Rise of Anti-Semitism Shouldn’t Suppress Public Debate about Gaza

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July 27, 2014; Haaretz


Another consequence of the warfare between Israel and Gaza is the rise of anti-Semitism. Protests against Israel’s invasion of Gaza have been accompanied in a number of countries with blatant anti-Semitic messaging. The incidents have been widespread in Europe:

  • Haaretz reports that UK police have recorded more than 100 anti-Jewish hate crimes since the beginning of the latest warfare in Gaza, including bricks thrown through the window of a synagogue in Belfast two successive nights. Police in Toulouse, France, arrested a man for the attempted firebombing of a Jewish center.
  • The Telegraph reported marchers chanting “Jews to the gas chambers” and “Death to Jews.”
  • A café in Belgium has posted signs prohibiting service to Jews—the sign in Turkish reads, “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews are not under any circumstances,” though the French-language sign uses “Zionists” instead of “Jews.”
  • A protest in The Hague was accompanied by people chanting “death to Jews.”

The sad part of this rise of anti-Semitism is that many of the younger people chanting these anti-Semitic slogans have no memories of World War II or the Nazis who made anti-Semitism the core of their ideology. Moreover, few seem to realize that the neo-Nazis who have long espoused anti-Jewish sentiments feel the same toward Muslims.

Fortunately, nonprofit groups in Europe are monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and reporting them to the authorities. In France and Germany, the authorities are reacting and trying to crack down on anti-Semitism without eliminating the ability of people to raise their voices in opposition to the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

On the other hand, efforts to classify as anti-Semitic all protest against Israeli government policy toward Palestinians are truly counterproductive. The Jerusalem Post, owned by Las Vegas’s right-wing casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, headlined an article “We Are Looking at the Beginnings of a Holocaust,” referencing a statement from the head of the Israeli Jewish Congress. Several articles have compared the protests to the Kristallnacht perpetrated by Nazis in 1938.

The rise of anti-Semitism in the wake of the Israeli invasion of Gaza—just like the rise of anti-Islamic sentiment in the U.S. after 9/11—is reprehensible and must be monitored, called out, opposed (as in the strong statements in the pages of Die Welt and Bild-Zeitung in Germany), and prosecuted. But at the same time, those of us with strong concerns, especially those of us who are Jewish, cannot let the anti-Semitism of some protesters or the opposite reactions of defenders of the Netanyahu government succeed in silencing necessary and legitimate debate that should address the tragic events occurring right now in the Middle East.—Rick Cohen


  • Steve

    The “but” in your last paragraph is an unfortunate choice of words.There are no ands, ifs or but — no qualifiers whatsoever — with regard to the horrible anti-Semitism we are seeing. And in addition to the right to speak out about Israeli policies without fear of being labeled ant-Semitic, isn’t it right that people should feel free to speak out against Islamic radicalism and Hamas without fear of being labeled they are uncaring about Palestinian suffering?

    By the way, what makes you so sure that the outbursts of anti-Semitism in Europe (and we’ve seen incidents in the U.S. and Canada, as well) are simply due to the current Gaza conflict? Seems to me gaza is simply the latest pretext for acting out on existing beliefs.

  • Lee

    Steve, it sometimes seems that antisemitism doesn’t even need a Gaza. Rick, however, is correct, whether or not Gaza is the current excuse.