Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Anti-Semitism in Europe on the Rise!

With the ongoing tensions in Gaza, it is little surprise that attitudes toward Israel, and by extension Jews, would be on the rise. But it appears as if the problems go well beyond the rather calamitous death toll differentials between the Jews and Palestinians in the present unrest (1,650 Gazans, 63 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians, according to NPR.  Slate reports that recent surveys indicate a rising tide of an anti-Semitism across Europe, from Hungary to France to Germany. And this is backed by political and social trends, including the attacking of Jewish-owned stores during a July 20th pro-Gaza demonstration, the attack on a central Paris synagogue and protesters chanting “gas the Jews” and “kill the Jews.” In Germany, demonstrators chanted ““Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone” during a protest on July 17 and last week explosives were thrown at a synagogue in western German. Anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared across Rome and hate speech reports are up dramatically in Britain, as well. This comes on the top of the rise in ultra-nationalist parties using anti-Semitic and anti-Immigrant rhetoric to win elections, as in France, Greece and Hungary.

Many blame the growing Muslim population for the problem, but it appears to transcend those trends alone. A recent survey by the ADL found that 24 percent of the French and 21 percent of Germans harbor some anti-Semitic attitudes and that 60 percent of the hate mail received in the latter came from well-educated Germans. Beyond this, we have the killing of three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 and the attack of the Brussels’ Jewish Museum this past May. And there is also the growing anti-Semitism flooding the Internet chat room and comments pages, just as it so often does in the U.S.

Some will blame the actions of Israel and claim that condemnation of Israel and hatred of Jews are two different things, and they clearly are, but the two often seem to coalesce into narratives and discourses that have plagued Europe from its very conception. The reality is that Israel often serves as a nice scapegoat for anti-Semitic rhetoric and a cloak by which politicians and activists can code their language to play on longstanding biases against Jews in general. The troubling trend seems likely to only worsen as time goes on, unless something can be done to counteract it. What that would entail is hard to envision? In fact, it appears to be part of the larger trend whereby countries growing more diverse, inside and beyond Europe, reaffirm their traditional national identity by condemning the “other,” often using it for conservative political gains. We certainly see this in the U.S., with successful attacks on “illegal immigrants,” “gays” and even “feminists,” as a hearkening to a mythic past, where everyone was happy with a white male dominated society. But given the long history of violence against Jews, this seems like a more acute problem that could soon manifest itself in widespread violence and further victories for right-wing groups. Just as the American left so often teeters the line between anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish rhetoric, we see similar trends across Europe today, highlighting the necessity of renewed vigilance in seeking out and fighting every attempt to reaffirm the hatred and bigotry of the past – and its long list of casualties.

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