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August 20, 2014
Standing Against Hate
It’s going from bad to worse. Anti-Semitic fervor is spiraling out of control in Europe, with Jews on the continent hunkering down in fear or, as is the case in France, leaving their homes in droves.
But it would be naive and deceptive to attribute the ugly scenes playing out on the streets of Paris and elsewhere solely to this summer’s war between Israel and Hamas. While there has long been an uptick in anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence when events in the Middle East heat up, what we’re seeing now represents something deeper: It is the bubbling over of a sinister mindset that — nearly 70 years after the end of the Holocaust — continues to simmer.
Few places in Europe seem to be immune. As JTA’s European correspondent, based in The Hague, chillingly recounts in this week’s cover package, even in the relatively tolerant society of the Netherlands, he has witnessed demonstrations calling for the slaughter of Jews, and the country’s Chabad chief rabbi says only his commitment to his job keeps him from moving out.
It is worth remembering that the two most recent anti-Semitic murders in Europe occurred absent any Israeli military action — the 2012 fatal shooting of three children and a rabbi outside their Toulouse Jewish school and earlier this year, the shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels that left four dead.
Such instances have served “not to shock, but to encourage the anti-Semites,” leaving them “seeking more blood and intimidation, not less,” Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust, a London-based charity that monitors anti-Semitism in Britain and on the continent, was quoted telling the Guardian newspaper.
While much of the new anti-Semitism — including those two incidents — is coming from young radical Muslims in Europe, plenty of it is exhibited by old-guard Europeans as well. A recent Anti-Defamation League survey found that 24 percent of the French population and 21 percent of Germans harbor some anti-Semitic attitudes. A recent study of anti-Semitic letters received by Germany’s central Jewish organization found that 60 percent of the hate mail came from well-educated Germans.
The good news is that the top political leaders in most of these countries have taken a strong stand against the anti-Semitism tarnishing their countries. But more needs to be done.
It will be up to European Jews to determine whether they can continue to live in their lands. We need to let them know we care. We need to remain vigilant, to call attention to the scourge, to hold European leaders accountable for the protection of their Jewish citizens and Jewish institutions and to continue to raise the issue in diplomatic and international forums.
Just as we have stood with Israel during its crisis, our brothers and sisters in Europe deserve no less.