Europe Sees Sharp Rise in Anti-Semitism Due to a Series of Factors

(From left to right): Robert P. George, Dr. David Dalin, Mary Ann Glendon and Dr. Meir Soloveichik discuss the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe at an event held in New York City.

(From left to right): Robert P. George, Dr. David Dalin, Mary Ann Glendon and Dr. Meir Soloveichik discuss the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe at an event held in New York City.

The radicalization of young men among Europe’s growing Muslim population and a fervent groundswell of opposition against Israel by many on the political Left are two of the central reasons behind the sharp rise in anti-Semitism across the continent over the past few years, a panel of experts warned in New York City on Monday.

Despite the horrors of the Holocaust, which resulted in the mass extermination of six million Jews in the Nazi death camps just 70 years ago, anti-Jewish sentiment has returned with a vengeance in countries like France and Great Britain. This new anti-Semitism has been fueled by a growing number of verbal and physical attacks that have been overwhelmingly committed by Muslim youth, usually second-generation immigrants who feel alienated by the larger society of their new homelands.

A December 2016 survey conducted by the European Jewish Association, an advocacy group, revealed that 19 percent of Jewish communities – primarily those living in France, Belgium and Germany – had reported a rise in anti-Semitism. At the same time, nearly 10 percent of Jewish communities living in Eastern Europe had reported a decline in anti-Semitism.

“It may be safer to be a Jew in Moscow than Paris,” said Dr. Meir Soloveichik, a rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel in New York and director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.

While the statement appeared provocative given the rise of right-wing political parties in Eastern Europe and the animosity Jews have historically faced in Russia and other former Soviet republics, it was also indicative of how dire the situation has gotten in Western Europe. The government there has reported that over 50 percent of the bias crimes committed in 2014 had targeted Jews – even though they make up less than one percent of the 67 million people who live there.

At an event held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City featuring academics, rabbis and even a former US ambassador to the Holy See, a panel of experts agreed that a toxic blend that also includes widespread secularization among European society resulting in an abandoning of Christian ideals has led to this anti-Semitic surge. The discussion – co-sponsored by The King’s College and Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions – painted a bleak portrait of how religious Jews have become targets. The two-hour event – moderated by Robert P. George, a Princeton professor and a specialist in moral and political philosophy – featured a lively discussion that touched upon a variety of factors for what’s causing the new anti-Semitism.

Dr. David Dalin, a rabbi and historian, said that Arab translations of Adolf Hitler’s autobiography “Mein Kampf” are now widely available throughout Britain, another example of the rampant anti-Semitism on display there. He said the anti-Jewish sentiments of the last decade are rooted in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a result, an increasing number of Jews have moved to Israel, he added.

Dalin also attacked former London Mayor Ken Livingston for being an anti-Semite. Comments Livingstone made led to his suspension earlier this year from the Labour Party. Livingstone’s suspension followed an April 2016 interview with the BBC, where he said: “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.” The comments were made in defense of fellow Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who had posted a Facebook message in 2014 saying all Israelis should move to the United States. She apologized once the remarks surfaced.  

Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard Law School who served as ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush, argued that the rise in ISIS-inspired terror attacks was primarily to blame. She said the spate of attacks committed by Muslims “has made it easier to accept restrictions on religious freedom” in Europe. While those restrictions have been aimed at Muslims, other practices – such as circumcision and kosher slaughter in keeping with dietary laws – have affected the way Jews profess their faith.

Given that European nations are not governed by certain freedoms Americans are guaranteed under the First Amendment, the panelists agreed that it’s easier for people of all faiths to get swept up by Europe’s sweeping secularization and ongoing fears surrounding the threat of radical Islam.

“They can’t pass a law singling out a group,” Glendon added, “so they pass a general law targeting everybody.”

Whether there is room in Islam for tolerance was a question the panel, which featured no Muslim scholars or religious officials, also debated. Glendon said Islam needs to undergo an Age of Enlightenment, like what the West went through in the 18th century that led to the acceptance of individual liberty and religious tolerance.

“What we are asking of our Islamic friends is to do something quickly, something that took Christians a long time,” she said. “We want them to do it in just 10 years.”