We Really Need To Talk About European Antisemitism

Imagine you’ve just started working in a new job. There are approximately 100 people in the company and at first, all seems to be going well. Then, you hear from one source (email, word of mouth, text message; it doesn’t matter) that a certain percentage of your coworkers are not comfortable with having you as a colleague. You don’t yet know the percentage but what percentage could you live with? One percent? That’s only one person. Who cares? There are oddballs everywhere. You can’t please everyone. What about five percent? That’s one person in every 20. What about ten percent or even twenty percent? Increasingly, the I’m-not-comfortable-having-you-around squad will be getting harder and harder to avoid on a daily basis.
The above scenario might seem contrived or even fanciful but it’s an everyday reality for the small and dwindling community of Jews who have chosen to remain in Europe. According to a poll by Eurobarometer in 2015, in 16 out of the 28 EU member countries, the I’m-not-comfortable-having-Jews-as-colleagues brigade amounts to 20% or more of the population. It’s lowest in Denmark and Sweden at 5% and rises to an extraordinary 43% in Slovakia. (The link to the poll may just download a PDF file to your computer. See page 36 for the data.)

In 16 out of 28 EU countries, the I’m-not-comfortable brigade amounts to 20% or more of the population.

You might need to read that again. Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century – with all our education, surrounded by our technology and what’s supposed to be an information superhighway – and a sizeable proportion of the most economically advanced continent on this wee planet is still judging others based on their entho-religious background, Some might insist that these figures are in reality meaningless. After all, will the I’m-not-comfortable folks ever explicitly unsheath their antisemitism? Perhaps not but there are many many ways in which what at least amounts to disapproval will implicitly leak out.
What would YOU do? You’d keep your head down, wouldn’t you, and – as far as possible – stay in the proverbial ethno-religious closet? People don’t need to know your background and if they don’t know, then there’s no problem. You might even consider leaving. Unsurprisingly, this is precisely what European Jewry is doing.

February 19, 2019: swastikas painted on graves at a Jewish cemetery in the French town of Quatzenheim
close to the German border (Frederick Florin/AFP)

The contribution of European Jewry to European civilization has been nothing short of enormous. Are future generations of Europeans to be denied this? For this writer, who once hoped that the Jewish population of Europe might one day reach pre-Shoah levels, the links in the previous paragraph make for grim grim reading.

What makes for even grimmer – if not infuriating – reading is the commentary of people like George Galloway who affect to be concerned by this rise in European antisemitism when it suits their purpose. The likes of Galloway will get their of-course-I-don’t-hate-Jews line in before launching into a long diatribe about how the current discussion about antisemitism unfairly targets those who unfairly target Israel. BREAKING NEWS: the main victims of antisemitism are…….antisemites.
Sipping milk from a saucer, George Galloway pretends to be a cat on a UK TV show (Source: Independent.co.uk)

Let’s go over this AGAIN. Criticizing the Israeli government is not in and of itself antisemitism.

However, if someone constantly lambasts Israel while openly supporting the Jew-hating Holocaust-mocking Iranian regime even to the extent of incorrectly denying that people get executed in Iran for being gay and smearing those who are, then it raises serious questions. If that person minimizes the horror of the Holocaust by comparing it to the Israel-Palestine situation, then the case is kind of closed.
Of course, such statements don’t remain in a vacuum. When retweeted and reposted, they gradually poison the discourse. My generation studied history realizing that the Holocaust was an act of unique and horrific evil, unparalleled in human history. Nothing is comparable to it. Yet, the up and coming generation across western countries show an astonishing lack of knowledge about it.
Once again, Europe is becoming a cold house for Jews and we all know the old adage about those who forget their history, don’t we?

by Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh

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