Yesterday, the entire Jewish community of Sweden went on lockdown as authorities said they were conducting a manhunt for a suspect who was believed to be planning a terrorist attack on Jewish targets. Meanwhile in Marseilles, France, three persons who claimed to be ISIS supporters assaulted a Jewish teacher. He was stabbed after being subjected to anti-Semitic taunts. In some ways, this was business as usual for European Jews. Reports of anti-Semitic incidents have gone up this year since the massacre of patrons at a Parisian kosher market in January by the same murderers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack. But in the wake of the mass slaughter in Paris on Friday, these events take on an even more sinister tone. While ISIS’s war against the West involves indiscriminate attacks on all those who don’t follow their creed, Jews are always particular targets of Islamist violence. But what is just as troubling is the fact that in assigning blame for Paris and for anti-Semitic outbreaks, European elites are blaming the most convenient scapegoat: the Jews.
That’s the upshot of recent comments from Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom and Jan Marijnissen, the head of the Dutch Socialist Party, who both blamed the Paris attacks on Israel because of the frustration and despair of the Palestinians. They aren’t the first to make such remarks as such scapegoating of Israel and the Jews has become commonplace among Western European academics, artists as well as some politicians. Their willingness to use this moment to pile on in this manner at this particular moment is particularly distressing because it is helping to incite even more violence against Jews. But it also stems from a profound misunderstanding not only about Islamist views but also about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Here are five key points about ISIS, the Palestinians, Israel and the Jews that are at the heart of this delegitimization that doubles as incitement to violence.
ISIS would be fighting the West even if there were no Israel. The notion that ISIS attacks are just the violent aspect of a legitimate protest movement about Israeli policies has no basis in fact. Islamist theology is based on the notion that their faith must rule the world. To them, non-Muslim governments and worldviews are inherently illegitimate and must be destroyed. So, too, must Muslim governments that seek accommodation or friendship with the West. Islamists hate Israel and Jews but if eliminating the Jewish state were their only motivation, then they would be focused on infiltrating Israel and the West Bank or launching attacks from Gaza. ISIS isn’t merely seeking to free the Middle East from foreign Western intruders anymore than it only wishes to eradicate Zionism. Their plan for a caliphate and their animus toward Western civilization transcends that.
Muslim immigrants in Western Europe may have brought their traditional hostility to Jews with them to their new homes and been influenced in turn by traditional European anti-Semitism. But the establishment of a Palestinian state, even in place of Israel, is not at the top of their priority list. Rather, it is the destruction of the West itself.
It’s not about the occupation. It is true that Israel’s alleged misdeeds are a constant refrain from Islamists. But the charge that Palestinian despair is caused by Israel — a canard that Wallstrom and Marijnissen have repeated — and, therefore, part of the reason why Islamists target the West is simply untrue. Palestinians have good reason to despair after spending the last century vainly attempting to resist the Jewish return to their ancient homeland. In doing so, they have rejected every attempt at compromise or partition. In just the last 15 years, the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers of a state that would cover almost all the territory they and their foreign cheerleaders claim is illegally occupied. Both the moderates of Fatah and the so-called radicals of Hamas believe all of Israel, including all of the territory it possessed before the 1967 Six Day War is “occupied’ territory.
Thus, when European leaders seek to blame Israeli settlements or a refusal to make even more concessions for peace than they have already done, they are validating a false narrative. If the Palestinians wanted a state alongside Israel (in addition to the independent state in all but name ruled by terrorists in Gaza that they already have) they would have had one many years ago. Blaming terrorist attacks on Israelis, such as the surge of violence that amounts to a third intifada that has been slowly unfolding during the last two months, or Western Europeans on the “occupation” is merely a way of avoiding the truth about both ISIS and the Palestinians.
Delegitimizing Israel encourages anti-Semitism and Islamist terror. There is nothing inherently wrong about criticizing Israeli policies, even though most of those who make such comments are generally ignoring history, context and the reality of a Palestinian political culture that cannot accept a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. But blaming Israel and its Jewish supporters abroad for Islamist terror is both wrong-headed and serves to legitimate such violence. It is no coincidence that the growing vituperation in Europe against Israel has been accompanied by a rising tide of anti-Semitism on the continent. Denying the Jews the right to a state and to self-defense — things no one would seek to do to any other country or people — is inherently anti-Semitic. Subjecting Israel to discriminatory trade practices such as the effort to label goods from Jerusalem or the West Bank is part of the same game. That this practice leaks over into spectacular acts of terror as well as random and routine intimidation of Jews in cities like Paris or countries like Sweden is simply the expected consequences of such delegitimization and hatred. That such statements come from those who do not think of themselves as crude Jew-haters, like the European politicians that have scapegoated Israel, doesn’t make it any less loathsome.
Jew-hatred is at the core of both Palestinian nationalism and Islamist violence. In recent months, we have seen that the steady toll of stabbings, shootings, and gasoline bomb attacks by Palestinians against any Jews they can find to kill has been primarily motivated by a campaign of religious incitement that centered on lies about the Jews destroying Muslim holy places. That’s the common link between Palestinian and Islamist motivations for terrorism. The policies of Western governments are no more to blame for Islamist terror than Israeli policies cause Palestinians to commit atrocities. Jew hatred is baked deep into the DNA of both movements.
The Jews are the canary in the coal mine. Just as they have been in the past, the Jews are the first to be attacked by totalitarians and would-be conquerors. That was true throughout the 20th century as fascists, Nazis and communists seized power. It’s true today with the Islamo-fascists of ISIS and their allies. Though many in the West refuse to understand it, Israel and the West are in the same fight against Islamist terror. But European Jews are particularly vulnerable. That’s because Euro elites appear to be falling back to the pre-Holocaust custom of blaming them not only for violence directed against Jews but the woes of non-Jews. This is nothing short of anti-Semitism and must be resisted by all decent persons.
The common fight against Islamism and terror finds both Israelis and the West on the same side of the barricade in a common fight for democratic values and freedom. Tempting as it may be for those who harbor their own anti-Semitic tendencies, sacrificing Israel and the Jews won’t appease the Islamists nor lessen their hate for the West.