The winds of change in Europe have circled back to the 1930’s as public attitudes have grown dark and bitter. It was recently reported that more than forty percent of European Union citizens hold anti-Semitic views and agree with the oft repeated claim that Israel is committing genocidal acts against Palestinians. In fact, there is the common refrain that Israelis are the new Nazis.
Reasons for this remarkable condition - as the blood of the Holocaust still soaks the soil of Europe - abound. Obviously radical Islam promotes this calumny even as it engages in violence from Paris to Moscow. Refugees from Syria attribute their plight to Jews, a form of scapegoating that downplays the role of ISIS in population displacement. The BDS movement has a role in using boycott, divestment and sanctions as instruments to delegitimize the state of Israel. When Jewish organizations themselves climb on to BDS, e.g. J Street and the New Israel Fund, it is difficult to refute the claims, albeit claims that should be refuted. And last, is the rise of extremist parties on the right and the left that have often exhibited hostility to Israel. While Jean-Marie Le Pen of the French National Front, Jeremy Corbyn of the British Labor party have deep seated philosophical differences, they are united in their hostility to Israel.
The most blatant anti-Semitic violence committed in the last year was the Hyper Cacher attack in Paris, in which four Jews were killed - two days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. While French President Francois Hollande said this siege at a kosher grocery story was an “anti-Semitic” attack, President Obama referred to it as a random act of violence, a statement that clearly skates over the targeting of Jews by Muslim extremists.
Even in the United States where Jews have been welcome, indeed have succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation, anti-Semitism is evident on campuses across the nation, with 75 percent of Jewish students contending they have experienced or witnessed anti semitic acts. The university issues are related to three conditions: the revision of Holocaust history, the BDS rewriting of current events and the Muslim Student Association campaign to discredit Israel as a nation.
British MP Neil Carmichael reached the conclusion that: “Too few teachers, particularly history teachers, are being trained to teach the Holocaust…” Alas that is true for the United Kingdom and the United States. But it only tells part of the story. So often history of the Holocaust has been revised to account for the view of “deniers” or those who consider the claims exaggerated. Students of Middle East studies are invariably exposed to Edward Said’s Orientalism which claims Israel is a colonial and imperial state occupying land illegally. While this contention has been discredited by the historian Benny Morris among others, the lie persists, in large part, because sun light has not been directed on it.
The BDS movement uses this argument and “nakbah”, the outrage that emerged from the population displacement of West Bank residents during the 1948 Israel War for Independence. Overlooked in this narrative was the Arab belief that relocation was necessary to pursue a war it would win. Curiously what emerged from the war is the only refugee issue that has preoccupied U.N. deliberations from 1948 to the present, notwithstanding the millions of refugees from the Sudan to Syria.
And last, the Muslim Student Association (MSA), an unindicted coconspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, in which U.S. based Arab organizations funded Islamic radical groups, e.g. Hamas, has spread its tentacles across the American and European higher education landscape using intimidation and well rehearsed nakbah indignation to make its point. Many Jewish students, unaware of the aims of this organization, buy into the claims and for many others the fear of isolation or brow-beating has forced them into silent acquiescence.
Hence anti-Semitism is here, as one wag put it “the ism that never goes way.” This time, however, European Jews know what is coming. A campaign to counter the toxin should be organized. The unsubstantiated claims must be addressed. And Jews must remember that no matter how well they are assimilated doesn’t inoculate them from the potential horror of anti-Semitism.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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