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The Oldest Hatred
The Perfect Storm of European Anti-Semitism

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.

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  • johngbarker

    The dark continent again reveals its true nature; this time I hope we in America will provide a refuge for Jewish survivors, as Europe makes another suicide attempt.

    • John Stephens

      Pass, we have enough socialists already. If the Jews of Europe are truly European, let them stay in Europe and fight. If they are not, let them go to Israel and fight. And if they will not fight at all, let them go to the camps. Again.

      • ejochs

        To a degree, you are correct. They can come here and then vote for the same Jew hating pols that their American counterparts do. Then they’re right back in the same boat. And, while all this hatred is festering on the Continent, Jews in America are worrying about keeping abortion legal and fighting to get more illegals, including throwback Muslims, into this country.

  • Andrew Allison

    I’m glad to see TAI finally acknowledge the preponderance of young Muslims in the acts of “European antisemitism”. While not in any way minimizing the fringe antisemitism on the right and left, to me the most seminal comment in the NYT article was “They have a real hatred against the state,” said Bassi Konaté, a city social worker, who added that many of the protesters came from poorer districts nearby. “A big proportion of these people feel neglected. A lot of these people don’t know anything about Gaza. But they want to confront the police.” It seems that “mainstream” antisemitism in Europe is largely a product of disaffected, predominantly Muslim, youth. In other words, it’s a symptom of deeper social issues. What’s disgraceful about this is that European government agencies appear to be tolerating it in exchange for Muslim votes.

  • lukelea

    Diversity is a bitch, isn’t it? Maybe Western societies should stop importing more. Or at least pause and reassess. In any case, I’m glad you included the following sentence, which so often in the past this site has underplayed:

    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.”

    Of course there will always be fringe groups in any open society espousing extremist views. But as to the notion that anti-Semitic attitudes are widespread amongst the general European population, I would like to see the evidence. Is it based on leading questions? Certainly the polls I’ve seen in the US designed by The Anti-defamaton League are guilty of this. Who was it who said, “Let me design the poll, and I can prove anything.?”

    • johngbarker

      There was an article on Foreign Policy website, “Germany’s Jewish Problem”, addressing that issue. I am starting some reading on the topic and will let you know if I find anything of interest.

  • Shahar Luft

    True, much of this is old Arab propaganda from the 1950s, complete with the blood-soaked imagery. But it’s legitimized by the European elites. And not only for votes. Also because they to some degree subscribe. This is not necessarily ‘antisemitic’ in the sense that Hitler was. It’s rage against the Jews for drawing from Europe’s history a lesson that’s opposed to the European elites’ own conclusion. While the continental intellectuals went pacifist and internationalist, the Jews became adherents of state sovereignty. This is not disagreement about the Jews – it’s disagreement about history itself, and more generally about the meaning of life. It’s a modern version of a theological debate – is human nature constant and universal, and therefore unifiable under a church and an empire, or is it agonistic and therefore prone to institutionalization in warring states. There are many instances of Euro types telling the Jews they have not learned the lessons from their own experiences. What they really mean is that the Jews drew different conclusions from themselves, and what’s worse, these conclusions just might be the correct ones.

  • mhjhnsn

    Saying the Muslim and home-grown anti-Semites are different is not valid. If the governments really did not tolerate it, it would stop from all directions. Fact is, as Glenn Reynolds says, Europe cannot forgive the Jews for the Holocaust.

  • Misanthrope

    Why is it one never hears the phrases “moderate Christianity,” or “moderate Buddhism,” or “moderate Judaism”?
    There is no “moderate” Islam. There is only Islam.

    • richard40

      I have a different take. You don’t hear about moderate Christians, etc, because the vast majority of each of those religions are moderates, so moderate becomes typical, and thus only the extremists are called out separately. I believe there are moderate Muslims, but the reason they are called out separately is because the majority of Muslims are not moderate, but are either Islamicist or Jihadist (note they are not identical. Islamicists want to impose sharia on their own nation, but will generally leave other nations alone, while the jihadists want to impose Sharia on the entire world). That is made evident by the fact that pretty much every muslim nation that has an election ends up having an Islamicist party winning, with a jihadist party having a substantial block, and secular democrats generally finishing second or third..

  • Doug Santo

    I can only cite anecdotal evidence consisting of first hand experience with middle European immigrants to the U.S. who came to this country prior to and during Reagan’s first term. The immigrants are part of a local cadre who have remained friends since their coming to this country. They came to America to escape communism and for a variety of personal reasons. They are conservative in outlook, though most don’t vote. After years of interaction with these hard-working, good people, I can say anti-semitism is deeply ingrained in European society. At least it is in the people my wife and I know. We consider them friends, one man in particular is a close friend to my wife and I.

    They see the nefarious hand of international jewry in many issues at home and abroad, especially economic and political issues. They blame old and new problems in their home country on jews. They become embarrassed about their views relating to the jews, if pressed for an explanation about some statement they may make. They say their children—born and raised in the U.S.—don’t share their views on the jews, and I can confirm their children do not.

    I don’t disagree with the thrust of this post or the N.Y. Times article. I would simply say that Europe is far from being free of the ancient hatred of jews.

    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA

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