THE BLOG

There Is No 'Wave' of Anti-Semitism

26/01/2015 01:13 | Updated 27 March 2015

The current hysteria about the 'rise of anti-semitism' and the flight of Jews from Europe is deeply regrettable. There is no 'wave' of anti-semitism. Rather there are discrete phenomena that are being gathered under one umbrella term, the meaning of which is now being strained to breaking point. First of all, there are no mass movements or significant political parties in Europe that have anti-semitism as an official ideology. Far right parties tend to be anti-Muslim and proclaim their amity with Israel. Rather than being anti-Jewish they are often stridently philosemitic.

Jews everywhere have full civil rights and are protected from abuse and violence, although sometimes rather ineffectively, by municipal and state authorities. Governments and mainstream parties routinely and powerfully denounce manifestations of violence and hostility towards Jews. There is little or no social or employment discrimination: Jews are of course fully protected by anti-discrimination legislation and are thriving in every conceivable walk of life all across the continent.

There is a real threat to life and limb, however, from a tiny number of Jihadists and extreme Islamists. But they are a threat to every liberal democratic society and they target the state, the police, the military and, as we saw in France, organisations that practice and symbolise freedom of expression. Hence Jews are not isolated, as they were in the 1930s and 1940s, but find themselves enjoying unprecedented solidarity. This comes, too, from Muslims who are struggling against the extremism in their own faith communities. We need to celebrate and build on this solidarity, not sow seeds of alarm.

Some of the headlines about Jews leaving France and the UK are preposterous. The uptick in Jewish emigration from France, under 5,000 out of a population of 500,000 is negligible and has economic roots, too. I know from personal experience during visits to Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket killings, as well as from family and friends in London, that distress at the murders and anxiety about marauding attacks on Jewish targets is not translating into an 'exodus'.

We need to remember that, sadly, Jews were the targets of Palestinian Arab terrorists in London and Paris in the 1970s and 1980s. Lord Sieff, a leader of the Jewish community, was shot in his home in December 1973 and Shlomo Argov, Israeli Ambassador, was gunned down outside the Dorchester Hotel in June 1982. A bomb directed at the synagogue in the Rue Copernic in Paris killed 4 people. In August 1982, six died in an assault on Jo Goldberg's restaurant in the Marais - the historic Jewish district of the French capital. Despite the shock caused by these atrocities, the communities on both sides of the English Channel rallied and continued to thrive. The current press hyperbole shows not only ignorance about what the situation was like 70-80 years ago, but what it was like just 20-30 years before now.

Invoking the fate of the Jews under Nazi rule is not only inappropriate - it is inflammatory and insulting to the victims. Raising the spectre of 'anti-semitism' will not help anyone cope with the threat posed by Jihadists and extreme Islamists. We (all) face a specific menace that demands targeted counter-measures.