‘Of course, it’s all the Jews’ fault!’

A look at contemporary antisemitism

Demonstrators take part in protests outside a meeting of the National Executive of Britain's Labour Party which discussed the party's definition of antisemitism, in London, Britain, September 4, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Demonstrators take part in protests outside a meeting of the National Executive of Britain's Labour Party which discussed the party's definition of antisemitism, in London, Britain, September 4, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Some time ago, I corresponded with a Jewish friend who lives in a suburb of Paris. “You won’t believe what I’m seeing from the window right now,” she wrote. “An angry crowd is turning over garbage pails, vandalizing a bus stop, and destroying everything in its way. Imagine to yourself, for a change, that they’re doing all this without uttering a word against the Jews!”
At first glance, she seemed to be joking about the demonstrations in her country, but her words were written with the utmost seriousness. In recent years, the Jews of France, together with all European Jews, have become accustomed to demonstrations against them. Many of the demonstrations have been directed against the “Zionists,” but in other cases the fury of the demonstrators and vandals has been directed against Jews everywhere.
Contemporary antisemites are not satisfied just with demonstrations, waving banners and leaving ugly graffiti against the Jews on the walls. In 2012, a teacher and three pupils were murdered in a Jewish school in Toulouse. In 2015 and 2016 Jews were wounded in Marseilles and Strasbourg. In 2017 a Jewish woman was thrown to death from the balcony of her home in Paris, while the perpetrator shouted “Allahu Akbar,” and just a year later another elderly Jewish woman was murdered in Paris in what was immediately recognized by police as a “hate crime.”
The situation in other countries isn’t much better. During the first half of 2018, there were more than 400 cases of antisemitic abuse in Germany. In Switzerland, Jews were attacked at knifepoint by Muslims, in Britain there were about 100 antisemitic incidents each month – from vandalism of Jewish tombstones and defacement of Jewish property with swastikas to physical attacks on Jewish children on their way to study. A survey in Italy found that one in five Italians holds antisemitic views. Surprisingly, in areas of Poland and Hungary a Jew can still walk the streets with a skullcap without fearing for his life, but these are exceptions to the rule in Europe.
And what’s happening overseas? According to AMCHA, which records antisemitic incidents on US campuses, there were more than 600 antisemitic incidents, approximately half of them “anti-Zionist,” in 2018. To that figure we must add the murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh, attempts to run down and harass Jewish-looking people, and even murder threats. The massive “Women’s March” in Washington that took place this month is divided by antisemitic statements made by some of the organizers, and many backers left the organization in order to set up a rival body to march separately.
Some 70 years after the end of World War II, Jews around the world find themselves in situations familiar to their grandparents. The Jews are accused of all possible evil, and in many places are forced to conceal their Jewishness. When I was asked in astonishment about the alarming rise in antisemitic incidents in Europe, I replied that it was strange that people were surprised. After all, this was the situation for hundreds of years. The quiet of post-World War II was the anomaly.
Who is behind the growing phenomenon today? Some of the events are carried out by members of radical Islamic movements, while others are carried out by the white supremacists. And a third group of African-American leaders, like Louis Farrakhan, see the long-persecuted Jews to be a prototype of “white privilege.” There are rich and poor among them, atheists and radical Christians. The Jews are accused of racism, nationalism, communism, attempting to control the world economy, and to start a world war in the West. The Jewish religion is portrayed in a monstrous light, and Holocaust denial is again on the rise.
In short, it is all the fault of the Jews.
Someone once jokingly defined an antisemite as a person who hates the Jews more than they deserve. If we do not know how to identify the phenomenon and act accordingly, we will probably continue to accept what the antisemites think “we deserve.”
The author is director of the Arnold and Leona Finkler Institute for Holocaust Research at Bar-Ilan University.