Three kippah-wearing men were brutally attacked by a group of ten men of North African origin on Saturday near Lyon, France. According to the French Interior Ministry, the aggressors assaulted their Jewish victims with iron bars and hammers. Two of the Jews were hospitalized, one for an open wound to the head and another for a neck injury. French authorities consider the attacks anti-Semitic and extremely serious in nature.
France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, and the country has often experienced violent anti-Semitic incidents. According to Interior Ministry figures, France recorded 148 anti-Semitic incidents, 43 of which were classified as violent, in March and April of this year. The most egregious occurred on March 19, when a 23-year-old French-Algerian man opened fire outside a Jewish day school in Toulouse, killing a Rabbi, his two young sons, and an eight-year-old girl. The attacker, a Muslim Salafist, asserted that he perpetrated the murders to somehow avenge the deaths of Palestinian children.
France is not the only major European country making headlines recently for anti-Semitism. Last month, Greece’s far-right party, Golden Dawn, won 7% of the vote and 21 seats in parliament. This is a big jump from the 0.23% and zero seats that the party garnered in 2009′s elections. The ultranationalist party adopted the Nazi salute and uses a stylized swastika as its symbol. In 2000, a synagogue, Holocaust memorial, and two Jewish cemeteries in Greece were vandalized. Golden Dawn graffiti was said to have been found at all four sites.
Nazi ideology has been on the rise throughout Europe. For the first time this year, the president of Latvia endorsed an annual march that pays tribute to Waffen SS soldiers. In addition, the Nazi-sympathizing Freedom Party of Austria is expected to make major gains in the next elections. And in Germany, a study released this year shows that 20% of residents hold anti-Semitic views.
With anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head yet again in Europe, one thing is certain: Jews cannot afford for Europeans to approach this situation with the same laissez-faire attitude as they had in the 1930s and 40s. It also reminds of the importance of Israel’s existence as a safe haven for the Jewish people.