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Stopping Anti-Semitism in Europe

January 30, 2013
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Greece's Golden Dawn party leader Nikolaos G. Michaloliakos speaking in a political ad, April 2012. JTA Photo

Sixty-eight years after the liberation of Auschwitz, anti-Semitism is active and worrisome in Europe.

That’s not to say the scourge is reserved for that continent alone. It can be found everywhere, even in nations where no Jews reside. Certainly, we see it in the Arab and Muslim world. Closer to home, incidents in the United States continue to stain our society.

But the signs in Europe are especially troubling, with European Jewish leaders making repeated pleas for us all to pay attention, to press for political resolve and for educational initiatives to strengthen tolerance and curb the hate.

Consider these stories, all within the past few weeks:

• Italian police arrested right-wing extremists in several cities on charges of inciting anti-Semitic and anti-foreign hatred and violence.

• The Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn said an American Jewish Committee mission to Greece is meant to ensure further “Jewish influence over Greek political issues” and safeguard the interests of “international loan sharks.”

• A British cartoonist portrayed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall on the bodies of Palestinians and using their blood as cement.

The irony is that these incidents and others came as memorial ceremonies took place across Europe to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2005,the United Nations decreed the memorial to be observed on Jan. 27, the 1945 date that Auschwitz was liberated.

An Israeli government report on anti-Semitism around the world, released purposely on Jan. 27, confirmed the disturbing trend in Europe. The report, tracking incidents in 2012, found that many were carried out by groups identifying with extremist Islamist factions or with the radical right, But while the study found no significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the Arab or Muslim world, the largest increase came in Europe.

The anti-Semitism is coming from all parts of society — from the hoodlums who desecrate Jewish graves, from the intellectuals who draw cartoons and teach at universities, and from the far-right politicians in Greece, Hungary and elsewhere who have been gaining political power and whose hate-filled rhetoric is eerily reminiscent of an earlier time.

We are not back in 1930s Europe, but the danger signs are there. Adding to the threat is the degree to which anti-Semitism informs anti-Israel attitudes, and vice versa.

Remembering the Holocaust is a worthy and necessary rite. It’s necessary but not sufficient. Those in power must ensure that the promulgators of hate must be punished and scorned, not rewarded.
 

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