As I see it: The threat to the Jews of Europe

A recent report by the Parliamentary Committee on Antisemitism noted “a palpable concern, insecurity, loneliness and fear following the summer’s rise in incidents and subsequent world events.”

A member of the Jewish community walks in north London (photo credit: REUTERS)
A member of the Jewish community walks in north London
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In California, where I was earlier this week, Jews and non-Jews are asking the same questions. Is Europe finished? Is it time for the Jews of Europe to move to Israel? And then finally: Are we in America also vulnerable to this earthquake? The French atrocities last month and last weekend’s attacks in Copenhagen, in which Jewish targets were singled out for murder along with cartoonists and their supporters upholding the right to give offence to Islam, have forced into public attention the murderous hatred of the Jews in the Islamic world.
Europe has been discovering to its horror that once again Jews are being made victims in its midst – and once again it is powerless to protect them.
Jews are leaving France in great number because the risk of violence to them there has become acute. In Britain many Jews don’t see a problem at all, especially if they live inside a Jewish community bubble and don’t care much about Israel.
But although the comparisons with 1933 are overblown and inappropriate, others in the UK community are increasingly asking if there is a future any more for Jews in Britain.
Figures produced by the UK Community Security Trust have shown that anti-Jewish incidents in Britain last year reached record levels, more than doubling over the previous year.
Jews were abused in the street at a rate of more than one a day, particularly if they were wearing religious clothes or a Jewish school uniform.
In Birmingham four Asian men tried to storm a former synagogue shouting: “Kill the infidels, you are Satan-worshipers, are there any effing Jews in there.” On the same day a rabbi driving through London reportedly had “Slaughter the Jews” shouted at him in Arabic by a man running his finger across his throat in a cutting action.
A recent report by the Parliamentary Committee on Antisemitism noted “a palpable concern, insecurity, loneliness and fear following the summer’s rise in incidents and subsequent world events.”
The British government is undoubtedly concerned. The home secretary, Theresa May, said she never thought she’d see the day when British Jews thought they didn’t have a future in this country. The local government minister, Eric Pickles, has warned that a “creeping cultural acceptance” of anti-Semitism is taking over in Britain.
Yet such recognition is distinctly belated.
Remarks about Jews controlling the media or US foreign policy, which would never have been tolerated when I was growing up in London, have become commonplace amongst mainstream politicians and commentators.
The fact that every single UK Jewish communal event has to be guarded is accepted as a fact of life. The fact that there are Jewish schools that look like fortresses and Jewish schoolchildren being taught self-defense to protect themselves against street attack is considered normal.
For the first time I can remember, concern is being publicly expressed about anti-Jewish feeling. Yet until very recently, anti-Semitism was the prejudice that dare not speak its name.
Attempts to point out that the anti-Israel lunacy dominating public discussion reflected the unique and deranged properties of anti-Jewish attitudes going back centuries generally provoked claims of “waving the shroud of the Holocaust” to sanitize Israel’s crimes.
Yet this anti-Israel obsession displays the same unique properties as Jew-hatred: obsessive falsehoods, holding Israel responsible for all the ills of the world, accusing it falsely of perpetrating crimes such as genocide or the deliberate targeting of innocents of which it is itself the victim. It has also fueled attacks on Jews, massively stoking the hysteria in a Muslim world preconditioned to believe Jews are out to destroy it.
Attacks on Jews always spike after any Israeli military action. This leads the Israel-bashers to blame Israel for provoking such attacks.
The real cause of the recent rise, however, is the inflammatory way Israel’s actions last summer were reported which libelously painted the IDF as inhuman child-killers.
Not surprisingly this enraged many, particularly Muslims already conditioned by Islamic Judeophobia. As a result of this and the impunity afforded to the Israel-bashers, Jews have increasingly been targeted ever more brazenly as Jews without the fig leaf of anti-Zionism.
Thus the Tricycle Theatre tried to ban the Jewish Film Festival from its premises on the basis that it received a small donation from the Israeli Embassy (a ban later rescinded after protests), and Gaza demonstrators trashed kosher food in dozens of grocery stores.
After the Paris attacks, political leaders promised to stand against terrorism and to protect Europe’s Jews. But this was a hollow promise. These leaders repeatedly deny that Islamic terrorism has anything to do with Islam. They thus ignore the theological driver of the Jew-hatred that courses through the Islamic world, deeming any such talk instead to be “Islamophobic.”
If political leaders can’t even acknowledge who is attacking Jews and why, their commitment to protect them is merely political posturing.
Those who deny the obvious linkage between anti-Israel lunacy and Jew-hatred now stand amazed at the murder of European Jews, while Jews in Britain and elsewhere in Europe wonder which of them will be next.
The Left refuses to acknowledge that Islamists are murdering Jews for no other reason than they exist, because to do so would undermine the Left’s contention that all such violence is only in response to Israel’s actions.
So to neutralize the impact of the murder of European Jews and the threat to countless others, they draw an obscene moral equivalence between Jew-hatred and Islamophobia, thus obscuring altogether the fact that these attacks on Jews are being perpetrated by Muslims.
More generally, even among those who are genuinely shocked by the attacks on European Jews there is a failure to understand their significance. For Jew-hatred is not a prejudice like any other. Not only does it possess unique properties but it lies at the heart of a society’s death wish.
Jews are the conscience of the world. Those who want to destroy the Jews want to tear out their own heart. And Judaism’s moral codes lie at the very core of Western civilization.
Europe, however, seems increasingly uncertain about whether it wants to defend that civilization. America, for so many years the site of culture wars over Western core values, is also seeing these slowly erode, although unlike Europe the US remains protected through the strength of its Christian heartlands.
So is Europe finished? Well, that depends on whether or not it will summon the will to identify, reaffirm and fight to defend the core values it has spent years undermining.
The Jews gave it those values. If it fails to protect its Jews, that will not be just another moral stain on Europe. It will have also failed to protect itself.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).