The European Parliament recently voted down the proposed establishment of a special task force on anti-Semitism.
This occurred in spite of the unprecedented levels of anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 occurring within many European countries. The Parliament’s decision means that the issue of a special task force dealing with anti-Semitism can only be raised again in 2019, after the next parliamentary elections.
It is important to document what is said by Jewish leaders and by some Jews in the public eye about the current anti-Semitism in their countries.
When the parliamentarians will meet five years hence, they will have this material at their disposal.
There will be little to analyze because the quotes speak for themselves.
One can start with the usually understated comments of British Jews. Journalist Hugo Rifkind of The Times wrote of his recent discomfort on being a British Jew. “Never before have I felt that attitudes towards Jews in Europe – and even, albeit less so, in Britain – could grow far, far worse before a whole swathe of supposedly progressive thought was even prepared to notice.”
In a conversation with Israel’s Channel 2, BBC Television Director Danny Cohen said, “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually. Because you feel it. I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt before actually.”
The only resident chief rabbi of the Netherlands, Binyomin Jacobs, said on a national television program that Jews feel unsafe in the Netherlands and are being threatened and insulted on the streets. He noted that he, himself, also wonders whether or not it is safe for him to remain in the Netherlands. Jacobs has come to the conclusion, however, that he has to stay – “because the captain is the last one to leave the ship.”
David Beesemer is the chairman of Maccabi in the Netherlands. He was quoted by the Jewish weekly Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad as saying: “I am now constantly busy with wondering whether I can offer my children a safe future here. Before the summer of 2014 I did not even think about this.”
David Serphos, the former director of the Ashkenazi community in Amsterdam, wrote, “I don’t dare to trust the authorities after the mayor of The Hague, and now even of Amsterdam do not interfere when Jews and Judaism are threatened.
“Often I spoke jocularly with friends about reliable addresses to go into hiding [like in the Second World War] if it would ever be necessary.
In recent times I look far more seriously to that very short list.”
In July 2014, after firebombs were thrown at a synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany – the national German Jewish umbrella organization – said that Jews should, at least for the moment, hide their identity. Otherwise, the risk of an attack would be too great.
Dieter Graumann, her successor, said, “These are the worst times since the Nazi era.”
“On the streets, you hear things like ‘the Jews should be gassed,’ ‘the Jews should be burned’ – we haven’t had that in Germany for decades.
Anyone saying those slogans isn’t criticizing Israeli politics, it’s just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else. And it’s not just a German phenomenon.
It’s an outbreak of hatred against Jews so intense that it’s very clear indeed.”
As early as 2012, Stephan Kramer, then the secretary general of the Central Council, said he no longer trusts the Germans. “Only the Jews can save themselves.” He added that he always carries a gun, which he had to show to someone who had harassed him on Yom Kippur, in order to frighten him away.
Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF, the French Jewish umbrella organization, said regarding the anti-Israel protests occurring in France during Israel’s Gaza campaign of 2014, “They are not screaming ‘Death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris. They are screaming ‘Death to Jews.’” In March 2014, Cukierman’s predecessor, Richard Prasquier, had already said, “Today, much more acutely than when I left my position as president of CRIF ten months ago, the question of our lasting presence in France is raised.... Today in the Jewish community, there is hardly a conversation when the subject of leaving [France] is not brought up.”
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, summed it all up: “Normative Jewish life in Europe is unsustainable.”
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power sees the problem of anti-Semitism within a much wider context. At a November 2014 OSCE Meeting, she said that anti-Semitic acts “are not only a threat to the Jewish community, they are a threat to the larger project of European liberalism and pluralism.”
In February 2014, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote to the then-president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who has since been re-elected. Cooper wanted Schulz to take action and deal with the prevalent European anti-Israelism.
Schulz replied, “The European Union, European Parliament and I, as president of the European Parliament, have condemned unequivocally, on numerous occasions, any kind of speech, statement or publication inciting hatred or discrimination based on political or religious opinions: racism and anti-Semitism are part of this.”
In this manner, Schulz preannounced what the major contribution of the European Parliament would be in the fight against anti-Semitism, for the coming five years: words, words and... more words. And if the incidents continue or become even worse the parliament of most of Europe – a continent with a horrible past and a degrading present – may further increase the number of its meaningless condemnations of anti-Semitism.
The author’s upcoming book The War of a Million Cuts analyzes how Israel and Jews are delegitimized and how to fight this. He is a former chairman (2000-2012) of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.