The European Union is promising a crackdown on anti-Semitism in Europe as EU officials Romano Prodi and Joschka Fischer meet with Israeli Diaspora Minister Natan Sharansky.
“Anti-Semitism has returned. The monster is here with us once again,” European Jewish Congress (EJC) president Cobi Benatoff told the conference.
“What is of most concern to us, however, is the indifference of our fellow European citizens,” the Italian said.
The EJC and US-based World Jewish Congress urged the European Commission to set up committees drawn from EU governments and Jewish groups to monitor anti-Semitic incidents.
They also called for police crackdowns to ensure that those behind attacks on Jewish synagogues, schools and cemeteries are brought to justice, and for better education in Europe’s schools on the history of European Jewry.
Sharansky welcomed action taken along these lines by France, which is home to the EU’s largest numbers of Jews and Muslims along with its highest number of anti-Semitic incidents last year at 125.
As welcome and necessary as these steps are, the leaders of the EU are still trapped by their own rhetoric and their continuing support for Islamist movements worldwide, including Hamas and Hizb’Allah. The current political climate in Europe has produced an environment where the radical left and Islamic fundamentalists have found common ground. As it was in the 1930’s in Europe, attacks against capitalism have taken on an distinctly anti-Semitic tone. This intriguing Flash animation clearly illustrates this confluence of hatred that has been fueling anti-Semitism in Europe.
The commission chief announced plans for Thursday’s conference after Brussels published an EU opinion poll in November that labelled Israel the biggest threat to world peace.
Jewish anger at the EU was fuelled by a decision — later reversed — to shelve a report by the bloc’s racism watchdog that showed a rise in anti-Semitic attacks by Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups in Europe.
Sharansky said Europeans had every right to criticise Israeli government policies in the Middle East conflict.
“We can disagree on many things, about the line of the (security) fence, about settlements, about the right way to cope with the terror,” he said.
But much of the criticism in Europe had in recent years become mixed with demonisation of Jews, double standards in attacking Israel and denying the legitimacy of the Jewish state, Sharansky said.
“We Jews in Europe who lived through history, we know that history can repeat itself as a tragedy if it doesn’t learn to recognise the evil and fight evil.”
Nobel Peace Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel said many Jews in Europe now lived in such fear that they wanted to emigrate to Israel.
“If Auschwitz didn’t cure the world of anti-Semitism, what will?” he said.
The problem with anti-Semitism in Europe is that it has been allowed to fester. When the wife of a former ECB president can accuse the Jews of being worse than Nazis and find her statement not only unchallenged, but accepted, it is clear that there is a massive problem in Europe. When Israel is regarded as the biggest threat to world peace above Iran or North Korea, it is clear that all perspective has been lost. When upwards of 60% of the European people buy into such propaganda, it is clear that the roots of anti-Semitism in Europe run deep.
The EU should be applauded for finally trying to deal head-on with these issues, but past history lends quite a bit of skepticism to their efforts. Until the EU leadership ensure that the sick parallels between Sharon and Hitler and Israel and the Nazis are treated as the anti-Semitic blood libels they are, they will only be treating the problem of European anti-Semitism symptomatically. Sharansky is indeed correct, while criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, the sort of rhetoric frequently leveled against Israel certainly is. Until the EU shows that they’re truly serious about dealing with that kind of rhetoric this problem will not go away.