Europe has a dark history when it comes to anti-Semitism. It is the place where one of the worst atrocities in human history was committed by Hitler’s Third Reich under the guise of the purification of the Aryan race. Europe is not alone on the anti-Semitism wagon. The creation of the state of Israel in the midst of Muslim nations has also triggered a fresh wave of anti-Semitism that is threatening to destabilize not only the Middle East but the whole world. The constant bickering between Iran, which is fighting to create a nuclear weapon and Israel, which is trying to defend its territories surrounded mainly by aggressive Arab states, has placed anti-Semitism back into academic and policy debates. This paper seeks to analyze the rise of anti-Semitism in modern Europe and its link to the Middle East and the Muslim Communities whose actions have dominated the debate on anti-Semitism. It further seeks to explore the nature and character of the new anti-Semite and how much this wave threatens not only the Jewish race but global peace. The final part of the paper examines state response to anti-Semite motivated attacks.
Anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon in Europe or the wider world. The US Department of state notes that “anti-Semitism is one of the oldest forms pf malicious intolerance and violates the precepts of human dignity and equality that are fundamental to a free and peaceful society” (n. p.). The most apt definition for anti-Semitism is the one provided by The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia which defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities” (Department of State 6).
Anti-Semitism in the 21st century is argued to come in both overt and subtle forms. It is found in places where a significant number of Jewish people live and also places where few people of Jewish origin live (US Department of State 4). It is manifested in various forms such as violence desecration of monuments and property and terrorist attacks on Jews. Jewish communities are also prone to conspiracy theories as well as propaganda that is reminiscent of the Nazi kind of propaganda against the Jews. There is an argument that despite lessons from history anti-Semitism continues to adapt to contemporary times. It is most apparent in anti-Zionism, anti-Israel sentiments. The failure or aggression of Israel has been argued by anti-Semites to be a result of its Jewish character.
It is difficult to separate European Muslim communities with the modern form of anti-Semitism in Europe. It is apparent that Europe has a long and dark history when it comes to its treatment of the Jewish question. After the end of World War II anti-Semite attacks were drastically reduced after the discovery of the nature and extent of Nazi effort to exterminate and destroy Jews during war time. For decades, except for the limited episodes like the Munich Olympics attacks of 1972, anti-Semite sentiments had receded. Conflicts in the Middle East have seen a huge number of Muslim immigrants moving to Europe and the Muslim community growing. With this growth also came a revival of anti-Semitism, this time not motivated by Aryan justifications, but religious ancient hatred and the belief that Jews are bloodthirsty killers who are killing Palestinians willingly. The presence of Israel in the Middle East has made the relationship between Arab Muslims and Jews throughout the globe more complicated and filled with animosity.
The Economist explores the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe evidenced by attacks of people of Jewish origin in Denmark (n.p.). It also depicts Europe’s response to the return of the human hatred that resulted in the dark episode in human history in the Nazi Germany. The argument is that even though anti-Semitism is on the rise, measuring it is getting more difficult since reports of anti-Semitism rely on subjective testimony and unreliable data. The difference between contemporary and historical anti-Semitism is that today’s anti-Semitism is prevalent among the Muslim communities of Europe. The Economist observes that anti-Semitism often increases in years when Israel makes a campaign against Palestine like in 2009 and 2014 (n. p.). Anti-Jewish sentiments have declined in non-Muslim Europeans while finding a home in Arab Muslims. European states, fearing the description of being called Islamophobic have ignored most of the attacks on European Jews who have always looked up to the state for protection and in most cases the state has failed and sometimes it was behind the persecution of Jews (The Economist, n. p.).
The presence of Israel is a central component to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. European nations have found it difficult to both criticize Israel as well as condemn anti-Semitism from predominantly Muslim groups. There is a debate as to whether Israeli operations in Gaza and Palestine in general are justified. Europe has struggled in threading the needle and negotiation its way to peace between Israel and Palestine. Europe has failed to put diplomatic pressure on Israel so that a long lasting solution can be found in the region. The reason for this failure is that Israel has often accused Europe of having an anti-Semitic bias. Countries like Germany have been caught in between fighting Islamophobia as well as coming of as not anti-Semitic. They had to adopt a policy approach that is more hands off thereby arming anti-Semite groups.
In addition to the complicated Israeli-Europe relations, Kaplan and Small argue that anti-Israel sentiments can help in predicting who will have possible anti-Semite sentiments in Europe (549). They begin their analysis with developments in Britain where the Executive Council of Britain’s Association of University Teachers voted to boycott Israel universities as a reaction to Israel’s policy and actions in Gaza. They also make reference to London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s statement that the Israel Prime Minister was an organizer of Terror (549). Kaplan and Small explicitly note that their research does not look at whether anti-Israel sentiments are anti-Semite but whether people with strong anti-Israel views are more likely to harbor anti-Semite feelings as compared to those who were not anti-Israel. There data of survey administered to 5, 000 Europeans from ten countries reveal that people who have strong anti-Semite views also vehemently opposed the presence of the state of Israel in the Middle East. They observe that the more an individual severely criticized Israel the higher the chances of them harboring anti-Semite sentiments.
What has made it more difficult to control and deal with anti-Semitism in the modern age is the fact that it has become easy for Arab countries hostile to Israel to compare Israeli policy in the Middle East and in particular Gaza with that of Hitler. The criticism of Israel comes of as a natural and acceptable thing. Anti-Semitism that is related to criticism of Israel in innate and even those who are being anti-Semitic are barely aware of the fact that they are advocating for hate.
Since anti-Semite sentiments have been normalized and taken as given a number of governments especially those in the Middle East have been at the fore of anti-Semite attacks. Iran has for years denied the holocaust just because its leaders religious and political hate people of Jewish origin. The former President of Iran Ahmadinejad popularly used international platforms like the United Nations assembly meetings to forward his holocaust denial sentiments (U. S. Department of State 20). Syria is also another Arab Muslim state that is in the business of denigrating Jews through conspiracy theories and propaganda. I can be noted that state sponsored anti-Semitism is not limited to Arab Muslim countries only. Venezuela and Belarus are example of non-Muslim countries that use their public platforms to demonize Jews.
Nationals hostile to Israel and Jews are at the center of conspiracy theories which fuel public attacks on Jews. There are a number of conspiracy theories that have been going around at the turn of the 21st century. There is a belief in conspiracy circles that Jews did not turn out for work on September 9/11 when the New York Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists. The reason for them not turning out for work is because they had foreknowledge of the attacks. This theory has no basis but it has managed to convince gullible individuals that Jews are at the center of every disaster that occurs in the world. The Syrian ambassador to Iran went as fair as saying that he had proof that Jews were behind the September 9/11 attacks. Another conspiracy theory is the believe that the Tsumani that devastated most parts of Southeast Asia were as a result of nuclear tests by Israel and the United States (US Department of State 19). These rather factless assertion have found fertile ground in Muslim anti-Israel and Jewish sentiments to the point where they are viewed more as truth that baseless assertions.
In Europe as Jikeli observes, anti-Semitism in Europe has increased evidenced by the rise of far right Anti-Semitic parties and the election of these parties’ members into the European Parliament. Even there is a marked rise in anti-Semitic parties, there is another disturbing phenomenon which is the rise of violent anti-Semitism in people of mostly Muslim background. Jikeli seeks to examine and analyze the views of young Muslim males about Jews. He targets young Muslim males because most physical attacks on Jews in recent decades have been done by young Muslim males of Arab descent (2).
France’s multicultural landscape has become a breeding ground for anti-Semitism as evidenced by the Jewish school killing spree in Toulouse by Mohamed Mera (Jikeli 2). Besides the Toulouse case, Jikeli analyze more episodes of anti-Semite violence involving young males of Muslim descent. Jikeli acknowledges the delicacy of the problem of discussing the problem of Muslim anti-Semitism since its rise also occurs at a time when Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe. The stigmatization of Muslims makes it difficult to explore anti-Semitism in the Muslim community. Jikeli divides young Muslim anti-Semitism into four categories which are those with classic anti-Semite attitudes, those whose views are a result of conflating Jews with Israel, the third category is that of those whose negative views of Jews are influenced by Islamic teachings and the last category is those whose hate has no basis.
Jihadism can also not be separated from the attacks on Jews. Like most scholars on contemporary anti-Semitism, Walzer argues that the new anti-Semite movement is driven mostly by Muslim groups some opposed to Israel and others with no rational basis for attacking Jews (n. p). Extreme violence against Jews can be seen in recent attacks like the attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher grocery store by individuals who were related to those who attacked Charlie Hebdo. Muslim attacks on Jews have taken the traditional form of jihadism. Walzer is more concerned with the nature of this Jihadism against Jews in modern Europe (n. p.). He notes that the Muslim community is not alone in its attack on Jews since public demonstrations have emerged in most European cities like Paris, Brussels and Berlin asking for Jews to leave.
The rise of anti-Semitism in Muslim communities in Europe does not mean the end of traditional anti-Semitism in Europe in its form of racial purity and separation of cultures. The US Department of State notes that hate groups still do exist in most parts of the developed world including the United States that are seeking the destruction of Jews. These groups are concentrated in Eastern Europe and Russia where they use traditional churches to forward anti-Jewish sentiments. Even though they employ les violent tactics as compared to Muslim groups, Eastern European and Russian anti-Semites are prone to using propaganda, holocaust denial and conspiracy theories to demonize Jews. In Russia, there is a rise of skinheads who make Xenophobic attacks.
In conclusion, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. As opposed to anti-Semitism of the Third Reich, anti-Semitism today has taken a different character and form. It is often subtle and when it becomes overt it is often violence from Muslim groups that are anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. The presence of Israel in the Middle East has not helped matters since the actions of Israel are being blamed on all Jews no matter how little connections they have with the state of Israel. Governments have also been at the forefront in promoting anti-Semitism. Countries like Iran have not hid their wish and intentions to see Israel destroyed. In Eastern Europe, anti-Semitism is also on the rise though its nature is less violent than it is in Muslim related attacks. European governments have found it difficult to address anti-Semite concerns. A crackdown on the Muslim community by countries like Germany would be seen as a revival of the Nazi kind of hatred that leaves anti-Semites room to maneuver.
“Anti-Semitism in Europe: Fear of Darkness.” The Economist, 21 Feb. 2015. Web 14 Jul. 2015.
Jikeli, Gunther. European Muslim Antisemitism: Why Young Urban Males Say They Don't Like
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Kaplan, E. H. and Small, C. A. “Anti-Israel Sentiment Predicts Anti-Semitism in Europe.”
U.S. Department of State. (2014). “Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism: A Report Provided to
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