Anti-Israel protesters 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
According to a study published in 2011 by the University of Bielefeld on behalf
of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a political foundation associated with the
German Social Democratic Party, some 150 million Europeans view Israel as
satanic. Despite these outrageous findings, the report hardly received any
attention. The study was undertaken in seven European countries.
researchers asked people whether they believed Israel was carrying out a war of
extermination against the Palestinians. The countries with the lowest
percentages of agreement – just below 40 percent – with this statement were
Italy and the Netherlands. In England, Germany, Portugal and Hungary the number
ranged from 40 to 50%. In Poland, the figure was 63%.
published in 2012, by the Holocaust Center in Norway, posed the question
somewhat differently: “Do Israelis behave like Nazis?” Thirty-eight percent of
those polled said yes.
The findings of these two studies give much
insight into the extreme, malicious views a large number of Europeans have with
regard to the Jewish state. They evoke the most severe anti-Semitism of the past
In the first centuries of Christianity, the false
accusation was launched that Jews had committed deicide, killing the supposed
son of God. At that time no greater evil could have been imagined. (Recognizable
Jews in some European countries have told me that even today they are accused of
After the Enlightenment, however, the symbols of absolute
evil changed; in strongly nationalistic states, it was often other ethnic
groups. In Nazi Germany, this was carried to the extreme: Jews were entirely
dehumanized and defined as “subhuman,” “vermin” and “bacteria.”
again embodied “absolute evil” as it was perceived at the time, leading to the
The image of absolute evil in the Western world changed again
after the Second World War, becoming genocide and Nazi-like behavior. The two
aforementioned studies show that a very substantial minority of Europeans
associate this new symbol with Israel. (The study does not cover all EU
countries, yet one may assume that it is representative).
As such, a vast
number of Europeans have in fact revived an anti- Semitic mindset dating back to
the Middle Ages. There are probably as many Europeans with these profoundly
false opinions as there were anti-Semites in Europe before Hitler came to power.
This radical view of Israel is still largely latent, yet it does find expression
in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents. However, it could explode in the
future, as has happened before.
At least three factors have contributed
to the resurgence of this mindset. The first is “delegitimization by a thousand
cuts” – the ceaseless, frequent publishing of negative news about Israel,
supplemented by lies, false accusations, libel, articles full of bias and
prejudice, official condemnations and so on. Television and other media,
politicians and ex-politicians, some church leaders, several humanitarian and
political NGOs, academics, as well as some Jews and Israelis have all
contributed to this.
The second factor is the much reduced attention
given to the widespread criminality and hate-mongering in large parts of
Palestinian society and many Arabic and Muslim states. If mass murders, terror
attacks and other major crimes were highlighted proportionally to the size of
the population and misconduct in those countries, news about Israel would be
At the same time, European states did not live
up to their commitments under the UN Genocide Convention to bring Muslim
planners of genocide such as Iran and Hamas, before an international
The third element which contributed to the delegitimization of
Israel is the downsizing of major evil events in European countries’ own past.
In this way a far too rosy picture of European society’s own history is painted,
which is then compared with the greatly falsified picture of Israel. The
question therefore remains whether only disasters befalling Israel will open
people’s eyes, or whether anything else can be done to combat this? The author
is a board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
(2000-2012). He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) of the
Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.