News and Commentary

Survey Of European Jews: ‘Far Right’ Not To Blame For Most Anti-Semitism

This week, on the day following International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Fiamma Nirenstein of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs — a think tank which describes itself as “a leading independent research institute specializing in public diplomacy and foreign policy” — published a post on “Holocaust Denial, Dementia and Israel.” Nirenstein referenced two recent surveys of European Jews on the scourge of anti-Semitism — one conducted by CNN and one conducted by the European Union.

As Mosaic highlighted in its summary of Nirenstein’s post, perhaps the most interesting tidbit from the surveys is not the deeply depressing — and all too ubiquitous — finding of rapidly increasing ignorance about the Holocaust, but the (perhaps counter-intuitive, to some on the Left) findings on the specific nature of the anti-Semitic threats most frequently faced by current European Jews:

Almost 90 percent of the European Jews polled declared they had suffered some violence (including threatening and offensive online messages…phone calls, comments, and gestures, along with actual physical assaults). Thirty percent identified the perpetrator as “someone with an extremist Muslim view,” 21 percent as someone with left-wing political views, and 13 percent as someone with right-wing politics. …Those who…insist upon tying the new racist danger to the new “nationalist” political parties and their “populist” derivatives should inspect whom or what is responsible for this.

The Jews who have felt the rise of anti-Semitism the most (70 percent) live in France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands; …British Jews — at 84 percent — expressed the highest level of concern about anti-Semitism in political life today. Together with Germany and Sweden, the United Kingdom has also seen the highest increase in the number of Jews considering emigrating over the past five years due to safety concerns. [In none of these countries does the far right dominate.]…

In Poland and Hungary, [by contrast], fewer than half of their Jewish populations are worried. …In Hungary, where Viktor Orban’s right-wing government is suspected of racism, the number of Hungarian Jews saying anti-Semitism is a problem has significantly dropped.

As Nirenstein bluntly summarizes, then, “whoever continues to believe that anti-Semitism flourishes particularly where national right-wing parties have taken root is mistaken.” Instead, the leading current threat to European Jewry comes from the toxic combination of far Left anti-Semitism (often, though hardly always, masquerading as “anti-Zionism”) and Muslim anti-Semitism.

The CNN and European Union surveys perfectly dovetail with the Joint Distribution Committee’s International Center for Community Development recent survey of 893 European Jewish leaders, which Evelyn Gordon discussed at Commentary in November. As Gordon noted, there was a stark difference in anti-Semitic sentiment reported between Jews living in the generally more right-leaning countries of Eastern Europe, and Jews living in the generally more left-leaning countries of Western Europe:

In the east, a whopping 96 percent of respondents felt safe, while only four percent felt unsafe. In the West, 76 percent felt safe, and 24 percent felt unsafe. Respondents from places like Poland, Hungary, and Romania — countries routinely accused of having anti-Semitic, borderline fascist governments — felt safer than Jews in liberal countries like France and Germany by a 20-point margin.

Many of the recently ascendant nationalist leaders in Eastern Europe, furthermore, have distinguished themselves by their strong diplomatic and security ties with Israel. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, for example, has had exceedingly cordial relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.