Anti-Semitism Haunts Europe

Jude feiges Schewin! Komm heraus und kämpf allein! — “Jew, Jew, cowardly swine, come and fight on your own.” Juif, la France n’est pas à toi—“Jew, France is not for you.” Heil Hitler! Hitler was right. Feuj! Sale Juif! Gas the Jews.

This is Europe in the year 2015. These words knock on the door of every synagogue in modern Europe, stitching a bloody yellow badge back into the flesh of every Jew. The floating demons of Europe’s past have been resurrected, haunting Europe’s Jews with a specter of darkness.

It’s been nearly seventy years since the Holocaust. A Jew still cannot walk through the streets of Berlin, suburbs of Paris, alleyways of London without being deafened by a throbbing salvo of anti-Semitic invective.

The European Commission has issued a warning on the rise of anti-Semitic hostility throughout the European Union. On Thursday, Vice President Frans Timmermans said that “in the last couple of years you’ve seen this age-old monster come up again in Europe.” At a brief press conference regarding religious intolerance, Timmermans urged EU member states to heed the voices of a Jewish community that feel marginalized and alienated from European civil society. “It’s a vital question for the future that our Jewish community feels at ease and completely at home.”

According to a Pew Research Center report released in February, the hostility against Jews is surging. “In 2013, harassment of Jews, either by government or social groups, was found in 77 countries (39%) – a seven-year high. Jews are much more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society than by governments. In Europe, for example, Jews were harassed by individuals or social groups in 34 of the region’s 45 countries (76%),” cites the report. Major cosmopolitan hubs like Berlin and Paris were not the only places where Jews faced animus. Anti-Jewish sentiment is ubiquitous, spawning in every corner of Europe.

The report documents innumerable attacks against the Jewish body and psyche. In France, three men attacked a teenager who was wearing a kippah in Vitry-SurSeine in March, threatening, “We will kill all of you Jews.” In Spain, vandals painted a large swastika on the walls of a bull ring in the city of Pinto in August, along with the words “Hitler.” In the town of Komarno in southern Slovakia, metal tiles embedded in the pavement honoring a local Jewish family killed in the Holocaust were destroyed in October when vandals poured tar over them.

"This is unacceptable. I thought we knew better. I wouldn't have thought it would be possible ... but it's happening again."

Frans Timmermans

This menacing anti-Semitism goes far beyond verbal assaults and symbolic desecration. In May, four people were shot and killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. In June, a Jewish-owned pharmacy in a Paris suburb was destroyed by disaffected youths protesting against Israel. Again in July, Muslim rioters stampeded through a predominately Jewish neighborhood in Paris, hurling Molotov cocktails at synagogue windows and burning cars. On the burial ground of Jewish souls stripped of life by the Third Reich, arsonists attacked a synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany with firebombs. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg put these horrific incidents in stark relief:

France’s 475,000 Jews represent less than 1 percent of the country’s population. Yet last year, according to the French Interior Ministry, 51 percent of all racist attacks targeted Jews. The statistics in other countries, including Great Britain, are similarly dismal.

"This is unacceptable. I thought we knew better. I wouldn't have thought it would be possible ... but it's happening again," cried the European Commission’s Timmermans. Shortly after Islamist gunmen slew the cartoonists and journalists of Charlie Hebdo for daring to draw Mohammad, prophet of Islam and 7th century historical figure, a connected Muslim attacker unleashed Kalashnikov bullets on a Jewish supermarket in Paris as patrons shopped for food in anticipation of the Sabbath.

When French philosopher and leftist political essayist Alain Finkielkraut heard about the massacre he wasn’t surprised. “Of course,” Finkielkraut lamented, “the Jews.” A son of Holocaust survivors, Finkielkraut encapsulated the feelings of futility and frustration every Jew felt on that fateful day. The utterly irrational leap from magazine offices to Jewish supermarkets is understandable through the lens of virulent Muslim anti-Semitism festering in Europe’s underbelly.

Europe’s own failure to effectively integrate its disenfranchised Muslim minorities into the fabric of civil society has cultivated a generation of rancor and resentment in which Muslim youths are confined to both spatial and ideological ethnic enclaves, marginalized by a broader xenophobic European society.

Disaffected by a decades’ long policy of failed multiculturalism after the horrors of European decolonization from Algeria, Pakistan, and many Muslim-majority countries along the northern coast of Africa, Europe’s younger generation of Muslims are importing the rampant anti-Semitic prejudices of the war-ravaged Middle East into an already historically-perilous European cultural landscape. “We are a microcosm of the Middle East. The Middle East is being imported into Europe,” assesses Phillip Carmel, European Policy Director for the European Jewish Congress.

The crude love affair between imported Muslim prejudice and residual European anti-Semitism clearly threatens the future of Europe’s Jews. French Prime Minister Manuel Valles calls this the “new anti-Semitism.” In a macabre nightmare for Europe’s Jewish community, elements of radical Islam have gone to bed with Europe’s extreme-right, promoting an uncanny synthesis of anti-Semitism. Jeffrey Goldberg explicates the dystopian phenomenon:

But what makes this new era of anti-Semitic violence in Europe different from previous ones is that traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought have now merged with a potent strain of Muslim Judeophobia. Violence against Jews in Western Europe today, according to those who track it, appears to come mainly from Muslims, who in France, the epicenter of Europe’s Jewish crisis, outnumber Jews 10 to 1.

That the chief propagators of contemporary European anti-Semitism may be found in the Continent’s large and disenfranchised Muslim immigrant communities—communities that are themselves harassed and assaulted by hooligans associated with Europe’s surging right—is flummoxing Europe’s elites. Muslims in Europe are, in many ways, a powerless minority. The failure of Europe to integrate Muslim immigrants has contributed to their exploitation by anti-Semitic propagandists and by recruiters for such radical projects as the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Built on a bedrock of historical European anti-Semitism, this new, infectious strain of hatred is tormenting the post-Holocaust Jewish communities of Europe. “Europe has blamed the Jews for an encyclopedia of sins. The Church has blamed the Jews for killing Jesus; Voltaire blamed the Jews for inventing Christianity. In the febrile minds of anti-Semites, Jews were usurers and well-poisoners, and spreaders of disease,” notes Goldberg. In a 1987 speech on the senseless paradox of anti-Semitism, Rutgers Professor Michael Curtis asserted:

The uniqueness of anti-Semitism lies in the fact that no other people in the world have ever been charged simultaneously with alienation from society and with cosmopolitanism, with being capitalistic exploiters and also revolutionary communist advocators. The Jews were accused of having an imperious mentality, while at the same time seen as a people of the book. They're accused of being militant aggressors, at the same time as being cowardly pacifists, with being a Chosen People, and also having an inferior human nature, with both arrogance and timidity, with both extreme individualism and community adherence. With being guilty of the crucifixion of Christ and at the same time held to account for the invention of Christianity.

At the turn of every decade, it seems as though Jews in Europe have to fight for their very survival. The sons and daughter of blood-libel, the bastard heirs of Alfred Drefyus. Juden. The sun never seems to set on anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred in Europe. A faint stench of gas fills the synagogues of Europe. An indelible imprint of trauma burns the forearm of every Jew in Europe, searing tattooed numbers where phylacteries, Tefillin, were once wrapped. Never full European citizens, but the Merchants of Venice¸ made effigy and targeted as a cyclical scapegoat of unresolved cultural anxiety.

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