ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE

:
A GROWING DANGER
LAWRENCE GROSSMAN

PROTESTERS SET THE STAR OF DAVID
ON FIRE DURING AN ANTI-ISRAEL
RALLY IN ATHENS IN JANUARY 2009. 

“ANYONE WHO HITS SOMEONE WEARING
A SKULLCAP IS HITTING US ALL. ANYONE
WHO DAMAGES A JEWISH GRAVESTONE
IS DISGRACING OUR CULTURE. ANYONE WHO
ATTACKS A SYNAGOGUE IS ATTACKING
THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR FREE SOCIETY. ”
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL AT A RALLY IN BERLIN
AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM ON SEPTEMBER 14, 2014.

Table of Contents
1 • The Latest Anti-Semitic Attacks in Europe
3 • Putting Things in Context
4 • By the Numbers: Anti-Semitism’s Rise
6 • Why Is This Happening and Where Is It Coming From?
1 0 • Combating Anti-Semitism in Europe
11 • AJC’s Call to Action

BLATANT ANTI-SEMITISM HAS RESURFACED IN EUROPE,
WHERE INCIDENTS IN RECENT MONTHS HAVE RUN THE
GAMUT FROM ASSAULT TO MURDER:
• A reporter walked down the street in Malmo,

• In Paris itself the previous July, anti-Israel

Sweden, in January 2015, wearing a kippah and a

demonstrations in the wake of the Gaza war

Star of David to see how people would react. He

turned explicitly anti-Semitic, as mobs attacked

was cursed, pelted with eggs, and hit, and fled

synagogues and the cry “Death to the Jews”

for his life.

was heard. This was nothing new. On the night
of January 26, 2014—the eve of International

• A Dutch Jew walking down the street in The Hague

Holocaust Memorial Day—a scheduled anti-

on Friday night, September 5, 2014, was cursed

government march in Paris similarly turned into

and almost run over by a man riding a motorized

an anti-Semitic rally as the crowd chanted “Jews,

scooter. Reporting the incident to police, he noted

France is not yours!” “Jews, get out of France!”

that this kind of hatred had made him decide not

“Israel out of Europe!” “Piss off Jew, France is

to wear a kippah in public.

not for you!”

• In a suburb of Paris, three men broke into the

• A cold-blooded killer calmly walked into the

apartment of a Jewish couple on December 1,

Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, on May 24,

2014. One raped the woman while the others

2014, and shot to death four people.

demanded cash, one of them saying, “Tell us
where you hide the money. You Jews always
have money.”

A GIRL STANDS NEXT TO
FLOWERS AT THE JEWISH
MUSEUM IN BRUSSELS ON
MAY 25, 2014, THE DAY AFTER
FOUR PEOPLE WERE SHOT
TO DEATH THERE.

1 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

ON THE MORNING OF JANUARY 9, 2015, AS NEWS BROKE
OF A HOSTAGE SITUATION AT A KOSHER SUPERMARKET
IN PARIS, AJC SPRANG INTO ACTION ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
@AJCGLOBAL’S TOP TWEET INSPIRED THE VIRAL
SOLIDARITY HASHTAG #JESUISJUIF (I AM A JEW).

• Another assassin shot and killed Dan Uzan, a member of the Jewish
community standing guard at the entrance of a Copenhagen synagogue
on February 15, 2015, where a bat mitzvah was being celebrated. Hours
earlier the assassin had attacked a local café hosting a discussion on
Islam and free speech, killing a Swedish cartoonist.

• And little over a month earlier, on January 9, a gunman took control
of a kosher supermarket in Paris, holding everyone inside hostage.
He killed four of them before police shot him. Two days earlier his
two accomplices killed 12 at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo
satirical magazine.

BESIDE THE PHYSICAL THREATS AND
VIOLENCE, THERE HAVE ALSO BEEN OTHER
INCIDENTS IN EUROPE THAT AROUSE
JEWISH CONCERN:
• The American Jewish reggae star Matisyahu, scheduled to perform at
the Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Spain, was abruptly disinvited after
he refused to express support for a Palestinian state. An international
outcry forced the sponsors to reinvite him, but when Matisyahu—who
is not an Israeli—came on stage, he was met by curses and obscenities
from people waving Palestinian flags. “There’s definitely an anti-Semitism that’s there,” he said afterward.

• As of September 2015, the new head of the British Labour Party is
Jeremy Corbyn. The Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish community’s most
respected paper and by no means a disseminator of alarmist rhetoric,
editorialized that “there is overwhelming evidence of his association
with, support for—and even in one case, alleged funding of—Holocaust
deniers, terrorists and some outright anti-Semites.” The Jewish Chronicle
found it “little short of astonishing that a man who chooses to associate
with racist and extremists is about to become the leader of one of our
two main parties and could conceivably become Prime Minister.”
2 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

THE IMPORT OF THESE ALARMING EVENTS SHOULD NEITHER BE
MINIMIZED NOR SENSATIONALIZED.

On the one hand, they are not a mere passing aberration, but rather the
latest phase of a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe that began more
than a decade ago and shows no sign of abating. It should come as no
surprise to learn that emigration of Jews from the continent, to Israel
and elsewhere, is accelerating. While almost all of the recent incidents
of violence were carried out by young men from Muslim backgrounds,
surveys indicate that there are two other subgroups that are especially
hostile to Jews—political extremists of the right and the left.
THIS IS NOT THE 1930s

On the other hand, the recent anti-Semitic manifestations do not
mark a return to the 1930s and 1940s. Nowhere in Europe have Jews
been deprived of their civil rights or their livelihoods. Nowhere are
openly anti-Semitic political parties respectable, let alone influential.
Furthermore, public opinion strongly opposes attacks on Jews. Most
important, European leaders unanimously condemn anti-Semitism. The
most eloquent expression of this has come from French Prime Minister
Manuel Valls, who said: “To understand what the idea of the republic is
about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle…. If 100,000 French people of
Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France
anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France.
The French Republic will be judged a failure.”

“IF 100,000 JEWS
LEAVE, FRANCE
WILL NO LONGER
BE FRANCE. THE
FRENCH REPUBLIC
WILL BE JUDGED
A FAILURE. ”
FRENCH PRIME MINISTER
MANUEL VALLS

3 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

IN FRANCE, SYNAGOGUES
AND JEWISH SCHOOLS HAVE
RECEIVED PROTECTION FROM
THE MILITARY.

NEVERTHELESS, JEWS ARE WORRIED, AND FOR GOOD REASON.

The EU’s Agency for Fundamental (FRA) issued a report in November
2013 of Jewish perceptions and experiences in eight countries that
collectively contain more than 90% of the EU’s Jewish population.
Two-thirds of the Jews said that anti-Semitism was a serious problem,
and three-quarters believed that it had gotten worse over the previous
five years.

1 /3 OF EUROPEAN JEWS HAVE CONSIDERED
LEAVING THE COUNTRIES OF THEIR BIRTH
BECAUSE OF RISING ANTI-SEMITISM.
A quarter of the respondents had experienced anti-Semitic harassment
of some kind—primarily verbal, in the mail or over the internet—though
only 4% had been subjected to physical violence. More than three-quarters of the Jews who had been harassed did not contact the police,
believing that it would do no good. Close to 40% do not go out of their
houses wearing symbols of their Jewishness for fear of trouble, and 23%
said they stay away from Jewish events for the same reason. Nearly a
third of the sample said that the rise of anti-Semitism had made them
consider emigration. The FRA report showed particularly high rates of
Jewish concern in France, Belgium, and Hungary.

4 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

“J 
EW, JEW, COWARDLY PIG,
COME ON OUT AND
FIGHT ALONE. ”
CHANT BY BERLIN PROTESTERS DURING
ANTI-ISRAEL DEOMONSTRATIONS IN THE
SUMMER OF 2014.

62%

B E LG I U M

6 2 % O F J E WS
F E E L T H AT T H E Y A R E
BLAMED FOR DECISIONS
M A D E BY T H E I S R A E L I
G OV E R N M E N T.

60%

42%

91%

50%

FRANCE

6 0 % O F J E WS
WO R RY A B O U T
B E I N G P H YS I C A L LY
AT TAC K E D B E C AU S E
T H E Y A R E J E WS .

GERMANY

4 2 % O F J E WS H E A R D
A L L E G AT I O N S T H AT
J E WS E X P LO I T H O LO C AU ST
VICTIMHOOD FOR THEIR
OW N P U R P O S E S .

H U N G A RY

9 1 % O F J E WS
F E E L T H AT A N T I S E M I T I S M H AS
I N C R E AS E D I N T H E
PAST F I V E Y E A R S .

SW E D E N

5 0 % O F J E WS
AVO I D W E A R I N G
ITEMS IN PUBLIC
IDENTIFYING THEM
AS J E W I S H .

T H E E U ’ S AG E N CY F O R F U N DA M E N TA L R I G H TS 2 0 1 3 R E P O R T
O N J E W I S H E X P E R I E N C E S I N E I G H T E U R O P E A N N AT I O N S

WHY IS ANTI-SEMITISM RESURFACING
IN EUROPE PRECISELY NOW?
EUROPE HAS UNDERGONE RADICAL DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE.

There has been a massive influx of Muslims—six million live in France
alone, ten times the number of Jews there. With hundreds of thousands
of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East seeking
entry into Europe, the situation is likely to be exacerbated.
Also, the fading hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement are
widely blamed on Israel’s continued control of and building on the
West Bank, and local Jews are seen as Israeli surrogates.
And the economic downturn that began in 2008 has hit certain
countries especially hard, triggering a feeling of helplessness among
the poor and unemployed, encouraging the search for scapegoats,
and providing opportunities for demagogues.
Another factor of immense importance is the proliferation of digital
and social media. Extremists who would have had minimal impact when
people got their news in print or on radio or television can now reach
millions via their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and YouTube.
The anonymous culture of social media has also given license to many to
engage in hateful rhetoric shunned in polite society. Take for instance

the story surrounding the hashtag #UnBonJuif (A Good Jew), which
became the third most popular hashtag in France for a time in 2013.
The hashtag took off after it inspired what Le Monde described as
“a campaign of anti-Semitic jokes” using the phrase. Popular
tweets included:

“A good Jew is a dead Jew.”

“A good Jew is a slave.”

“How many Jews can fit in a Volkswagen? Two in the
back, two in the front, and 100 in the ashtray.”

6 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

WHERE IS THIS ANTI-SEMITISM COMING FROM?
NEO-NAZISM IS A FRINGE PHENOMENON IN MODERN EUROPE,

and with the fall of communism, the nations of the European Union
are representative democracies—so what explains the resurgence of
anti-Semitism on the continent?
While Nazi policies against the Jews were the most devastating and
far-reaching ever devised, the history of anti-Semitism in Europe shows
great variety and complexity. Targeting Jews has served many different
purposes over the years. The very term “anti-Semitism,” for instance, was
coined in 1879 to denote a new form of opposition to Jews not rooted
in Christianity, but rather in the Jews’ alleged control over the economy
and the government. At various times, Jew-haters have said that Jews
are clannish or money-hungry or killed Jesus, that they are the bearers
of capitalism, of modernity, of socialism or communism, that they are
disloyal to their government, undermine civilization, plot—as Elders of
Zion—to take over the world, or to racially pollute the populace. The
specific arguments of anti-Semites tell us more about their fears and
insecurities than about the Jews.

“W 
HAT IS FRIGHTENING AT THE MOMENT, BECAUSE
OF THE RISE OF ISLAMIST EXTREMISM, IS THAT YOU
SEE A NEW THREAT—A NEW ANTI-SEMITISM—AND
NOT THE TRADITIONAL ANTI-SEMITISM. ”
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON

PROTESTERS AT AN
ANTI-ISRAEL RALLY IN 2014
DISPLAY THE QUENELLE,
A REVERSE NAZI SALUTE.

7 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

TODAY AS WELL, ANTI-SEMITISM IN DEMOCRATIC EUROPE
COMES IN A NUMBER OF VARIETIES, SOME TRANSPARENT,
OTHERS MORE SUBTLE. Four distinct forms of the phenomenon

are readily discernable. And despite ideological differences, those
espousing the different anti-Jewish causes will sometimes
cooperate with each other against the common Jewish enemy.

1 

Extreme Nationalist Political Movements
Most similar to the prewar anti-Semitic groups
are the extreme nationalist political movements
that spew xenophobia and hint darkly at
Jewish control of their countries. The most
significant of these are the Jobbik party in
Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, neither
of which are members of their government
coalitions. Jobbik has drawn support for its

ANTI-ISRAEL PROTESTERS IN PARIS HOVER

strongly anti-Roma agenda, and in the national

AROUND A SWASTIKA AT A RALLY IN AUGUST

election of 2014 attracted over 20% of the vote,

2014, DURING THE CONFLICT IN GAZA.

making it Hungary’s third largest party.
2
In Greece, the country’s economic problems 

Elements of the Arab and Muslim Population
In Western Europe, much of the antagonism

have helped Golden Dawn find support, and it

toward Jews comes from elements in the grow-

has folded anti-Semitic conspiracy theories

ing Arab and Muslim population, which is itself

into its thuggish agenda. The previous Greek

the victim of discrimination on the part of the

government cracked down hard on party leaders

majority society. In the FRA report, 27% of Jews

and declared Golden Dawn a criminal enterprise.

who had experienced anti-Semitic harassment

The party received 7% of the vote in the

said the perpetrators had “Muslim extremist

2015 election.

views,” more than any other group cited.
It is people of Arab and Muslim origin who
constitute much of the mass following for
Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the black comedian
in France who has become the public face of
anti-Semitism in that country and beyond, and
whose “Quenelle” gesture has become an
anti-Semitic calling-card.

SUPPORTERS OF GOLDEN DAWN, A GREEK
POLITICAL PARTY, OPENLY ESPOUSE
ANTI-SEMITISM.

8 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

3 A 
nti-Israel Sentiment Antagonism toward
Jews in Europe because of their real or purported
association with Israel encompasses a much
broader sector of the population than just the
Muslim community.
Local Jews are often held responsible for the
policies of the Israeli government, such as
construction activity in the West Bank settle-

PROTESTORS IN POLAND CALL FOR THE

ments and security-based restrictions on the

OUTLAWING OF KOSHER SLAUGHTER.

movements of Palestinians. These and other
Israeli measures are imputed to European Jews,
creating pressure on them to explicitly distance
themselves from Israel or suffer consequences
for not doing so.

4

Association of Jews with Perceived Barbaric
Religious Practices

There are organized movements in Europe
to severely limit or ban kosher slaughter and
infant circumcision, two Biblically-based Jewish

Europeans who engage in such Israel-bashing,
or who go further and question the legitimacy

religious practices without which the practice of
Jewish life would be impossible.

of Zionism and the Jewish state will often indignantly deny they are anti-Semitic. But singling

Several countries have outlawed kosher slaughter

out Israel for condemnation when other countries

(which is done without prior stunning), Poland

get a free pass for far worse actions suggests

being the most recent. The anti-circumcision

anti-Semitic bias, whether conscious or not.

cause made headlines in Germany when a local

As the Belgian writer Jean Amery put it,

judge ruled against the practice, and action by

“anti-Zionism contains anti-Semitism like a

the federal parliament was needed to override

cloud contains a storm.”

the decision. There have been strong anti-circumcision campaigns in a number of European
countries, and the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe—which, to be sure, plays
only an advisory role—passed a resolution in 2013
urging an end to infant circumcision when not
medically indicated.
Indeed, restrictions on these rituals threaten
Islam as well, which requires halal slaughter
and circumcision. Even if the motives of those

IN THE SUMMER OF 2014, PROTESTS IN
EUROPE AGAINST ISRAELI ACTIONS DURING
THE GAZA CONFLICT OFTEN DEVOLVED INTO
DEMONSTRATIONS OF ANTI-SEMITIC HATE.

pressing for legal bans are not racist, the
heated public discussions they have engendered
frequently bring out strongly anti-Semitic and
anti-Muslim rhetoric.

9 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

THERE IS NO SIMPLE SOLUTION TO THIS
COMPLEX PROBLEM, ONLY MULTIPLE STRATEGIES
TO ADDRESS ITS VARIED MANIFESTATIONS.
GOVERNMENT LEADERS MUST SPEAK OUT FORTHRIGHTLY

against anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric, and strictly enforce laws against
hate speech whether delivered in person, in writing, or on the Internet.
At the same time—and this is no easy matter—care must be taken to
avoid making anti-Semitic leaders into heroes and martyrs in the eyes
of their followers. Municipal, regional, and national law-enforcement
agencies should inform the public that they will carefully monitor
and fully investigate all complaints of anti-Semitic harassment, and
prosecute the guilty parties to the fullest extent of the law.
In 2005 the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia
(EUMC) issued a Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, which sought to
clarify connections between some types of denunciation of Israel and
anti-Semitism. It was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Department of
State and Parliamentary Commissions in Canada and the UK. It stated
that while criticizing Israel in the same ways other countries were criticized was perfectly legitimate, “denying the Jewish people their right to
self-determination,” imposing double standards on Israel “not expected
or demanded of any other democratic nation,” imputing “symbols and
images associated with classical anti-Semitism” to Israel, comparing
Israeli policies to those of the Nazis, and “holding Jews collectively
responsible for actions of the State of Israel” cross the line into anti-Semitism.  This definition represents a helpful standard that should
be applied across the board, including by countries, leaders, diplomats,
and elected officials.
In addition, Israel and the pro-Israel community must do a better job of
interpreting Zionism, and the challenges and contributions of the State
of Israel, to the people of Europe, while Jewish organizations should
similarly explicate the religious significance of infant circumcision and
the kosher laws, and their beneficial or benign impact. And while neither
economic and social dislocation nor political grievances justify acts of
bigotry, policies that ease the acculturation of Arab and Muslim residents
into their societies and combat alienation and extremism, and the continued support for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
will also help reduce manifestations of anti-Semitism in Europe.

10 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

A CALL TO ACTION
IN MAY 2015, AJC CONVENED “A Defining Moment for Europe,” a

strategy conference for countering the rising tide of anti-Semitism in
Europe. It took place just down the street from the European Parliament
in Brussels. There, in the presence of government officials, diplomats,
and community leaders from across the continent (25 of the 28 EU
member states were represented, plus the U.S. and Canada), AJC
presented a “Call to Action” for European governments to address the
intensifying crisis of anti-Semitism within their borders. The document
contained suggestions for heightened visibility of the fight against
anti-Semitism, increased security at Jewish institutions, robust
counter-radicalization efforts, and the monitoring of social media for
anti-Semitic content.
The full document can be accessed at AJC.org/CallToAction.

AJC CALL TO ACTION

A Defining Moment for Europe:
AJC Strategy Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism

5 MAY 2015

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

11 • ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE: A GROWING DANGER

AJC Mission:
To enhance the well-being of the
Jewish people and Israel, and to advance
human rights and democratic values
around the world

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