Anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise. It is pervasive and all-encompassing. There are many reasons for and examples of this trend, which I will discuss below. To many observers with a sense of history, the situation is beginning to resemble that of the 1930s. Thankfully, however, there is one crucial difference. In the 1930s no country was willing to accept the large numbers of Jews who wanted to emigrate to escape persecution; today, however, Jews have a safe haven in the State of Israel. Jewish emigration from Europe has been increasing sharply. In 2014, 7,000 immigrants came from France alone.
In the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement encouraging European Jews to emigrate to Israel to escape what he characterized as a “rising tide of anti-Semitism.” He added: “All Jews who want to [emigrate] to Israel will be welcomed with open arms. We will help you in your absorption here in our state that is also your state.” Mr. Netanyahu may be unpopular in some quarters for some of his policies, but he deserves much praise for those supportive comments.
Other than the latest events in Paris, which I discussed, in detail, a few days ago, some of the more recent examples of anti-Semitic terrorism in Europe include:
1. In July, 400 protesters attacked a synagogue and Jewish-owned businesses in Sarcelles, France shouting “death to the Jews.” Some observers have compared these actions to the pogroms of Czarist Russia in that the terrorists had the arrogance to distribute posters beforehand advertising the impending attacks.
2. In Toulouse, France in May 2012 a terrorist gunman shot up a Jewish school killing seven.
3. In Liege, Belgium a café sported a sign that said dogs were welcome, but not Jews.
4. In May a terrorist shot up the Jewish Museum with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, killing four.
5. In 2011 Somali police found documents on a senior al-Qaeda terrorist that described planned attacks on various neighborhoods in London that have sizeable Jewish populations.
6. In 2012 nine Jihadists were convicted of plotting terrorist acts against a rabbi and other Jews in Manchester, England.
7. Right wing extremist political parties have been gaining considerably in elections in France, Greece, Hungary and Germany.
8. A senior Hungarian minister has been advocating the development of a list of Hungarian Jews that work in the government as they constitute a “national security risk.”
9. Malmo, Sweden has become a hotbed of anti-Semitism. There have been many troubling incidents. The one that struck me as particularly egregious was that of a single mom and her five year-old son on a train. The boy was wearing a kippah, which, obviously, identified them as Jews. The woman reported that they were repeatedly harassed by an “Arab” for the entire trip. Neither the other passengers nor the conductor came to their aid or even said anything to the man. Interestingly, in Sweden kosher butchering is against the law, but Hallal butchering is not.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. What are the reasons for this development? I believe there are several, but the primary ones are as follows:
1. The European countries have sizeable Muslim populations, which, to a large extent, have not been assimilated adequately, or at all. Many Muslims prefer to live separately and retain their own laws and customs, such as Sharia Law. For example, in Paris there are several “no-go” zones, inhabited by Muslims, that even the French police avoid.
2. Many of these European Muslims are the children and grandchildren of laborers who were encouraged to emigrate 50-60 years ago to provide cheap labor in factories. Many of them are unemployed, disaffected, and prone to violence.
3. The countries with the largest Muslim populations are France (500,000), the UK (290,000) and Germany (119,000), but Belgium (30,000), Sweden (15,000) and Spain (12,000) also have large populations relative to their overall populations. These populations have become very influential politically and socially.
4. Historically, in bad economic times, such as these, people have sought to blame others for their problems. Governments, whether the kings in the Middle Ages or politicians of more modern times, have always turned a blind eye or even encouraged this to deflect blame from themselves. Jews have always been a convenient scapegoat, and that is true now.
5. We are in an age of excessive political correctness. Many people, especially politicians, are very reluctant to say or do anything that could be construed as anti-Muslim.
Incidentally, yesterday there was a “unity rally” and march in Paris in which some 40 world leaders paid their respects to the victims. Guess which country failed to send anyone? That’s right, the US. Where was President Obama? What other matter was so pressing that he couldn’t attend or at least send Joe Biden? Was he afraid that his presence would offend Muslims or what? A White House spokesman mentioned there was some concern about security, but that is a flimsy excuse. How about the other world leaders who attended? Their security teams were able to make appropriate arrangements.
Some of you may recall that I have been blogging for some time about the disturbing trend of anti-Semitism. The recent events in Paris have merely been the latest example. Anti-Semitism is often disguised as criticism of Israel and its policies toward the Arab states in the Middle East and the Palestinians. I view this as bogus. Any objective person would recognize it for what it is. It reminds me of the 1950s and 1960s in the US when bigots would attempt to disguise their racism by espousing “states’ rights” or “separate but equal” education. Then, as now, most people are not fooled. They know what the real deal is.
So, what is the solution? Is there one? I think it is unrealistic to expect basic human nature to change. Bigots and terrorists have always been with us and always will be. They are not suddenly going to modify their beliefs and actions toward Jews after 5,000 years. The human tendencies to blame someone else for one’s shortcomings and hate those who are different are too engrained. It is a sad, but realistic, fact of life that we Jews have to deal with. Jews have to be wary and vigilant. I can understand one’s reluctance to leave their country and start all over again in a foreign country. Personally, I would not want to do so. But, at least now, if one feels that his situation has become intolerable, one has the option to emigrate to Israel.