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For the second time in one month, an anti-Semitic attack shocked France last week.
Five French teens desecrated 250 Jewish tombs in a Jewish cemetery in the town of Sarre-Union close to the German border. The youths, aged 15 to 17, were arrested after one of them turned himself in last Monday. The five denied that anti-Semitism was behind the desecration, but prosecutor Philippe Vanier said that the teens had admitted that they had spit on the Star of David on the tombs and had given straight-arm Nazi salutes. The arrested teens are all native Frenchmen. They claimed to fight against fascism.
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Anti-Semitic attacks in France are nothing new. Already in 2013, the Kantor Center of the Tel Aviv University noticed a sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks in France. The Kantor Center registered and analyzed 554 violent anti-Semitic attacks worldwide. The highest number of events occurred in France, where 116 attacks were recorded over 2013. Jews in France constitute one percent of the population, while 40 percent of all racist violence in France targeted Jews.
After the deadly attack on Jews in Toulouse in 2012, and more recently on a kosher supermarket in Paris last January–where four Jews were murdered–many French Jews are contemplating leaving France for Israel.
The Jewish Agency for Israel reported that a record 8,000 French Jews visited Israel opportunity fairs held by the Agency and the Israeli Ministry for Aliyah last week.
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“We have done this for years, and we could not believe our eyes,” said Daniel Benhaim, head of the Jewish Agency delegation in France. “By 10 a.m., there was a line around the block. There is a major shift occurring in France, and we expect more than 10-15,000 immigrants this year. What we saw today confirms that.”
More than 7,200 French Jews immigrated to Israel in 2014, more than double the 3,400 who did so in 2013 and triple the 1,900 who immigrated in 2012.
Elsewhere in Europe, Jews feel increasingly insecure after the second deadly Islamist attack on a Jewish target in one month. Security guard Dan Uzan was killed by Omar Abdel Hamid el-Hussein when he was guarding a Bar Mitzvah in a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark. El-Hussein also wounded two police officers in the attack.
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Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu responded to the terror attack in Denmark, saying: “Jews have been murdered again on European soil. I want to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: Israel is the home of every Jew.”
The Israeli cabinet decided to allocate NIS 180 million for an immigration plan aimed at French, Belgian, and Ukrainian Jews.
A couple of days after Netanyahu made his statement, Ya’acov Hadas-Handelsman, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, used similar language. Responding to a wave of violent anti-Semitic attacks in Germany over 2014, Handelsman said “he does not envy any Jew living in Europe today.” He invited those who feel unsafe to come to Israel at any time.
Hadas-Handelsman’s comments came after Jerusalem Post reporter Benjamin Weinthal reported that the magazine of the Jewish community in Berlin will no longer be sent to subscribers in recognizable envelopes. The measure was taken to protect subscribers against anti-Semitic attacks.
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Last year, a synagogue in Wuppertal – previously destroyed on Kristallnacht – was attacked with Molotov cocktails. Israeli Jews living in Berlin report that they are beaten up solely because they are Israeli Jews.
An estimated 200,000 Jews live in Germany, the majority of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
In the United Kingdom, anti-Semitic incidents reached record levels last year, more than doubling over the previous year. Jews were victims of anti-Semitic incidents at a rate of more than one a day. Every single Jewish communal event has to be guarded. Yet, there are few signs that British Jews are considering immigrating to Israel. Some of them decided to take action and founded the new organization Jewish Human Rights Watch, which combats anti-Semitism, and the anti-Semitic Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in the UK.
The same cannot be said about Belgium and The Netherlands. Jews in both countries feel unsafe and exposed–but have not taken specifically organized action to protect themselves from anti-Semitic attacks.
U.S. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who visited the Netherlands last week, wrote that he was told not to wear a skull cap or to congregate with other Jews in public. The leaders of the Jewish community in the Netherlands are currently embroiled in a battle with the Dutch government over who should pay the bill for police protection. All Jewish institutions and events in The Netherlands are now guarded by Kmar, a special unit of the Dutch police.
Madelon Bino-Meijers, the director of the Duch Liberal Community (LJG) in Amsterdam, wrote in an e-mail interview with Western Journalism that Jews in The Netherlands “are extremely worried but not afraid.” “Most of them don’t contemplate immigration to Israel because they feel at home in The Netherlands. Many Jews have the feeling that they cannot longer be recognizable as Jews, some of them do not longer wear Jewish symbols such as the Star of David and remove the so-called Mezuzah from the entrance of their homes,” Bino-Meijers wrote.
Rabbi Evers, the leader of the Orthodox community in Amsterdam, already reported in 2002 that anti-Semitism in The Netherlands has never been so open and hard. In an interview with EO magazine, Evers said that the biased reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by Dutch media is one of the root causes of increasing anti-Semitism in The Netherlands.
In the same 2002 interview, Evers reported severe anti-Semitic violence by Muslims in the Netherlands and Belgium. A synagogue in Amsterdam was stoned during Shabbat services, and Rabbi Guigui – the chief rabbi of the Belgian capital Brussels – was kicked in the face by a Muslim mob. Eight years later, Evers’ son Benzion decided to move to Israel because he felt suffocated and caged in The Netherlands due to anti-Jewish sentiment. During the war between Hamas and Israel last year, the main Dutch anti-Semitism watchdog CIDI received more than 70 calls from alarmed Jewish citizens in one week; the average had been three to five.
In Sweden, things are even worse. Malmo was the first European city where Jews decided to flee as a result of Muslim anti-Semitism. In March 2010, I wrote an article that was published on a Dutch news site after 30 Jewish families fled Malmo due to anti-Semitic attacks by Muslims. The article, titled “Europe 2010: Jews flee again,” contained an interview with Stephan Meisels, the former chairman of the Jewish community in Sweden. He said that there is a clear link between the anti- Israel reporting of the Swedish media and the anti-Jewish environment in Sweden. He also pointed to the fact that both the Swedish government and the mayor of Malmo are leftist, and that they see the anti-Semitic incidents in Sweden as anti-Israel manifestations.
The same can be said for many other European countries. The anti-Israel obsession by the European media and Leftist politicians has certainly contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism.
As British journalist Melanie Phillips pointed out in a recent column, “ this anti-Israel obsession displays the same unique properties as Jew-hatred: obsessive falsehoods, holding Israel responsible for all the ills of the world, accusing Israel falsely of perpetrating crimes such as genocide or the deliberate targeting of innocents of which it is itself victim.”
“This anti-Israel obsession has been stoking the hysteria in the Muslim world and has fueled the attacks on Jews in Europe”, Phillips wrote. “The same leftist elite has always denied the linkage between anti-Israel lunacy and Jew-hatred and now stands amazed at the murder of Jews for no other reason than that they exist, because to do so would undermine the Left’s contention that all such violence is only in response to Israel’s actions,” she added.
The bizarre collaboration between leftist elites and Islamists is not the sole factor responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish attacks in Europe. In other parts of Europe, the far-right attributes to the rise of anti-Semitism.
In Hungary, for example, the anti-Semitic Jobbik party that won 21 percent of the vote in the 2014 elections openly incites against Jews. As a result, Hungary has become the most anti-Semitic country in Eastern Europe. 63% of the Hungarian population holds anti-Semitic views.
German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno said about contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe: “We will not have come to terms with the past until the causes of what happened then are no longer active. Only because of these causes live on does the spell of the past remain, to this very day, unbroken.”
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