Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe - Why?

29 Apr 2014

I recently stumbled across an article entitled ‘Far-Right Marchers Abuse Jews in Paris Protest,’ it quickly made me realise that every time I open a newspaper I am constantly seeing evidence of anti-Semitism. This is a worrying prospect, especially since yesterday was Yom Hashoa, Israel’s holocaust memorial day. Yet it seems that 70 years after one of the darkest periods in Western history, the lessons learned are slowly being forgotten. 


Take, for example, the Far-Right Hungarian nationalist party, the ‘Jobbik party’, which cites the leader of Hungary from 1920-1944 as their hero, regardless of the fact that he was responsible for backing the Nazis during WWII, something that eventually led to the annihilation of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. Yet this party is currently thriving in Hungary (being the third largest party), with the deputy parliamentary party leader stating that it is “timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.” The extent to which this sounds like Nazi propaganda is almost terrifying, and yet this was spoken in the 21st century, seemingly ignoring the devastating history that rocked Hungary and Hungarian Jews in the 20th. 

Further examples of anti-Semitism can also be found elsewhere across Europe; France being a notable example. The British public has been exposed to this through football player Nicolas Anelka, who was accused of performing the ‘quenelle’ gesture, which is an inverted Nazi salute. The very fact that he believed he could perform this gesture and get away with it is horrifying yet also revealing. It seems to suggest that anti-Semitism is once again becoming more acceptable; that Europe’s oldest hate is once again rearing its ugly head.

Moreover, anti-Semitism in France is not just shown through this recent example, but also by others – including the killing of three children and a teacher outside a Jewish primary school in Toulouse in March 2012. The man accused however, was not of European origin; instead he took the form of the arguably ‘new anti-Semitism’. His name was/is Mohamed Merah and he was inspired by radical Islam and trained in Afghanistan. He killed these innocent people simply because he did not like the policies of the Israeli government. An example of anti-Zionism blurring with anti-Semitism. 

According to the Israel Project, more than 1/4 of France’s 500,000 strong Jewish population wish to leave France, with 26% stating that they have considered emigrating due to anti-Semitism, and 86% stating that anti-Semitism is a serious problem. These figures have caused great concern about the future of European Jewry, and are trends that are backed up across Europe. Indeed, 66 percent of European Jews consider anti-Semitism to be a problem across the EU member states (although this figure is much less in the UK, being at 11%). There are several reasons as to why this may have occurred, with one of the most significant reasons being the dramatic increase of anti-Zionism. 

The idea that anti-Israel sentiment is linked with anti-Semitism is something that has become a lot more noticeable over the past decade, and particularly in my opinion over the past five years. It is this anti-Semitism that has become the most worrying. Jewish people across the world are blamed for the deeds of the Israeli government, a government that diaspora Jews do not abide by, and do not vote for. Yet Jews across the world are attacked and goaded due to its actions. I have personally heard and seen people defend their anti-Semitic beliefs by claiming that they are instead anti-Israel. This seems hypocritical, after all, if you are going to blame diaspora Jews for the policies of the Israeli government, then how can one possibly claim that this is not anti-Semitic? For example, the obviously anti-Zionist Hamas included points from the anti-Semitic ‘Elders of Zion’ in its founding charter. This highlights the belief that today world anti-Semitism is united. Further examples include the Mayor of a Hungarian town, who is part of the Jobbik party, recently deciding to twin with an Iranian city (something which is even more provocative when remembering that many Iranian politicians refute the Holocaust). Furthermore, it is widely believed across Europe, and now the Arab world, that Jews are controlling the world, that capitalism is a way for the ‘Zionists’ to subjugate the ordinary people- a point that was consistently made within Nazi propaganda. 

Thus, it seems to me that the rise of anti-Israel sentiment, something that has correlated with the Israeli army becoming more powerful and successful, has led to a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism. This is something that seems remarkable, especially across Europe, and must be addressed by all world leaders. 

In the 1930′s, after one of the worst economic disasters in living memory, a small party called the NSDAP went from an irrelevant extremist party to one of the most vulgar regimes the world has ever seen. It used democratic means and insecurities of the public to achieve its aims, and eventually destroyed millions of lives. 

The horrors of the past must never be repeated. Anti-Semitism should not be allowed to flourish. 

By Olivia Gordon

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