Analysis: Turning Israel, Diaspora Jewry into a punching bag

Will rising global anti-Semitism spur a new wave of European aliyah?

Antisemitism 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Antisemitism 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])

The result of the Jewish Agency's report releasedon Sunday showing global anti-Semitism spiraling out of control recallsthe memorable line in the film Casablanca, in which policeCaptain Renault announces that Rick's Cafe must be closed because ofillegal activity. "I'm shocked, shocked to discover that gambling isgoing on here!" says Renault while being handed the proceeds of hisgambling wins.

Whilesome observers of Jew-hatred in Western Europe are not shocked by thelargest wave of anti-Semitism since the Hitler movement, many Europeangovernments, policy makers, and academics, however, tend to feign shocklike Renault or simply cannot fathom that hatred of Israel is the mostubiquitous form of contemporary anti-Semitism.

As documented by the Jewish Agency report and the 2009 GermanUniversity Bielefeld study, there is no shortage of hostileanti-Israeli acts and attitudes within such European countries asSweden, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, France, Poland, Italy,Spain and Greece. The intense alliance between Hugo Chavez's populistleftist Venezuelan government and the Islamic Republic of Iran hasopened the flood gates of anti-Semitism in Latin America.

Ballooning global anti-Semitism may contribute to a growingaliyah rate. According to the Jewish Agency, there was a 17 percentincrease in 2009 aliyah compared to 2008. Across Europe, aliyah spikedfrom 2,402 to 2,600, and South American Jewry showed immigration risingfrom 1,078 to 1,230.

Last December, while speaking at the third annualGlobal Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Dr. Daniel Pipespredicted that an "exodus" of Diaspora Jews in Europe could take placebecause European Jews are facing lethal anti-Semitism. According toPipes, the migration could "replicate the post-World War II exodus ofJews from Muslim countries, where the Jewish population has collapsedfrom about a million in 1948 to 60,000 today."

The Jewish Agency study shows the obvious links betweenDiaspora Jews and Israel. While Nazi racial anti-Semitism has largelydrifted into oblivion, European countries fail to see that the newoutbreak of anti-Semitism revolves around turning Israel and DiasporaJewry into a punching bag.

Asthe study highlighted, a broad-based coalition among left-wing andIslamic organizations is coupled with an understanding that chalks upviolent attacks on Jews and Israeli as a justified byproduct of theIsrael-Palestinian situation.

A telling example was the marriage of the German Left withMuslim organizations during Operation Cast Lead. While over 100,000Germans participated in anti-Israeli rallies, where incitement tomurder Jews and Israelis was chanted, the police instead seized Israeliflags for "provoking" anti-Israeli demonstrators. One young student inthe gritty industrial city of Bochum was arrested and fined for wavingan Israeli flag at a pro-Israel protest. The German Parliament ignoredthe explosion of anti-Semitism and did not open an investigation intothe mass festivals of Israel hate.

Large European trade union federations, such as the Irish TradeUnion Congress and the British Trades Union Congress, have spearheadedefforts to equate Israel with Nazi Germany and sponsor economic andcultural boycotts of the Jewish state. A 2008 Irish Trade Union reportdrew parallels between Israel's efforts to block weapons smuggling intoGaza and the Nazi creation of the Warsaw Ghetto.

While England and Germany have formed commissions to monitoranti-Semitism, one commission member in Germany urged a focus onextreme right-wing anti-Semitism instead of the dominant form ofJew-hatred - Islamic and leftist anti-Semitism.

The same holds true for President Shimon Peres's audience inthe German Parliament. He is slated to speak on Wednesday,International Holocaust Day, to members of the German parliament, manyof whom from the Left Party participated in pro-Hamas and pro-Hizbullahdemonstrations, where calls for Israel's destruction were advocated.Eleven Left Party MPs voted against a parliamentary resolution equatingopposition to the Jewish state with anti-Semitism.

The more than 100 members of the German-Israeli parliamentarygroup spanning the six major parties (Greens, Christian Democrats,Social Democrats, Christian Social Union, Free Democrats and Left) willalso attend Peres's speech. While those MPs are supposed to advance thesecurity of Israel, they have neither initiated a bill to ban theirgovernment's insurance coverage for firms active in Iran nor introducedlegislation seeking to curtail the flourishing German-Iranian traderelationship. The chairman of the German-Israel parliamentary group,Jerzy Montag from the Green Party, has difficulty understanding thatanti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism.

Israel's decision to convene an inter-ministerial task force tocombat global anti-Semitism will do little to stem internationalanti-Semitism. Observers in Europe note that mainstream Europeans viewanti-Semitism as a Jewish problem to be remedied by Jews instead of aproblem driven by non-Jews who are also responsible for the cure. Thathelps to explain the unsettling statistics in the Bielefeld and JewishAgency report throwing the blame back on Jews.

The results of the Jewish Agency study reveal a mushroominganti-Israeli atmosphere in Europe and South America that will probablyspur new increases in aliyah rates. Yet European policy makers,academics and politicians should not express that they are"shocked,shocked" to discover that Jews will once again flee Europe for refugein the Jewish state.