For most Jerusalem Post readers, it comes as no surprise to hear that a surging tide of antisemitism is sweeping across Europe. Acts of vandalism, violence and persecution of Jews are pervasive in many European states. This is so, despite differing national histories, particularly with regard to 20th-century Nazism and the Holocaust.
Meanwhile in the US, on October 27, the deadliest synagogue attack in America’s history took place in Pittsburgh, when 11 Jews were killed at the hand of a white supremacist. That terrorist attack was followed by a similar shooting six months later near San Diego in which one person was killed.
Jews across America have described the sense of foreboding they’ve felt following those shootings. Meanwhile, several violent attacks against religiously attired New York Jews have marred the sense of safety many Jewish Americans have long enjoyed.
This has raised a serious and disturbing question: Is America experiencing Europe’s growing antisemitism?
In response to that question, the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom presented a groundbreaking conference on June 4, hosted by the center’s director, Nina Shea.
The conference featured antisemitism experts, each bringing a unique perspective on Europe’s present state of affairs. Unfortunately, there was little good news about Europe.
Mitchell Silber, former director of intelligence analysis at the New York City Police Department, continues to be actively involved in projects to better protect Europe’s Jewish communities.
Silber pointed out a shocking reality: Jews living in today’s Britain have become Europe’s No.1 security risk. This situation has happened, in no small part, because of the toxic policies of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has “infected Labour with radicalism.”
Meanwhile, in 2018, 1,600 attacks on Jews took place in Britain.
The US State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Elan Carr, contradicted the rather deceptive idea that there is a “new” antisemitism in today’s world. “It’s just the same old thing,” he said.
Ancient accusations against Jews, such as the infamous “blood libel,” are newly packaged in such twisted guises as “Israelis are child murderers” and “Jews have infected Palestinian children with the AIDS virus.”
In short, there’s nothing new about today’s antisemitism. Furthermore, antisemitism and anti-Zionism are the same evil.
Marc Weitzmann, the best-selling author of Hate: The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism in France (and What It Means for Us), traced the beginnings of today’s virulent strain of French antisemitism to the 1990s, when dozens of Algerian terrorists relocated to France and began to multiply their ranks exponentially.
After 2000, an ever-swelling increase in violence was climaxed on November 13, 2015, at the Bataclan concert hall massacre. Ninety victims were shot dead, with an additional 40 more murdered in suicide bombings and during coordinated shootings in cafes and restaurants; more than 400 were wounded. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
The attackers believed that the Bataclan theater was owned by Jews. In actual fact, it had been sold by its Jewish owners just a couple of months before the grisly attack.
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee offices in Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome and Central Europe, explained that the three roots of antisemitism in Europe are the far Right (including white supremacism), the far Left (embodied by Britain’s Corbyn) and, of course, radicalized Muslims.
Rodan-Benzaquen and the other conference speakers left no doubt that Europe’s Jews face a grim future. Despite some serious efforts being made by government leadership, unpredictable mobs and lone-wolf violence are difficult to police. And changing the course of public opinion seems like an impossible dream.
So, is there any good news from America? Or is the US just moving a little more slowly along the same track as Europe?
In fact, the Hudson Institute’s conference offered an encouraging and somewhat surprising report, emanating from a McLaughlin and Associates poll of a thousand randomly selected, registered American voters. Complete poll results can be viewed on the Hudson Institute website at Hudson.org.
Just a few examples (Selected responses may not add up to 100%):
To begin with, the majority of polled US voters understand what antisemitism means. In verbatim answers to the question, “How would you describe antisemitism?” 44% of responders said, “Hate against Jews;” 9% said that it is bad or negative, and 9% said, “hate,” “bigotry” or “Nazi;” 2% said “Hate against Israel;” 34% said they didn’t know.
When asked “What is your opinion about Israel?” 51% of those queried had a positive view of Israel; only 21% had a negative view (the others reported “no opinion”).
Another question about Israel asked, “Would you say the United States government supports Israel too often, about right or too little?” 55% said “about right” or “too little;” 21% said “too often.” The rest didn’t know.
In answer to the question, “Are you Islamophobic if you criticize Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her views on Israel?” 63% said no, 14% said yes and 23% didn’t know.
And there was a significant response to an important historical question: “Do you believe it is true that in the Holocaust, the Nazi regime targeted and exterminated six million European Jews?” 80% said yes, just 8% said no; and 12% didn’t know.
There was also a strong reply to the question: “Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has made many antisemitic statements over many years, including ‘Satanic Jews have infected the whole world with poison and deceit’ and ‘Hitler was a very great man.’ Should politicians be denounced for appearing with Louis Farrakhan at campaign events?” In response to this, 67% said yes, they should be denounced; only 14% said no; and the rest didn’t know.
In summary, the bad news about Europe is that antisemitism is surging, and its danger is palpable. More and more Jews are considering relocation to Israel or elsewhere.
The good news is that Americans are far less antisemitic than their European cousins. A majority of the poll’s responders are paying close attention to the political issues America faces today, including those regarding antisemitism and Israel.
And before long, they will have their say in another poll: the 2020 presidential election. The writer is an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, an award-winning author and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute who lived in Jerusalem for over a decade. Her book Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner received wide critical acclaim. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @lelagilbert.
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