09.29.14

Jewish Journal Op-Ed: Gaza, and Europe's new wave of anti-Semitism

For weeks, the images filled the world’s television screens – of collapsed buildings, weeping parents and widows, and anguished calls for vengeance.  It was these scenes, of the genuine suffering of Palestinian civilians caught up in a war provoked by Hamas that have been seized on by some commentators to explain the wave of anti-Semitism that is sweeping across much of the globe.

It is certainly true that as the fighting raged on, demonstrations have broken out across Europe to protest Israel’s military response to Hamas’ rocket fire and tunnel threat.  In recent weeks, a synagogue in Germany was attacked by firebomb-wielding youths, while a Belgian cafe advertised that dogs were welcome, but “Zionists” were not.  French synagogues have been attacked for the first time since the Dreyfus Affair, and in Italy, storefronts have been vandalized with graffiti warning “Jews your end is near.”

I’ve seen it personally on my Facebook page – with one commenter saying “you should join your relatives in Auschwitz.”

But the reality is more disquieting and the threat to Europe's Jews will not abate even if another ceasefire takes hold and a relative calm returns to Israel's Gaza border.  Despite decades of concerted action by European governments, Christendom's ancient scourge has returned – this time to a continent once almost bereft of its Jews and fed not by a Christian blood libel, but by young people radicalized via social media and a new generation of media-savvy Jihadis.  And they have been active well before the Gaza crisis.

On May 24, weeks before the fighting with Hamas erupted, a French national, Mehdi Nemmouche, opened fire at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brusssels, killing four people.  Nemmouche had been radicalized during a five year stint in French prison and then had fought in the Syrian civil war before returning to France. Two years earlier, a gunman in France, also Muslim, targeted French soldiers and Jewish civilians in the French cities of Montauban and Toulouse.

The growing Muslim population of Europe, often impoverished, and crammed into teeming, crime-ridden suburbs, has provided much of the energy and the foot soldiers for the new wave of anti-Semitism.  And with thousands of European jihadis fighting in Syria, Iraq, the Caucuses, and Afghanistan, not to mention the former European colonies in North Africa, a new generation is acquiring the knowledge and the motivation to take their fight to the remaining Jews of Europe.

In this they are aided by a stubbornly persistent fascist fringe that hates them, but hates the Jews even more, and a European population that appears ambivalent about combatting anti-Semitism, despite the fact that many European governments have reacted strongly to defend their Jewish citizens and to implore their countrymen to stand with them as well.

And this is where the Gaza war has added fuel to the fires of anti-Semitism – the pictures that people saw on their computer screens and televisions have made the expression of Jew hatred seem less odious to some and, more alarmingly, increasingly attractive to broader European populations.  This is appalling, but it is also increasingly fact and all of us have a duty to speak out and to warn our European friends that if they follow this course, they risk returning to a dark path, trodden too many times and with horrible consequences, by their forebears.

The spike in incidents in the aftermath of Gaza must also serve to remind us that the unresolved situation between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be allowed to fester forever and that there is a cost, separate and apart from the day-to-day trauma of living with rockets and tunnels and walls.  And that cost is manifested in the indifference of European publics when Jews are attacked and when a demonstrator in Britain is seen with a placard reading, "Hitler you were right."

Those who assert that Gaza is the cause of anti-Semitism are wrong, but those who deny its impact ignore reality.

The truth remains, as it did before Gaza, that there must be two states for two people, living side-by-side in peace.  A Palestinian state will not eradicate anti-Semitism, but it may suck away much of the oxygen that has enabled it to persist and grow in Europe.

These last weeks – starting with the horrific murders of three innocent Israeli boys, and murder of a young Palestinian teenager – have made the goal of two states living in peace seem ever more distant, but all the more urgent.  The future, not only of Israel, but also of much of the diaspora, is at stake.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) represents the 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.


By:  Adam Schiff
Source: Jewish Journal