Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Could Europe's Rising Anti-Semitism Defeat a Palestinian Homeland?

To answer my question straight away, yes, I think it could.  The strong uptick in Europe's anti-Semitism is lending legitimacy to Israel's hard-liners and giving credence to those who argue that without a strong Jewish state with secure borders and lots of land to accept immigrants fleeing deadly attacks, Jews everywhere are imperiled.  Rising anti-Semitism throughout Europe is making the case for Benjamin Netanyahu's intransigence and hindering efforts to forge a compromise peace deal in the Middle East.  And that unquestionably hurts Palestinians as well as Israelis in the long run.  But first let's look at what is actually going on across the European continent.

To put it bluntly, over the past several years, anti-Semitism has been making a spirited comeback and since the recent conflict in Gaza, it's increased even more.

As Newsweek reports, the rise in anti-Semitism is coming not only from young, disaffected Muslim youth, but also from some of Europe's fringe parties of the far left and right. Far right groups like Greece's Golden Dawn, Hungary's Jobbik, and the French National Front have made some of the most disconcerting statements and perpetrated ugly incidents against Jews.  To be fair, these parties are also strongly anti-immigrant in general, oppose the European Union and are home grown nativists and fascists.  They are happy to foment conflict among Jews and Muslims in the same way that American racist groups dream of instigating a race war in the U.S.

Meanwhile, on the British far left, anti-Semitism masquerades as disagreement with Israeli policy and sympathy for Palestinians, but as Newsweek also points out, many of Europe's Jews themselves are sympathetic to Palestinians and opposed to Israel's hard-liners.  Here's the quote:
It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Israeli government or its policies towards the Palestinians, say Jewish leaders. A reasoned, open debate on the conflict is always welcome – especially now, when passions are running so high over Gaza. But the morbid obsession with the only democracy in the Middle East, they say, its relentless demonisation and the calls for its destruction are indicative of anti-Semitism.
Nowhere is this more true than in France, where groups of young Muslims have launched vicious attacks against Jews. According to NPR, three children and their teacher were killed in Toulouse, France in 2012, and more recently in Belgium four people were gunned down in front of The Jewish Museum this May.  In addition, some of the most virulent anti-Semitic sentiment has ocurred at so-called pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris and Berlin that have been led by Muslims, where slogans such as "Death to the Jews" and "Jews to the gas chambers" can be heard being chanted by demonstrators.
The new wave of anti-Semitism is coming from a young generation of Muslims of African and North African descent who are spurred on by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said Martine Cohen, a religious expert at France's National Center for Scientific Research. 
"Jews know that French authorities are behind them and want to defend them," she says. "This is not a state anti-Semitism. It's an anti-Semitism coming from society."
In fact, because they no longer feel safe in France, many educated French Jews are planning to emigrate to Israel.  So are Jews from other parts of Europe, such as Malmo, Sweden, where the Jewish community of 700 people experienced 60 anti-Semitic incidents, including a bomb exploding in a Jewish community center and it's former mayor criticized Zionism but not these attacks.
A survey published in November 2013 by the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union found that 29% had considered emigrating as they did not feel safe. Jews across Europe, the survey noted, “face insults, discrimination and physical violence, which despite concerted efforts by both the EU and its member states, shows no signs of fading into the past”.
Two-thirds considered anti-Semitism to be a problem across the countries surveyed. Overall, 76% said that anti-Semitism had worsened over the past five years in their home countries, with the most marked deteriorations in France, Hungary and Belgium. The European Jewish Congress has now set up a website,, to give advice and contacts in the events of an attack.

And that presents a problem for those who actually want peace in the Middle East. Threatening Europe's Jews with the specter of renewed anti-Semitism confirms the worst suspicions in Israel and America. It strengthen the hand of hard-liners in both places. Worse still, it gives Netanyahu's refusal to negotiate with Palestinians in Gaza a legitimacy it wouldn't and shouldn't have. It gives credence to arguments that without Israel, Jews are not safe anywhere in the world.

So if people who truly care about the Palestinians want fewer Jewish settlers grabbing land that could be used for a Palestinian state, it would behoove them to not create conditions outside of Israel - especially in Europe - that encourage more Jews to flee to Israel.  Look at it this way, how much harder do you think all those French Jews are going to fight against a Palestinian state once they've arrived in Israel rather than if they had remained back in Paris feeling safe there?

To the far right it won't matter since they would happily see both Jews and Muslims destroy each other.  But for principled moderates of the center left and center right, as well as for Muslim groups in Europe, it should matter a great deal. Enough for them to work to dial back the worst of the anti-Semitic rhetoric and deeds in Europe while working for just solutions in the Middle East.

1 comment:

Anthony Hopper said...

An interesting post...