Another strong EU anti-Semitism warning: journalists should keep covering this story
(COMMENTARY) My wife was born in Israel and most of her extended family still lives there. We have several close friends living there, plus I also have journalist friends and acquaintances in Israel.
It’s wonderful to have so many people I care about in a nation to which I’m deeply connected. However, this means that when we visit, which is often, we generally have a packed schedule. This leaves us little down time for rest and seeking out new experiences, even when we’re there for a couple of weeks or more.
So for that we schedule stopovers in Europe, either going or coming. Just the two of us and a rented car, exploring and hanging out where our interests take us, including beautiful and nourishing environments. We're also drawn to Jewish historical sites, old synagogues and the like.
We’re now thinking about another trip to Israel this spring or summer. But this time, we’re considering skipping our usual European respite. Why? Because of the increasingly overt anti-Semitism.
We have no desire to either experience it anew or spend our money in societies where the dislike of Jews and Israel are menacingly on the rise.
A disturbing survey, released just last week, by the European Union on the growing insecurity of the continent's Jews — and their increased desire to emigrate — prompted our reevaluation. Here’s part of how Bloomberg reported the survey's chief findings.
Insecurity fueled by anti-Semitism prompted a growing number of British, German and Swedish Jews to consider leaving their countries, according to a landmark survey conducted by the European Union.
Nine out of every 10 Jews sense anti-Semitism is getting worse with some of the most acute concern registered in northern Europe, according to the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. The survey is the largest of its kind worldwide and polled more than 16,000 Jews in 12 countries.
“Mounting levels of anti-Semitism continue to plague the EU,” said Michael O’Flaherty, the Irish human rights lawyer who runs the Vienna-based agency. “Across 12 EU member states where Jews have been living for centuries, more than 1/3 say that they consider emigrating because they no longer feel safe as Jews.”
Concerns over safety are prompting Jewish communities in some of the EU’s biggest economies to question whether they should remain, according to the data. In Germany, their share soared to 44 percent from 25 percent six years ago.
The BBC ran its online story on the survey under the headline, “Anti-Semitism pervades European life, says EU report.”
Let that sink in for a moment. “Pervades.” That’s a pretty strong word. It means that if you live in the EU the taint of anti-Semitism is a common occurrence. That’s damn hard to ignore, certainly not if you're a Jew.
The BBC story itself, reads in part:
France is identified as having the biggest problem with anti-Semitism. Germany, the UK, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands also saw incidents.
On the day the report was released, the Italian police said they were investigating the theft of 20 memorial plaques commemorating the Holocaust.
The small brass plaques - dedicated to members of a Jewish family, De Consiglio - were dug out from Rome's pavements during the night.
The Vienna-based FRA paints a picture of synagogues and Jewish schools requiring security protection; of "vicious commentary" on the internet, in media and in politics; and of discrimination at school and work.
This column by a Jewish journalist working in Europe, and living in the Netherlands, personalizes the EU report’s stark data. Read it to understand one man’s anti-Semitic experiences.
The elite American news media has for several years now devoted a goodly amount of time and effort to covering Europe’s resurgent anti-Semitism. The same outlets have also dutifully chronicled anti-Semitism’s would-be contemporary fig leaf.
I’m talking about the virulent anti-Zionism that’s also metastasized across Europe that goes way beyond distaste for the policies of Israel’s current government but seeks Israel’s demise as a majority Jewish state.
But not this time (though European, Israeli and Jewish diaspora media played it big, as you might expect). This latest EU survey received barely any elite, mainstream American news coverage.
I hope that’s not because of any waning interest on their part. Because to do so would be a great journalistic mistake — and increase the danger for Europe’s Jews.
Anti-Semitism tropes and attacks have also certainly publicly surged in the United States — the October Pittsburgh synagogue attack being the prime example.
But it's still much less of a problem here than in Europe, where Jews across the centuries been been expelled and murderously attacked for a variety of political and religious excuses. Today, this historical, European Christian anti-Semitism has been accelerated by the widespread Muslim immigration – with its attendant Middle East anti-Semitism – that has polarized the continent and unleashed a strong ethnic nationalist backlash.
Make no mistake. The worst can happen again, spurred on by the same irrational search for a scapegoat as happened in 13th-century England, Nazi Germany, communist Russia, Inquisition-crazed Spain and a host of other European kingdoms and nations.
Witness the recent gilets jaunes protests and rioting in France. Somehow, anti-Semitism became part of those protests, which ostensibly began as demonstrations against a new gas tax and the nation’s general economic malaise. Click on this story from London’s Jewish Chronicle for the details.
I've written about contemporary European anti-Semitism on numerous occasions here at Get Religion. Click here for my most recent post on the subject. Other GetReligion writers have also posted about it.
Frankly, relatively few GetReligion readers read these posts — as is often the case with posts about international news. Again, I hope it's not because of any lack of interest. Yet sometimes I cannot help wondering if that’s the case.
But ignore rampant anti-Semitism at your own peril. Because wherever there are economic fears, anger over societal inequities, an uncertain future or political demagoguery — all of which are in great supply today — anti-Semitism flourishes.
Anti-Semitism isn’t the preserve of the left or the right, of the elites or the populists. It’s something that all those seeking to manipulate or control the fears of people inevitably employ. And contrary to what critics of Israel always tell us, their complaints about the Jews have nothing to do with what actual Jews are or have done. Anti-Semitism is always about the anti-Semites.
The above quote is from a column by Jonathan S. Tobin, editor of the Jewish News Syndicate. He might have added that anti-Semitism, once unleashed by mobs and governments, tends to serve as a mere starting point. Before long, other racial, religious and sexual minorities also become victims, as do political critics.
Take heed of the canary in the coal mine. Its oxygen supply is growing thin.