It is not as though the Obama administration does nothing about the new waves of anti-Semitism washing over Europe. The administration has a whole operation in the office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to address just these issues. If you read the June report by current envoy Ira Forman (a longtime apologist for the Obama administration’s Israel policies), you’ll see that he took many trips, went to lots of conferences, briefed other officials and met with Jewish groups. (All of this was Europe-focused by the way. Is the Middle East out of his jurisdiction?) It is fair to say that the president has not addressed seriously the surge of anti-Semitism in Europe (the same countries that lecture Israel about human rights).
The thin line between anti-Israel sentiment and outright anti-Semitism has been obliterated in demonstrations and acts of violence across the continent. “Death to Jews” and “Hitler was right!” slogans are prominent at these conclaves.
The issue is understandably a sensitive one in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has been outspoken in her condemnation of anti-Semitic protesters. The Post reports: “The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has lashed out against the protests in unusually blunt terms: ‘These outbursts and statements are an attack on freedom and tolerance and an attempt to destabilize our free democratic order. We cannot and will not accept this. . . . The security authorities are taking every attack onto a Jewish institution very seriously. Anti-Semitic acts are being prosecuted consequently and by all legal means.’” The problem is not abating. (“On Tuesday night in the German city of Wuppertal, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue (it landed in the street, causing no damage). Last Thursday night, Israel Daos, a shy, 18-year-old Orthodox Jew, was punched in the face on his way to a synagogue in central Berlin. Daos described his assailant as “Arab or Turkish.” “I heard what the protesters had been saying, because they march not far from here, and I have heard them shout, ‘Death to Jews!’ ” said Daos. “But I did not think things would get this bad.”
In France, as The Post noted, things are arguably worse. In 2012, a gunman shot up a Jewish day school in Toulouse, killing four. Since the onset of the Gaza war, there have been nine synagogue attacks. And a Frenchman has now been charged in the Belgium Jewish museum shooting that killed four. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams recently wrote:
Jews have lived in France since Roman times, and the French Jewish community is the largest in Europe at about a half-million. But the future looks bleak, due to a vicious combination of old right-wing anti-Semitism, the growing anti-Semitism on the French left, and the violent hatred of Jews by all too many in the 15% of the French population that is Muslim. And this is hatred of Jews, not criticism of Israel: slogans like “Hitler was right” and “death to the Jews” and attacks on synagogues are not efforts to promote the well-being of Palestinians or change Israeli government policies.
In the Netherlands, there has also been an anti-Semitic wave. “The explosion of anti-Semitism in The Netherlands so far has mainly manifested itself in threats and hate on the internet. Physical hatred has also been seen on the streets. According to a source which deals with the safety of Jewish citizens cars in South Amsterdam have been vandalized with swastikas. Many Jewish families have removed their mezuzah – a roll of parchment which makes them identifiable as Jews – from their doorposts, in order to avoid becoming targets of violence. Various Jews have told media that they live in fear.”
Michael Makovsky, chief executive of JINSA, observes, “Jews’ generally peaceful existence in Europe since the Holocaust is becoming increasingly challenged, with rising European anti-Semitism intensifying and turning violent recently, though it generally hasn’t received the attention it deserves.”
Perhaps a bigger response than meetings and tweets from a mid-level State Department functionary would be in order. Secretary of State John Kerry, however, has been clumsy at best in his public rhetoric, for example, raising the specter of boycotts if Israel did not conclude a peace deal with the Palestinians. John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, observed, “European anti-Semitism today is not always as crude as in years gone by, but it is still real and growing, often disguised as opposition to specific ‘Israeli’ policies.” The administration seems oblivious to the problem and has made a series of unhelpful comments. “Obama, and particularly Kerry, have insinuated that the BDS movement would be perfectly understandable if Netanyahu did not succumb to Administration pressure in dealing with the Palestinians. By so doing, Obama and Kerry are walking a very fine — and very dangerous – line.”
The administration’s sin here is not one of commission, but of omission. Instead of Kerry wasting his time in Paris last week on a failed effort at a premature truce in the Gaza war, Makovsky remarks, “It would’ve been more constructive if he had spent his time there visiting one of the Parisian synagogues that was recently attacked and expressing his sympathy to the embattled French Jewish community.”
The rise in European anti-Semitism is so stunning and virulent that it warrants more action. Consider this:
We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history. The one and only Holocaust — six million innocent people — men, women, children, babies — sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish. We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten. Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived — as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us.
We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent. Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. . . .
We must tell our children. But more than that, we must teach them. Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing. In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.
For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women. And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself. . . . “Never again” is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms — including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.
That was President Obama in 2012 at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It would be nice if he gave another speech. It could be a teachable moment