Man gives Nazi salute .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – American diplomats expressed grave concern to their European counterparts this week over the rise of blatant anti-Semitism in civil society across the continent – with some parties more receptive than others.
Reaction from the governments of France, Italy and Germany to a spike in hate speech, rioting and attacks against Jews over the summer, coinciding with Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, was “very heartening” to US officials, said Ira Forman, US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Western European leadership granted “total access” to the Jewish community, speaking out strongly and consistently.
But some of their colleagues from eastern Europe represented in Berlin this week, where the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) met to evaluate a decades worth of efforts to combat anti-Jewish attitudes, appeared less concerned and less willing to mobilize their governments against trends in the public sphere.
“Frankly, it is deeply concerning that even as anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, a third fewer countries are participating in the 2014 conference than took part in the 2004 conference,” US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said on Thursday, addressing the conference.
“And only one-in-three of the countries that sent a foreign minister or other cabinet level official in 2004 has sent one at that level to this conference.”
The OSCE began its conference on anti-Semitism in 2004, after the Second Intifada prompted a spike in anti-Semitic violence and protests. But monitors of the trend witnessed historic levels of violence this year during the Gaza conflict, beyond the events of 2004.
“The security need is very clear,” Forman said in a telephone interview from Berlin.
“Jewish communities need, desperately, security.”
Officials describe the problem as grassroots and insidious in its nature, rarely represented formally in parliaments or leadership positions in civil society.
For this reason – with governments opposing, not representing, the movement – those at the Berlin symposium were in agreement that 2014 is not 1938. Formal organization against Europe’s Jews is less likely than cultural subjugation.
But “let’s also be honest,” Forman said. “As one French-Jewish leader said to me, ‘I don’t have any friend in the Jewish community who has not thought about emigrating.’” “There are a lot of people who will stop being Jewish, essentially,” he said.
US President Barack Obama sent Power and Forman as part of a presidential delegation to the conference, which included Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman.
To the American delegation, the picture is clear – European Jews are worse off than they were ten years ago.
Europe stands at risk of becoming “Judenrein,” or free of Jews, Foxman said in a statement from Berlin, citing polling figures that 24 percent of the adult population in Western Europe and 34 percent in Eastern Europe hold deep-seated anti-Jewish views.
“The growth of anti-Semitism is not just an urgent human rights problem that affects Jews,” Mr. Foxman said. “It is a serious warning sign that the fundamental health of pluralism and democracy across the OSCE region is being threatened.”
At the UN, Power often speaks out against escalatory rhetoric and incitement to violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – including during the Gaza war, when PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA envoy to the UN Riyad Monsour charged Israel with committing genocide.
But asked whether such rhetoric crossed the line into defamation and anti-Semitism, Forman suggested agreement.
“I think it’s fair to say that the United States believes in the freedom of protest and the freedom to criticize,” Forman said.
“However, it is stated US policy that when Israel is treated with double standards, when Israel is defamed... that’s crossing the line.”