Benny Weinthal: Europe’s New anti-Semitism

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Many European governments tend to feign shock that hatred of Israel is the most ubiquitous form of contemporary anti-Semitism

While Europe commemorated International Holocaust Day last month, the European Union is experiencing an explosion of modern anti-Semitism. Have the lessons of murderous Nazi racial anti-Semitism been inculcated into mainstream European opinion and action?

The results of the Jewish Agency’s report released in January showing global anti-Semitism spiraling out of control – and of a German Bielefeld University study in December documenting mushrooming hatred of Israel – recall the memorable line in the film “Casablanca,” in which police Captain Renault announces that Rick’s Cafe must be closed because of illegal activity. “I’m shocked, shocked to discover that gambling is going on here!’” says Renault, while being handed the proceeds of his gambling wins.

While some observers of Jew-hatred in Western Europe are not shocked by the largest wave of anti-Semitism since the Hitler movement, many European governments, policy makers and academics tend to feign shock like Renault or simply cannot fathom that hatred of Israel is the most ubiquitous form of contemporary anti-Semitism.

The Bielefeld study found that 41 percent of Europeans agreed with the statement that Jews are exploiting the Holocaust to advance their own interests, and 46 percent supported the contention that Israel in general “is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.”

The shift from the largely obsolete version of Nazi-based biological anti-Semitism to the prevailing form of contemporary anti-Semitism was best captured by the Swedish Social Democratic mayor of Malmo, Ilmar Reepalu. “We accept neither Zionism nor anti-Semitism,” Reepalu said on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, blasting the city’s small Jewish community for not “distancing” itself from Israel during the country’s efforts to repel Hamas rocket attacks during last year’s Operation Cast Lead war. Meanwhile, the mayor has solidified an alliance with radical Islamic strands among the Muslim population, which makes up 15 percent of Malmo’s 250,000 people.

The Jewish Agency report revealed that more acts of anti-Semitism took place during the first three months of 2009 than in the entire year of 2008; in France, 631 incidents were recorded during the first six months of 2009, compared to 474 in all of 2008. The report appears to reflect what many commentators in Europe have observed over the years: a marriage between leftists and Islamic organizations that aims to turn the Jewish state into an international punching bag.

European leftists frequently declare the empty slogan of “never again fascism,” while championing anti-Semitic despotic groups and regimes such as Hama, Hizbullah and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Witness the example of the vice president of the German Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, and her fellow party members of the parliament.

When Israeli President Shimon Peres indirectly referenced the Iranian threat and the need to stop the Islamic Republic’s drive to go nuclear during his speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day to the German Parliament, Wagenknecht and fellow German Left Party members Christine Buchholz, Heike Hänsel and Sevim Dagdelen refused to participate in a standing ovation. They justified their protest because Peres warned about the he participated in Israel’s self-defense wars.

Buchholz lead a hardcore faction within the Left Party that supported Palestinian suicide attacks against Israel as a legitimate form of “resistance.” Wagenknecht is an admirer of the ex-German Democratic Republic’s Stalinist system, which refused – as part of its foreign policy doctrine – to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

All of the Left Party members, of course, cynically cherish the notion of memorializing murdered Jews. Wagenknecht issued a statement in early February defending her snub of Peres: “My behavior does not mean in any way that I withhold respect for the occasion of the speech, the commemoration of the crimes of the Holocaust committed by the Germans. I bow in deep humility to the victims of the Shoah.” Yet what disturbs the Left Party – and it is not merely limited to members of the German Left who participated in pro- Hamas and pro- Hezbullah rallies -is the notion of Jews flexing their muscles to defend their national security. With bitter irony, Eike Geisel, an undogmatic leftist author (1945-1997), neatly summed up the problem: “The Jews, if they’re not dead, should please suffer, admonish and warn, but not fight back.”

The lesson that many Germans fail to grasp within the context of the endless series of Shoah remembrance events is “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living,” to invoke the American trade unionist Mother Jones.

Where are the Mother Joneses of Europe when it comes to stopping Iranian anti-Semitism, the regime’s violence toward its civilian population and its nuclear weapons threat?

All of this helps to explain why Germany’s only institute devoted to researching anti-Semitism is slavishly devoted to dead Jews instead of fighting to prevent harm to living Jews in Europe. Wolfgang Benz, the for Research on Anti-Semitism, spends his time documenting desecrated Jewish cemeteries in East Germany and dangerously lumping murderous anti-Semitism together with bias against Muslims. Benz argues, “The fury of the new enemies of Islam parallels the older rage of anti-Semites against the Jews.”

Harvard-trained political scientist Daniel J. Goldhagen previously told me, “Anti-Semites the world over have tried to stir further hatred of Jews by equating Israelis and Jews with Nazis. Now the Berlin center, supposedly devoted to the study of anti-Semitism, has abetted them by delegitimizing telling the truth about the people with the most Nazi-like views of Jews: the political Islamists.” One of the key manifestations of modern anti-Semitism is equating the Jewish state with Nazi Germany. Just as the Nazi regime was defeated and dissolved, the Nazi Germany-equals-Israel parallel encourages the abolition of Israel.

The Berlin Center advises the German government on combating anti-Semitism. Its decision to ignore the deadly cocktail of Islamic anti-Semitism and left-wing anti-Semitism (read: modern anti-Semitism) does not bode well for the security of Germany’s Jews or the so-called German-Israeli special relationship. Benz’s reputation took a beating last month when he was unrepentant about revelations that he had repeatedly honored his doctoral supervisor Karl Bosl, who early in his career had been a hard-core Nazi ideologue.

Absent an assertive, confrontational posture toward turning Israel and Diaspora Jewry into a whipping boy, Europe will experience a flight of Jews seeking refuge in Israel and the United States. But, unlike Captain Renault in Casablanca, Europeans cannot claim they are “shocked, shocked” because the anti-Semitic writing is clearly on the wall.

Benjamin Weinthal is The Jerusalem Post Correspondent in Berlin.

Benny Weinthal: Europe’s New anti-Semitism

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Benjamin Weinthal

Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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