Europe is facing a resurgence of anti-Semitism less than 75 years after the Holocaust. Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry cites a 13 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide in 2018, with the U.S., United Kingdom, France, and Germany having the highest number of occurrences.
According to a CNN survey, forty-four percent of Europeans believe anti-Semitism is a growing problem in their countries with about 20 percent saying it is the result of the everyday behavior of Jewish people. This means they believe that in some way the Jews are responsible for the increase in anti-Semitism. Furthermore, more than one-third of the Europeans polled had no or very little knowledge of the Holocaust, with 20% of ages 18 to 34 saying they’ve never even heard of it. Unfortunately, the same statistic is true of American millennials.
When history is forgotten, the sins of the past are repeated.
The UK, Anti-Semitism, and Labour
The United Kingdom experienced a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, the third calendar year in a row that the Community Safety Trust (CST), similar to the Anti-Defamation League, has reported a record-breaking year in anti-Semitic acts.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the party itself have come under fire for inappropriate handling of anti-Semitism within the party and have been accused of participating, whether inadvertent or not, in anti-Semitism on and offline. The concern about Jeremy Corbyn is so significant that three rival Jewish British newspapers took unprecedented action in July of 2018 and published a joint editorial on the front page of their respective papers titled, “United We Stand”. This editorial declared, “The stain and shame of anti-Semitism has coursed through Her Majesty’s Opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.”
Much of their argument centered on the fact that the Labour Party, under Corbyn, has refused to fully accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism. Labour accepted the definition with very significant exceptions such as “accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to the state of Israel than their home country and requiring higher standards of behavior from Israel than other nations.” Both exceptions are central to the definition of anti-Semitism. Excluding them is to undermine the very definition of anti-Semitism recognized internationally.
Nine Labour MPs (Members of Parliament) left the party in February due to Labour’s weak handling of anti-Semitism and partly due to its stance on Brexit. One of these MP’s, Luciana Berger, a British Jew, has received death threats and been the target of anti-Semitism online.
Last September, while still a Labour MP, Berger needed a police escort to attend the Labour Party’s Annual conference. The Atlantic reports it was discovered six weeks later that Labour had known about a specific threat made against her by a fellow party member for six months and covered it up—keeping it from both Berger and the police. It was only revealed by a leak to the press. Five months later when Berger announced her exit from the Labour Party in February 2019 at a press conference, she stated, “I cannot remain in a party that I today have come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic.”
France and Violent Anti-Semitism
Just across the English Channel, France is also seeing a rise in anti-Semitism, though in a different manifestation. Joshua Safran, an American Jew and board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Portland, shared his experiences writing:
The last time I was in France, in the fall of 2001, I was routinely confronted by strangers yelling, “Juif, Juif!” (Jew, Jew!). On Yom Kippur, a man hurled a piece of rebar through the stained glass window of the little stone synagogue in Bastia, Corsica. The hunk of metal just missed my wife’s head. And when the services were over, we were forced to walk a gauntlet of shoving, spitting men shouting racist anti-Jewish slurs.
The anti-Semitism Safran experienced in the early 2000’s has only worsened. In 2018, France saw a staggering 89 percent increase in violent anti-Semitism and 74 percent increase in anti-Semitism overall, according to the Kantor Center report.
CNN’s survey showed half of the people in France did not think they had ever socialized with a Jew. It also revealed 20 percent of people in France and Germany believe Jews have too much influence in the media, and twenty-five percent of people from those countries think Jews have too much influence on wars and conflicts.
This is not new anti-Semitism; these are the same lies and tropes resurrected.
Germany, Anti-Semitism, and BDS
The Kantor Center report also shows Germany has had a 70 percent increase in violent anti-Semitism since 2017.  Germany’s increase in anti-Semitism is so significant, the German anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein warned Jews that it may not be safe to wear a kippa (skullcap) everywhere in Germany. He has also called for additional training for police and other officials on how to specifically deal with anti-Semitic crime.
During a CNN interview, Klein spoke of the history of anti-Semitism in Germany and how it is resurfacing. He said, “The word ‘Jew’ as an insult was not common in my time when I went to school. Now it is…”
The German parliament stepped in a few weeks ago and passed “Decisively Oppose the BDS Movement and Fight Anti-Semitism” resolution. BDS stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions. The BDS Movement is international economic warfare against Israel veiled in an argument of equal rights for Palestinians. The movement’s goal is the economic isolation of Israel by encouraging institutions, individuals, colleges, private companies, and even countries to stop investing in, trading or doing business with Israel and Israeli corporations or products.
The resolution by the German parliament strongly condemned the BDS Movement as anti-Semitic and accused the movement of using methods similar to Nazi propaganda and economic disenfranchisement of Jewish businesses.One of the tactics of the BDS Movement in Germany is activists placing “Don’t Buy” stickers on Israeli products. German legislators argue this is reminiscent of the Nazi slogan “Don’t Buy From Jews!”
The BDS movement is gaining traction as anti-Semitism, supported by both those on the far left and far right, seeps more and more into the mainstream both in Europe and in the United States.
Closer to Home: The Threat in the U.S.
The BDS Movement that forced the German parliament to take action is spreading in the United States, especially on college campuses. And anti-Semitism is also emerging in the media both domestically and internationally.
Assaults on American Jews more than doubled in 2018 according to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League. The number of anti-Semitic incidents are 48 percent higher than they were in 2015, and 99 percent higher than in 2015. And all but four states had anti-Semitic incidents.
When Joshua Safran wrote of his experiences of anti-Semitism while traveling in Europe as a practicing Jew, he was painting a picture of what he fears could be America’s future. He described how America has been a haven for Jews to worship freely and without fear.
Yet in light of the Tree of Life and Chobad of Poway synagogue shootings, Safran laments the potential loss of this exceptional and historic freedom of worship for Jews in the United States. He fears the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States puts America on the path of Europe writing:
I was used to being harassed, abused and put in danger when I prayed in synagogues abroad. Never did I think America would become just as dangerous.
The editorial board of The New York Times recently called itself to account for the anti-Semitic cartoon published in its international edition. In a piece titled, “A Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism” the board addressed their concern that The New York Times had not learned lessons from its own history, confessing “In the 1930’s and 1940’s, The Times was largely silent as anti-Semitism rose up and bathed the world in blood”. They went on to warn the cartoon “is evidence of profound danger—not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness to its creep, to the insidious way this ancient, enduring prejudice is once again working itself into public view and common conversation.”
There is nothing new under the sun– Europe is traversing down the dangerous road of anti-Semitism with America not far behind. Holocaust survivors still living, now bear witness to the reincarnation of the rhetoric and hate that precipitated historic bloodshed and plunged the world into war less than a century ago.
Some may argue the data presented represents a minority, albeit a large one, rather than majority opinion. But without education and action, that minority will grow. One in five millennials in both Europe and the United States have little to no knowledge of the Holocaust. Two generations from World War II and memories are fading.
Therein lies the point– we forget our history. It is the hateful few, unchallenged and unchecked by society, who infect the heart of a nation. We must not stand idly by.