Menaced by extremists and migrants, European Jews increasingly feel abandoned by governments

June 9, 2018 by Eric Berger - JNS
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If Sacha Ghozlan had any doubts about whether there would be more antisemitic attacks in France following the March murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, he quickly got an answer…writes Eric Berger/JNS.

Marchers honor the memory of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, 85, who was murdered last week in a brutal antisemitic attack. Credit: European Jewish Press.

Ghozlam, the president of the French Jewish Students Union (UEJF), planned to attend a rally on March 28 with more than 10,000 others in response to the murder of Mireille Knoll, who was found stabbed 11 times in her Paris apartment a few days earlier.

Hours before the gathering, Jewish students at the University of La Sorbonne in Paris found that its UEJF chapter office had been vandalized, with materials tossed on the floor and stepped on and “Death to Israel” and “Zionist racist anti-goy office,” written in French on the walls, according to videos of the office.

“At that particular time, it was very difficult to organize a gathering of the Jewish students,” said Ghozlam. “They refused to release a public statement [condemning the vandalism] because they didn’t want to be involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

That rapid-fire series of events is becoming increasingly common for French Jews, many of whom feel as though they are under attack from both the left and right ends of the political spectrum, not to mention by terrorist organizations.

In 2017, there were 311 antisemitic incidents in France, a 7.2 percent decrease from the previous year, according to a report published by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University. But the number of violent antisemitic incidents increased from 77 in 2016 to 97 in 2017—and that did not include some violent incidents that were still under evaluation.

Ghozlam, a 26-year-old law student, and others are looking to the French government not only to provide increased security for its some 400,000 Jewish residents, but also to intervene in stopping antisemitic rhetoric online and vigorously condemning it in public.

“We want them to fight more against hate speech on the Internet because we feel that one of the best ways to spread antisemitism and anti-Zionist conspiracy theories is social media,” he said.

French police arrested a 27-year-old neighbor of Knoll and a 21-year-old homeless man for her murder. They have not made any arrests for the vandalism of the UEJF office, according to Ghozlam.

Study measures attitudes among French towards Jews

After the vandalism, the UEJF wanted to get political leaders’ attention, so they commissioned a survey that measures attitudes among French people towards Israel and Jews.

The study by the Institut français d’opinion publique, a market research firm, found that 54 percent of the respondents ages 18 to 24 believe that “Zionism is an international organization that seeks to influence the world and society in favor of Jews.”

Fifty-two percent considered Zionism a racist ideology, and 57 percent had a bad image of Israel.

The organization published the results on the 70-year anniversary of Israel’s founding.

“It was a good way to show how people feel about Zionism,” said Ghozam. “And it showed that we as an anti-racist organization have some work to do to explain what is Zionism and to explain what is the reality in Israel.”

In July, the organization is funding a trip to Israel for about 20 non-Jewish social workers from underprivileged neighborhoods in France, where the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has a strong presence.

“We want to try to build bridges between the Jewish communities and other communities,” he said.

Jews in France and elsewhere in Europe now face not only traditional antisemitism from the far-right, but also from far-left parts of European society and from Muslim immigrant communities, according to Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee-Europe. The focal point is a “biased view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

She would like to see European governments adopt a “zero-tolerance policy” towards antisemitism.

“There seems to be a discrepancy between the words and the actual actions,” she said. “You will have very strong words from the president, from the prime minister, on antisemitism, but then you will have small incivilities or anti-Israeli demonstrations in the streets of Paris that suddenly turn sour.”

She would like to see law enforcement arrest people who make anti-Jewish statements, saying “even the smallest antisemitic incivility should be harshly condemned and penalized.”

‘Unwilling to ban evil organizations’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Europe this week and met with French President Emmanuel Macron, among other European heads of states. In addition to discussing the Iran nuclear deal and the recent violence in Gaza, Netanyahu also pointed out the wave of antisemitic violence in France and met with members of the Jewish community.

“We are preventing terrible attacks, including here, in France. Israel has stopped a great deal of attacks in Europe and will continue to do so,” Netanyahu told Jewish leaders in Paris.

Groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a nonprofit that fights antisemitism, would also like to see European governments take a greater role in preventing the attacks.

Members of Hamas and Hezbollah are preparing to march in a parade in Berlin on June 9 calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. The Wiesenthal Center has asked the Berlin mayor to ban the gathering.

“The German governments in different states have banned parties, have banned demonstrations, but when it comes to Israel and Jews, they are very unwilling to ban evil, antisemitic organizations,” said Benjamin Wienthal, a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who splits his time between Berlin and Jerusalem. “The bottom line is Germany has abandoned Israel and abandoned Jews worldwide in the fight against antisemitism.”

Also this week, news came from Germany that a 14-year-old missing Jewish girl was found on June 6 having been raped and murdered. A 20-year-old Iraqi and 35-year-old Turkish migrant are suspected to be responsible for her death.

While the German policies may be disturbing, Wienthal, also a correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, said he was not shocked by the UEJF report. He sees it as “part and parcel of the normalization of the contemporary antisemitism in Europe.”

“My advice to European Jews,” he added, “is to rapidly make aliyah.”


3 Responses to “Menaced by extremists and migrants, European Jews increasingly feel abandoned by governments”
  1. Gillian Miller says:

    I have spent most of my life, since the age of around 8 or 9 years old, speaking out against anti-Semitism in one form or another (I used to write letters to children in Russia). In the 50 odd years since then, I have seen no change in the attitude of governments, they turn a blind eye to what is happening whilst paying lip service to their desire to do something.

    In the UK, we have violently anti-Semitic members of parliament as well as laws about any and all forms of racism. I have yet to see anyone arrest the likes of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, or Ken Livingston, lately Labour mayor of London. Why not? Surely charging them would be a huge statement that anti-Semitism is not acceptable? Instead, they have charged Tommy Robinson and sent him to prison for speaking out against the Muslim rape gangs who have been targeting vulnerable children whilst the authorities turn a blind eye. I may not support Tommy’s right wing leanings but I do support his right to speak out against what is happening which is nothing more than the truth. In fact, with the growing number of Muslims comes a greater number of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe. Not all of these are Muslim driven but from those with right wing leanings as they see that these abuses are mostly ignored.

    Because anti-Semitism is a growing international issue ALL Jews in ALL countries need to speak out. Far too many are reluctant to do so. We saw what happened in Nazi Germany and we are seeing it with Jews in many countries such as France, Belgium and Sweden which is becoming Judenfrei / Judenrein with many emigrating to Israel. And what of Israel? Far too many Jews fail to support Israel and, if Israel falls, then what will happen to those of us in the diaspora? The international community blames Israel for protecting itself from the terrorist attacks along the security fence. These abuses against Israel is also a form of anti-Semitism.

    If we do not speak out for ourselves and Israel then who will?

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. – Niemöller

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      “Speaking out” is important, but leverage is essential.
      “Speaking” falls on deaf ears when the “speakers” have no leverage.

  2. Leon Poddebsky says:

    And organisations like “Breaking the Silence” and “The New Israel Fund” donate propaganda ammunition to these antisemites on a golden platter, instead of combating the enemies of the people who are supposed to be their brothers.
    As Tuvya Tenenbaum says in one of his books: something to the effect that we Jews are a curious people. “We love those who hate us.”

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