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February 17, 2015 1:18 am

What’s Next After Copenhagen?

avatar by David Harris

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Denmark residents leave flowers for the victims of the Copenhagen shooting attacks. One victim was a Danish documentary filmmaker. Photo: Twitter.

Once again, the jihadists have attacked, this time in Copenhagen.

Once again, they have murdered innocent people.

Once again, they have targeted both democratic values — freedom of speech and the press — and a minority community – the Jews.

And once again, Europe has been reminded that it is at the center, not the periphery, of this global challenge.

As a result, we will have all the right symbolic gestures, which I don’t wish to minimize.

There will be visits to the synagogue, solidarity events, statements of anguish, and affirmations of collective will and determination.

But will they really change anything on the ground? That remains to be seen.

With each such bloody outrage, we earnestly hope that something might be learned because we don’t want to believe that history must continue to repeat itself in this all-too-familiar cycle of killings, vigils, and mourning.

And yet, after 15 years of engaging with European leaders to get their attention, help them understand what stares them in the face, and press for sustained action, I’m not quite ready to bet the family farm that the day after tomorrow will be all that different than the day before yesterday.

Even so, I desperately want to believe that Europe, with all its dazzling achievements since the end of World War II, can still strengthen its resolve, stiffen its spine, and fully understand the stakes involved, however late in the day it is.

Here is what I wish would happen now.

First, the European Union should quickly organize a high-level conference to discuss the rise in anti-Semitism, as evidenced by repeated terror attacks, EU polls showing rising fear among Jews, and statistics in countries like France and the United Kingdom revealing a major spike in anti-Semitic incidents. It ought to discuss and adopt a comprehensive plan of action, and then implement and monitor it.

Second, European leaders must understand, as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has, that anti-Semitism is not only an attack on Jews, but also an assault on Europe and its values. The two cannot be separated. That was amply illustrated in the attacks in Paris last month and in Copenhagen this month. In the end, if there is no other choice, Jews will leave Europe, but where will Europe go, unless, that is, it is prepared to succumb to the jihadist threat?

Third, call a spade a spade. For many Europeans, there is no hesitation in identifying the source of anti-Semitism when it emanates from right-wing extremists. But when anti-Semitism, including deadly violence, springs from within a segment of the Muslim population, verbal acrobatics all too often come into play. If you can’t name the adversary, how can you effectively fight it?

Of course, this problem is not unique to Europe. In the United States, we saw the massacre at Fort Hood ludicrously labeled “workplace violence” rather than the jihadist violence it so obviously was, and our government’s refusal to refer to “Islamist” or “jihadist” terrorism, even when the perpetrators themselves do.

Fourth, stop tying anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, as if the two are Siamese twins. AJC’s Brussels office has been trying for months to encourage a European Parliament hearing on anti-Semitism, only to be met with insistence that any such meeting include Islamophobia. Why this demand to join the two together, when the majority of incidents occurs against Jews, when Europe has a particularly ugly history of anti-Semitism, and when the principal attackers of Jews invoke their Islamic faith?

Fifth, recognize that we confront both a short- and long-term menace that won’t be overcome by even the most eloquent of speeches and the most symbolic of acts. Rather, it requires a full-court, sustained effort by individual governments (and, of course, by the EU) using the resources they have the capacity to mobilize, joined by the determined efforts of civil society.

Sixth, connect the lessons of the Holocaust to the present-day threat to the Jews. I’ve witnessed too many Holocaust-related events where murdered Jews are mourned — Jews who, tragically, cannot be brought back to life — but that totally ignore the current dangers to living Jews. A refusal to connect the two quite frankly empties these commemorations of much of their meaning and sincerity.

Seventh, don’t apologize for European values of democracy, human dignity, openness, and pluralism. Europe has built something to be proud of and that is well worth defending. It is, after all, to Europe that refugees and immigrants are seeking to go by any means possible to escape failed or failing societies, and not the other way around. It’s high time to stand up in defense of these noble values and do everything possible to ensure that newcomers embrace them as well.

And last, but by no means least, it is important to understand that the jihadist barbarism which Europe is experiencing first-hand is not much different from what Israel has been facing for decades. Why, then, does Europe continue to try drawing a distinction, when, in reality, none exists? The same jihadists who hate Europe detest Israel, and the same jihadists who wish for Israel’s annihilation aspire to no less for Europe as we know it.

Since hope springs eternal, here’s hoping for the dawning of a new day, starting right now.

This article was originally published by The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

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  • Matt

    The key to stopping ant-semitism in Europe is for European governments to recognize that their double standards for assessing Israeli behavior sends a message to their people that it is OK to attack Jews. If they want to change this message, they have to stop applying this double standard.

  • Reform School

    By now most Americans have heard President Obama in denial that the recent assaults and murders of European Jews were driven by classic Muslim hatred of ‘infidels’. But how many have heard the European street’s opinion of Obama?
    Shouldn’t those living in de Nile be deported to Egypt?

  • DockyWocky

    I don’t exactly understand the leaving of flowers and Teddy Bears every time the islamic radicals shoot up some innocent people. Better they send money to their police and military forces to buy bullets to kill off these islamic radicals.

  • Dream on? We should round them up and we’ll, you know how we put sick animals down!

  • Lauren Goldman

    This is the result of Europe’s continual appeasement of their muslim populations. After decades of incremental concessions, the islamic terrorists feel emboldened to attack Jews, expecting minimal consequences. It remains to be seen if Europe has waited too long to actually save itself.

    • There are a growing awareness in Islam that all goodness will be rewarded. Support for the Jewish People will come! There are already Muslims willing to stand outside Synagogues and defend the right of Jews to Belief! We have learned some lessons from History. They are not all negative!

  • steven L

    David Harris still does not know that Europe is practically the birth place of antisemitism, where it flourished and is part of the European psycho-genome. He should pay much more attention to what is happening in his country where antisemitism is growing.

  • steven L

    For Islamists anybody anywhere is fair game. Only idiots want to ignore IT.

  • Efram

    Dream on.

  • “What’s Next After Copenhagen?” Unfortunately, more Islamic-driven Jew-hatred will continue until many Jews leave Europe for Israel. The dawning of a new day will be a stronger Israel benefitting from an influx of European Jews. And Europe will be poorer, as it experiences the repercussions from appeasement toward Totalitarian Islam.

  • Josh Korn

    What’s staring us in the face is that Jew-hatred has become mainstream, and even fashionable, among the upper echelons all across Europe. It’s now considered chi-chi to demonize Israel using exactly the same words that were once used to demonize “the Jews”.

    I’m not optimistic about the future of Jews in Europe, and neither are most of the Jews of France and England. With violence around every corner and armed guards at every institution, there’s little cause for optimism, and somehow I doubt that David Harris would be able to look on the bright side of life if he had to live under those conditions.

    The sorry story is that in Europe, the authorities *do* look the other way when Jews are assaulted or subjected to harrassment, and do not hesitate to blame the victims (“well what do you want, they support Israel…”). And they’re only too happy to stand idly by while this happens.

    The EU is only too happy to openly fund the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists, and has shown that no evidence presented to it of Mahmoud Abbas’s lavish reward system for released murderers, is too compelling to ignore. For every Catherine Ashton who retires, there are thousands of like-minded people ready to take her place.

    • In England that is not the case! In Denmark! That is not the case. French Police died to defend Free speech!

  • Debra Michels

    I should’ve included Buddhists – in Asia and the Americas! Also secular people. 🙂

  • Debra Michels

    I hope David Harris reads this – I think you are so very right in all that you write in this article – I hope you get to read this – the only thing I want to tell you is that if you expect the Europeans to have mastered these lessons, I think you will be very frustrated, angry, and sad – and believe me, I feel that way, too –

    But I think a strategy that might work would be to make the points you have made here again and again – to go on teaching people, with hope and faith that eventually they will “connect the dots” and begin to respond in an evolving or more evolved way.

    And I hope you reach out to your fellow/sister Jews because we need to join in with you, to speak out wherever we find ourselves, to make the same or similar points.

    Thank you so much for serving our community and also the rest of the world – please don’t stop or give up – or succumb to dismay or loss of hope or faith – I think if you’re a Jew you “get it” but I think many Christians and some Muslims are getting it (or already do get it) – Hindus, too – not to forget India or the Indian “diaspora.”

    • “..They came for ..Communists ..I didn’t object ..I wasn’t a Communist ..They came for ..Socialists .. I didn’t object ..I wasn’t a Socialist ..They came for ..labour leaders ..I didn’t object ..I wasn’t a labour leader ..They came for ..Jews ..I didn’t object ..I wasn’t a Jew ..Then they came for me ..there was no one left to object.” Martin Niemoller.