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Europe’s Jews: Unwanted, Dead or Alive

When the historian and founding president of Brandeis Abram Sachar wrote a history of the Jewish journey from the death camps to the establishment of the State of Israel, he called it The Redemption of the Unwanted. I’ve always found the term to be depressingly appropriate, both as a profound statement on the flipside of the Jews being the “chosen people” and as an insight into postwar Jewry.

Though the Holocaust was over, anti-Semitism was not. And while some Jews bravely chose to rebuild from the rubble–they were rebuilding not just European Jewry but Europe itself, though their European brethren would never concede as much–the Jewish people had understood their status. They were not fleeting victims or convenient scapegoats (or at least not only those things); they were unwanted, dead or alive.

That’s how it must have felt in the days, months, and years after the war. But now that decades have come and gone, should they still feel that way? Europe’s answer, repeated over the weekend, seems to be a clear yes. The main story of Sunday’s bubbling over of European anti-Semitism was the anti-Jewish rioting–perhaps attempted pogrom is a better term–at a Paris synagogue, in which Jews were trapped until evening by anti-Semitic protesters who “tried to force their way into a Paris synagogue Sunday with bats and chairs, then fought with security officers who blocked their way, according to police and a witness.”

The worst part is the sense of inevitability of the violence. Business Insider’s report on the incident has to include one of the most absurd qualifiers you’ll ever read in such a case. Here’s their opening sentence: “French interior minister Manuel Valls condemned ‘with the greatest force’ attacks on two Paris synagogues Sunday by pro-Palestinian protesters who broke away from an otherwise peaceful demonstration.”

It was an “otherwise peaceful demonstration”–you know, besides the attempted pogrom. (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….) And surely it is to be appreciated that the French government condemns pogroms. But is it ungrateful to point out that condemning the regular violence against Jews in France is just maybe not enough–not nearly? French Jews are voting with their feet because they feel unwanted, and they feel unwanted because the French state either can’t do anything about France’s horrendous anti-Semitism–a second synagogue was firebombed in Paris yesterday–or it won’t. Either way, the message is clear.

France was not the only location of European anti-Semitism yesterday. And though it may have been minor in comparison–and though there were anti-Semitic outbursts outside Europe too–the symbolism of one of the other incidents must have been truly terrifying. It was in Germany, and here is what happened, according to the AP:

German police allowed an anti-Israel protester to climb inside a police car and shout slogans including “child murderer Israel” and “Allahu akbar!” — Arabic for “God is Great!” — through a police megaphone, a spokeswoman for Frankfurt’s police said Sunday.

Police let the protester use the megaphone during a Free Gaza demonstration Saturday because he had offered to calm down a protest that had turned violent, spokeswoman Virginie Wegner told The Associated Press.

“We as police had come up spontaneously with this unusual method and he abused it — we didn’t expect that,” Wegner said, adding that police were investigating the incident. “Police are neutral during protests.”

Instead of calming things down, the protester — whose identity was not revealed — shouted anti-Israel slogans in German and Arabic in downtown Frankfurt. A video that went viral shows a crowd following the police car, cheering and repeating the chants.

I doubt the Jews of Germany will soon forget hearing anti-Jewish slogans shouted from a police megaphone–in 2014. There are a couple of things wrong with the Frankfurt police’s response. Obviously, letting a protester into the police car to access the megaphone was a boneheaded mistake. But then Wegner defends the police by saying, first, “we didn’t expect that,” and then saying “Police are neutral during protests.”

Well, maybe they should have expected it, and hopefully will from now on. As for their neutrality, it is clearly neutrality in theory not in practice, and it is not doing law and order any favors.

Pogroms in Paris, thuggish intimidation in Germany: does European Jewry have a future? It’s a question we keep asking, though I suspect we keep asking it because we don’t like the apparent answer–like the kid who keeps shaking and re-shaking the magic eight ball until the right prediction comes up. Clarity might be more helpful, which the anti-Semitic incidents do provide. Europe’s anti-Semites could not be clearer: their hatred of Jews has nothing to do with Israeli self-defense. It’s just a convenient excuse to target the unwanted.



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7 Responses to “Europe’s Jews: Unwanted, Dead or Alive”

  1. TIKI SHAPIRA says:

    Probably true, but the point is that Jews might not be liked and anti Semitism is there (has in fact never gone away)but the Muslims are hated & loathed by a majority of Europeans and the clock of patience is ticking……..!

    It’s now up to the governments to pick up the glove and fight or let the European continent become an Islamic = failed continent!

  2. A COHN says:

    Do Europeans have a future? With their hate-Jews behavior, European nations’ future will not be as liberal democracies.

  3. LOUIS OFFEN says:

    “Probably true, but the point is that Jews might not be liked and anti-Semitism is there…but the Muslims are hated and loathed…”

    This is stupid beyond stupid. Jews physically threatened and palpably frightened are taking the enormous step of fleeing for their safety, while Muslims stay put not feeling physically threatened. Indeed, many of the native population feel threatened by the growing non-pacific Islamic presence around them in many places, e.g., the banlieus of Paris, certain urban parts of England, etc., and the police fear to go. But you imagine that the Jews need not worry too much because when the cork pops, the unleashed anti-Semitic, nationalistic forces will target Muslims and leave Jews alone. Ain’t gonna happen that way for any number of reasons, including that those Muslim populations are anything but passive, unlike the Jewish ones; Arab countries will weigh in; the Left leans with the Muslims and against the Jews; Jews are always vulnerable when civil order breaks down; etc.

    Again, stupid beyond stupid.

  4. MARTHA GREENBLATT says:

    Jews had no place in Europe after WWII. And after the establishment of Israel, they have no reason to stay in Europe and deal with abusive antisemitism, and life-threatening violence. Europe is sinking with the weight of too many Arabs. Could not happen to nicer people.

  5. MANUEL LAZEROV says:

    Why would Christian Europe defend its Jewish citizens, when it won’t even comment about the discrimination,abuse, the massive displacement of Christians throughout the Middle East, destruction of their churches, and murder of priests from Malaysia to the Atlantic? In fact, Europe, devoid of faith, has become morally bankrupt, with its churches becoming museums. The Jews are merely a symptom of the decline of Western culture and values.It the rot from within.

  6. EUGENE VALBERG says:

    Perhaps surprisingly — perhaps not — several pieces I’ve read about the recent ‘riots’ in Europe — including this piece from Commentary Mag — seem to de-emphasize the salient fact that these rioters are mainly Muslims, not ordinary (‘white’) Frenchman. France of course has a history of antisemitism and so it would not be that surprising if these rioters WERE Frenchman. But the fact that they are not (at least in these cases) means that these riots are not ‘merely’ antisemitism, they are MUSLIM antisemitism, and that the problem, in these cases, is not the new rise in antisemitism but the rise and increasing power and influence of MUSLIMS. And that is quite a different worry.

  7. JEFFREY A ZUCKERMAN says:

    After the US Civil War, nobody expected that there would be a sudden end to racial hatred. It was almost a century before a serious civil rights movement demanding equality of all citizens arose. Even know, with all the progress that has been made, there is still racial strife.

    So why in the world did anyone think Europe, with centuries more of the most vicious sort of anti-Jewish hatred, culminating with actual genocide, would, on May 8, 1945, suddenly shed over a millenium of genocidal bigotry?

    As sympathetic as I am to European Jewry, they need to get out and get out now.




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