With the rising strains of anti-Semitism and radical Islamists, is it time for Jews to leave Europe? Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the Atlantic and a widely-read journalist on Middle Eastern affairs, has raised the question in the magazine’s latest cover story. He argues that the “inoculation” of the Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews, has worn off, replaced by recent deadly attacks in Paris and Copenhagen and a new level of daily fear for Jews.
The in-depth treatment of the topic by a journalist of Goldberg’s stature is placing the issue in the news, though not everyone will have time to digest his 11,000-something-word piece. He raises history, immigration patterns and other factors to explain why the question has come up in 2015. So if you find yourself discussing the issue at a cocktail party, here are 10 key arguments from the piece you need to know.
1. Recent anti-Semitic attacks are the latest in a mounting tide. Goldberg identifies France as an epicenter of anti-Semitism, though it is not unique.
France’s 475,000 Jews comprise less than 1 percent of the population, but last year, 51 percent of all racist attacks there targeted them. The year 2014 saw the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom, home to 300,000 Jews, since the Community Security Trust began recording incidents in 1984. It recorded 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents.
2. What makes this new era of violence in Europe different is that anti-Semitic thought is merging with strains of Muslim Judeophobia.
Goldberg argues that demographics and internal politics involving Muslims is a major factor. “The failure of Europe to integrate Muslim immigrants has contributed to their exploitation by anti-Semitic propagandists and by recruiters for such radical projects as the Islamic State, or ISIS,” Goldberg writes. Muslims in France, for example, outnumber Jews 10 to one.
3. Anti-Semitism is not new.
Here’s a section of Goldberg’s article that provides some of the reasons why people have historically been anti-Semitic:
The Church itself functioned as the centrifuge of anti-Semitism from the time it rebelled against its mother religion until the middle of the 20th century. As Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, has observed, Europe has added to the global lexicon of bigotry such terms as Inquisition, blood libel, auto‑da‑fé, ghetto, pogrom and Holocaust. Europe has blamed the Jews for an encyclopedia of sins. The Church blamed the Jews for killing Jesus; Voltaire blamed the Jews for inventing Christianity. In the febrile minds of anti-Semites, Jews were usurers and well-poisoners and spreaders of disease. Jews were the creators of both communism and capitalism; they were clannish but also cosmopolitan; cowardly and warmongering; self-righteous moralists and defilers of culture.
4. Anti-Semitic acts are not necessarily motivated by opposition to Israel’s policies.
The article contains many terrifying stories of overt violence directed at Jews in Europe. One man in Sweden says he’s been the target of 150 attacks in a decade; people chant “Jews to the gas”; and the head of Denmark’s Jewish community says he experiences “not dangerous anti-Semitism … [just] spitting, cursing.”
“I did not hear critiques of Israel’s occupation policies. I heard, instead, complaints about the Jews’ baleful influence on the world,” Goldberg writes.
5. The Jewishness of Anne Frank – perhaps the best-known Holocaust victim – has been deliberately diminished.
The Anne Frank House has never had a Jewish director, Goldberg writes, and it is widely understood in Amsterdam’s Jewish community that Jews should not bother applying for the job. The director of the house believes a museum devoted too obsessively to the details of a particular genocide might not draw visitors in sufficient numbers, so it focuses instead on universal values of tolerance and understanding.
6. Jews are afraid.
The story contains examples of Jews living in fear, pressuring one another not to wear Jewish symbols on their bodies or identify their homes. Half of British Jews say they are afraid there is no future for them there, according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, 60 percent of Swedish Jews are afraid to be publicly identified as Jews, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
The story says Jews are set apart in terms of the lack of sympathy in the general public for their issue. Small crowds go to demonstrations protesting anti-Semitism and smaller crowds are going to Jewish museums. Few people picked up on the idea of “Je Suis Juif” after the kosher supermarket killings.
7. 2015 is not 1933. As serious as the conditions are for Jews in Europe, Goldberg writes, conditions are different in two ways.
1. Israel exists as a place for Jews to move.
2. Germany’s Adolf Hitler once made himself the foremost enemy of Jewish existence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the defense of Jews a principle of the nation, as have French and British leaders.
8. Jews dispersed around the world. So why wouldn’t they just leave Europe?
The world’s approximately 14 million Jews are found mainly in two places: Israel (6 million) and the United States (about 5.7 million). Europe and Russia have a Jewish population of about 1.4 million. There are about 1 million Jews across the rest of the world. “It is not uncommon to hear European Jews argue today that their departure from the Continent would grant Hitler a posthumous victory,” Goldberg writes.
9. Israeli leaders are keenly interested in Jewish emigration from Europe.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pitched Israel to Jews after the kosher-market attack in Paris and the attack in Copenhagen. Yet Israel’s future as a Jewish haven is an open question, Goldberg writes. “Jews die violently in Israel, too. And while the presence of so many Jews in one narrow place has created a dynamic country, it has also created a temptation for those inclined toward genocide,” Goldberg writes. “In 2002, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, reportedly said in a speech that if the Jews ‘all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.’ ”
10. Key takeaway: Goldberg’s grandfather grew up in a pogrom-afflicted village in Leova, Moldova. Now there are no Jews in Leova.
Here is Goldberg’s concluding graph:
I am predisposed to believe that there is no great future for the Jews in Europe, because evidence to support this belief is accumulating so quickly. But I am also predisposed to think this because I am an American Jew — which is to say, a person who exists because his ancestors made a run for it when they could.