Jews today face hostility “unparalleled since the dark ages of the Second World War,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) at a hearing yesterday on rising European anti-Semitism. According to the Religion News Service, Smith called the hearing to investigate and discuss recent anti-Semitic crimes in Europe.
We’re glad the US government is finally taking serious notice of European anti-Semitism, which, following a relative dormant period after World War II, is back with a vengeance. The numbers reported in the RNS story are alarming. A 2012 survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that about one-third of Europeans hold anti-semitic beliefs; in France, it’s almost one-quarter, up 20 percent from the 2009 survey.
Lest you are tempted to blame these numbers on Muslim immigration, the testimony revealed a much more complicated reality:
Several speakers said the demonization of Jews is both homegrown and imported. Hostility toward Jews comes from both far-left and far-right political parties, as well as radicalized immigrants from the Middle East who grow up on Arab and Muslim media infused with negative Jewish stereotypes.
It is true, however, that anti-Semites of all stripes use Israel as their excuse for Jew hatred:
“Jews as a people are often vilified in the context of attacks on Israel,” said Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of the nonprofit Human Rights First, an international civil rights group based in Washington and New York. “While criticism of Israeli government policies—or those of any other government—is legitimate discourse, it crosses the line when it disparages or demonizes Jews as a people.”
It can be startling to realize that the same hatred that stoked the evil fires of the concentration camp incinerators is still very much alive today. It destroys our illusion that we’ve reached a new stage of civilization and put all that madness behind us forever. On Holocaust Remembrance Day last month, President Obama said, “The United States, along with the international community, resolves to stand in the way of any tyrant or dictator who commits crimes against humanity, and stay true to the principle of ‘Never Again.’” Let’s hope that resolution is effective in the face of Europe’s new-old anti-Semitism.