The latest war in the Gaza Strip, the third since 2008 pitting Israel against Hamas, has unleashed a disheartening and disgusting torrent of antisemitism in Europe, where the Holocaust unfolded in all its unprecedented horror.
In the Paris suburb of Auilnay-sous-Bois, on July 11, unknown assailants hurled a Molotov cocktail at a synagogue. Two days later, protesters chanting “Death to Jews” tried to storm two synagogues in another suburb, Sarcelles, but were scattered by police.
On July 21, Jewish-owned shops in Paris were burned and pillaged.
In Berlin, on July 17, protesters carrying Palestinian flags yelled, “Jews, Jews, cowardly pigs, come out and fight.” In Berlin, too, police are investigating accusations that a radical imam at the Al-Nur mosque called on worshipers last week to murder Jews. And in Antwerp, on July 16, dozens of men at an anti-Israel demonstration shouted slogans about slaughtering Jews.
These sickening incidents were reported by the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch.
Judging by these blatant anti-Jewish outbursts, it’s clear that some pro-Palestinian demonstrators have crossed a red line.
I have no problem whatsoever with legitimate criticism of Israeli policy. I’ve been critical of Israel’s self-defeating settlement policy in the West Bank, and in 1982, I opposed Israel’s ill-conceived invasion of Lebanon.
Critics of Israel’s ongoing ground invasion of Gaza are entitled to their views, though I strongly believe that Israel had no alternative but to send in troops to destroy Hamas’ network of tunnels and, if possible, its military infrastructure.
A self-respecting country has “an obligation to protect its citizens,” as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday during a visit to Israel to try to arrange a ceasefire.
Let’s not forget that Hamas, which is dedicated to destroying Israel and opposes a two-state solution, triggered this war in the first place by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, as it has done countless times since 2001. As Ban Ki-moon observed, “No country would accept the rockets raining down on its territory.”
I don’t expect Palestinians or their supporters to embrace my argument. They hew to their narrative and will continue doing so. But when their anger and rage morphs into sheer, unadulterated antisemitism, as it has on a few occasions since the start of this war on July 8, we’re no longer dealing with straightforward and predictable anti-Zionism. We’re dealing with a darker phenomenon whose consequences snuffed out the lives of six million Jews.
To their credit, European politicians already recognize that some anti-Israel demonstrators have gone way too far.
“When you menace synagogues and when you burn a grocery because it’s Jewish-owned, you are committing antisemitic acts,” declared Bernard Cazeneve, the interior minister of France, the other day.
And two days ago, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy, issued a joint statement to that effect. “Antisemitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies,” declared Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, France’s Laurent Fabius and Italy’s Federica Mogherini.
Freedom of speech and assembly, they added, is perfectly acceptable, but not “antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.”
I fully agree.
It’s incumbent on Ban Ki-moon and the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, to speak out and denounce these outrageous manifestations of antisemitism.
After the Holocaust, there should be zero tolerance for antisemitism.