Is European Anti-Semitism Really Back?
Anti-Semitic violence in Europe definitely remains a threat. But it is not new and it is not more virulent than in other countries.
A FEELING of vulnerability has certainly mounted among European Jews in recent times. Anti-Semitic violence definitely remains a threat. But it is not new and it is not more virulent than in other continents. It is part of a general pattern of heightened racial and other antipathies in Europe, of which Jews are not the only or the most numerous victims. Anti-Jewish feeling in Europe today is, for the most part, not the lineal descendant of the racial anti-Semitism of the early twentieth century. Rather, it is closely tied to, and in large measure a product of, hostility to Israel, most keenly felt among sections of Europe’s growing Muslim populations. Far from forming part of the common currency of a European consensus, anti-Semitism today is outside the bounds of political and social respectability—probably more so than ever before. It is most unlikely to lead to significant emigration of Jews from Western Europe to Israel.
It would therefore be a grave mistake to exaggerate the scale, significance or likely consequences of anti-Semitism in Europe today. It is a problem. But it is not a crisis.
Bernard Wasserstein is an emeritus professor of modern European Jewish history at the University of Chicago. His most recent book is The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews (Harvard University Press, 2014).