We’ve Seen This Before

French Jews fighting pro-Palestinian rioters on the Paris street where the Synagogue de la Roquette is located, July 13, 2013.  (YouTube)

French Jews fighting pro-Palestinian rioters on the Paris street where the Synagogue de la Roquette is located, July 13, 2013. (YouTube)

The scourge of anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head in Europe. And a troubling number of people aren’t even pretending anymore. Gone are the days of the false explanation that “I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m just anti-Zionist.” Instead, the haters are clear: They hate Jews.

Case in point: The sign in a Brussels café is written in two languages. In Turkish it reads, “Dogs are allowed in this establishment, but Jews are not under any circumstances.” The French translation next to it replaced “Jews” with the word “Zionists.” And no one seems terribly embarrassed.

Following the recent outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, anti-Israel protesters in Paris didn’t march on the Israeli embassy. Instead, they surrounded a synagogue, where they chanted “Death to the Jews” while the members of the congregation were locked down inside. Days later, in a Paris suburb dubbed “Little Jerusalem,” a kosher grocery and a Jewish-owned pharmacy were torched by protesters who were incensed by Israel’s actions. “Anti-Semitism today is hiding behind anti-Zionism,” Paris Rabbi Salomon Malka told The New York Times, “and hate speech has become uninhibited.”

While it may be true that anti-Semitic agitation and violence in Europe have increased sharply since the Gaza hostilities began, the current round of Mideast fighting is hardly the cause of Muslim and neo-Nazi violence in Europe. The killing of three at a Jewish Museum in Brussels earlier this year and the 2012 attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse both occurred long before the current hostilities between Hamas and Israel.

So where are the governmental leaders? And what happened to law enforcement? While it is somewhat encouraging that French President Francois Hollande decried the hate and promised that he would not allow places of worship to be threatened, is that really enough? Saying the words without forceful enforcement of the law raises real questions about the level of governmental commitment to religious freedom and rule of law.

Let’s be clear. Chants to kill Jews are not manifestations of free speech. They are frightening calls to genocide that are reminiscent of a pre-World War II Europe that is chilling. Offenders should be arrested and prosecuted. And political leaders need to step forward with more than words to address the rising problem.

Jewish Agency President Natan Sharansky recently observed that “we are seeing the beginning of the end of Jewish history in Europe.” We hope he is wrong. But unless European leadership does something to stem the tide of hate, discrimination and growing anti-Semitism, it is only a matter of time until European Jews will leave of their own accord or be forced to leave under pressure.

We have seen this movie before. And we didn’t like the ending.

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