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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 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?”
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