Last week’s terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris underscored a fear that has been growing in recent years: Europe is no longer safe for Jews.
The continent has seen 13 deaths related to lethal anti-Semitism since the summer of 2012. In addition to the four hostages killed last week in France at HyperCacher, four people were shot to death at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May, and five Israeli tourists died when their bus was bombed in Bulgaria in July 2012.
In Britain, the number of anti-Semitic incidents increased by 36 percent between January and June. In Germany, tens of thousands of protesters attacked Israel and Jews in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, and other major cities during the height of last summer’s military operation in Gaza. A young Palestinian was arrested for firebombing a rebuilt synagogue in Wuppertal in July. The first synagogue had been burnt to the ground during Kristallnacht, the Nazis’ wave of violence against Jews in 1938. “There is a startling indifference in the German public to the current display of anti-Semitism,” said Samuel Salzborn, a scholar at the University of Göttingen.
It can be no surprise then that Amedy Coulibaly, the Islamist gunman responsible for the attack at the kosher market, told French journalist Sarah-Lou Cohen that he choose this store “because he was targeting Jews.”
Danny Cohen, the director of BBC Television, captured the widespread fear among European Jews: “And you’ve seen the number of attacks rise. You’ve seen murders in France. You’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually. … I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the U.K. as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home?”
The violence has reached such a point that even Sammy Ghozlan, founder of France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, is fleeing to Israel. He said of his departure, “It’s a message. … We do not know how things will play out tomorrow.”
He’s not alone. According to a recent New York Times article, “France was the largest source of Jews moving to Israel last year.” Natan Sharansky, director of the agency that coordinates migration to Israel, predicted that 15,000 French Jews would emigrate in 2015, with perhaps 50,000 – a tenth of the population of about a half-million – leaving in the coming years.
In 2013, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights polled about 5,800 Jews from nine E.U. countries. The unsettling results: 29 percent of the respondents were contemplating emigrating, and 76 percent believed anti-Semitism had increased over the last five years. The same study concluded that 24 percent of European Jews – 37 percent in France, 27 percent in Germany, 20 percent in Italy – had experienced some kind of anti-Jewish attitude.
There are three lessons from the explosion of European anti-Semitism.
First, hatred of Israel can no longer be separated from loathing of Jews. Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are one and the same. The hard-core anti-Israel protests that engulfed Europe showed that the demonstrators aimed to dismantle the Jewish state because of its Jewishness. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called contemporary anti-Semitism “pretend criticism of Israel,” an “expression of Jew-hatred at pro-Palestinian demonstrations.”
The second lesson is that mere opprobrium from European leaders is insufficient. To their credit, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Italy last summer condemned “the anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility toward Jews [and] attacks on people of the Jewish faith and synagogues.” But rhetoric is not enough.
So the third lesson is the need for a zero-tolerance policy toward violent anti-Semitic rallies. And Europe should immediately adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of modern anti-Semitism, which includes anti-Zionism/Israelism. Finally, terrorist entities like Hezbollah and other jihadi networks should be banned. In sharp contrast to the United States, Europe allows Hezbollah’s so-called political wing to operate and recruit within the 28-member European Union. Worse, with Europe striking Hamas from its terrorist list, there has been an active attempt to legitimize Islamist groups.
Change must ultimately start at the grassroots, turning anti-Semites and their political and religious movements into pariahs.
Absent this change, the safety of Jews, as well as European democracy, will continue to be jeopardized.