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The Central Council of Jews in Germany organized the demonstration after anti-Semitic incidents in the country occurring in the wake of the conflict in Gaza this summer, on September 14, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Increasing Anti-Semitism in Europe

Naser Khader

Sadly, there is sharp rise in anti-Semitism currently happening across Europe. It is becoming more and more violent and the number of assaults on Jews is radically increasing. President of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, reported to The Guardian “these are the worst times since the Nazi era.” These hate crimes are serious incidents and a threat to basic human rights.

Israel-Palestine is a factor, but not the only factor
History has proven that each time the Israel-Palestine conflict escalates, there is a rise in anti-Semitism, especially in regards to hate crimes. During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, in a three-week period of time spanning late-2008 and early 2009, 66 anti-Semitic incidents happened in France alone. This proves that the Israel-Palestine conflict carries over into European countries. However, experts say that the current increase in anti-Semitism all over Europe isn’t entirely due to the conflict in the Middle East; there are other factors triggering this latent hatred. Instead of seeing banners with ‘Death to the Israelis’, the banners now spell ‘Death to Jews’.

Several countries are experiencing violent anti-Semitism, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands among many others. In Austria, a pre-season friendly soccer match between Maccabi Haifa and SC Paderborn had to be rescheduled due to an attempted assault on one of the players from the Israeli team in the previous match. Last month Cidi, which is the biggest anti-Semitism watchdog in the Netherlands, reported 70 calls in one week from worried Jewish citizens. That number is alarming given that they usually receive three to five per week.

Furious groups unite around anti-Semitism
The causes for the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism are highly complex and not completely understood. France is an example of how various groups, whose members share a rather angry outlook, unite around their hatred towards the Jewish community. Yonatan Arfi, vice president of France’s Crif, says that the anti-Semitism in France had become “a portmanteau for a lot of angry people: radical Muslims, alienated youths from immigrant families, the far right, the far left”.

While previously they would have been alone and disconnected from society, the popularity of social media has unfortunately helped anti-Semitism, as it is easier for extremists to communicate with each other. Social media also demonstrates that the current anti-Semitic trend is not based solely around the conflict in Israel-Palestine. A hashtag, such as #HiterWasRight, shows how serious the situation is. It also suggests that this rise in anti-Semitism will not stop, even if an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict is reached.

Forced to move
France has a massive Jewish population of 500,000. France’s Society for Protection of the Jewish Community reports that compared to the 1990s, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the 2000s is seven times higher. That is a dramatic increase. The consequence is more and more Jewish people moving away from France. Indeed, 3,288 French Jews moved from France to Israel in 2013, which is an increase of 73% from 2012. The majority listed anti-Semitism, as well as the massive electoral success for the far-right party Front National, as their reasons for leaving France. They felt that they have no other choice.

Recent Danish incidents
In the past few months all Nordic countries have been affected by anti-Semitism. In Denmark, two incidents with a clear anti-Semitic message occurred recently.

First, there was a vandalism of a Jewish school in Cøpenhagen, Carolineskolen. During the night, a group of people broke into the school premises and wrote aggressive anti-Semitic messages on the walls. The school principal disclosed that the messages had clear references to the ongoing clash between Israel and Hamas. Children as young as the age of one attend the school. It was reported that several of the children asked to go home from school, because they were frightened and didn’t feel safe. Furthermore, they were advised not to wear Jewish symbols publically. The school principal explicitly stated how the school has absolutely nothing to do with the current fight between Israel and Hamas, and how he had never experienced anything like that.

Secondly, a reporter wearing a kippah through the Nørrebro neighborhood got surrounded, threatened and verbally assaulted. The six-eight young people surrounding him took his kippah and never returned it. The majority of Hamas supportors in Denmark live in Nørrebro. When the pro-Hamas people realized he was a reporter doing an experiment for his radio show, they forced him to agree that ‘all the money he had been given to do this should be given to Hamas’. Nowadays you will never see a person wearing a kippah through Nørrebro, simply because they fear for their own safety.

Needles to say, these incidents prove that the ongoing fight between Israel and Hamas has traveled all the way to Denmark.

Other Nordic countries following along
Denmark is not the only Nordic country that has experienced a rise of anti-Semitic incidents. All the other Nordic countries are affected as well, especially the city Malmø in Sweden.

Some decades ago, Malmø was known for its welcoming attitude and environment regarding the Jewish community. Now, the picture looks radically different. Few Jews remain in Malmø as many left the city for good due to the escalation of anti-Semitic incidents. Malmø is facing serious issues with immigration, and this has affected the Jewish community. As it turns out, a big part of the anti-Semitic people terrorizing Jewish people in Malmø are immigrants, especially from the Middle East and the northern part of Africa. That pattern is also seen in other European countries, including France and Germany.

Schneur Kesselman, Malmø’s rabbi, has been forced to buy a car, as he otherwise often would be harassed on his way to the synagogue. He is determined not to give in to the anti-Semitists, but had made it clear that the situation has become increasingly unsafe and uncomfortable for the Jewish people living in Malmø the past few years.

One of the biggest challenges is how some of these violent anti-Semitic people equate Jews all over the world and Israel. By doing so, many Jewish people suffer from the hatred towards Israel, a place that many have never traveled to or even agree with politically. Extremists are impossible to talk sense into, and this is yet another terrifying example of that.

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