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Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt Headshot

We All Need to Work to Keep Europe Open and Free

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As Europeans we have a decision to make. How do we want Europe to look in the future?

This is not a political decision or even an economic choice. This is a decision about us and our society. What do we want for our families, our friends, our children and our children's children?

When we look at the news and we see incident after incident of discrimination, antisemitism and vigilante justice. Whether that's Jewish shops being targeted in Paris or a woman being assaulted for displaying an Israeli flag in Amsterdam, we are surrounded by acts of baseless hatred.

Some outlets have reported that moderators on French forums have had to censor up to 95% of all comments, whilst some 25% of those comments have had to be blocked completely. Using the anonymity of the internet, people are expressing a type of hatred that I had hoped extinct.

Perhaps worst of all, I have heard anecdotes of ambulances whose staff are not willing to venture into boroughs of major European cities for fear of their own lives. Every European with even a modicum of awareness can see that if the status quo remains we will end up with a Europe that is vastly different to the Europe we know today.

When I visit South Africa and I see communities sheltering from gangs in walled complexes. When I see private security firms patrolling the streets and ordinary citizens who are afraid to travel to some neighbourhoods, I feel lucky to live in Europe.

For me Europe is inclusive. Cities like London, Milan and Berlin are multicultural metropolises. The cities are enriched by the many and varied communities who live within them, each with their own unique smells, sights and sound who have come together from all different parts of the world. We are naturally inclusive and placid; our societies are open and free.

What we have seen over the last few weeks are foreign conflicts being played out on the streets of European cities. The question I ask myself is: Why do people think it is acceptable to target European citizens over a conflict that is taking place thousands of miles away? No European citizen is responsible for the actions of any government anywhere in the world. Let alone accountable for them!

I cannot and will not believe that the majority of Europeans feel hatred against minorities. I believe that we enjoy living in the peaceful Europe we have built over the last 70 years.

Over the last few weeks we have seen some strong political responses. Leaders in France, Germany and Italy amongst others have set the tone in protecting their citizens. In France the Ministry of the Interior has issued a new memorandum to law enforcement officials on tackling racial and religious discrimination and violence, following attacks on synagogues in Paris during a demonstration against Israel. This kind government support is crucial if our values are to be maintained.

Without government support our values cannot be upheld. The role the British government played following the riots in 2011, although not perfect, has restored quiet to the streets of London. The rest of Europe must follow London's example and it is law enforces role to track down every single individual who participated in the current spate of crimes and bring them to justice. This will send a strong message to those individuals who oppose our way of life.

But, a functioning society is as much about one citizen respecting another as it is about a complex legal system. We must decide how we want Europe to look in the future. If we all want to be a part of an inclusive Europe then we need to act in an appropriate manner.

We need to support law enforcement officers when they take action against those who try to undermine our value systems. We need to back governments when they carry out their duties to protect all the citizens of Europe.

Furthermore, as individuals we can set the tone in our day to day lives. We can build neighbourhoods and communities that have our principles at their foundation. Most importantly we can act with respect to one another and ensure that at least we stay true to our values.

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