The latest news is unbearable: In Paris, an 85-year-old Jewish woman, Mireille Knoll, who survived the Franco-Nazi deportations of the 1940s, was stabbed to death by a young Muslim whom she had known since he was a child. This anti-Semitic murder echoes that of Ilan Halimi, a Parisian boy who was kidnapped in 2006 by a group of young Muslims who tortured him to death while reading the Koran in an apartment in the banlieues, while the police refused to consider its anti-Semitic nature. Even now, they hesitate to treat Knoll’s killing as an anti-Semitic attack.
The last anti-Semitic attack occurred only a few days ago. An 8-year-old boy was beaten a month ago in Sarcelles because he was wearing a kipah; a few days before that, a 15-year-old girl wearing a Star of David around her neck was disfigured with a knife; a few days later, a boy had his fingers cut off with a saw. Last year, a man who shouted “Allahu Akbar” threw Sarah Halimi Attal from a window. In recent years, there have been a dozen multiple fatal attacks: at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, the children killed at a Jewish school in Toulouse, at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris.
And it’s not only in France. Europe’s Jews, including those in England and Russia, are surrounded; they want to leave, even if they see that in the end, after much reluctance, their leaders accept the idea these are anti-Semitic attacks.
No one wants to face the old monster, which can be found on the left in figures such as British politician James Corbyn, on the right with those like French politician Marine Le Pen and in the Islamic world.
This is much more alarming for the Old Continent than for the Jews. Persecuted Jews can find a homeland in Israel. Instead, Europeans have no place to go. Anti-Semitism will continue to destroy them, as it did in the 1930s and 1940s. Europeans are and will have to directly confront the causes and consequences of a ruthless cognitive illness—namely, the demented dissonance between that which society believes to be true and its sad reality. Without an economic and cultural future, hysteric Europe is losing sight of its past, in which 6 million innocent people were massacred on its soil. Can there be a worse fate? An entire society—a continent—that by now produces all over the place murderous anti-Semitism after experiencing the Holocaust? Why is this happening?
For example, let’s take a look at Greece. In that country so rich in history and lacking Jews, according to a Pew study, 70 percent of its citizens hold anti-Semitic views. Why is that? It certainly hasn’t anything to do with its local Jews, who are few and tranquil. Public discontent has led a situation in which European populations are looking for someone to blame; the feeling of humiliation is linked to economic crises and institutions. And on this fell the murderous fury of the new anti-Semitism introduced by immigration with its Islamic propaganda. The numbers and episodes of this new anti-Semitism are astonishing: Every 83 seconds, an anti-Semitic post appears on Twitter (usually written by the victims). In 2016, this amounted to 382,000 anti-Semitic posts in 20 different languages. The episodes are manifold—from desecrated graves to murder. There’s so many to choose from. Just Google it.
But the most heated debate revolves around discussions on the origins of “right” or “left”—or rather, Islamic anti-Semitism today. Surely, ignorance, populism and the economic nervousness of the general public who feel betrayed by Europe plays a part. However, the old stereotype of the stateless and anti-national Jew, selfish and individualistic, which dominated right-wing anti-Semitic thinking doesn’t exist. If anything, for today’s anti-Semites, the Jews are too “Western” in nature. Simply put, they’re too closely linked to the ideas of nation, identity and country, and even religion. These concepts single out the State of Israel for censure, and here is the central theoretical point of today’s anti-Semitism: nationalism, imperialism, colonialism. Today, the Jews are accused of these sins. And they are mortal sins in the eyes of the European modern identity—anti-national and globalist, no matter what the State of Israel really is, and how it democratically and generously copes with its difficult Arab minority. On this difference between nation and globalism has grown the evil Islamic graft they see in the Jews as an emanation of the worst human attitudes, embodied by the State of Israel and its natural allies.
For an Islamist supported by the extreme left, Israel is a den of child-murderers, a bilge of apartheid, a gang of imperialists armed to the teeth with the atomic bomb in their pockets. This is why—just like apartheid South Africa—Israel and its Jewish cohorts in the world must be eliminated. It’s the banner of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and even Dieudonné, the popular anti-Semitic French comedian. It can be seen in Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s implicit dream—a man who describes Zionism as an ideology, with no connection to the legitimate aspirations of the Jewish people’s return to their homeland. And this is also widely apparent in the implications of a seemingly decent effort like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which both Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom and the Five Star Movement in Italy like so much.
The encirclement is tight. A brave leader is needed to fight it. At present, there isn’t one in sight.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Translation by Amy Rosenthal.