Is Antisemitism Back in Europe?

October 18, 2013 Topic: Society Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz

Is Antisemitism Back in Europe?

Studies suggest it's rising. But where is the outrage?

The status of Jews in Europe remains a delicate one. At least that is what a new survey by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights suggests. The survey, to be released in full in November, found that nearly one quarter of European Jews avoid doing things or wearing symbols that could allow others to identify them as Jewish. And the numbers are worse in some places: Forty-nine percent of the Swedish utopia’s Jews avoid recognizably Jewish clothing and symbols in public. Eighty-eight percent of French Jews said antisemitism has become worse in the last five years. Thirty percent of Hungarian Jews have experienced an antisemitic incident in the past twelve months. And around Europe, two-thirds said reporting assaults and other antisemitic incidents to the police wasn’t worth it, or wouldn’t make a difference.

Surveys like this cast doubt on the belief that the history of the West has been one of steady progress. Sure, the Europeans seem to have finally been civilized, with their bloody, multicentury stream of wars and revolutions supplanted by social democracy and multinational union. But in 2012, reports Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center, France led the world in violent antisemitic incidents.

Who is to blame? The media would have you believe it’s the far right—Greece swarming with Golden Dawn blackshirts and cryptofascists flexing their muscles almost everywhere east of the Elbe. And the Kantor Center documents plenty of far-right violence. But participants in the EU survey, many drawn from Western Europe, saw it differently—just 19 percent pinned it on the extreme right. Twenty-two percent faulted the extreme left. But Europe’s Muslims are cited by 27 percent.

This brand of antisemite has imported the hatred of Jews to countries where it was historically less severe, such as Denmark. Tablet, a Jewish online magazine, relates the tale of Martin Krasnik, a journalist and a liberal Jewish Dane who decided to take a long walk through the immigrant neighborhood of Nørrebro with a yarmulke perched atop his head. He’s quickly harassed—flipped off, told to “go to hell, Jew,” told to his remove his cap, and so forth. There were plenty of threats—men tell him that “we have a right to kick your ass,” that his religion may tell him to wear the yarmulke but that it doesn’t tell him to get killed, that “my cousin killed a guy for wearing a ‘Jewish hat.’” Krasnik was extremely uncomfortable, telling Tablet’s Michael Moynihan that he thought, “If I keep doing this for an hour or two, something will happen. And if I did this everyday, I would get my ass kicked around.”

The rise of Muslim antisemitism in Europe is well documented—and widely ignored. Krasnik told Moynihan that the press and other elites give the phenomenon little attention and little energy—“The mayor of Copenhagen says ‘we will not accept antisemitism, but that we shouldn’t overdramatize the situation. We should breathe calmly, he said.” Moynihan noted that some school principals in heavily immigrant areas have begun warning Jewish parents away. Europe’s multiculturalists prefer to apologize for their more troublesome charges—and to bend native society to accommodate foreigners’ prejudices. Moynihan, again:

At a recent government-sponsored “multicultural festival” in Nørrebro, intended to promote cultural “diversity,” a Jewish group was barred from displaying the Israeli flag. TaskForce Inclusion, one of the Orwellian-named organizers of the event, claimed that the measure was taken as a “safety precaution” (a precaution that applied, it seems, only to Jewish groups and a tacit admission that the mere sight of a Star of David would drive certain other attendees into spasms of violence). One government official later said that, initially, the Jewish group was to be completely excluded for fear of offending Muslim participants.

Modern liberality veils Europe’s history—and it’s the same veil behind which some of Europe’s less pleasant impulses lurk. There is a fatal flaw, after all, in European claims of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism really can enrich societies. And there is no better testament to this than the history of the Jews in Europe. They gave Europe Einstein and Kafka, Freud and Arendt. They made Europe the world’s intellectual center of gravity—until the Europeans killed them and drove them out. So why would Europe’s self-proclaimed multiculturalists sweep their shining example under the rug, unless something more unsavory were at play?

Image: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski. CC BY-SA 2.0.