Fundamentally Freund: Denmark — From decency to disgrace

Denmark’s government has done little in recent years to stem the tide of anti-Semitism and extremism, even as it openly fanned the flames of anti-Israel hatred.

February 18, 2015 20:56
4 minute read.
Copenhagen, Denmark

A policeman stands next to a person lying on the ground outside a synagogue, as viewed from inside a cafe across the street in Copenhagen, Denmark. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Denmark is still reeling from this past weekend’s Islamic terror attacks, in which a gunman opened fire at a free speech forum in Copenhagen and murdered a Jewish guard outside the city’s main synagogue.

Shock and dismay swept through the diminutive country, as its calm and tranquility were shattered by the senseless savagery of jihadist violence. But as much as Danes have a right to be angered by this sad turn of events, they have absolutely no right to be surprised by it.

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After all, Denmark’s government has done little in recent years to stem the tide of anti-Semitism and extremism, even as it openly fanned the flames of anti-Israel hatred.

Consider, for example, the telling report by journalist Cnaan Liphshiz that appeared in The Jewish Telegraphic Agency on February 15, where he noted that despite rising anti-Semitism, “Danish authorities often resisted requests for greater security measures” from the local Jewish community.

The report reveals that when Rabbi Andrew Baker, the representative for combating anti-Semitism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, met with Danish officials last September, they refused to consider enhancing the security of the Jewish community.

“The officials I met recognized the risks but said that Denmark had a ‘relaxed approach to security,’” Baker said, adding that their primary concern was that “having armed police in front of buildings would be too disturbing to the population at large.”

In other words, the Danes knew they had a problem on their hands, but didn’t want to rock the boat, so the Jewish community was denied the protection it deserved.

Moreover, for a number of years, there has been a clear trend of increasingly vicious anti-Semitic incidents in the country, which should have set off alarm bells. Indeed, between 2009 and 2012, the annual number of documented anti-Semitic incidents in Denmark nearly doubled.

These included a harrowing event in May 2013, when an aluminum can labeled Zyklon-B – the lethal gas used by the Nazis to murder Jews during the Holocaust – was found on the fence in front of the Copenhagen synagogue. And last summer, Jewish students were told not to wear kippot or any other visible Jewish symbols to school due to concerns for their safety.

Not surprisingly, Denmark’s Jewish population has shrunk in size, at least in part because a growing number no longer see a future for themselves or their children in the country.

In late 2013, the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published an interview with the president of the country’s Jewish community, Finn Schwarz, who noted that the number of Danish Jews had dropped by a staggering 25 percent over the previous 15 years.

Schwarz told the paper that, “For young people that are considering how to live their lives, it is of course tempting to choose to live in Israel or the United States, where to be Jewish is not considered something negative.”

In other words, Danish Jews were heading for the exits because of mounting anti-Semitism.

Danish authorities have only made the situation worse by jumping on the anti-Israel bandwagon and excoriating the Jewish state with the usual mix of Scandinavian arrogance and hypocrisy.

In September 2014, shortly after Hamas terrorists had fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard threatened Israel with economic sanctions if it did not lift its “blockade” of Gaza and end “illegal settlements” in Judea and Samaria.

And earlier last year, the Danish government banned kosher slaughter, apparently showing more concern for the rights of animals than for those of human beings.

In this kind of environment, it is only natural that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would call upon the Jews of Europe, including Denmark, to pack their bags and make aliya, as he did just a few days ago.

Nonetheless, some myopic Danish Jewish leaders seem intent on convincing themselves and their flock that the volcano of hatred they are living on is dormant, even as the lava is flowing in their direction.

Consider the inane remarks made by Copenhagen’s Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior, who desperately sought to minimize and downplay the Jew-hatred in his country by telling Reuters, “It’s not a dangerous anti-Semitism. It’s spitting, cursing, like that.”

Well, if Jews are only being spat upon and cursed, Denmark’s sage would have us believe, there is nothing really to worry about – except of course for that lethal shooting at the entrance to his synagogue on Saturday night.

Denmark justifiably takes pride in its history, particularly in how it took steps to save its Jewish community from the Nazis during World War II by smuggling them to safety in neighboring Sweden.

But it cannot take pride in its present, in which it has failed to protect its Jewish population, sought to violate their religious rights, and stood with Israel’s enemies in denouncing the Jewish state.

In just 70 years, Denmark’s decency has been replaced by disgrace. And if Copenhagen’s Jews are wise, they will take note and act accordingly.

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