Fast on the heels of Haaretz‘s calling this the “year of blaming the Jews,” the NYT has a disturbing look at rising anti-Semitism in three European countries: France, Belgium, and Germany. The incidents cited in the story sadly sound all too familiar: the firebombing of a synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany; a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels that left four dead; violent riots in Sarcelles, France; and the mainstreaming anti-Semitic jokes and comments. But the overall picture emerging from these cases is complicated.There appear to be three streams of anti-Semitism at work across Europe. First, there’s radicalized Muslim immigrants, or the radicalized children of more moderate Muslim immigrants. Many of the worst cases of violence and anti-semitic slurs at rallies seem to be linked to these cohorts, but, as the Economist points out, governments are wary of drawing too clear a line between radical Muslims and anti-Semitism, lest that lead to threats against moderate Muslims, who are themselves in a precarious position in Europe. The NYT reports that organizations that give teachers and other workers anti-discrimination training are seeing far more demand for workshops on Islam than on Judaism. Moreover, insofar as radicalized Muslim immigrants are behind the recent surge in anti-Semitism, it seems questionable to call the phenomenon truly “European.” It’s not so much about the resurgence of an old European hatred as it is an injection of a new one.But that’s not the whole story. On the native Euro left and right, there are worrying signs too. Far-right parties like Jobbik in Hungary exhibit a locally grown anti-Semitism based on both historical legacy and present economic discontent:
Michaël Privot, director of the European Network Against Racism, said that blaming only the Islamic fringe for anti-Semitism discounted academic studies that show how deeply ingrained it remains among all Belgians — as well as other Europeans — and risked giving a free pass to right-wing extremist groups.
“You have, basically, a golden opportunity for the right fringe to blame it on Muslims and claim innocence,” Mr. Privot said.
Many also worry that European left-wing opposition to Israel sometimes slips into suspicion of Jews as a whole. For Europe’s Jews, these three strains are building up into the perfect storm. The NYT reports that more than 40 percent of European Jews are now hiding their identity. And things are little better for moderate Muslims, whom even some Jews say face worse prejudice than they do.There’s no easy solution to these problems, just as there is no easy solution to the ongoing slaughter of Christians throughout the Middle East. But understanding the trends is a start, which is why the NYT‘s report is worth our time.