Over at the Atlantic earlier this month, Heather Horn reported on Europe’s perception of the Trayvon Martin shooting and the fiery debate it kicked off about race relations in America. The view in Europe, it seems, is that the Martin affair is merely part of America’s “pervasive and enduring problem of … racism.”
Reading Horn’s observations, one gets the impression that more than a few Europeans are staring down their noses, contemptuously regarding America as a deeply racist nation that lags far behind virtuous Europe when it comes to tolerance and multiculturalism. The European perspective, Horn wrote, is that “it’s not just that Trayvon Martin’s death involved racism … but that this racism is uniquely American.”
Truth is, when it comes to intolerance and prejudice, Europe is not one to talk. Remember the recent murder of three French soldiers and four Jews, including three children, in Toulouse, France, an event that even by the numbers alone was more horrible than what occurred in Florida? That attack was carried out by Mohammed Merah, a young Muslim and a radical Islamist with connections to al Qaeda. Although Merah’s attack was obviously anti-Semitic, it was striking, as Joel Braunold wrote, how many analysts and political pundits in “attempting to establish a motive for the murder … somehow omit[ted] anti-Semitism as a possible cause.” Braunold cited the example of Oxford Professor Tariq Ramadan, who wrote that Merah was a man “imbued neither with the values of Islam, or driven by racism and anti-Semitism.”
The narrative from many European media outlets was that Mohammed Merah was simply a confused, angry young man.
In America, the death of a single young man was enough to set off a national debate on racism. Meanwhile, in Europe, the massacre of four Jews by a radical Islamic terrorist wasn’t enough to start a serious and widespread discussion about Europe’s problem with anti-Semitism.
In Europe, dozens of anti-Semitic incidents, including everything from public and private slandering and harassment to destruction of Jewish property and physical beatings, occur every single day. Just this week, a 25-year-old Jewish student leaving his local synagogue in Ukraine had his skull bashed and shattered, most likely by right-wing skinheads who have long threatened Jews in the area.
Where’s the Continent-wide debate about that?
A recent poll performed by the Anti-Defamation League found that since 2009 anti-Semitic attitudes have risen in most European states. While the number has risen by less than 10 percent in most countries, a handful experienced a staggering rise. In Hungary, anti-Semitic attitudes has risen to 63 percent of respondents from 47 percent. In the UK, the rate has increased to 17 percent from 10 percent. In Spain and Poland, the percentage of the population with anti-Semitic attitudes is 53 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
Abraham Foxman, the adl’s national director, said that “the survey is disturbing by the fact that anti-Semitism remains at high levels across the Continent and infects many Europeans at a much higher level than we see here in the United States.” Foxman warned that the numbers for anti-Semitic attitudes are “off the charts” in some states, and “demand a serious response from political, civic and religious leaders.”
But a “serious response” is the last thing we can expect from European leaders. Why? Because anti-Semitic attitudes—routinely made evident in policies and procedure—are pervasive in those who inhabit the offices and corridors of virtually every European government and civic organization. In 2012, this deep-seated, deeply institutionalized animosity for Jews is regularly manifested via open and vehement hostility for Jewish statehood. Slandering and undermining the State of Israel is a “new sort of fashionable and socially acceptable anti-Semitism,” wrote Victor Davis Hanson recently, and it “looms large” around the globe, and especially in Europe.
Under this new expression of anti-Semitism, one can now speak “not of disliking Jews, but only of despising the Jewish state and seeing Palestinians as if they were victims” (ibid). In other words, instead of bluntly expressing animosity for Jews as a race or religion, the renaissance anti-Semite expresses his hostility by criticizing and undermining Jewish statehood. Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick has noticed this too. “Anti-Semitism is back in style,” she wrote in January. “Its new justification is not race or religion. It is nationalism. Today’s anti-Semitism is predicated on preferring Palestinian and pan-Arab nationalism to Jewish nationalism.”
For the few willing to explore and discuss Europe’s welling anti-Semitism, the looming question is, where will it end?
To answer this question, it is worth considering a little history. In his book The Last Lion, William Manchester documented the prevalence of anti-Semitism in both Britain and Europe prior to World War ii. “The martyrdom of Jews in the 1940s would strip anti-Semitism of its respectability,” wrote Manchester, “but in the 1930s [in Britain and Europe, not only Germany] it was quite an ordinary thing to see restaurants, hotels, clubs, beaches, and residential neighborhoods barred to people with what were delicately called ‘dietary requirements.’ … Contempt for [Jews] was not considered bad form. They were widely regarded as unlovable, alien, loud-mouthed, ‘flashy’ people who enriched themselves at the expense of Gentiles.”
Harboring anti-Semitic attitudes wasn’t only commonplace in pre-war Europe, it was fashionable!
Europe’s leaders, high society, the intellectual class and the media were all infected with a prejudice against Jews, which in many cases was mirrored by an inexplicable infatuation with Nazism. In British high society, “ladies wore bracelets with swastika charms [and] young men combed their hair slant across their foreheads” (ibid). Even Britain’s short-reigning king, Edward viii, admired the führer and didn’t lift a finger to curb the growing and blatant acts of anti-Semitism occurring in Germany as early as the early 1930s.
The lesson is, unless purged, anti-Semitic attitudes eventually result in anti-Semitic acts.
Some would say it’s ridiculous to think Europe’s anti-Semitism might result in another holocaust. But is it? This is precisely what Arab leaders want, and this ambition underpins the Arab vision for Palestinian statehood. What do Europe’s leaders think will happen to Israel’s 5 million Jews if the Arab goal of creating an Islamist state with Jerusalem as its capital is brought to fruition? Yet this is the outcome Europe is endorsing when it consistently undermines Jewish statehood at the United Nations, in the media, and geopolitically.
In his book, Manchester recalls that in Europe, particularly Germany, during the mid-’30s “motion picture theaters, shops and restaurants were displaying prominent signs reading ‘Juden unerwiinsht’ (‘Jews not welcome’). Day-to-day existence was becoming increasingly difficult for non-Aryans. ‘Fur Juden kein zutritt’ (‘Jews not admitted’) placards hung outside grocery and butchers’ shops; they could not enter dairies to buy milk for their infants, or pharmacies to fill prescriptions, or hotels to find lodging. At every turn they were taunted .…”
Given the opportunity, there are millions of Muslims, not just in the Middle East, but in European cities and suburbs—as well as many, many Jew-hating Europeans—who would enact these measures in a heartbeat. The question is: Would Europe’s leaders, the media and the average European find this repulsive, and confront such anti-Semitic acts with vigor and force?
Looking at the general reaction to the Toulouse massacre—and the dearth of concern and attention given to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe—it’s unlikely. ▪