It’s easy and comforting to dismiss the recent wave of anti-semitic hate crimes sweeping France as a continental outlier–an exception to the rule of European tolerance.
It’s also wrong.
Take Malmö, Sweden, for example, a city whose mayor has taken to blaming Jews for their own persecution:
The store window had been smashed many times before. The shoe-repair shop is located in one of the rougher parts of Malmö, Sweden, and the Jewish owner, a native of the city, had gotten used to this sort of vandalism. But in the spring of 2004, a group of immigrants just under the age of 15—too young to be prosecuted by Swedish law—walked into the store yelling about “damn Jews.” The owner was hit in the face by one of the boys. Yasha, an 85-year-old customer…was struck in the back of his head…“I left Poland to get away from anti-Semitism,” he later told the police. “But at least there I never experienced any violence. That only happened to me here, in Sweden.”
…But Malmö’s mayor of 17 years, Ilmar Reepalu, has “Tourettes syndrome with respect to Jews,” according to Kvällsposten, a Swedish newspaper… When a journalist from the Malmö daily Skånska Dagbladet asked him in January 2010 about growing anti-Semitism in his city, he replied, “We accept neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism in Malmö.” His reaction to the fact that Jews are leaving his city because of anti-Semitism was to maintain that “there have been no attacks against Jews, and if Jews want to leave for Israel that is not a concern for Malmö.” In an interview with Danish television in March 2010, he described criticism about his statements regarding Jews and Zionism as an attack orchestrated by “the Israeli lobby.”
Read the entire harrowing account in Tablet Magazine. The author skillfully illustrates the toxic mix that has infected Sweden–a combination of extremist Muslim anti-semitism, failed integration of young immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, and feckless elites who prefer to wring their hands over stoking potential Islamophobia rather than condemn and combat actual anti-Semitism.
In his Passover greeting, President Obama reminded the American people that “The story of the Exodus is thousands of years old, but it remains as relevant as ever. Throughout our history, there are those who have targeted the Jewish people for harm – a fact we were so painfully reminded of just a few weeks ago in Toulouse.” Obama is right to connect the persecution of the Jewish past to the persecution of its present. We must remain ever vigilant about the world’s oldest prejudice, lest history repeat itself.
If a gang of white American thugs attacked African-Americans, and defended their action on the ground that they were protesting Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe, the world would laugh at their foolishness even as it condemned their bigotry. This isn’t quite how it works when goons around the world attack Jews and Jewish buildings and defend themselves by saying that they are angered by things the Israeli government has done. Efforts are made to ‘understand’ the perpetrators even as their actions are condemned. Somehow these events are seen as justifying, even requiring tough diplomatic measures against Israel — rather than demanding aggressive programs of civic education aimed at confronting the psychology of hate.