Leaving no one behind in today’s Europe
Europe’s economies will eventually be restored. But without vigilant action against the fomenters of hatred, Europe’s promise may not.
Euro symbol near European flags Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
In a speech on the Eurozone debt crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
recently said: “Nobody in Europe will be abandoned. Nobody in Europe will be
excluded. Europe only succeeds if we work together.” While Chancellor Merkel may
have been referring to the financial situation, many Europeans are feeling
“abandoned” and “excluded” by problematic political trends.
headlines of the debate over austerity measures and other solutions to the
economic crisis, we are witnessing a rise in intolerance toward minorities in
Three distinct groups serve as the bastion of anti-Semitism in
Europe: the extreme left, Islamic fundamentalists and the far
While generally speaking this alliance is not a coordinated and
concerted effort, its members, from disparate backgrounds, are acting like a
pincer movement on the Jewish communities in Europe.
The extreme left in
Europe has been leading a movement to ostracize Israel, the Jewish state, and
has been using terminology, tactics and innuendo reminiscent of medieval anti-
Islamic fundamentalists are responsible for the recent murders
in Toulouse, firebombing of numerous synagogues, countless physical attacks and
ceaseless verbal incitement against Jews.
Far-right and neo-Nazi parties
are gaining a political foothold in various parts of Europe, including the
Golden Dawn in Greece and the Jobbik Party in Hungary – one of Jobbik’s members
of parliament recently used genetic testing to clear himself of any suspicion of
Jewish or Roma ancestry.
The ties between the extreme left, Islamic
fundamentalists and the far right have one overlapping ideology: hatred for the
Jewish People and the Jewish state.
THIS PHENOMENON has a long history on
Extreme-left European terrorist organizations like the
German Red Army Faction supported Palestinian terrorists in the 1970s.
Additionally, newly released German intelligence agency files reveal that German
neo- Nazis aided the Black September Palestinian terrorists who kidnapped and
murdered Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
of this disturbing collaboration are now being repeated.
In 2008, the EU
Commission called on all EU member states to adopt model legislation to combat
hatred and intolerance in their own legal systems.
Four years later, all
have failed to do so.
Outbreaks of intolerance must be judged more
severely, and now more than ever, we need to initiate tougher laws against those
who target minorities.
Time and again in the recent and distant past,
tolerance has been one of the first victims of an economic downturn. Will we
repeat the mistakes of our ancestors? As Europeans, we must now decide whether
our relatively young continental union will truly turn a new page in European
Thus far, the answer has proved wanting. The mere rise of the
Golden Dawn party should have sent shockwaves throughout Europe. We would have
expected politicians to openly eschew this new-old danger. Sadly, condemnation –
let alone action – was far more muted than those of us who are in the line of
fire of these dangerous neo-Nazis would have liked.
The absence of public
outrage is assumed to be the result of the economic situation in Europe.
Nevertheless, it is precisely because of the recessions across our continent
that we must pay special attention, not just to the state of Europe’s economies,
but also to the state of Europe itself.
THE ECONOMIES in certain European
nations, especially in Greece, have become dangerously untenable. However,
beyond the headlines of the debate over austerity measures and other solutions
to the economic crises we are already witnessing a rise in intolerance toward
minorities in Europe.
Freedom of speech is something we as Europeans
rightly hold in the greatest regard; however, we have to reconsider its
There should be no limitations on people’s right to speak,
think or act in any way, unless of course, those rights impinge on the rights,
freedom and safety of others.
As Zechariah Chafee, the great American
jurist once said: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose
Too often our liberal society allows room for hate, a hearing
for xenophobia and a podium for intolerance. This is the diametric opposite of
tolerance. To defeat the intolerance, xenophobia and racism in our midst,
we need to grant their manifestations no leniency and certainly no
If these three racist ideologies are welcomed into the
European political family, rather than constantly condemned and ostracized, we
may be taking the first unwitting step towards a darker future. We must stand up
to the moral challenges posed by the extreme left, Islamic fundamentalism and
the far right. When this alliance of intolerance scapegoats minorities to
realize their distorted worldview, we must courageously respond with one
resounding voice, “Nobody in Europe will be abandoned. Nobody in Europe will be
excluded. Europe only succeeds if we work together.”
will eventually be restored. But without vigilant and forceful action against
the fomenters of hatred, Europe’s promise may not.
The writer is
president of the European Jewish Congress and co-chairman of the European
Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.