Israel’s defensive Operation Protective Edge against Hamas rocket fire revealed that it took a military conflict to show that anti-Zionism cannot be decoupled from anti-Semitism.
As veteran observers of contemporary anti-Semitism are aware, the rejection of Jewish state sovereignty in Israel (i.e., anti-Zionism) has always been an inherent part of Jew-hatred.
In the late 1960s, the Austrian Jewish writer and Auschwitz survivor Jean Amery wrote, “Anti-Zionism contains anti-Semitism like a cloud contains a storm.” To put it mildly, Amery’s definition of modern anti-Semitism wasn’t accepted by post-Holocaust Europe as a force to be combated. Anti-Zionism was deemed by many Europeans to be a politically and socially correct world view. In short, they viewed it as a form of legitimate “Israel criticism.”
The calls for the dismantling of Israel and shouts to kill Jews on the streets of London, Paris, Berlin, and Frankfurt, to name some of the major European cities where they’ve occurred, are indicative of a lethal anti-Semitic mass movement. What unifies many European elites, large numbers of Muslims, motley crews of leftists and neo-Nazis is a loathing of the Jewishness of Israel.
The 19th-century anti-Semitic German historian Heinrich von Treitschke infamously said, “The Jews are our misfortune.” For the modern anti-Semite that slogan has been transformed into “Israel is our misfortune.”
Take a small sample of some of the headlines in the media about what is unfolding in Europe: “Neo Nazis, Islamists Declare ‘You Jews are Beasts’ During Protest of Israeli Operation” in Frankfurt; “Firebombs Fail to Ignite at Toulouse Jewish Center”; “Madrid Jews Vow Legal Action against Author Who Justified Expulsions”; “Jewish Museums in Norway closed for fear of Attacks”; “Well-Known Italian Philosopher: ‘I’d Like to the Shoot Those Bastard Zionists”’
Germany, yes Germany, seems to be one of the main hubs of some of the most intense anti-Semitism. Protesters in Berlin chanted slogans calling for the gassing of Jews.
Continental Europe has tolerated enormous amounts of anti-Semitism over the last few decades. Critics correctly point out that there is a market demand for demonstrations of it in Europe. The pressing question remains: Why is there such tolerance for and such a great demand for hatred of Israel? The Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex famously said, with biting sarcasm and irony,” The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.” The line can now be updated to: “Europe will never forgive the Israelis for the Holocaust.”
Continental Europe’s complicity in the Shoah helps explain the constant ad nauseam attacks aimed at the Jewish state. Many Europeans seek to cleanse their guilt about the Holocaust. Bashing the Jewish state — and tolerating those who seek to obliterate Israel — creates a catharsis effect.
The addition of Islamic-animated anti-Semitism by Muslims in Europe has created a pathologically violent climate for Jews. The European Left has stoked anti-Semitism and somehow believes it is insulated from the disease because the Left is supposed to be free from Jew-hatred. It is worth reading this timely piece in the British Telegraph: “Is the Left Anti-Semitic? Sadly, It Is Heading that Way.”
To their credit, European leaders—Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande — have issued condemnations of modern anti-Semitism in their countries.
But Germany and other European countries showed the disconnect between their official rhetoric and their actions by abstaining during last week’s crucial United Nations Human Rights Council vote. The UNHRC vote singled out Israel for a war-crimes investigation because of its defensive measures against the EU-designated terrorist group Hamas. Commentators deemed the UNHRC measure to be anti-Semitic.
Can Europe regenerate itself in terms of human rights and show that its democracies can mature in the 21st century? The litmus test will be how the EU deals with Israel.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter@BenWeinthal