Sunday, 27 July 2014

Antisemitism Once Again Surges in Europe: Should Europe's Jews Stay or Leave?

Ever since the conflict in the Gaza Strip began about three weeks ago, there has been a surge in antisemitic incidents across the globe and especially in Europe, where only seventy years ago, six million Jews were murdered in what we know today as the Holocaust.  The reality is that antisemitism in Europe has grown significantly over the last few years and is not simply a product of the latest Israeli-Arab conflict.  Why do I know this?  Well, for some time now, I have had the task of looking up incidents of antisemitism on the internet and posting them onto a blog called Emerging News, which is owned by the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC).  And I find it to be no coincidence that many of the reports about antisemitic incidents that I post to this blog come from Europe.  Here are just some examples:

European Leaders Condemn Antisemitism at Pro-Palestinian Rallies. Mosque in Germany Under Investigation Over Sermon From Imam Allegedly Calling on Worshippers to Murder Jews

Pro-Palestinian Protestors Try to Force Their Way Into Paris Synagogues

Jewish Cemetery Desecrated in Manchester, UK

French Jews Cite Antisemitism as a Reason for Deciding to Leave France and Immigrate to Israel

Belgium "Hatefest" Dispersed by Police

Three People Dead, One Seriously Hurt in Shooting Attack on Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium

Two Jewish Men Attacked While Leaving Synagogue Outside Paris

Leaflets Distributed to Jewish Residents in Ukrainian City of Donetsk Telling Them to Register Their Religion and Property or Face Deportation and Loss of Citizenship

Russian State TV Host Says Jews Brought the Holocaust on Themselves

March in Latvia Honours Local Chapter of Nazis' Waffen SS

Jewish Graves in Hungary Spray-Painted With Swastikas and Antisemitic Slurs

Ukrainian Rabbi Victim of Violent Antisemitic Attack

Swastikas, Antisemitic Slurs Painted on Walls of High Schools in Swedish Capital

German Newspaper Accused of Antisemitism After Printing Cartoon Depicting Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg as Big-Nosed Octopus

Kosher Slaughter Outlawed in Denmark

Unfortunately, there are plenty more where these came from.  Of course, antisemitism in some European countries is worse than in others.  France in particular has recently become a hotbed of some of the worst antisemitism Europe has seen in years.  In fact, a report released by researchers at Tel Aviv University earlier this year revealed that for at least two years in a row, France had the highest number of recorded antisemitic attacks (see: Report: Attacks on Jews Down, But Anti-Semitism Up).  It is no wonder than that as one of my posts above illustrates, some French Jews have decided to leave the country for greener pastures.  For me, the Jewish exodus from France brings up a broader question: With antisemitism in Europe worsening to a point where some European Jews are afraid to show their Jewish heritage publicly and in some cases fear for their lives, how should they respond the growing wave of anti-Jewish hatred on the continent?

The European Jewish Conundrum: Stay or Go?

If Jews in Europe today take history as a guide, then they probably should leave Europe, especially if they feel that their lives are threatened.  This is because history tells us that the Jews who managed to flee Europe before the Nazi death machine marched all over the continent were the ones who survived the Holocaust, while most of the ones who decided to stay did not.  That being said, wouldn't a mass Jewish exodus from Europe hand the antisemites a victory?  One could argue that if the antisemites can drive the Jews out of Europe, what's to stop them from driving Jews out of, say, the U.S. or Canada?  Personally, I don't believe that leaving Europe is a solution for all European Jews, but I don't necessarily believe that they should all stay, take a stand and try to fight the growing scourge of antisemitism either.  I believe it depends on the circumstances in which each of Europe's Jews is living.  Some of Europe's Jews may be willing and able to stay put on the continent and fight the bigots head on, but others may not.  I believe that every Jew has to ask himself or herself one fundamental question: is my life in Europe worth enduring more and more antisemitism, even that of a violent nature, or could I make a better life for myself in a place where I would not have to deal with such vile hatred?

Make no mistake, uprooting yourself, your work and your family and going to live in another country, or even another continent is no easy feat, which is why I don't believe there will be a very large exodus of Jews from Europe in the near future.  However, if antisemitism in Europe becomes more entrenched and more violent to the point where more and more Jews feel that they cannot live their lives and pursue happiness as they would like to, the trickle of Jews leaving Europe will no doubt turn into a flood.

If Europe's Jews Leave, Where Should They Go?

I here a lot of people say that the antisemitism going on in Europe now resembles the same kind that was present in the 1930s before the rise of Hitler.  While I do agree with this sentiment to some extent, there's one fundamental difference between now and the period before WWII: the Jews have a country now.  They have a place to go where they won't be treated like a stranger in their own land.  Hence, Israel is obviously the first option for Jews thinking of leaving Europe, but it isn't the only one.  Thankfully today, the U.S. and Canada do not resist taking in immigrants because of their Jewish heritage like they did before WWII, so they are also viable options for Europe's Jews, although personally I would stay out of places like Quebec and the southern U.S. states where antisemitism is probably just as bad as in Europe.  Then again, there is the danger of growing antisemitism in the rest of the U.S. and Canada, especially if more and more people who do not share our democratic values and carry antisemitic attitudes from their places of origin keep coming to live here.  Indeed, part of the reason antisemitism has grown so much in Europe in recent years is because of newcomers bringing long-held antisemitic feelings with them into European countries.  And since some of these same people also come to Canada and the U.S., the same surge in European antisemitism could be repeated here on the North American continent.  If this happens, Jews may once again be looking for a new home.  Who knows?  The way antisemitism has been sweeping the globe lately, all of us Jews might end up in Israel someday. 


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