By Abraham H. Miller/JNS.org
Why do half of French Jews want to leave France? The rise of violent anti-Semitism beginning around the turn of the century has made French Jews justifiably concerned about their personal safety.
A University of Oslo study published in June is one of the most methodologically sophisticated and comprehensive reports in dissecting the growth of Europe’s anti-Semitism problem.
Authored by Dr. Johannes Due Enstad of the Center for Research on Extremism, the study documents violent anti-Semitism from 2005-2015, analyzing seven countries based on comparable data for France, the U.K., Germany and Sweden, with additional non-comparable data for Norway, Denmark and Russia.
Since they feel unsafe as a direct consequence of violent anti-Semitism, one in five Jews in Sweden and the U.K., one in four in Germany, and as mentioned previously, half of the Jews in France have considered emigrating. But it is not just something that Jews think about. In 2015, 10,000 Western European Jews departed for a new life in Israel, the largest number leaving Europe since 1948.
There is no upward or downward trend in the period measured. There is a consistently elevated level of anti-Semitism compared to the 1990s.
French Jews are more likely than German, Swedish and British Jews to have personally experienced a violent attack in the final five years covered by the study. Although the incidence of anti-Semitism for France is the highest, responses about personal attacks during the study’s final five years from Swedish and German Jews is not far behind. The largest gap in anti-Semitism is between British Jews and Jews living in Norway, Denmark and Russia.
Jews in France and Sweden are more likely to not attend Jewish events or visit Jewish sites because they do not feel safe. More than half of the Jews in France and Sweden avoid wearing, carrying or displaying things that would cause others to recognize them as Jews. This behavior does not rise to the same levels in Germany and the U.K., but substantial numbers of Jews in those countries also avoid doing things in public that would label them as Jews out of fear for their safety.
Among French Jews, the elevated level of fear probably comes from France having experienced more violent, dramatic and fatal anti-Semitic incidents than other European countries. The barbarous attack on a Jewish school in 2012 in Toulouse, where three Jewish children and a rabbi were killed, undoubtedly contributed greatly to the insecurity of France’s Jews. This event came on the heels of one of the major surveys used in the newly released University of Oslo study. Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old al-Qaeda terrorist who carried out the Toulouse attack, had said he wanted to kill Jews because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More recently, the head of the Jewish community of Marseille, France’s second-largest city, told his fellow community members not to appear in public in any way that would identify them as Jews.
Who is responsible for the attacks on Jews? In every country studied, except for Russia, the perpetrators are disproportionately of Muslim backgrounds. A British study cited in the University of Oslo report notes that the proportion of Muslim perpetrators increases in the wake of “trigger events” in the Middle East.
In what might be considered a clumsy attempt to downplay anti-Semitism, German authorities do not classify anti-Israeli incidents as anti-Semitism. This results in absurdity. A Muslim firebombing of a synagogue can be classified as an anti-Israeli event, but not anti-Semitic. If any country should know better, it should be Germany. Is Kristallnacht going to be reinterpreted as not anti-Semitism, but a demonstration for racial purity?
The only country where anti-Semitic incidents are not disproportionately perpetrated by Muslims is Russia, and it is the only country in the University of Oslo study where Jews do not fear to express their Jewish identity when appearing in public. This appears to perplex the study’s author, as Russia contains both large Jewish and Muslim populations.
Yet the issue is easily resolved. In Russia, the large Muslim and Jewish populations live in the same country, but are generally separated by a vast expanse of land. Most Muslims live in the Eurasian Caucasus region. Most Jews live in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
As Europe receives greater numbers of Muslim migrants, violent anti-Semitism will continue to rise. As the philosophy of radical Islam takes hold of more young Muslims, so too will the anti-Semitism that follows it. The more observant a Muslim is, the more likely he or she is to be anti-Semitic, as the University of Oslo study notes.
The future for European Jews who want to maintain the distinct characteristics of Judaism in public, and who want to go to synagogue unmolested, is not bright. The unwillingness of European authorities to call anti-Semitism what it is simply means that Jewish emigration from the continent will increase.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public-policy group Haym Salomon Center.