Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 9 News List

What is fueling the rise in Europe's anti-Semitism?

Renewed attacks on Jews and criticism of Israel have been linked to the growing number of European Muslims, but some point to the policies of Ariel Sharon's government as an influence as well

By Chris McGreal  /  THE GUARDIAN , JERUSALEM

ILLUSTRATION: MOUNTAIN PEOPLE

Sixty years after the Holocaust, European Jews and Israelis are increasingly wondering if Europe is being sucked into the worst wave of anti-Semitism since World War II.

In the past few weeks, a German member of parliament was forced to resign after saying that Jews were responsible for Soviet atrocities, and the commander of the German army's special forces was sacked for agreeing with him.

Then came the observation by the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis that Jews are at the root of all evil, and the firebombing of a Jewish school in Paris.

But Israelis felt their fears were confirmed by an opinion poll of EU citizens that placed Israel as the greatest danger to world peace. Israelis were shocked, perplexed and outraged that they should be seen as a bigger threat than North Korea or Iran.

"Anti-Semitism has become politically correct in Europe," said Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and minister in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government.

On Nov. 24, Sharon warned European governments that they need to do more to combat a revival of old hatreds responsible for rising anti-Semitism. He described Europe's burgeoning Muslim population as a threat to Jews and dismissed accusations that rocket attacks on Gaza and tanks in Jenin have contributed to growing hostility.

"What we are facing in Europe is an anti-Semitism that has always existed and it really is not a new phenomenon," the prime minister said in an interview with EUpolitix.com, an online newswire dedicated to EU affairs.

"This anti-Semitism is fundamental, and today, in order to incite it and to undermine the Jews' rights for self-defense, it is rearoused.

"These days to conduct an anti-Semite policy is not a popular thing, so the anti-Semites bundle their policies in with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Last week, Sharon said growing anti-Semitism in Europe contributed to the bombing of two synagogues in Istanbul, the destruction of part of a Jewish school in Paris and a series of smaller attacks on Jewish targets.

"It's 60 years since the Holocaust and we are again the target of attacks, fires," said Cobi Benatoff, president of the European Jewish Congress.

"Anti-Semitism should have been part of the history of old Europe by now, but unfortunately it is very present and alive in the Europe of today," he said.

For the chairman of Israel's Holocaust memorial council, Avner Shalev, Theodorakis's anti-Jewish statement is a "symptom of the systematic flooding of Europe with incitement against the Jewish people and the state of Israel."

The Israeli Forum to Coordinate the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism -- a group of Israeli intelligence and foreign ministry officials -- defines anti-Semitism in three forms: classic, new and Muslim.

The forum asserts that the most dangerous strand has its roots in Islam and that the rising number of Muslims in Europe is responsible for fuelling terror attacks, street violence and general harassment of Jews.

Muslims are also blamed for the spread of anti-Semitism to countries such as Denmark, previously renowned for its efforts to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Sharon described the growing Muslim population in Europe as "endangering the life of Jewish people."

"Of course the sheer fact that there are a huge amount of Muslims, approximately 70 million in the EU, this issue has also turned into a political matter. I would say, in my opinion, EU governments are not doing enough to tackle anti-Semitism," he said.

This story has been viewed 3824 times.
TOP top