The ugly events in Europe over the past two weeks -- the murders at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by a French jihadist and alumnus of the Syrian carnage, and the assault on several French Jews in Paris -- have served to confirm what is increasingly obvious: Europe is not a place where Jews are safe or welcome, and it is becomingly increasingly problematic to live visibly as Jews in various countries on the continent.
I am just back from several weeks in Europe. A family member to whom I spoke, who travels regularly to many countries in Europe, admitted sadly that anti-Semitic discourse has become acceptable again all over the continent. For several decades, it was OK to be hostile to Israel, but ill treatment or speaking badly of Jews was verboten. Now, with the multicultural imperative in full swing, and millions of recently arrived Muslims in Europe, the climate for Jews has worsened. But it is not only the recent arrivals who are open about their hatred of Jews.
Public figures in Great Britain and France, ambassadors and legislators among them, have scathingly denounced Jews. Countries are lining up to ban kosher slaughter and circumcision. Denmark, one of the few European countries whose record during the Holocaust is worth remembering for good deeds, apparently is on board with its principal zoo slaughtering a giraffe and then feeding it to lions in front of children, and killing off a few baby lions, but thinks kosher slaughter is inhumane, and that "animal rights come before religion." The "intactivist" movement is trying to ban circumcision, claiming it is a form of child abuse. Several European communities are on board, including a few in Germany.
Some analysts believe the assault on Jewish ritual practices, including kosher slaughter and circumcision, are in reality aimed at making Europe less friendly to Muslims, who share some of these practices, than one more blast aimed at the shrinking, pretty much negligible Jewish population in most European countries. Muslims already make up 5 percent or more of the population of some European countries (France, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, the U.K., Sweden, Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo), and will soon in several more. Jews are but 0.2 percent of Europe's population, with numbers barely a 10th of the pre-World War II level.
The multicultural commitment of the Left in Europe makes frontal assaults on Islamic practices suspect, so animal rights, and rights of infants, are trotted out as protective cover for the attempt to make these countries less protective of religious rituals.
The recent elections for the EU's parliament demonstrated the power of anti-immigrant political parties on the Right. These parties have historically been alien to Jews and largely remain so, though a few have tried to clean up their image a bit on this score. The European Union has been in part an attempt to squash the nationalism of its more than two dozen member countries in order to build a new polity that speaks with one voice (even if in two dozen languages). The new strength of the nationalist parties in many countries, who seek to severely limit or shut off immigration, suggests that nationalism and national identity are not dead yet.
Many American Jewish writers are fond of pointing out how badly things are going for Jews in Europe, so that mass emigration to Israel, or even to America, would be a wise move. For sure, America's history with Jews, while imperfect, has been far better than Europe's or for that matter, any other country in the world outside of Israel. It is the reason why roughly 6 million Jews live in the United States, since it was the favored destination for Jewish immigrants for over a century.
Since the creation of the modern State of Israel, Jewish immigration to Israel has dwarfed that to America, and without the strain of intermarriage, and with a far healthier birth rate, Israel's Jewish population may now exceed that in America. While some recent surveys indicate that there is an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in America, it is far less substantial than in almost every European country, with adults who cling to anti-Semitic stereotypes being three times as numerous in Europe on a percentage basis than in the United States.
Despite the European-American distinctions, a string of recent events in Kansas, California and Illinois, to name a few, plus open hostility to Jews and pro-Israel students on many college campuses, seems to portend rising problems for Jews in the United States as well. Hate crimes against Jews are growing, and are multiples of those against other groups, which are in some cases, many times larger in numbers.
Many articles and books point to the demographic trends in Europe, very low birth rates for all but Muslims, and rapid immigration of Muslims, as setting up many countries to have Muslim majorities by mid-century.
In fact, the United States is changing far more rapidly than any country in Europe. Latinos now make up more than a quarter of annual births. African Americans, Latinos and Asians, now comprise more than half the public school population. Jewish Americans have a lower than average birth rate, and observant Jews generally send their kids to religious schools, rather than public schools. Jews are therefore a far smaller percentage of the public school population than their approximately 2 percent national population share. Several of the recent anti-Semitic incidents have occurred in public schools.
In the Rialto school district near Los Angeles, 2,000 middle school students were assigned a research paper asking them to judge whether the Holocaust was real, with teachers providing a reading list chock full of Holocaust denial material to help in the effort. Some of the teachers maintained that the assignment was designed to satisfy the new "common core" requirements for critical thinking skills.
It would seem that such skills could be developed with other themes that do not take historical events and set them up as a maybe it did, maybe it didn't happen test. Unfortunately, this was not the first time in recent years when Nazi Germany has been given a pass by the "educator class." In Albany, New York, the assignment was to defend Nazi arguments that Jews were the source of Germany's problems before World War II. Who knows where the common core will lead when it is fully rolled out? Maybe students can be asked to find evidence that Jews murdered children so as to use their blood to make matzot for Passover. It should be easy enough to find websites that will verify the existence of the practice from a long list of countries.
In Chicago, a local middle school has suspended a group of students for periods of one to three days for harassing and bullying a Jewish student, creating an online Jewish extermination game, and threatening the student with a trip to the ovens. Had these lovely youngsters physically assaulted the Jewish kid, I suspect the suspensions might have been harsher -- maybe four days or a full week. You can bet these Hitler youths will never do anything like this again with such severe punishment. But all will be well, since the school is working to make this event a teachable moment for the school community, which will insure that the educators can be comfortable that the anti-Semitism is behind them.
It would be easier, of course, if the Jew-haters in the schools could decide whether the Holocaust was a fraud, or if a new one is needed.
Real violence with the intent to kill Jews occurred in Overland Park, Kansas, a few weeks back, when a lone gunman shot and killed three people at a Jewish community center. The killer probably would have enjoyed the Chicago school game "The Jew Incinerator," and would have been willing to help out the California teachers with additional sources for the Holocaust denial assignment.
On college campuses, the intimidation and harassment by the group Students for Justice in Palestine has led to sanctions at a few schools, criminal charges at one, and behavior that in general would fit right into pre-war Germany.
There is a pattern to aggressive anti-Semitism, and more often than not, it spreads rapidly when it is not condemned and called out for what it is quickly. The proliferation of hate speech makes it more likely that some of the vilest of the Jew-haters will jump from words to action when given the opportunity.
The ethnic dynamics in America may be different than in Europe, but some of the same patterns are emerging. There is an alliance of sorts among the hard Left and the angriest Muslims directed against Israel, which increasingly targets individual Jews while people in official capacities behave like cowards in the face of the new brown-shirts, afraid to cross the loudest and angriest among the rabble. The Jew-killing games and the Jew-killing are signs that Jew-hatred has come out of the closet for a revival run on world stages, including in America.