OPINION: Why is anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe?

OPINION: Why is anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe?

Swastika graffiti on a wall on Finchley
Swastika graffiti on a wall on Finchley

By Olivia Gordon, History and Political Science student at the University of Birmingham.

Back in January, I came across an article titled ‘Far-Right Marchers Abuse Jews in Paris Protest’ in my daily copy of The Times . It quickly made me realise that every time I open a newspaper, I am constantly seeing evidence of anti-Semitism.

This is a worrying prospect, especially since we have just commemorated Yom HaShoah, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, when three quarters of the Hungarian Jewish population was murdered by the Nazis from April 1944-5.

Swastika graffiti on a wall on Finchley
Swastika graffiti on a wall on Finchley

It seems that in the 70 years that have passed since one of the darkest periods in human history, the lessons that were taught have slowly been forgotten.

Take for example the Far-Right Hungarian nationalist party, the ‘Jobbik party’. They cite the leader of Hungary from 1920-1944 as their hero, regardless of the fact that he was responsible for backing the Nazis during WWII. Something, which eventually led to the annihilation of 6,000,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

Yet Jobbik are currently thriving in Hungary (being the third largest party), with the deputy parliamentary party leader stating that it is “timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.”

The extent to which this sounds like Nazi propaganda is almost terrifying. Yet this was spoken in the 21st century, regardless of the devastating history that rocked Hungary and Hungarian Jews.

Further examples of anti-Semitism have also been found across Europe, with France being a notable example. This has been highlighted by the footballer Nicolas Anelka, who was accused of performing the ‘quenelle’ gesture; an inverted Nazi salute.

The very fact that he believed he could do this gesture and get away with it is horrifying and also telling – it seems to suggest that anti-Semitism is once again becoming more acceptable; that Europe’s oldest hate is rearing its ugly head.

Anti-Semitism in France has not just been demonstrated through this recent example, but also by others: the killing of three children and a teacher outside a Jewish primary school in Tolouse in March 2012 is another, more extreme example.

The man accused however, was not of European origin – instead he took the form of the arguably ‘new anti-Semitism’. His name is Mohamed Merah and he was inspired by radical Islam and trained in Afghanistan. He killed these innocent people simply because he did not like the policies of the Israeli government. This is a clear example of anti-Zionism blurring with anti-Semitism.

According to the Israel Project, more than 1/4 of France’s 500,000 strong Jewish population wish to leave France, with 26% stating that they have considered emigrating due to anti-Semitism in France. 86% stated that Anti-Semitism is a serious problem.

These figures have caused great concern about the future of European Jewry and these trends are backed up across Europe: 66 percent of European Jews consider anti-Semitism to be a problem across the EU member states (although this figure is much less in the UK, standing at 11%).

There are several reasons as to why this may have occurred, with one of the most significant reasons being the dramatic increase of anti-Zionism.

The idea that anti-Israel sentiment is linked with anti-Semitism is something that has become a lot more noticeable in the last decade, and particularly in my opinion in the last five years. It is this anti-Semitism that has become the most worrying.

Jewish people across the world are to be blamed for the deeds of the Israeli government, a government that diaspora Jews do not vote for. Yet they are attacked and goaded for its actions.

I have personally heard and seen people defend their anti-Semitic beliefs by claiming that they are simply ‘anti-Israeli’.

This, to me, seems hypocritical – if you are going to blame diaspora Jews for the policies of the Israeli government, then how can one possibly claim that this is not anti-Semitic? For example, the obviously anti-Zionist Hamas Party included points from the anti-Semitic ‘Elders of Zion’ in its founding charter. Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are becoming extremely blurred.

Another example of this blur is highlighted by the widely held belief across Europe and in some parts of the Middle East that Jews are controlling the world, that capitalism is a way for the ‘Zionists’ to subjugate the ordinary people  – a point that was consistently made within Nazi propaganda.

It seems to me that the rise of anti-Israel sentiment, something that has correlated with the Israeli army becoming more powerful and successful, has led to a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism. This is a remarkable correlation, especially in Europe, and is something that must be addressed by all world leaders.

In the 1930′s, after one of the worst economic disasters in living memory, a small party called the NSDAP went from an irrelevant extremist party to one of the most vulgar regimes the world has ever seen. NSDAP used democratic means and the insecurities of the public to achieve its aims, and eventually became the infamous Nazi Party.

The horrors of the past must never be repeated. Anti-Semitism should not be allowed to flourish.


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