While Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recently declared that there is “nothing progressive about anti-Semitism,” hatred for the Jewish people is a phenomenon rearing its ugly head once again throughout Europe.
At the Israeli Strategic Ministry’s anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) conference last week in Jerusalem, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin noted that the BDS movement does not advance peace in the Middle East, but rather seeks “to delegitimize Israel’s very existence.”
The president reiterated that there is “nothing progressive about anti-Semitism,” singling out right-wing anti-Semitism expressed by those who claim to “admire Israel,” but harbor disdain for the Jewish people.
While the BDS conference in Jerusalem represented a major accomplishment in the fight against a movement dedicated to demonizing and destroying the Jewish state, virulent anti-Semitism continues to spike in Europe.
From harassment and assaults to horrific murders, Europe is reeling from an anti-Semitism crisis that some fear is a runaway train that will drive the Jews from Europe completely, once and for all.
Anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom
Last week, The JC, a U.K. Jewish publication, reported that former Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian Baroness Jenny Tonge made a disturbing statement to the House of Lords.
At a session on anti-Semitism during which various factions may speak, Tonge said that Israel’s actions were to blame for the rise in Jew-hatred.
She pointed specifically to 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, when Israel sent troops into Gaza to stop Hamas’ relentless, years-long bombing campaign targeting Israeli civilians.
“These events are not quickly forgotten,” claimed Tonge, adding, “I suggest that some, if not many people who commit anti-Semitic acts, do not distinguish between ordinary Jewish people…and the Zionist Israeli government of what now is called the Jewish State of Israel. It is too difficult a distinction for many people to make.”
Though Tonge was suspended in 2016 from her party after comparing Israel to the ISIS terror group and suggesting Jews were to blame for the Holocaust, among other incidents, she claims she is not an anti-Semite. She is also still permitted to speak in the House of Lords.
Even more shocking was a conversation shared by Baron Eric Jack Pickles, co-chair of the U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation.
Pickles was told by a “prominent objector to the [planned] Holocaust Memorial,” which is to be built next to Parliament, “I don’t see why we should have a monument outside Parliament to the so-called Holocaust.”
When Pickles asked why the objector used the term “so-called Holocaust,” he responded, “Holocaust means ‘burnt offering,’ and most of [the Jews] were gassed.”
The Bishop of Chester, Peter Robert Forster, however, commented that anti-Semitism is “perhaps the greatest tragedy and disgrace of the Christian Church.”
Europe’s Growing Anti-Semitism Problem
In 2015, German-born Katharine von Schnurbein became the first European Union official hired to combat anti-Semitism. Since then, anti-Semitic incidents and sentiments in Europe have grown exponentially.
Von Schnurbein claimed in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) last week that it only seems like anti-Semitism is growing, because victims now feel more free to report these events.
Taking into account European Jewry’s “perceived” feelings about anti-Semitism, she said she “believe[s] in fact-based policy,” adding that “the facts are worrisome.”
Von Schnurbein referenced a December 2018 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which found that a third of the more that 16,000 Jews living in 12 European countries avoid visiting Jewish sites or activities out of fear for their safety.
Additionally, a third responded that they are considering emigrating due to rising anti-Semitism and a fourth said that they have been harassed for being Jewish.
Of the survey participants who live in the United Kingdom, 75 percent said that anti-Semitism was a “big problem” as compared to only 48 percent of people who took a similar survey in 2012.
Similar spikes in anti-Semitic incidents occurred in Germany and Sweden.
When the 2018 survey was published, President of the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor said in a statement, “This report demonstrates an increasingly intolerable level of pressure and abuse that Jews feel in Europe today. They feel that, despite European leaders’ commitment to combating anti-Semitism, the situation has not improved, in fact it has deteriorated over the last few years.”
In 2017, von Schnurbein told the European Union, ”Clearly anti-Semitism hides behind anti-Zionism,” reported Times of Israel.
The question remains: is the modern incarnation of anti-Semitism Jew hatred, Israel hatred, or hatred of Zionism?
Apparently, it is all of these and more.
Von Schnurbein, however, has high hopes for European Jewry.
“Our ultimate aim must be to ensure that when we hold another survey in five or six years among Jewish populations in Europe, we’ll see changes in the trends of how Jews feel: more secure, that they see their future above all in Europe, feel they can actually live the way they want, free to express their identity — including support for Israel — without feeling afraid to say it,” she said.
Von Schnurbein continued, “We spend a lot of time explaining why anti-Semitism is not only a threat to the Jews, but why it’s a threat to society at large. We have seen in the past history in Europe, when Jews don’t feel safe in Europe anymore, it’s bad for Europe.”
With anti-Semitism on the rise, ensuring that Jews feel safe in Europe seems to be an elusive goal. At this point, who could blame Jews living in Europe for concluding that nothing will stem the tide of anti-Semitism.
For Jews who want to live in safety and security, immigration to the State of Israel may be the only answer.