CST Blog

Is It Good for the Jews?: Antisemitism and the New Europe

3 August 2015

CST's Dave Rich has an essay on antisemitism and European society in the latest issue of World Affairs Journal. The essay begins:

There are lots of different ways to talk, and think, about European anti-Semitism, and most of them have been heard at one time or another over the past year.

You can look at the jihadist murders of Jews in Brussels, Paris, and the Danish capital of Copenhagen over the past 12 months, and in Toulouse, in southern France, three years ago, and at the murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris in 2006, and conclude that Europe generally, and France in particular, has a problem with homicidal anti-Semitism.

You can look at the thousands of Jews who have left France in recent years, traumatized by successive anti-Semitic murders and wearied by the weekly grind of anti-Semitic abuse, threats, and violence that rarely makes the international news, and wonder if Jews have a future in Europe at all.
You can look at the electoral success of the neo-fascist Jobbik in Hungary, and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, and the far-right National Front in France, and worry that Europe has forgotten the destruction wrought on the continent by fascism and Nazism, with all their attendant anti-Semitism, during the last century, and is destined to repeat the errors of its own history.

Or you can listen to the heartfelt and compelling support for European Jewry expressed recently by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, the leaders of the three most powerful states in the European Union, and feel reassured that Jews, despite the attacks they suffer and dangers they face, are nonetheless valued and protected in the new Europe.

You can look at National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who regularly tries to appear philosemitic and to distance herself from the party’s fascist past, even at the cost of breaking from her own father, and—whether she is sincere or not, whether this is cosmetic or not—you can wonder what it means, that in order to be electable she feels compelled to reach out to French Jews.

And you can look at a city like London, where new Jewish schools and community centers thrive, where Jews play a full role in a diverse, multicultural city, and where the prospect of the United Kingdom electing its first Jewish Prime Minister (Ed Miliband) since Queen Victoria sat on the throne was barely discussed (outside Jewish circles, of course) during the recent election, and imagine that anti-Semitism is something in the margins, an unfortunate relic of outdated prejudice that only rarely intrudes upon the daily lives of ordinary Jews.

Or, most confusing of all, you can imagine that all of these things are true, and accurate, and are happening simultaneously in today’s Europe, and that the good and bad stories about anti-Semitism and Jewish life in Europe do not even contradict each other. And you would be right to do so.

You can read the rest of the essay here.

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