Richard MatherRichard Mather writes and edits for Israel News Online. He has also written for the Jewish Media Agency, Poetica Magazine, Drash Pit, Voices Israel and Chabad Lubavitch’s Holiday Times Magazine. He lives in Manchester, England.
In the past few days, two very high-profile figures have spoken out about the dangers of anti-Semitism. Both Prince Charles and Pope Francis have expressed concern that Judeophobia is a growing problem in Britain and Europe.
In a speech praising the outgoing British chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, the Prince of Wales warned that Britain was suffering from an “apparent rise in anti-Semitism, along with other poisonous and debilitating forms of intolerance.”
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has condemned anti-Semitism, calling it unchristian. “Because of our commons roots, a true Christian cannot be anti-Semitic,” he said at a meeting with representatives of the international Jewish community at the Vatican.
These comments come at a time when anti-Semitism is running high in Britain and Europe. A new report, conducted on behalf of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, found that 26% of Jews in Europe have suffered anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the past year, while 34% experienced harassment in the past five years.
According to the study, around half of all Jews living in France, Belgium and Hungary are considering emigrating because they no longer feel safe in their respective countries. And it seems a safe bet that many of these frightened people will seek sanctuary in Israel.
Making Aliyah is a testament to the success of Zionism, but it is also a sad indication that Europe has still not learnt to cherish its Jewish communities, even after the horrors of the Holocaust. But the decimation of European Jewish life will continue as long as the security situation remains precarious.
Over the past decade and a half, Europe’s Jews have witnessed a disturbing rise in the number of anti-Semitic attacks, often by Arabs who use their irrational hatred of Israel to justify their attacks. Assaults, murders, death threats, cemetery desecrations, firebombings, graffiti and even the bullying of Jewish children by their Muslim peers are all too frequent in contemporary Europe.
The rise in anti-Semitism in Europe has received little attention or sympathy because much of the abuse is carried out by Muslims under the protection of liberals who accuse critics of Islamophobia or racism. Far too often, universities, political institutions, charities, churches and media outlets provide a platform for radical Muslims and other anti-Semites to disseminate their hatred of Israel and Jews.
And there are many people – politicians among them – who are simply afraid to condemn Islamic violence because of fear of retribution. Left-wing officials in Bulgaria, for instance, have been reluctant to blacklist Hizbullah following the infamous bus bombing because of concerns that condemning the Shia militants will lead to a terrorist backlash.
The driving force behind contemporary anti-Semitism is the unhealthy obsession with the Palestinian Arabs. This fixation usually involves prejudicial, stupid and sometimes vitriolic condemnation of the Jewish state, with absurd characterizations of Israel as an apartheid nation that tortures Palestinian Arab children. This is little different from accusing Jews of poisoning wells or using the blood of Christian children to make Passover bread.
I suspect that Prince Charles and Pope Francis are both aware of the link between anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing but are reluctant to become entangled in a political row concerning Israel and the Palestinians. But perhaps they ought to say something because it is an inescapable fact that Palestinianism, which seeks to divorce the Jewish people from the land of Israel, is the driving force behind contemporary anti-Semitism.
Indeed, it is Europe’s Jews who are bearing the brunt of the disproportionate focus on the Palestinian Arab issue. The majority of Jews identity with the State of Israel, so they must be horrified when the Church of Scotland denies the biblical injunction that Israel was promised to the Hebrews, or when university campuses hold their annual hatefest known as Apartheid Week, or when The Sunday Times prints a cartoon depicting Binyamin Netanyahu building a wall using what appears to be the blood of Arabs.
What is essentially a dispute over a tiny piece of land in the Middle East has become a huge issue at the top of the global agenda. I suspect that Israelophobes – whether they are jihadists, far-right conspiracy theorists or Presbyterians – have deliberately turned the Israeli-Arab Palestinian impasse into a universal problem in order to justify their conflict with Jews. In any other circumstance you would be hard pressed to find a situation in which Islamists, neo-Nazis, socialists, liberals, radical Islamists and Quakers agree on anything. But when it comes to Israel and “the Jews,” all these factions share the same demented prejudice. And it is this prejudice which is harming Jewish communities in Manchester, Malmo, Toulouse and elsewhere.
And isn’t it amazing how many people say the most outrageous things about Israel and the Jews but deny they are anti-Semitic. This was a behavior something observed by British writer George Orwell, who noted that anti-Semites rebuff the accusation of anti-Semitism because deep down they know that it is “an irrational thing.”
Orwell also observed that anti-Semites are completely immune to facts and statistics. I could mention the fact that the 1920 San Remo Conference and the 1922 Mandate of Palestine endorse the creation of a Jewish homeland in Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank'). I could point out that Israeli Arabs have the vote and represent their constituents in the Knesset. I could present a dazzling assortment of photographs of Gaza’s five-star hotel, bustling markets, luxury shopping mall and beautiful beaches, as well as jeeps and refrigerators supplied by Israel. But anti-Semites would still insist that Gaza is a prison camp.
But as Orwell said, “If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues.”
I think Orwell makes an interesting point. Anti-Semitism and the hatred of Israel is an emotional or neurotic condition in which the anti-Semite loses contact with reality and cannot be swayed by logic or facts. Their emotional attachment to hating Jews and Israel must be maintained at all costs, otherwise their worldview will collapse. As the Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung noted, “I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life.”
That is why I am starting to believe that the most vocal critics of Israel do not want an end to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Demonizing Israel and focusing obsessively on the Palestinian Arab issue (without ever solving it) is politically and emotionally useful to anti-Semites who need the conflict to endure in order to maintain their own irrational hatred of Jews, Judaism and all things Israeli.
And as long as sensible people in the corridors of power in Westminster and Brussels continue to play into the hands of these obsessional and irrational anti-Semites, the security of Jews will become increasingly perilous and many will leave Europe for the safety of Israel or the US.
It would be unforgivable if Hitler’s dream of a Judenfrei Europe belatedly comes true because of the hysterical actions of Palestinianists and the weakness of politicians.