As Attacks on Jews Rise in Europe, Antisemitism Is the New Cool
More disturbing than the alleged arson at a suburban Paris kosher supermarket on Tuesday — the third anniversary of the terror attack at the kosher Hyper-Cacher market, also outside Paris — is this: no one was terribly surprised. Shocked, yes; of course people were shocked — but not entirely surprised.
How could they be, after a rash of antisemitic attacks and regular calls for “death to Jews” that have plagued Europe in recent months? At this point, in Europe, Jew-hatred has practically become the norm.
The fire, which destroyed the kosher shop, broke out in the early morning hours in the southern suburb of Creteil, where about a quarter of the population is Jewish. But the shop owner, who is Muslim, also found swastikas painted on the door a week ago, as did the owner of a neighboring market, which was also slightly damaged in the fire.
Such events are hardly new in France. In addition to the HyperCacher attack– in which Muslim terrorist Amedy Coulibaly gunned down four people after a standoff lasting several hours — in 2017, a Jewish woman was killed by a Muslim neighbor who pushed her out a window, and a Jewish family was robbed and held hostage, also in a Paris suburb. “You’re Jews, so where is the money,” the assailants allegedly said. Yet these are only the latest in a heinous string of attacks on French Jews, mostly, but not exclusively, by Muslims, including the 2012 massacre at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Three children and a teacher were killed in that attack.
In 2006, as many as 20 people participated in the kidnapping, torture and murder of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi. “We have a Jew,” one said in a ransom call.
But France is not alone. Sweden, too, whose national Jewish population (18,000) is smaller than that of Creteil alone (23,000), has seen a disproportionate amount of antisemitic activity in the past few months. In December, Muslims hurled Molotov cocktails at Jewish teens at a synagogue party in Gothenburg, and firebombs were planted at a Jewish cemetery in Malmo. At a Stockholm protest against President Trump’s call to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, The New York Times reported that, “a speaker called Jews ‘apes and pigs,'” a common anti-Jewish epithet among Muslim anti-semites. And in Malmo, according to the Times, “Children at the Jewish kindergarten … play behind bulletproof glass.”
This is not just because of Muslims, however. Even Sweden’s mainstream media has attacked the Jews. A 2009 article in the respected Aftonbladet claimed that Israel regularly kidnapped and killed young Palestinians for their organs.
And in the Netherlands, where anti-Jewish chants filled the hot afternoons during pro-Gaza protests in 2014, it is not always the Muslims who are to blame. Indeed, as Muslim youth waved the ISIS flag and called for death to Jews in The Hague, the city’s mayor, Jozias van Aartsen, refused to denounce them, insisting “no boundaries had been crossed.”
More recently, Jewish groups have learned of the plight of 86-year-old Dutch Holocaust survivor Inge Prenzlau, who, after forced to work in her father’s Amsterdam pill factory as a small girl, to prevent the Nazis from seizing it after he became ill, now receives a €140 monthly stipend from the German government — about $150. Germany does not tax this payment; but the new Dutch government has different ideas. “Pay up,” they told her in December. The move outraged the renowned and outspoken Dutch author, Leon de Winter. The son of Holocaust survivors, De Winter posted on Twitter:
[The King] receives a tax-free royal salary, yet this 86-year-old Jewish woman must pay taxes over her so-called ghetto-compensation of 140 euros a month.
But there have been plenty of Muslim-related incidents as well. In December, for instance, a man wielding a Palestinian flag smashed the windows of a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam. And on New Year’s Eve, a yet-unidentified man threw a rock at the window of the Amsterdam Chabad center. According to reports, security camera images confirm that the perpetrator was not the same person who attacked the restaurant last month.
There’s more. In Vienna, for instance, in 2015, a Jewish man living in a largely Jewish neighborhood was threatened with eviction if he did not remove the Israeli flag from his window. “It offends one of the neighbors,” his landlord said.
Apparently, this is a common complaint in the Austrian capital. Officials fined three pro-Israel activists last month for waving an Israeli flag near a pro-Palestinian demonstration: the charges state that the activists “produced considerable offense and provocation among the Palestinian protesters.”
The pro-Palestinian group, however, was not cited for any offense that they might have caused Vienna’s Jews — even as Palestinian-flag waving protesters shouted out in Arabic, “Khaybar, Khaybar ya yahud” — a battle cry that recalls the 7th century victory of Muslims over the Jews of Khaybar, and which in modern terms essentially means “Death to Jews.”
In Germany, antisemitism is not just widespread: it is growing, particularly among the country’s hip youth. In an in-depth report for The Daily Beast, Josephine Huetlin describes the vast reach of German Jew-hate — from Muslim enclaves to far-right groups that support the up-and-coming political party, Alternatives fur Deutschland (AfD, Alternatives for Germany). Indeed, AfD may signal the biggest threat going forward. According to Huetlin, AfD politicians believe that “the Central Council of Jews in Germany secretly controls the entire country.”
But pro-Palestinian, and therefore usually anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, sentiment is also coming from young people who listen to rap, most of all. Many of these rappers come from the Muslim community and champion Palestine’s “underdog,” status she reports — so much so that Germany’s one Jewish rap star, Ben Salomo, told her that “solidarity for Palestine … is [in] fashion.”
The message is clear, and not just in Germany. Increasingly, it seems, in Europe — and especially for Europe’s youth — Jew-hatred is the new cool.
Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of “Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West” (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands. Follow her at @radicalstates.
This article was commissioned by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.