tally for the 77 MEP’s (Members of the European Parliament) that the Simon Wiesenthal Center will be monitoring in the weeks and months to come:

Austria Freedom Party (gained 20% of the vote)
Denmark People’s Party (gained 27% of the vote)
Finland Finns Party
France National Front (FN) (gained 25% of the vote)
Germany NPD neo-Nazi
Greece Golden Dawn neo-Nazi
Hungary Jobbik neo-Nazi (gained 15% of the vote)
Italy Liga Nord
Netherlands Freedom Party
United Kingdom UKIP

These election results have caused great concern to European Jewry (emphases added):

Gains by the far-right in the European Union Parliament have Jewish communities on the continent nervous as they ponder a future in which parties they see as anti-Semitic secure increasing influence over policy.

Despite the moderate left and right maintaining their majority, the American Jewish Committee noted, “several parties that promote hatred had strong support.”

The AJC bemoaned the fact that Jobbik is now the second largest Hungarian party in the continental legislature, while Greece’s Golden Dawn, a party which utilizes Nazi imagery and whose leaders are open in their admiration of Adolf Hitler, is now in the parliament for the first time and that Austria’s hard right FPO party came in third with just over a fifth of the vote, obtaining four seats.

Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute said that while the “extent to which these parties will be able to unite to influence European policy remains to be seen,” their presence in the legislature will still “at a minimum, provide a soapbox from which to propagate their vile hatred.”

“These radical parties have been able to grow in their respective home countries for quite some time and are now cementing their presence also at the European level,” he warned. “They must be confronted head-on or the danger will only continue to grow.”


“The alarming successes of extremist parties in these elections is the result of the passivity of European leaders and governments to deal with real issues facing European citizens,” European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said.

“What better example is there of the lack of security, the absence of tolerance and the climate of fear in our European cities than this attack on Jews” in Brussels, the “capital of Europe,” he asked rhetorically, adding that “the European Union is supposed to be the bulwark against the rise of racism and intolerance, but it has become the catalyst for the justification of its citizens to vote for extremists and racists.”

“The European elections results have just revealed that our concerns regarding the rise of anti-democratic forces were indeed all too legitimate. The extreme right-wings parties can indeed celebrate a tremendous victory all over Europe,” said Dr. Dieter Graumann of the Zentralrat Der Juden, a Jewish communal body in Germany.

“It is the democratic parties that have now to ensure that the elected body of the European Union will not be misused and that the European values of tolerance and liberality will be preserved,” he said. “It is a terrible shame that the European taxpayer has to finance these racist politicians.”

Graumann called on the new parliament to make its first act the issuing of a “strong condemnation of any kind of hatred against minorities.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who last year called on European leaders to issue a blanket ban on “Neo-Nazi parties,” called the far right surge a cause for great worry, on Monday.

“The future of European Jewry is at stake if these forces are not reined in. Extremists must not be allowed to set the agenda in Europe,” he said.


Rabbi Pinchas Goldshmidt, the head of the Conference of European Rabbis, went even further, asserting that “The fact that Marine Le Pen will become one day the president of the French Republic looks more and more real.”


Rally of Greek supporters of the fascist Golden Dawn party

Benjamin Albalas, the head of the Central Board of Greek Jewish Communities, also warned of the results, envisaging the specter of the pre-Holocaust surge in European anti-Semitism.

“It is not only very disappointing that Golden Dawn saw a significant rise in its share of the vote, winning three seats in the European Parliament, but also that other extreme-right parties in Greece and beyond did so well in the elections. A great number of European citizens seem to have forgotten what happened during the Holocaust and World War II. Racism and anti-Semitism are again hitting Europe,” he stated. “It is time for immediate action.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff was even harsher, stating that the elections could be “the beginning of a new and very dangerous era in which openly fascist and anti-Semitic parties might attain entrée into government coalitions, which would significantly change the current constellation of political power in such a way that could seriously jeopardize the future of European Jewish communities.”

An interesting “side-effect” of the rise of the European right is possible cooperation between the Jewish and Muslim communities:

Some Jewish leaders see a silver living in the election results, however, postulating that the rise of the far right may catalyze European Jews and Muslims to work together.


“Just as European Muslim and Jewish leaders joined forces in recent months in successfully combating an effort by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to outlaw circumcision and to protest Denmark’s new law banning kosher and halal slaughtering, we will now stand together and speak with one voice against efforts by the extremist parties to implement their hateful agenda,” FFEU founder Rabbi Marc Schneier said.

Imam Ahmed Miktar, president of the Association of the Imams of France and a member of the GEMJL, agreed, stating that to succeed in protecting the rights of religious minorities, “we must learn to work together effectively on the both grass roots and leadership levels. Muslims and Jews Our communities can no longer afford the luxury of standing apart.

We have indeed seen the cooperation of both communities when fighting the proposed anti-shechita and anti-circumcision laws in the UK and Europe. Unfortunately we have also witnessed BDS and other virulently anti-Israel behaviour from Muslim organizations. Let’s hope that the sense of self-preservation prevails in this instance to enable the two groups to work together.

European leaders themselves were very shaken by the election results, calling them a political earthquake:

An angry eruption of populist insurgency in the elections for the European Parliament rippled across the Continent on Monday, unnerving the political establishment and calling into question the very institutions and assumptions at the heart of Europe’s post-World War II order.

Four days of balloting across 28 countries elected scores of rebellious outsiders, including a clutch of xenophobes, racists and even neo-Nazis. In Britain, Denmark, France and Greece, insurgent forces from the far right and, in Greece’s case, also from the radical left stunned the established political parties.


But the insurgents’ success has nonetheless upended a once-immutable belief, laid out in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, that Europe is moving, fitfully but inevitably, toward “ever closer union.”

It also threatened to redraw the domestic political landscape in several core members of the 28-nation bloc, putting pressure on mainstream parties, particularly in Britain and France, to reshape their policies to recover lost ground.

One area of particular pressure is immigration, an issue that, according to French voter surveys, galvanized support for the far right even more than economic concerns over unemployment, now at around 10.5 percent for the union as a whole. The far-right parties put strident anti-foreigner rhetoric at the heart of their campaigns, and held up European integration as a threat to national identity.

“Things will never be quite the same again,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party, a group that wants Britain to pull out of the European Union. It won 28 percent of the vote in Britain, far ahead of the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat parties, making it the first insurgent party in modern British history to come out on top in a nationwide election.


Even so, the scale of support for the populists sent tremors through the political establishment across Europe. The National Front and UKIP each won about a quarter of the vote in their home nations, and far-right parties did well in Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Hungary, where the deeply anti-Semitic Jobbik party finished second.

“It’s an earthquake,” said France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls. “We are in a crisis of confidence. Our country has for a long time been in an identity crisis, a crisis about France’s place in Europe, Europe’s place in our country.”


Though they are a diverse and often cantankerous group, Europe’s populists are generally united in opposition to immigrants and the European Union.

In France, exit polls suggested that anger over immigration played a larger role than economic worries in the far-right National Front’s upswing. Similarly, in Greece, Golden Dawn, a stridently anti-foreigner, neo-Nazi party, won seats in the European Parliament for the first time.

But many disgruntled Greeks turned to the left instead: Syriza, a coalition of radical leftists, pulled ahead of the governing center-right New Democracy party by mining public anger at austerity measures demanded by the European Union in return for bailout money.

The election results are deeply troubling the Israeli government too:

“Of course it’s our business. We’re talking about rise of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups who managed to get elected and gained institutional respectability and will be able to exert influence over policy making,” said the diplomatic official, who is intimately familiar with European affairs.


“Obviously it’s a matter of concern for us, because it’s going to influence the European Union’s relations to Israel and also because it affects Jews living in Europe,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.


“We have every reason to be concerned, but not half as many reasons as the Europeans themselves have,” the Israeli official said, refusing, however, to say what Jerusalem wishes the EU to do about the worrying election result. “It’s up the Europeans to take responsibility and to find answers to the problematic situation that has been brought about by these elections. Just as I don’t want them to tell what us to do, we will not tell them what to do. But the situation in Europe is becoming intolerable.”

An important note was made about Britain’s UKIP party, which is not necessarily fascist or antisemitic:

The British UKIP party, which nearly doubled its showing and received 27.5 percent, (24 seats) is more difficult to assess from an Israeli perspective, the official said. “It appears to be more euroskeptic than xenophobic and more simply populist than fascist,” he said. “The trouble of populism is that you always know where you start but never know where you end up. Populism is just another name for slippery slope.”

Two columns calling on European Jews to leave Europe appear in two newspapers. In Yisrael Hayom, Dror Eydar tells European Jews “Your home is not in Europe“:

The new anti-Semitism has two aspects: European and Muslim. Muslim anti-Semitism fills the void left by the Christian rabble of the Middle Ages — attacking Jews simply because they are Jews.

The new European anti-Semitism is tied to the disruption of the constitutive European myth, which they became accustomed to seeing, everywhere, for 2,000 years: a crucified Jew.  [… ] It is not for nothing that the decaying European elites so often focus their vitriol on the sovereign Jewish state. It simply does not coincide with their worldview: Jews are living independently in their historical homeland and are managing quite well, thank heavens.

We hear the cries of despair coming from the Jews in France, Belgium, Sweden and Holland, from Germany, England and more — and we cannot believe it. What are you doing over there on that continent, for the love of God?!  […] In the name of what ideal are you continuing to suffer this anti-Semitism? You are ashamed to show “signs of being Jewish,” so as not to arouse the anti-Semitic demon from his slumber.


Dear Jews, there is nothing left for you in Europe. Europe expelled its Jews and received instead tens of millions of Muslims. Come back home to Zion, before it is too late. This is the fitting response to anti-Semitism. Here you can share your fate with your brothers and sisters, contribute toward a good future for the Jewish people and live a sovereign life in an independent Jewish state. Come home.

Gabriel Eichler in the Algemeiner similarly calls on the Jews to leave:

It is time for Europe’s able-bodied Jews to start thinking about relocating to places where their safety will be less endangered than in countries that their ancestors have called home for centuries..


In my opinion, as greater economic chaos spreads across the continent, we will see more dangerous manifestations of open Jew-hatred in most parts of Europe – (some disguised as anti-Israel actions) – and Jewish lives will be in peril throughout most European countries.

It is time to heed the writing on the wall for all able-bodied Jews of Europe to start packing their bags and consider planting their next generations in lands less hostile to them if there is to be a Jewish future.

One of the most popular places for Jews to flee to is the United States. But if you think all is rosy there, thing again, as the blogger Meryl Yourish notes:

The day before the murders, another American university voted to divest from companies doing business with Israel. Note the inflammatory language. DePaul has a record of anti-Israel activity.

The ballot question asked: “Do you think that DePaul should follow socially responsible investment practices and divest its funds from companies that profit from Israel’s discriminatory practices and human rights violations?”

Demonization of Israel. Attacks on Jews. Yeah, that’s how it started in Europe. If you think it can’t happen here, [in America -Ed.] you haven’t been paying attention.

Of course the most obvious place for the Jews to move to is Israel. Sadly, with the constant anti-Jewish and anti-Israel violence and incitement committed by the Palestinians and their supporters, it starts to dawn on us that the old saying is still true:

Schwer zu sein a Yid – it’s hard to be a Jew.

We also need to remember the other (very) old saying: “Behold the Guardian of Israel sleeps nor slumbers not”.

הנה לא ינום ולא ישן שומר ישראל

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13 Responses to Europe – bad for the Jews?

  1. Reality says:

    The Jews should leave & come home-we now have a state to live in. As an aside I think that certain types of Jews shouldn’t be allowed in -the Natorei Karta who so oppose the state that they meet with Palestinians & together burn the flag. They shouldn’t be allowed in but should stay where they are or go live in Ramallah.If we’d introduce a need for a visa before entering Israel (like in the States) we could officially ban certain unwanted people.

  2. Several issues come to mind. First, the cause of anti-Semitism remains elusive and therefore difficult to predict as to when and where it will manifest itself. It can be anywhere – except in a Jewish state and that can be Israel – where it is nevertheless, surrounded by radical genocidal elements. Or, as I have suggested elsewhere, in an alternative Jewish enclave – e.g., an island purchased by pro-Jewish elements realizing the necessity of an alternative all-Jewish environment. This is not a substitute for nor an exception to Israel – it is an alternative for those who see Israel as an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” result. However, it is highly likely that in the not too distant future, Israel/Palestinian issues will be resolved by Israel’s employing a substantial number of Palestinians in its newly found oil and gas reserves rendering political differences irrelevant when measured against the increased wealth and living standards provided as was the case before the first intifada. The numbers leaving Europe will continue to rise. However, the substantial economic and language barriers will remain and trap many who will not move and the rest of the world will carry the burden of the guilt of anti-Semitism as a vivid mark of our inhumanity to those who merely espouse a different, yet peaceful belief in their chosen religion. How far we have come – how little we have moved…

    • anneinpt says:

      I doubt your idea of moving the Jews to a deserted island would work, even if it were accepted by anyone which is highly unlikely. You can be sure that the minute Jews settle an island – or even the moon – someone will come along and assert their previous ownership and that the Jews are stealing their land.

      Your theory that growing wealth for the Palestinians will ease their hostility is shared by many Israelis including Naftali Bennett. Time will tell whether this will work. It’s probably the most feasible of all the theories at the moment.

      • “Moving” anyone to a “deserted island” is not very attractive – I admit. However, a place developed by investors, e.g., a few Jews who deal in residential and commercial real estate development, as an alternative for a Jew to live without either an anti-Semitic threat or terrorist bombing, shooting, stabbing or ambush of themselves, or their family may eventually figure this one out. The question begged is “if not Israel? Where?” And is there an answer? Israel is because we are tired of “ghettos.” We are still tired of them and we need to find a place where “ghetto” is not a reasonable alternative.

        • Brian Goldfarb says:

          To comment to Anne (rather than Elliott): actually, the richest countries in the world (in terms of income per head of population) are the democracies, and they don’t go to war with each other: it’s too expensive. They tend to sit down and work out the differences.

          The prime example (sorry for the history lesson) is the Fashoda Incident: the Brits were heading south, through the Sudan, and the French east from West Africa. (Let’s be polite and not raise awkward questions about colonialism here!). Anyway, the two sets of soldiers met at Fashoda, and just sat down, sent word back home, and let the politicians sort it out, rather than fight – they had, after all, been allies just 2 decades earlier during the Crimean War.

          Thus, the idea of creating wealth for the palestinians might not be as stupid as it sounds: just look at the SodaStream factory in Maale Adumin and ponder. Just needs Palestine to become a proper parliamentary democracy. That’s all…!!!

          Not much to ask, is it? Is it?

  3. Andrea says:

    My thoughts here and there. European Jews are asking where most dangerous antisemitism comes from : Far Right, Far Left or Radical Islamism. The worst side of the coin is that all of these very different famiies have one common point : hostility to Israel although in different ways . Good side is that this is the only one shared issue in their agendas since they struggle eachother on almost everything. In this context is very important to not put in the same basket different fruits ( also when smell is the same ). Some Jews say that Far Right is not the first of their concerns : not all Far Right parties are inherently anti semites . UKIP is more anti immigration and anti EU establishment oriented, madame Le Pen is different from her negationist ( better minimalist) father ,DK national party is pro Israeli (apparently) and Lega Nord is focused on anti-Euro and anti- immigration. To simplify aniti-semitism on the Far Right is much more collateral damages to the eyes of Right wing oriented Jews (yes there are many). Radical Islamist is considered much more dangerous by majority of Jews whilst a minority simply put finger toward Islam as religion.
    Radical Left – at least the small organizations not represented in Parlament – are perceived as Anti-semites under the mask of Anti – sionism – but Jews are not sure how this is the result of persisting confrontation with Palestinians or something which is placed in the hidden obscurity of the Radical Left ideological mainstream. At the end most of Jews support Populars, Socialists and Liberals and we can find some Jews at the lead of these parties ( but strange enough not so much loved by Israeli government – Millibrand to name one ).

    Another point : how could be possible that in a supposed to be Antisemites place like Europe 75% of Jews married not Jews and 80% of young Jews go to not – Jewish school ? How could be possible that Europe and not USA is the first Israeli commercial partner ? Why Israeli writers are read everywhere in Europe ( not sure how they sell in USA out of NY) and most Israeli students regulary come to Europe?
    The answer is not easy : antisemitism really exists, Far Right is increasing, 30% hate Jews but on the other side most of Europeans vote for the Centre Right and Centre Left and 70% does not hate Jews – they do not love them either with at least exception of the ones marrying Jews . But then here again another problem : Jews are too much integrated in Europe and secularization is the problem. Life has never been easy in this continent, expecially for Jews

    • anneinpt says:

      Andrea, your description of the different parties sounds pretty accurate. I agree that the greatest danger to Jews at the moment comes from the Islamists rather than from the right, although the extreme right-wing is also very dangerous. However they are very small and don’t have much popular support.

      Regarding intermarriage, there is a distinction between politics and social life. And even if the intermarriage rate is so high, 75% of Jews is still not a very high absolute number when the number of all the Jews in Europe are not even 1 million.

  4. Rob Harris says:

    Its good to see that UKIP isn’t thrown in with the same lot in this posting. There may well be racists in the party but that would apply with both the Tories and Labour as well. I’m not sure about Marine Le Pen being anti-Semitic either, whilst clearly Geert Wilders isn’t anti-Semitic. There are genuinely far-right parties, such as Golden Dawn, who read out the Protocols of the Elders of Ziyon in the Greek Parliament in 2012, reputedly without objection from other parliamentarians. The problem is in part due to the Western Press, which labels every anti-immigration party “far right”, which (intentionally) summons the image of neo-nazism. As a result, I am less worried about a rising tide of hatred against Jews, with the exception of Greece and Hungary, which possess an endemic cultural anti-Semitism. This would seem to be more a move away from the way politics has been done for decades by a liberal vaguely soft-left alliance across Europe. Thus I would think these “Europe isn’t your home” articles in the Israeli press aren’t helpful, although I understand they come from a sincere place. In the long-term, a move to the right may be better.

    • anneinpt says:

      I agree with your assessment of the political parties, especially re UKIP, and that the vote was more anti-immigration policy than anything else. But there is a definite rise in antisemitism in Europe, certainly and mainly from the hard left together with the Islamists who are technically hard-right (though go and explain that to the leftists!).

      Yes, these “come home” articles aren’t particularly helpful or even logical, but there is a definite sentiment in Israel that the Jews in the Diaspora tend to see the danger too late, and then Israel has to launch an expensive and dangerous rescue mission. It’s happening right now in Ukraine – not from antisemitism but because of the general danger of war. We Israelis tend to see “abroad” in very black and white terms. We ought to learn to see the nuances too.

  5. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Apart from his last sentence, I agree with Rob. One point (from my perspective, possibly the only one in its favour) in favour of UKIP is Farage’s flat refusal – several times – to countenance joining any Euro Parliamentary grouping containing the French National Front (and presumably other even more obviously proto-(and not so proto-)fascist parties.

    While I am worried about the long-term development of UKIP, especially if it gets a toehold in the House of Commons next year, I don’t see it as a present threat to UK Jews. The Israeli assessment is more clear-eyed on this than the Simon Wiesenthal Center is. That said, I sincerely hope that the three mainstream UK political parties (plus Plaid Cymru in Wales and the SNP in Scotland) will, however informally, combine to unravel the populist threat that is UKIP.

    After all, until it was too late, the other German political parties didn’t take Hitler and the Nazis seriously.

  6. peteca1 says:

    The rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric, and the random attacks on Jews, is definitely troubling. I wonder, though, if Jews are the exclusive targets of these hate mongers. I would think that migrants would also be coming under attack, such as African migrants and other minorities. In other words, it is some sort of general rise in white supremacism – which is one of the more radical forms of bigotry.

    • anneinpt says:

      You’re quite right that it’s not purely antisemitism, and it’s not even the main instigator. As you say, it’s other minorities, particularly Muslims, and the open borders and almost free immigration that is bothering very many European citizens. The Muslims bother the Europeans because they don’t try to integrate. Instead they want to impose Sharia on Europe.

      There certainty is a lot of anti-minority sentiment in Europe too, but the Jews tend to receive their unfair share of it. And unlike the other minorities, the Jews at least have a place to escape to.

      I wouldn’t call this white supremacism. It’s more a white defensiveness. The whites, or rather the Europeans, do not feel they are superior. They rather feel under attack and want political parties who will stop Europe being flooded by people whose aim is to destroy their democratic and liberal traditions. Ironically, this makes Europe less liberal but one can understand that they are fed up of being so liberal that their culture is committing suicide.

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