Jews throughout the world did not need the results of the European Parliament election to alert them to the growing presence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Americans did not need Sunday’s explicit editorial in The New York Times to elaborate on the clear return of classic Jew-hatred in Europe as well as the expansion of the threat with the increased presence of Muslims on the Continent. (Maybe the meetings and discussions with the NYT had something to do with their strong editorial following their recent ugly cartoon fiasco.)
People did not need to read the very scary exposition of the return of serious anti-Semitism in Germany as presented in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine to comprehend that except for elites and academics—as well as many politicians—there is a significant resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany among the masses. Similarly, The New Yorker’s expose of neo-Nazi presence in Great Britain also was not shocking; especially considering the persistent anti-Semitic behavior of the British Labour Party head, Jeremy Corbyn. In addition, with the emergence of Nigel Farage, the head of the Brexit Party and winner of the largest bloc of seats in the U.K. to the European Parliament, a dangerous anti-Semitic voice now has an even stronger platform and place in Britain.
Underlying these obvious dangers facing the Jewish community were some specific trends which the election underscored. Viktor Orban’s right wing neo-fascist party did well, as expected, in Hungary, as did Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally Party in France, and the dramatic victory of Matteo Salvini’s right wing League Party in Italy. The issue will not be exclusively how these successes will play out in the European Parliament decisions, but what it suggests about the underlying fear that Jews in Europe need to comprehend. The threat from the nationalist right is also joined on anti-Semitism by some of the extreme groups on the left.
While some of those on the left did invoke Israel in their positions, the election demonstrated how deep all the classic attacks against Jews still run. They included all the slogans, the tropes, the images and associations of Jews; power, money, greed, religion, etc.
This election will not drive all the Jews to pack-up and leave, but for many of them the memory of less than 100 years ago is not far from their minds. Efforts will be made to address many of these issues but for Jews there is a true sense of déjà vu. It is not the same as the 1930’s, but there is once again a sense of feeling unwelcome.
For American Jews, there have been numerous events since the beginning of this century and especially during the past few years which are unnerving at best. From the concerns raised about Reverends Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan to the revival of the KKK and White Supremacists, Jews are beginning to feel insecure. In addition, the failure to adequately and immediately address the anti-Semitic troupes that were uttered by newly elected Members of Congress set many Jews on edge. If that were not enough, there now have been more Jews killed in synagogues over the past year than ever in American history. There were also more incidents of attacks on Jews, verbal as well as physical. At the same time many leading American political officials have been slow or equivocated in their condemnation of such events.
This situation is a wake-up call suggesting that Jews indeed may now find themselves in a world in which more and more people do not know what happened in the Holocaust.