The deepening of antisemitic discourse in Europe is now beginning to challenge the post-war democratic settlement. It is commonplace to report attacks on Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and upon Jews themselves. The 1930s slogan, Kauft nicht bei Juden (Don’t buy from Jews) has been taken up by a number of liberal-left institutions, including the British trade union movement. Other attempts to impose boycotts on Israel focus on universities, journalists and intellectuals — paradoxically, three areas of protest in Israel against continued occupation of Palestinian lands.
There are no calls to boycott Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States despite the appalling treatment of foreign labour in those countries. Although Turkey has illegally occupied northern Cyprus and sent thousands of settlers there in defiance of UN resolutions, there is no campaign against Turkey or call to boycott Turkish goods or universities. Iran hangs teenage gays and authorises the stoning to death of women who flout ultra Sharia codes. Yet no one demands that Iranians bear a collective guilt for the decisions of their government.
David Cameron, when in Turkey, referred to Gaza as “a prison camp”. He did not mention that Egypt also was blockading Gaza or that Israelis had handed Gaza over to the Palestinians and been promptly confronted with a hail of rockets. He did not mention that the Turkish state adopted far more ferocious measures against the Kurdish PKK than Israel does against Hamas.
In Europe today, the hard right, the anti-Zionist left, and militant Islamist ideologues combine to use old images of secret Jewish wielders of influence under the rubric of the “Israel Lobby”.
The European Parliament contains MEPs from antisemitic political formations. Even if extreme right-wing parties today prefer to profile their hostility to Islam, their background beliefs remain unchanged. Some, like Jobbik, which won 16 per cent of the vote in recent Hungarian elections, are openly anti-Jewish.
The new revisionism tries to make an equivalence between the Shoah and Communism while overlooking the extraordinary scientific and organisational effort by the Nazis between 1941 and 1945 to gather millions of Jews from every corner of Europe and put them to death. As brutal and sickening Stalinism was, it was possible to make one’s peace with it by becoming a Communist. No such escape from Nazism was open to Jews.
The Belgian European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, has stated: “it is not easy to have a rational discussion with a moderate Jew” about the Middle East. He later apologised but the expression of such sentiments shows how, even at a subconscious level, contempt for Jews is now permeating the European political class.
Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German social democrat and a member of the Bundesbank governing council, in a book railing against the Muslim presence in Europe, spoke of Jews possessing a “particular gene”. This provoked an immediate reaction from the Social Democratic Party and obliged Sarrazin to leave the Bundesbank board. No such sanction was applied to Trade Commissioner De Gucht.
Under the guise of Islamophobia, the European right is now creating a new ideology of dislike for the other in which regressive and repellant remarks about Jews and the very existence of Israel can be openly expressed.
This, combined with the liberal-left’s hostility to Israel’s need to defend itself against terrorist attacks and its citizens’ right to live in peace behind secure frontiers is fuelling the rise of the new European antisemitism. Israel is regularly described as an “apartheid” state. This despite the presence of Arab members of the Knesset and the existence of Arab communities and culture within pre-1967 Israel. By applying the term to Israel, anti-Jewish activists are seeking to dehumanise it and remove it from the community of nations.
“Liberal” university campuses routinely allow hate against Israel. Any level of support for the Jewish state by Jews in European countries, or expressions of the natural affinity that Jews have with Israel, just as British Pakistanis or Indians have affection for the countries to which they feel connected, is held up to ridicule and shame. This is classic antisemitism in new clothes.