Thursday, June 09, 2011

The erosion of European Jewry

Isi Leibler

Even if the flag of Islam flies over Europe and most Jews assimilate or emigrate, enclaves of ultra-Orthodox Jews are likely to continue, especially in the main cities.

Only a few decades ago, analysts were predicting that anti-Semites were becoming extinct. Alas, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme and today, the future for European Jews appears increasingly bleak. The deepening anti-Semitic climate throughout the continent emanates not only from Muslim migrants, but also from the indigenous masses for whom the Holocaust has become a dim memory, and is frequently even inverted as an additional vehicle to demonize Israel. ndeed, if one weighs the impact of rampant anti-Israelism (which serves as a surrogate to traditional Jew baiting) combined with the revival of classical anti-Semitism, it is tempting to conclude that in terms of "populist anti-Semitism," the status of Jews in Europe today is even worse than during the heyday of Nazi propaganda. Then, the Left and liberals were highly vocal in their opposition to Jew baiting, whereas today they are, at best, silent observers, and frequently lead the pack in campaigns to vilify the Jewish people.

The pathological anti-Semitic hatred sweeping Europe is manifested by increasing street violence against Jews, desecrations of synagogues and cemeteries and daubing of graffiti. It is especially evident in the vituperative responses that appear in media talkbacks - a good barometer of populist prejudice - whenever an Israeli or Jewish-related issue is discussed.

The pathological anti-Semitic hatred sweeping Europe is manifested by increasing street violence against Jews, desecrations of synagogues and cemeteries and daubing of graffiti. It is especially evident in the vituperative responses that appear in media talkbacks - a good barometer of populist prejudice - whenever an Israeli or Jewish related issue is discussed Opinion polls demonstrate that hatred of Israel and the Jewish people is even more prevalent at the grassroots level than in the more subtle approach adopted by governments.

This even extends to Germany, which has a "special relationship" with the Jewish people and promotes intensive Holocaust educational initiatives. In a recent poll, 47.7 percent of German respondents endorsed the statement: "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians."

Needless to say, portrayal of Israel as a Nazi state morally sanctions its destruction.

THESE BLEAK findings almost remind one of medieval anti-Semitic attitudes, which blamed Jews for being the source of all the evil, ranging from plagues to droughts to blood libels.

Today the Jewish homeland is perceived as the principal source of global instability, and attracts greater hostility than rogue states like Iran, North Korea and, until recently, Libya.

The indigenous anti-Jewish environment is intensified by increasing physical violence by Muslim immigrants, many of whose European imams and media would qualify for bouquets from the Nazis. A former European Commissioner, Frits Bolkestein, recently went so far as to recommend that practicing Jews in Holland emigrate to Israel because he doubted the government's ability to protect them from the increasing onslaughts of Islamic immigrants.

On the surface, the gravity of the situation is somewhat blurred because, ironically, Jews enjoy greater social mobility than ever. They intermarry freely, and are rarely discriminated against in their professional lives - as long as they remain "silent" Jews. Some also live within their own communities, so their relations with non-Jews tend to be limited primarily to business or professional activities.

Thus, in many communities Jewish leaders are in a state of denial, insisting that the level of anti-Semitism is wildly exaggerated, arguing that the principal issue is the Jewish state, and that one must distinguish between the demonization and delegitimization of Israel and Jew hatred Yet the pending Dutch legislation designed to outlaw shechita, and its possible extension to other European countries, suggests that even traditional Jewish practices are under siege. When the animal welfare lobby, ignorant about ritual slaughter, selectively concentrates on banning Jewish tradition in this manner, this is surely grounds for concern.

In addition, many parents of children who encounter anti-Semitism at schools or universities privately concede that they are deeply despondent about the future, and appreciate that in such a hostile environment, their offspring will be denied the opportunity of remaining proud Jews.

On the other hand, as a backlash to increasing Muslim extremism, a growing revulsion is emerging at a grassroots level against Islamic influence, even though the much-decried Islamophobia is still a marginal phenomenon.

Multiculturalism, which Jews had adopted as an ideal formula for maintaining Jewish life in the Diaspora while integrating into society, is now increasingly acknowledged as a failed experiment. While the concept was and remains noble, it fails in practice when confronted with immigrant minorities that seek to undermine the open host societies, refuse to integrate, and are willing to employ violence to further their aims, even breeding indigenous secondgeneration terrorists. The multicultural formula has been transformed into a Trojan horse that today undermines the very viability of democratic societies.

In this context, Jews are in a quandary. By supporting the containment of multiculturalism in order to stem Islamic aggression, many fear it may also lead to curtailment of Jewish cultural and religious autonomy.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, great confusion prevails. In some cases, Jews assume liberal stances and find themselves allied with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish elements unlikely to display appreciation for their efforts.

Jews face an additional dilemma. The traditional parties of the radical Right - in some cases including former anti-Semites and fascists like the French Front National and the British National Party - are at the vanguard of the campaign against Islamic influence, and receive considerable support from sections of the Jewish community that would normally have no truck with them. Some have even emerged as supporters of Israel, which they view as an embattled enclave resisting Islam.

Some Jews simply bury their heads in the sand and support vicious anti-Israeli left wing pro-Islamic elements. A few endorse the former ultra-right wing parties, especially those which now go through the motions of condemning anti-Semitism. For others, assimilation or the adoption of an anti-Israeli chic is the answer.

But for those unwilling to live like pariahs or political marranos, and for whom a desire to remain proud Jews is important, there is only one solution. They enroll their children in (police-protected) Jewish day schools, which have undergone an enormous upsurge in recent years, and prepare to emigrate - a decision frequently accelerated when they observe the hostile atmosphere at many universities.

They thus represent a new reservoir for future aliya.

The question is whether this European sickness will spread to North America and Australia where, until now, Jews and Israel are still well regarded. The concern is that if future generations of American leaders absorb the hostile approach toward Israel that currently prevails on campus, even Jews in the goldene medina may have cause for anxiety.

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post

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