Commentary Magazine


Connecting the Dots Between Euro Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a strong stand against the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe when she appeared at a Berlin rally against Jew hatred. Lamenting the attacks on Jews throughout Europe but especially in the country that had supposedly done the most to learn the lessons of the Holocaust, she vowed that her government would do everything in its power to fight against the revival of Jew hatred. But the question is not so much her undoubted commitment to this task but whether other European leaders and opinion leaders will draw the proper conclusions from the connection between the anti-Israel invective they have encouraged and the rising tide of anti-Semitism.

Speaking at the rally Merkel said the following:

It is a monstrous scandal that people in Germany today are being abused if they are somehow recognizable as Jews or if they stand up for the state of Israel. I will not accept that and we will not accept that. … It’s our national and civic duty to fight anti-Semitism. … Anyone who hits someone wearing a skullcap is hitting us all. Anyone who damages a Jewish gravestone is disgracing our culture. Anyone who attacks a synagogue is attacking the foundations of our free society.

Merkel deserves credit for putting herself and her government on the line on this issue at a time when this issue is becoming more of a concern. The atmosphere of hate that she references is the result of a combination of factors in which the influence of immigrants from the Arab and Islamic worlds has combined with traditional Jew hatred as well as the willingness of many European academic and political elites to countenance verbal assaults on Jews and Israel in a way that would have been inconceivable in the first decades after the Holocaust.

But the key phrase in her speech was not so much the much-needed statement that attacks on Jews are attacks on all Germans and German democracy. It was that the people who are being targeted aren’t just those whose clothing indicates Jewish faith but the targeting of anyone who would stand up for Israel.

Over the course of the last several years as anti-Semitism has moved from the margins of European society back to its mainstream, Israel has become the focus of anti-Semites. Seeking to veil their hate with the guise of legitimate political commentary, they have sought to draw a distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, a difference that even many Jews continue to accept. But Merkel’s pointed remark including support for Israel in her recitation of those under threat should alert her listeners to the fact that the line between hatred of Israel and that for Jews in general has long since been erased.

The idea that anti-Zionism is legitimate in a way that anti-Semitism is not has long been more a matter of nuance and semantics than reality. Those who would deny to the Jews the same rights—to a state in their ancient homeland and its right of self-defense—that they deny to virtually no other people on the planet is, by definition, an act of bias and acts of bias against Jews are anti-Semitism, pure and simple.

While it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the policies of any government of Israel—Israelis do it every day—those who are dedicated to the destruction of Israel and opposed to any means of self-defense on its part, as opposed to just wishing to change its borders or government, are not engaging in legitimate political argument. They are, whether they initially intend it or not, actively supporting those who wish to commit ethnic cleansing and/or genocide against the six million Jews of Israel, as Hamas has openly stated as its goal.

What we have witnessed this year is that anger over Israel’s refusal to allow itself to be attacked with impunity by Islamist terrorists is blurring any distinctions between socially unacceptable anti-Semitism and anger at Israel that has been deemed mere politics rather than hate speech. The violent rhetoric against Jews and Israel that has spilled over into the attacks on Jews Merkel referenced is no accident. Nor is it a surprise that those who would delegitimize Israeli Jews and demonize their actions would extend this to the Jews in their own midst, whether or not they are Zionists or religious. While theoretically one can oppose Israel without wishing to kill all Jews, it is no coincidence that those who espouse the former slip so easily into the rhetoric aiming at the latter.

In order for this scourge to be effectively halted, it will thus require more than admonitions for Europeans to mind their manners and to treat others as they would themselves like to be treated. What it will take is an understanding that so long as Israel is considered a fair target for extermination, it is impossible to pretend that every other Jew on the planet will not be considered fair game by Islamists or more traditional varieties of bigots.

Chancellor Merkel has made a start in this respect, but unless Europe’s leaders make it clear to their people that Jewish genocide is unacceptable wherever it might occur, the rising tide of Jew hatred will not abate.

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5 Responses to “Connecting the Dots Between Euro Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism”

  1. ELLIOTT GREEN says:

    I agree fully with your conclusion Jonathan. Those Euro leaders who really oppose antisemitism, then they have to defend Israel and reject Hamas and all that ilk.

    I would like to go further on one point. As I understand the Hamas charter, its Article 7 implicitly calls for the genocide of all Jews, not just of Israelis. As you recall, it says that at Judgment Day, the Muslims will fight the Jews, killing them. Some Jews will hide behind rocks and trees. The rocks and trees will call out: O Muslim, O Slave of Allah, a Jew is hiding behind me. Come kill him.

  2. BROCKA NOLEN says:

    Berlin has a large influx of Jews currently, a very large accepting community

  3. LOUIS OFFEN says:

    Mr. Tobin makes one error of omission. He does so by failing to note that the share of antisemitism in Germany that is not of Muslim origin comes substantially more from the Left than the Right, which is a general truth with few country to country exceptions these days.

  4. RICHMOND says:

    Perhaps the questions that need answering are whether there’s a difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, and whether both are so deeply ingrained in Europe that each fresh incident of Israeli-Palestinian conflict simply ratchets up the bias, both against the Jews and Israel. Is, as Shcharansky has questioned, Europe a safe place for Jews any longer.

    Even recalling the anti-Semitism of the 70s, Jews did not question, as many are today, whether Britain, a largely tolerant country whose Jews, on the whole, have been better treated than in most others of Europe are safe.

    Though, as Johnathan Tobin points out, Merkel, as has the British Government, taken a strong stance against the ancient bias, more needs to be done. It is worth recalling that the decline of the Spanish economy is dated from 1492, when the Jews were expelled. It is unnecessary to elaborate.


    Even if “Europe’s leaders make it clear to their people that Jewish genocide is unacceptable … ” the rising tide of Jew hatred will continue because it is not the leadership that is the issue, it is the culture that advocates anti-Semitism. Just as there are laws against advocating violence, there should be laws against anti-Semitism that are enforced so effectively a dialogue will be required exposing the stupidity of a culture that selects any peaceful group for genocidal extermination.

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