NEW YORK (JTA) — The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is spilling over into Europe, where in the past several weeks, Jewish communities have witnessed a chilling display of anti-Semitism, the likes of which has not been seen in many years.
European governments need to act decisively to stem this tide of hatred.
No longer content with cloaking hatred of Jews in the garb of anti-Zionism or opposition to Israel, demonstrators have marched through the streets of Berlin, Brussels and other European cities to the cry of “death to the Jews” and “gas the Jews.” In Paris and its suburbs, wild mobs bent on destruction have run amok, attacking synagogues and the Jewish worshippers in them. They’ve burned cars, looted shops and smashed store windows.
It wasn’t that many years ago when legions of storm troopers paraded through German streets chanting “Sharpen the long knives on the pavement; let the knives slip into the Jews’ bodies.”
The irony that most of today’s demonstrators are themselves recent migrants to Europe or descendants of newcomers cannot be lost on anyone. Sadly, however, this pathology is not only confined to European Muslims but to a whole host of rancorous elements in European society.
Of course, there is another side of the coin that is cause for cheer. Remarkably, all 28 foreign ministers of the European Union member states have called for the disarmament of Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. Moreover, some Arab countries, most notably Egypt, are quietly rooting for Israel on the sidelines in the hope that it will eventually succeed in neutralizing Hamas.
But that still does not diminish the gravity of the terrible scenes being played out across Europe. As much as we can draw attention to this worrisome phenomenon, at the end of the day it is the European governments, along with the people of Europe, that must take a stand. Some of the governments have already begun to do so, but one can only hope that more will follow and act with vigor.
The World Jewish Congress has called on European governments to strengthen police protection of Jewish sites and to ban or disband violent rallies. Governments must stop the agitation and protect their Jewish populations or Jews will ultimately turn their back on those countries.
Jews live in Europe by right, not sufferance. Their manifold contributions to the development of what we call European civilization are too numerous to recall, even if they are not always recognized, and certainly not by those who have an anti-European agenda.
Given the present ambiance in Europe, it is understandable that some of them will eventually decide to leave the continent. Thousands of French Jews have already done so, and more are on the way. We certainly respect their decision and will aid our brethren however we can.
Beginning at the end of the 1980s, with the fall of communism, Jewish life has been revitalized in many cities in which no one would have believed there was a Jewish future — places such as Warsaw and Vilnius, Bucharest and Sofia. At that time, no one questioned why Jews in Paris or elsewhere in Western Europe were living where they were. That we have to do so today is a sad commentary on where we have come since then — 70 years since the embers of the ovens of Auschwitz went cold. But we will never award Hitler and his modern-day disciples a posthumous victory by acquiescing to a Judenrein Europe.
Today’s fight is between supporters of Hamas and people who believe in decency, mutual respect and liberalism — all the best in European traditions. But Europeans will have to reach that conclusion themselves. The most thoughtful among them already understand that a continent in which Jews do not feel comfortable is not a healthy place for anyone.
(Robert Singer is the CEO of the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.)