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June 21, 2016 6:58 am

Is Antisemitism the New ‘Normal’ in Europe?

avatar by Judith Bergman

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The French Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket chain was targeted in January 2015 by an Islamic extremist, who killed four people. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The French Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket chain was targeted in January 2015 by an Islamic terrorist, who killed four people. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In Michel Houellebecq’s dystopian novel, Submission (2015), which takes place in an imaginary France ‎in 2022, when the Muslim Brotherhood has won elections and rules the country in alliance with the Socialists, the non-Jewish protagonist, a professor at the Sorbonne, tells his Jewish student, who is escaping to Israel with her family, that there ‎can be “no Israel for me.” This is one of the most poignant observations in the book.‎

Another is the protagonist’s reflection that the increasing violence, even the gunshots in the streets of Paris as a ‎civil war threatens to explode during the run-up to the elections, has become the ‎new normal: something that everyone is resigned to as an inevitable fact, barely reported in the ‎media and treated as unremarkable by his fellow lecturers. Even after the Muslim Brotherhood wins the ‎elections, and the Sorbonne is turned into an Islamic university, with all that this entails, his colleagues treat ‎this development as nothing out of the ordinary. Houllebecq’s indictment against the silence and ‎complicity of his fellow intellectuals in the face of the Islamist encroachments on French society is ‎scathing. As a matter of course, in the new France, where freedom of speech comes at a prohibitive ‎price, Houllebecq now has to live under 24-hour police protection. Submission, by the way, was published on the day of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks.‎

The resignation and the precarious pretense that everything is normal in the face of rapidly deteriorating ‎circumstances, is a predictable human reaction, testimony to the sometimes practical but lamentable human capacity for adaptation to most circumstances, whatever they may be. ‎Historically, Jews have excelled in this discipline, simply because they had no choice. Just like Houllebecq’s ‎protagonist, they had nowhere else to go. However, whereas there “can be no Israel” for the lost ‎professor, today, unlike the last time Jews were threatened on a large scale in Europe, there is an Israel ‎for the Jews. Uniquely among all the peoples of Europe, the Jews have a welcoming place to go. ‎Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Western European Jews choose to stay put in Europe.‎

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In 2015, 30,000 Jews made aliyah from all over the world. Almost 22,000 of these arrivals were from ‎France, Russia and Ukraine, and approximately 3,700 new immigrants made aliyah from the United States and ‎Canada. Other countries included Argentina and Venezuela, but Western Europe, outside of France, only ‎accounted for the tiniest contribution to these figures.‎

From the Netherlands, home to an estimated 50,000 Jews, only 96 Jews made aliyah in ‎‎2015, still the highest figure recorded in a decade. In Belgium, which saw an Islamic terrorist attack on the ‎Jewish museum in 2014, only 287 Jews made aliyah last year out of an estimated Jewish population of ‎‎40,000. Aliyah from the Scandinavian countries was equally negligible in 2015, despite a terrorist attack on ‎the synagogue in Copenhagen in 2015 and a growing anti-circumcision lobby in all the Scandinavian ‎countries, threatening to literally make a continued Jewish presence in those countries untenable. In ‎‎2014, kosher slaughter was made illegal in Denmark. In Sweden and Norway it was already outlawed. ‎

In the Netherlands, the beginning of 2016 saw an extraordinarily savage antisemitic attack on a Jewish ‎octogenarian couple in Amsterdam, who were robbed and beaten nearly to death while the Muslims ‎who perpetrated the attack called them “dirty Jews.” The couple had to be confined to an old-age home, ‎having sustained permanent injuries. Incredibly, the Dutch media, aided by the prosecution, upon reporting ‎the crime, chose not to mention the strong antisemitic element of the hate crime. Antisemitism was ‎also reported to be on the rise in Dutch schools, a dire foreboding for the future. ‎

The situation all over the European continent is depressingly similar with the occasional fluctuations in the ‎rise and fall of antisemitic incidents, but with a clear and persistent anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli ‎sentiment that makes itself felt in everyday life. Recently, the president of the Jewish society at the ‎London School of Oriental and African Studies explained that “we are too scared to go anywhere ‎so we walk in a group to the station. People come up to me and say, ‘I heard you hate Palestinians.'”‎

Jews are particularly at risk from the rise of jihad on the continent, but they are also existentially ‎threatened by the antisemitic campaigns against circumcision and kosher slaughter, which often have a broad ‎popular base that defies any categorization of left and right. The Social Democratic government of Helle Thorning-Schmidt brought about the prohibition against kosher slaughter in Denmark in 2014.‎

Added to this is the threat from far-Right groups, which is sometimes exaggerated yet ‎nevertheless very much there. In the Netherlands, for instance, a Jewish organization, the Center for ‎Information and Documentation on Israel, was pressing charges in May against supporters of the ‎Dutch soccer champion PSV Eindhoven. A video was posted of PSV fans singing, “My dad was in the ‎commandos, my mother in the SS. Together they burned Jews, for Jews burn the best.” A PSV ‎spokesperson expressed his horror at the video. ‎

Nevertheless, Dutch high school graduates at a graduation party this month at Elde College in the ‎town of Schijndel, 60 miles southeast of Amsterdam, broke out in a song with almost the same lyrics. As ‎they approached the party, several graduates sang, “Together we’ll burn Jews, because Jews burn the ‎best.”

Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, whose home in Amersfoort has been attacked five times in recent years, says ‎that the frequency of antisemitic chants and other hate crimes “means Dutch Jews are less inclined to ‎report hate crimes, when they occur around them all the time.” In other words, hate crimes have become ‎the new normal, just as in Houllebecq’s dystopia, the violent riots in the streets of Paris and the ‎incremental Islamization of France became the new and accepted normal. The status quo ‎gradually transforms itself from what is first seen as unbelievable and deeply shocking to something that is considered quite ordinary. “Only six years ago, we were profoundly shocked ‎when two young men screamed ‘Heil Hitler’ during a commemoration ceremony at Vught,” said Jacobs, ‎‎”But today, this wouldn’t be so shocking anymore. It is happening all the time in the Netherlands.” ‎

This is perhaps inevitable, a function of the plasticity of human nature and its ability to adapt to even that ‎which is most abhorrent, but it is also truly lamentable. Unlike Houllebecq’s professor, these Jews have a ‎place to go, no matter how imperfect and difficult they consider Israel to be compared to their often materially ‎comfortable lives in Western Europe. ‎

The questions inevitably arise: Why put up with the miseries of the European continent and the constant ‎and incremental assaults on Jewish freedom there, whether they come in the form of jihad or “native” ‎European antisemitism? Why suffer the indignity of hiding their identities for fear of verbal or ‎physical attacks when they can be open and free in Israel? ‎

Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. Twitter: @judithbergman. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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  • I would like to publish this article on my blogsite (as listed above). Will you please give me permission to do so?

  • I believe the answer is obvious. Israel is under attack all the time and is safe for nobody. Iran now has the bomb and is very likely to strike. Jewish people feel safer in the diaspora than in Israel.

  • art frank

    What’s new about anti-Semitism in Europe. It’s been alive since the establishment of the roman catholic church. That criminal organization institutionalized Jew hatred.

  • Pau

    The new normal, or back to the old normal ?

  • why? because there’s no free lunches, even in israel. come here, and you gotta learn hebrew enough to deal with bureaucracy, your kids gotta go into army (or start dodging it thru the ‘special schools for the rich’ all over europe), and who knows what’s flying around with hizbullah to the north and hamas to the south and iran to the east. in europe all you gotta do is act like youre not jewish outside the house — and that’s been a reality since long before hitler, and still is … seems cheap at the price –and lets you stay where youre used to staying, speak what youre used to speaking, eat drink etc ditto. and who knows but that this too will pass… as it did in the 1920s….

  • Islam is the new ‘norm’ in Europe, Islam is the spreader of antisemitic hate and violence so YES, antisemitism is the norm in Europe and is growing worldwide. Eliminate Islam and most if not all of the antisemitism will go with it.

  • Anti-Semitism is always abnormal in Europe and anywhere else on Earth. It’s time for European Jews to plan for a successful Aliyah.

  • Linda Golden

    There is no future for Jews in Europe…they have never been welcome there, and those that keep thinking it is there home, are deluded. It is hard to pick up and leave what you are used to, but better a new life in a more welcoming place that the ugliness of harassment and fear that living in Europe brings. Today there is an Israel to welcome Jews and countries like the United States, Australia Etc., where you have a voice and support system of Jews in those countries. Do not wait until it is too late…never again rings hollow when all the hallmarks are visible in 2016. Europe will get what it deserves…

  • stevenl

    It was ALWAYS there!

  • Ephraim

    It is the 1930s all over again. Every symbol is the same, all the hatred is the same, will it take, G-d forbid, another Shoah to wake them up? Their safety is getting less and less, do they think a miracle is going to happen and Europe is going to return to civilization? I think not. The hate is growing, the Islamist vermin is spreading, and it is only a question of time before one of the countries is taken over by a very blatantly antisemitic government, which will stop offering security to its Jews.

    WAKE UP AND LIVE, EH?

  • Everyone reading this site should read the OPINION page of the WSJ Sat-Sun this past week.

    A billionaire Syrian businessman said it for all of us to understand.

    The Syrians are educated to hate Jews and to kill Jews. Read it and tell everyone you know to contact everyone you know to stop Obama from bringing in 200,0000 Syrian refugees.

    They will destroy the Jews and its only the stupid Jews who can’t see the truth in front of them.

    In Europe Jews have to become organized with money and manpower to stop the Muslim onslaught against them because this is who they are. THEY HATE JEWS AND WANT TO KILL EVERY JEW THEY CAN.

    STOP THEM AND FIGHT THEM BEFORE OUR SCHOOLS AND SYNAGOGUES LIE IN RUBBLE.

  • It is stunning to accept the increasingly apparent reality of a Wester Europe, only 71 years removed from the horrors of the Nazis and the Holocaust, tolerating again the vile breed of antisemitism. Many of the perpetrators have parents and grandparents who lived under the terrors of the SS. Yet, here they are, reinvigorating the most ugly form of hatred against an entirely innocent people. Where are the outraged voices of our so-called leaders, political, religious, and moral?

  • I hate that term “anti-Semitism” because it was made up by a 19th century Austrian journalist Willhelm Marr who was a vehement anti-Jew.

    STOP USING THAT WORD.

    Jews are always going to be victims until they learn to fight and scare the hell out of their haters and then it will stop.

    Who’s going to start with the blacks, the Italians, the Irish or any other group that is strong and tough?

    Jews have to stop being so nice and be tough and willing to hurt their haters before they hurt them.

    It’s common sense but we have been conditioned for millenia to be weak and as Bibi said at the UN “Meek”.

    Get over it.

  • brenrod

    Jews must leave the euro cesspool in order to allow europe to be turned to cinders.

  • Eric R.

    Jew-hatred is not the “new” normal in Europe.

    That is because it never went away.

    It is just the eternal “normal”.

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