The European Jewish Congress (EJC), a democratically elected representative umbrella organization of European Jewry, released a statement today warning of serious danger for European Jewish communities after a recent wave of anti-Semitism swept throughout the region. Citing a feeble official response to the uptick in attacks, EJC president Moshe Kantor said, “anti-Semitism is at best actively promoted and at worst ignored by some officials in Europe. Due to this intolerable situation, small Jewish communities…are teetering on the brink of extinction.”
But how could Europe, a continent re-built after World War II on the concept of ‘Never Again,’ become such a dangerous place for Jews only six decades after the Holocaust’s end?
During a soccer game in May 2010 in Poland, fans displayed a banner showing a caricatured hook-nosed Jew with a blue and white yarmulke – the colors of the opposing team – and the phrase, “Death to the Crooked Noses.”
According to Professor Robert S. Wistrich, head of the Hebrew University’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism is worse in 2010 than it was in 1910. “Anti-Semitism is continually morphing all the time, which is its strength,” Wistrich said. Indeed, Prof. Wistrich is on to something. Over the last 60 years, anti-Semitism has evolved into a new strain that targets Israel and Zionism. Masked as anti-Israelism, this new strain passes as acceptable and allowed criticism throughout much of the world.
The EJC’s statement out today highlights this fact. According to the group, a respected and government-funded Catholic school in Antwerp recently hosted a ‘Palestine Day’ replete with anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli references and activities for youngsters. A stall at the event titled “Throw the soldiers into the sea” invited children to throw replicas of Jewish and Israeli soldiers into two large tanks.
As another example, a study last year titled “Anti-Semitism Worldwide 2009” found that there was a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism, most notably in Western Europe, during and after Israel carried out Operation Cast Lead. “The year in the wake of Operation Cast Lead was the worst since monitoring of anti-Semitic manifestations began,” the report stated, “in terms of both major anti-Semitic violence and the hostile atmosphere generated worldwide by the mass demonstrations and verbal and visual expressions against Israel and the Jews.”
Shrouded in anti-Israelism, anti-Semitic speech is largely accepted today, which is an incredibly dangerous phenomenon that places Jews in worldwide in danger. And the international community should recognize it for what it is. If not, as Kantor states, “then we are entering a very dark period for the Jews in Europe” and, of course, across the globe.