After the Paris terror attacks the subject of antisemitism in Europe has come to the fore once again (if it ever went to the back burner in the first place).
Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the seven-month-old volunteer organisation that commissioned the survey, believes Britain is at a “tipping point” regarding its anti-Semitism and hopes that such findings will act as a “wake-up call”. However, Mr Falter’s hopes presuppose that people know what constitutes anti-Semitism in the first place. The trouble is even educated folk don’t grasp that blaming Jews for Israel’s actions is indeed anti-Semitic.
… A new working definition of anti-Semitism, by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), now includes “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”, and “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”.[…] Yet the Jewish Israeli conflation is fast becoming the most fashionable anti-Semitic norm, ever since Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza last summer – which, in turn, prompted the highest number of attacks against Jews in this country since records began.
As the historian Simon Schama told me: “It used to be the Zionists that were the problem. Now it’s the ‘Jews’.”
In “perfect” timing to illustrate Schama’s remark, Holocaust Memorial Day posters were defaced by antisemitic graffiti in East London.
Elsewhere in Europe, one would think that the murder of 4 Jews in Paris would lead to more sympathy. However, threats to Sweden’s Jews doubled after the Paris attacks:
“The threats have at least doubled in Sweden,” Lena Posner-Koerosi of the Council of Jewish Communities told AFP.
Security has been increased around Jewish institutions, particularly in the capital Stockholm, police spokesman Lars Bystroem said.
Sweden has previously drawn international criticism for not taking threats to its Jewish community seriously.
However Europe seems to be taking the Jihadist threat seriously, as seen in multiple anti-terror raids in Belgium, France and Germany:
Belgian police have wrapped up a major anti-terror operation in which two suspected Islamist militants who were alleged to be planning imminent attacks were shot dead, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Friday.
Meanwhile, Germany arrested two suspects said to be plotting an attack in Syria, and 12 people were detained in France on suspicion that they were linked to the Paris supermarket killer.
Hundreds of Berlin police raided 11 residences at dawn Friday, taking two Turkish men into custody on suspicion of recruiting fighters and procuring equipment and funding for the Islamic State group in Syria.
…In France, the Paris prosecutor’s office said 12 people have been arrested in anti-terrorism raids, targeting people linked to a gunman who attacked a kosher supermarket — killing four Jewish men — and claimed ties to the Islamic State.
Spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said the arrests began overnight and continued in three towns Friday morning.
It is somewhat comforting to learn that Europe’s actions included not only anti-terror raids, but positive steps such as providing stepped up security to Jewish communities in the UK and Belgium:
Belgian paratroopers fanned out Saturday to guard possible terror targets across the country, including some buildings within the Jewish quarter of the port city of Antwerp, amid heightened security threat.
Some 150 paratroopers were watching synagogues in Antwerp, the Jewish Museum in Brussels and other selected building across the nations. The figure could be double in the coming days until the situation will be reviewed next week.
Britain’s police chiefs, meanwhile, increased patrols at Jewish sites and were studying ways to increase protection of police officers and the Jewish community after the terrorist attacks in Paris. According to The Guardian, the terror threat against British police was raised to severe, the country’s highest, and chiefs weighed issuing additional Tasers to officers.
Chief counter-terror officer Mark Rowley said the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris and anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists has led to “heightened concern” for the Jewish population in Britain.
Germany too showed its determination to fight extremism as Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to protect German Jews, as well as Muslims:
Merkel, a staunch ally of Israel and defender of Germany’s renascent Jewish community, has responded with unusual vigor to the growth of a grassroots, anti-Islam movement in Germany and the attacks by Islamic radicals in Paris that killed 17 people.
Saying that Islamist extremism and anti-Semitism “often go hand-in-hand”, she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament that Christians, Jews and Muslims all had a place in Germany.
Echoing her comments on Monday that “Islam belongs to Germany”, she said: “Jewish life belongs with us.”
“We will prosecute anti-Semitic crimes by all legal means,” she said during a debate on the Paris attacks. “And attacks on mosques will be prosecuted rigorously, because we won’t be divided by those using Islamist terrorism to cast suspicion on all Muslims in Germany.”
Although not strictly in Europe, Turkey’s antisemitism cannot be ignored as Burak Bekdil details in “Heading for a Jew-free Turkey“. This attitude is led by the overtly antisemitic President Erdogan who outrageously called Israel a “terror state” and condemned Netanyahu’s “daring” to come to Paris.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman bashed Europe’s silence on Erdogan’s Jewish bully comments, and blamed the Europeans acquiescence to Turkey for encouraging antisemitism:
“European states’ silence in the face of the recurring diatribes of Erdogan, who calls our state a terror state, leads to the same murderous hatred against Jews in Europe,” the foreign minister declared. It’s bad enough that leaders in Europe fail to condemn blatant human rights violations in Turkey itself, he said, “but their ignoring of the hatred and the incitement against Israel that this man cultivates is something that we cannot ignore.”
In this respect, one French politician at least gets it. The French Prime Minister, Emanuel Valls, declared, “We haven’t shown enough outrage about antisemitism:
It was an electrifying moment: in a voice crackling with anger and pain, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls denounced the rise of antisemitism in France before the country’s National Assembly yesterday, pointedly observing, “We haven’t shown enough outrage.”
Though his speech covered a wide range of issues, and included an emotional plea to recognize that France is “at war with jihadism and terrorism…not against Islam and Muslims,” Valls was determined to highlight the threat posed by antisemitism, declaring: “I say to the people in general who perhaps have not reacted sufficiently up to now, and to our Jewish compatriots, that this time [antisemitism] cannot be accepted.”
In his speech, Valls was explicit that the “first question that has to be dealt with clearly is the struggle against antisemitism.”
“History has taught us that the awakening of antisemitism is the symptom of a crisis for democracy and of a crisis for the Republic. That is why we must respond with force,” Valls said. Recalling a series of antisemitic outrages in France in recent years, such as the abduction, torture and murder of the young Parisian Jew Ilan Halimi in 2006, the murder of three small children and a rabbi by an Islamist gunman at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, and the rape of a young Jewish woman during an antisemitic assault on a Jewish home in the Paris suburb of Creteil in December 2014, Valls asserted that these and other incidents “did not not produce the national outrage that our Jewish compatriots expected.”
Valls emphasized an additional point that he has made repeatedly over the last few days: that a France shorn of its Jewish community would no longer be France. “This is the message we have to communicate loud and clear,” he said. “How can we accept that in certain schools and colleges the Holocaust can’t be taught? How can we accept that when a child is asked, ‘who is your enemy,’ the response is ‘the Jew?’ When the Jews of France are attacked, France is attacked, the conscience of humanity is attacked. Let us never forget that.”
Read Valls’ entire speech and see some video clips at the link above. His is a courageous voice in the wilderness, but is anyone really listening?
Just as striking as the raw emotion which characterized the Prime Minister’s address was the lack of media attention, certainly in the English language, given to his comments about antisemitism and the future of French Jews. Leading outlets, among them the BBC, the Financial Times, the Daily Mail and English-language broadcaster France 24, either made no mention of the sections of Valls’ speech that dealt with antisemitism, or buried them deep in their reports.
In that light it is no surprise that Europe’s Jews are skeptical about all the tough talk on antisemitism:
The leaders expressed frustration with what they see as empty rhetoric on the part of their elected officials, and demanded action to reassure their distraught Jewish communities that anti-Semitism and its more recent variant, anti-Israelism, were being addressed seriously.
Emphasizing the value of broad-scale public measures, Michel Gourary, the CEO of the Israeli-Jewish Congress, said European politicians were sending weak signals.
“Great expressions of sympathy are not sufficient,” he said, adding that after the murderous 2012 Toulouse attack at a Jewish school politicians had said there will be a “before Toulouse and after Toulouse.”
“It was all words, words, words,” said Gourary.
Until it all stops being just words, and positive action is taken together with the proper outrage, as the French PM demanded, I doubt that antisemitism in Europe will decline to any great extent.