Antisemitism in Europe

Good afternoon class. Today I would like to talk about a growing widespread problem and that is anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism has been around since the beginning of time but came to its climax with the tragedy of the Holocaust. In the Holocaust around six million Jews perished at the hands of the Nazi’s in Europe thanks to anti-Semitism. After the Holocaust, the world was said to have learned its lesson and that while anti-Semitism would still exist, it would never be on the rise in the world, particularly Europe, ever again. Sadly, I find myself swallowing those words as recent news and media sources have indicated a new surge in anti-Semitism in Europe over the past three years. Jewish temples and schools in Europe have been burned to the ground, headstones of Jewish graves in cemeteries have been marked with Swastika symbols, and Jewish people have been attacked.

The burning question that has been asked, is WHY? And how does it relate to me? The surge of anti-Semitism can be broken down into three main categories; Classical, new, and Muslim. The classical reasons stemmed from the long history of anti-Semitism. These anti-Semitic people have hated Jews even before the Holocaust and their racial hatred does not stem from any particular event. One reason behind this is because of stereotypes. Jewish people have been racially linked to wanting to take over the world and as being greedy and rich. Robert Wistrich who is the director of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s international centre for the study of anti-Semitism said, “You have a link of money, Jews, America, world domination, globalization. “The notion that the Jews are a superpower that controls America is both a classic and revamped form of anti-Semitism.” Hatred of Jews has been evident throughout history, even before the Holocaust such as the forced conversion during the Spanish inquisition. Jews were blamed for and are still today for the death of Jesus.

The new form of anti-Semitism comes directly from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over the past few years, there has been an escalating circle of violence in this conflict. More Palestinians have decided to blow themselves up to kill innocent Israeli’s, and as a result, the Israeli government has tried to directly target the leaders of these groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad by assassination. Once the peace talks in the Middle East in the year 2000, brokered by U.S. president Clinton broke down, the surge of anti-Semitism had begun. The peace talks in 2000 were the closest of ever reaching a deal between the Palestinians and Israeli’s. This was because the Israeli government was led by prime minister Ehud Barak. He was willing to achieve peace for his country at all costs, even if it meant ceding almost half of Israel’s land to give to the Palestinians. This essentially was the deal on the table during the peace talks in which the Palestinians would receive 97% of the occupied territories as well as 30 billion dollars to compensate the Palestinian refugees. Palestinian leadership, led by Yassir Arafat rejected Israel’s generous offer and refused to give a counter offer. This led to great anger among the Israeli public and as a result, they elected former Israeli general, Ariel Sharon. Sharon refuses to give into the Palestinians and is willing to defend his country at all costs by using the Israeli military as a means of force. He is unwilling to give away large areas of lands to the Palestinians because no cooperation has been shown from the Palestinian terrorist groups.

In Europe, the Israeli government is being compared to the Nazi regime where mass genocide was committed. The incidents of the Israeli government detaining and killing terrorists at refugee camps in Rammalah and Jenin have been depicted as human rights violations. These two incidents were depicted around the Arab world and in Europe as incidents of the mass murder of Palestinians due to propaganda. When in fact a thorough investigation was done on the two incidents, it was shown that these statements were in fact false and their was no mass genocide taken place. Many Europeans have rallied around the Palestinian cause as shown sympathy for the terrorists and people who become suicide bombers and kill innocent Israelis. Jews in Europe have been attacked because they are seen with the same hatred as that directed toward the Israeli government. David Harris who is head of the American Jewish Committee said, “The Jewish communities of Europe are seen by the public as extensions of and advocates for a regime in Israel that is rapidly loosing its legitimacy in the eyes of the intelligentsia, the media, and the anti-globalization crowd.” This is a main reason for the escalating violence in the Middle East, and as a result, the anti-Semitism in Europe. Another new reason of anti-Semitism is the blame of the September 11, attacks on the Jews. This has led many Jewish communities visibly shaken. In the Muslim and Arab world, their leaders blamed the Jews for the World Trade center attacks. Their reason was based on the foundation that the relationship that America has with Israel has led to anger in the Arab world and eventually led to the September 11, attacks.

The third reason is the Muslim hatred of Jews. Not surprising, this hatred is part of the Middle East conflict. This has led to a surge of violence and in addition, political leaders of European countries have refused to speak out to the public about this issue of anti-semitism. This is because they are in fear of loosing votes in a political election due to the increasing Muslim population as it grows past 17 million. For example, French President Jacques Chirac decided to first begin a stricter enforcement of anti-Semitism after he was elected because he was afraid of loosing six million Muslim votes. In a way, this encourages these hate crimes. Some countries have hate crime laws, but because they are not strictly enforced, people are able to get away with these crimes. Recently, an Islamic Conference was held where 57 Arab nations gathered together where they discussed their main problem; the Jews. In the conference, Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad shocked the Jewish community worldwide by giving a speech addressing the need to eliminate the Jews. He called on the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims to defeat the Jews. In his speech he said, “The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy.” Once his speech was finished, all members of the 57 nations gave him a standing ovation and afterwards, all of the leaders seemed to agree with the Malaysian prime minister’s speech. Shortly after the speech was given, the European Union leaders held a summit in Brussels to duscuss whether or not they should condemn the speech. In the end they voted against condemning it. This speech, along with many others like it, has led to a tiny minority of Muslims in Europe to attack the Jews.

One might be inclined to ask, but the conflict is in Europe, not in the United States. How does it affect me? The answer is simple. Anti-Semitism tends to spread rather quickly and it can do so here in the U.S. as well. It might very well be too late to prevent anti-Semitism from reaching our country. There has been a reported For example, I was personally affected by anti-Semitism when my religious temple was marked by graffiti with the sign of a Swastika symbol painted across its doors. The police were called in to investigate and they remained there until the duration of the Jewish holidays to serve as protection. However, the thought still lingers with me. This incident may seem small, but it installed fear and panic among the people who go to that synagogue.

Citation: Stephen Roth Institute Studies 2003

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