Anti-Semitism in Europe is the worst it has been since the Holocaust. That was the message that came out of the panel “Anti-Semitism in Europe Today,” held June 12 and sponsored by the Defiant Requiem Foundation at American University.
“There are a number of troubling strands coming together and they are creating the most serious threat to European Jewry since World War II,” said Stuart Eizenstat, a former U.S. ambassador who served in the administrations of three presidents and was one of three speakers on the panel.
The first strand is the ongoing economic crisis in Europe following the 2008 financial collapse. “This has created an opening for far right parties to blame their economic trauma on Jews,” said Eizenstat, who cited Greece, Ukraine and Hungary as examples. As further proof, he pointed to the May 24 European Parliament elections, where “xenophobic parties” received the largest number of British and French votes. Then there was Jean-Marie Le Pen, former head of the far-right National Front party in France who spoke about a Jewish singer saying, “Listen, we’ll do up a batch next time,” which in French connotes ovens.
In Paris, demonstrators have chanted, “Jews this is not your country,” Eizenstat said.
In Greece, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras added far-right politician Makis Voridis to his Cabinet, over the objection of the Jewish community, Eizenstat further pointed out. Voridis has close ties to Le Pen, according to i24 news.
The second strand of anti-Semitism is violence. “Ten days ago there was a shooting at a Jewish museum in Belgium,” Eizenstat said. “An Israeli couple, a Frenchmen and a worker were killed.”
He warned that the Middle East is the training ground for such attacks.
“There are well over 1,000 European Muslims who are going to Syria to fight in the civil war, and they come back home radicalized, trained and armed,” he said. “And this is the tip of the iceberg. Several hundred from France and several dozen from U.S. are going to fight and coming back as trained jihadists.”
Eizenstat and the other panelists — Michael Salberg, director of international affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, and Ira Forman, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism — repeatedly referred to the recent ADL poll on world anti-Semitism, as well as anecdotes, as their evidence.
The poll found that 26 percent of the world’s population, some 1.09 billion people, harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. Anti-Semitism in Western Europe is around 24 percent and Eastern Europe is a little higher, according to the ADL poll.
The numbers are a baseline that can be compared to the results of future surveys, Salberg said, but that they nevertheless reveal “unprecedented anti-Semitic views.”
“In Spain, following the victory by Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball over the Spanish team, there was an outpouring of anti-Semitic tweets,” Salberg said. “Over 18,000 tweets with statements like the Nazis should have finished the job and Jews to the gas.”
Forman said that while on a recent trip to Paris, he was walking downtown after synagogue and was wearing a kippah. “The rabbi grabbed my arm and said, ‘take off your kippah. It’s not safe to wear.’ ”
To solve the problem, Eizenstat said, “All countries should follow the lead of the U.K. and France, having special police units to deal with this hate crime. And these acts are not just a random act of violence.”
Another way to help the situation is through Holocaust education: teaching that the
genocide was not just a tragedy of the past, but also connecting it to intolerance going on now, he said.
Salberg said that the 57 European countries, including the U.S. and U.K., which are a part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, must commit to and put into action the 2004 declaration committing to fight anti-Semitism in Europe.
“The OSCE adopted resolutions requiring member states to enact legislation on hate crimes and to enforce those laws to keep records of the numbers of arrests and prosecutions under those hate crime laws and to report them annually,” Salberg said.
“Many adopted them but many do not adequately enforce those laws and do not adequately support the statistics on arrests, prosecutions and convictions,” Salberg said.
Forman said a goal should be protecting Jewish communities and individuals under
“Anti-Semitism won’t be going away in my lifetime, my grandchildren nor their children’s lifetime,” Forman said. “Countries that had huge Jewish populations no longer exist.”
It’s a problem that many governments and organizations will have to work on together, he said.