Violent anti-semitic acts are on the increase, and it might not just have to do with the conflict in Gaza. While military action in Israel often coincides with a rise in anti-semitic violence, the rhetoric is aimed against Jews in general and not Israelis in particular. While many scream or write “Israhell, ” there are just as many slogans like “Slit Jews’ throats” and “Death to Jews” without reference to any military conflict in Israel. Yonatan Arfi, Vice President of France’s Crif, a Jewish organization, said he “utterly rejected” the notion that the increase in anti-Jewish feeling was a result of operations in Gaza, which have merely “laid bare something more profound.”
In the space of a week last month, 8 synagogues in France were attacked, one of which was firebombed by a mob of 400, and the windows of a kosher supermarket and pharmacy were smashed. In Germany, people threw molotov cocktails at the Bergische Synagogue in Wuppertal, which had been destroyed in Kristallnacht. A Berlin imam Abu Bilal Ismail called for death to Jews, an elderly Jewish man was beaten at a pro-Israel rally and a Jewish teenager was punched in the face.
Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s central council of Jews said, “These are the worst times since the Nazi era. On the streets, you hear things like ‘Jews should be gassed, ‘ and ‘Jews should be burned.’ We haven’t had that in Germany for decades. Anyone saying those things is not just criticizing Israeli politics. It’s just pure hatred against Jews, nothing else. It’s not just a German phenomenon. It’s an outbreak of hatred against Jews that is so intense, it is very clear indeed.”
While Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, have strongly condemned the rise of anti-semitism in their countries, the number of incidents continue to increase, to the tune of 7 times greater than they were in the 1990s. A poll of 6, 000 Jews in several European countries found that 66% felt that anti-semitism was on the rise and 76% said it had increased in their countries in the last 5 years. French Jews are making aliyah in unprecedented numbers, with 3, 288 emigrating to Israel in 2013, a 76% increase from the previous year.
A poll showed that 24% of Europeans held strongly anti-semitic views, and the reasons given include the number of anti-Israel Muslim immigrants, sentiment on the far right and the far left and economic and class frustration. Another factor may be the rise in social media and the willingness of many to accept propaganda as news and the normalization of openly anti-semitic expression, as evidenced by the popularity of French entertainer Dieudonne. A 2013 study by the Technical University of Berlin showed that out of 14, 000 hate emails and letters sent to the Israeli Embassy in Berlin and the Central Council of Jews in Germany found that 60% were written by educated, middle-class Germans and many were willing to give their full names.
Yonatan Arfi commented, “The logical conclusion, in fact, is radicalization. On social media, people self-select what they see, and what they see might be pure, unchecked propaganda. They may never be confronted with opinions that are not their own.”