Antisemitism in Europe has become mainstream and normalized at a level “not seen since the Second World War.” So says the president of the European Jewish Congress, Dr. Moshe Kantor, who states: “There has been an increase in open, unashamed and explicit hatred directed against Jews.”
It’s as if a veil lowered after the Holocaust has now been lifted to reveal that little has changed. Poland is seeking to deny its own history of antisemitism, with a new law criminalizing anyone who accuses Poland of having been complicit in the Nazi destruction of European Jewry.
This is of particular interest to me because my first novel, The Legacy, which was published this week happens to deal with antisemitism in wartime Poland as well as in present-day Britain.
Those who deny their antisemitism are doomed to repeat it. So it is in Poland.
Antisemitic outbursts there in the media and among politicians have significantly increased since the law’s passage last February, with wild claims of Jewish conspiracies and comparisons of Jews to animals.
Most concern, however, focuses on the rise of nationalist parties across Europe. Kantor says: “Right-wing populist parties are resorting to both antisemitic and anti-immigrant discourse to gather political support.”
Such a statement, however, does not reflect the complexities of this situation. For however distasteful Jews may find it, this “anti-immigrant discourse” is in fact critical for their protection.
Jews are instinctively sympathetic to immigrants. How can we not be, given our historic Diaspora experience of finding the passage to safety barred by laws passed to keep refugees out?
There is a huge difference, however, between then and now. Today, Europe is convulsed by people moving en masse from South to North. Some are genuine refugees fleeing persecution. Most, however, are migrants seeking a better life. Most are Muslims. And they pose a threat to Europe’s Jewish communities.
A recent Israeli Diaspora Affairs Ministry report on global antisemitism says that more than half the “refugees” in Western Europe hold antisemitic views.
In Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands, mass immigration has brought with it a rise in anti-Jewish attacks and intimidation.
In Paris last month an 85-year-old Shoah survivor, Mireille Knoll, was stabbed to death and her body burned by a young Muslim. Last year, a man shouting “Allahu akhbar” beat up Jewish schoolteacher Sarah Halimi and threw her to her death out of her Paris apartment window. In the Paris suburbs, French children wearing kippot or the uniform of their Jewish school have been beaten and knifed; two Jewish men were recently attacked with a hacksaw in a volley of antisemitic abuse.
Beyond Jew-hatred, many Muslim migrants either have extremist Islamist views or pose a threat of social violence or disorder. A German government study published in January found that male migrants may be responsible for more than 90% of the country’s recent increase in violent crime.
In Sweden, a leaked report last year revealed there were now 61 “no-go zones” where Islamist extremists had taken over. Sweden’s national police commissioner, Dan Eliasson, has pleaded “Help us, help us!” and warned that the police can no longer uphold the law.
Across Europe, the entire political establishment has for years turned a blind eye to the mass immigration of Muslims and the steady march of Islamization.
As a result of this political and cultural disenfranchisement, the people of Europe are turning to parties outside the political establishment which promise an end to uncontrolled immigration.
For this, such voters are dismissed as bigots and xenophobes. The aggressive or antisemitic behavior by many migrants is ignored or denied. Instead, those who want to stop this influx are demonized as racists and antisemites.
Viktor Orban, who was reelected this week as prime minister of Hungary, is painted as a racist and antisemitic monster. Racist because he wants to stop Muslim immigration. Antisemitic because of the language with which he has attacked the Jewish-Hungarian billionaire financier George Soros, whom he accuses of being behind the many “open borders” NGOs trying to export migrants into Hungary.
But there are legitimate concerns about Soros who, through his NGOs, bankrolls a global agenda of hostility to core Western cultural values and the nation state (including Israel) at every opportunity.
Polling reveals that almost one in five Hungarians openly demands the emigration of the Jews. So Orban may have unscrupulously used antisemitic dog-whistling to advance his political career.
Some Hungarian Jews, however, have hailed his unequivocal rejection last year of Hungary’s fascist past, when Orban said the country had committed a “sin” in not protecting its Jewish citizens during World War II.
One Jewish leader, after acknowledging the antisemitic overtones of the anti-Soros campaign and the government-led campaigns to rehabilitate Nazi collaborators, said nevertheless: “… the community is threatened not by these issues but by Islamic violence and bans on ritual slaughter, both of which Orban opposes.”
In France, Jews are being murdered by Muslims; in Sweden, the Netherlands and elsewhere, Jews are being attacked, threatened and intimidated. Who poses the greater threat to Jewish safety – the governments of Europe which are doing nothing to stop the influx that has so increased this threat, or Viktor Orban?
Some of the ultra-nationalist parties coming to the fore in Europe, such as the Austrian Freedom Party, Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary, are indeed openly antisemitic or have Nazi pasts. And many Muslims are not only opposed to Islamist extremism but are its most numerous victims.
But those who ignore or deny Muslim antisemitism or other aggression effectively connive at its continuation. And that includes many Jews who denounce such concerns as “Islamophobic.”
Such Jews are themselves stoking the fires of antisemitism. People who are angry and resentful at mass immigration destroying their national identity bitterly resent being told by Diaspora Jews who have their own country in Israel that it’s racist to oppose multiculturalism.
It’s not only dangerous for Jews to oppose Europeans having their own national and cultural identity. It’s morally wrong. We Jews have ours. Why can’t they have theirs?
Mass migration into Europe is a toxic subject for Jews. But in this week when we have remembered the Shoah, we surely have a duty not to diminish antisemitism by exaggerating lesser dangers while ignoring or sanitizing the principal sources of this poison today.