The Deep Roots of Anti-Semitism in European Society …

Posted By on July 9, 2015

The Deep Roots of Anti-Semitism in European Society*1

The resurgence of European anti-Semitism after the Holocaust suggests that it has deep roots in society. It has been fostered in a great variety of ways by so many, for such a long time, in all European countries that one might consider this form of hate and discrimination as inherent to European culture and a part of European "values." New European anti-Semitism often originates from a young age, which indicates that it is an anti-Semitism of the future rather than of the past.

The European Union's attitude toward anti-Semitism is double-handed. Through its discriminatory declarations and votes in international bodies the EU acts as an arsonist, fanning the flames of anti-Semitism in its anti-Israeli disguise. Simultaneously it also serves as fireman, trying to quench the flames of classic religious and ethnic anti-Semitism. France is paradigmatic of this approach. Although European anti-Semitism cannot be eradicated, certain steps can be taken to mitigate it. This requires a major change in discriminatory EU policies toward Israel. In the meantime there are increasing indications that the European battle against anti-Semitism may be used, to the contrary, to facilitate attacks on Israel.

A substantial number of Europeans hold anti-Semitic opinions. The widespread resurgence of European anti-Semitism after the Holocaust suggests it is inherent in European culture and values. This does not imply that all or most Europeans are anti-Semites. In a similar manner, a significant number of Europeans like ballet, while many others find it boring, decadent, or disgusting. Yet dancing is part of European culture and has been practiced as a performing art for a long time. It originated in Europe, developed over many years, and is widely taught as well as frequently discussed by the cultural elite and shown in the major media.

European anti-Semitism can be said to have similar characteristics. That many Europeans condemn, dislike, or are indifferent to anti-Semitism does not contradict its role in European culture, as statements of European politicians, the mainstream media, and leading intellectuals prove. Also, various types of anti-Semitic sentiments are expressed in polls. The statistics would probably reveal that the number of European anti-Semites far exceeds those who like ballet.

A phenomenon that develops intensely in an entire continent over a period of many centuries becomes deeply embedded in the societal mindset and behavior. The anti-Semitic wave of the past few years seems to prove that it is impossible to eradicate such a deep-seated irrational attitude.

In the words of UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

Let me state the point as simply as I can: anti-Semitism is alive, active and virulent in the year 2002, after more than half a century of Holocaust education, interfaith dialogue, United Nations' declarations, dozens of museums and memorials, hundreds of films, thousands of courses, and tens of thousands of books dedicated to exposing its evils; after the Stockholm Conference, after the creation of a National Holocaust Memorial Day, after 2,000 religious leaders came together in the United Nations in August 2000 to commit themselves to fight hatred and engender mutual respect. . . .What more could have been done? What more could and can we do to fight anti-Semitism?2

Two years later, Sacks's ideas had evolved. He asserted that when civilizations clash, Jews die. In his view, in certain European circles, revenge is being taken against the Jews because "nobody will ever forgive the Jews for the Holocaust." Sacks drew attention to the manipulation of words, like genocide and ethnic cleansing, by Israel's adversaries. He added that what should have been learned from the Holocaust is: "one, that bad things are preceded by demonization - and right now Israelis are being demonized - and, two, the early warning sign in culture is when words lose their meaning."3

The often-heard argument that postwar European anti-Semitism parallels developments in the Middle East conflict is untrue. It appears in waves, which may, but do not necessarily, correspond to developments in the Israeli-Arab conflict, with each wave being higher than the previous one.4 In the Arab world, anti-Jewish incitement continued in parallel with the Oslo process.

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