Antisemitism is on the rise again across Europe – both the far-right and far-left are to blame

Major reactionary political movements on the left and right always rely on scapegoats. It is Jews who often pay the price for supposedly radical political change

Gordon Brown features in campaign video against antisemitism

For all the talk of a Brexit Party revolution, a Green emergence, and the sweeping rise of populists across Europe, one story seems to have dipped very slightly under the radar. In Germany, Jewish men and boys have been instructed by a government official not to wear a traditional kippah, or skullcap, in public, to reduce the chance of falling victim to abuse or attack.

In the UK, meanwhile, the expulsion from the Labour Party of Alistair Campbell for declaring he had voted Liberal Democrat in the EU elections clouded over the news that the party will be formally investigated by the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The equalities watchdog will investigate whether the party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish.

Earlier today, Pete Willsman, a member of Labour’s National Executive Council, was suspended for suggesting that the accusations against the party were being spread by people working for the Israeli government.

For a long time now, accusations of prejudice and attacks against the Jewish communities on the continent have been levelled squarely at Muslims, especially in France and Germany. The increase in their occurrence, it was claimed, came in correlation with the increasing number of migrants making their way to Western Europe from the Middle East and North Africa, fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Libya, fuelling support for parties bent on curbing the influx of people.

There is some evidence of religious tensions, at least in isolation, such as the brutal murder of an elderly Jewish women in Paris in November last year by a young Muslim man, or the firebombing of a kosher supermarket three years after a similar attack carried out in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

But the recent warnings made by Felix Klein, the German commissioner on antisemitism, have also led to suggestions that the rise of the parties opposing the migration, such as Germany’s AfD and Hungary’s Fidesz, had done nothing to curb incidences of antisemitic attacks. In fact, as the parties have grown in popularity, so too have the number of incidents, and the general feeling of unease in the Jewish community.

According to Germany’s interior ministry, hate crimes motivated by antisemitism rose 20 per cent in the past 12 months. France 24, meanwhile, reported that French antisemitic attacks rose a staggering 74 per cent in the same period. Almost 90 per cent of European Jews, meanwhile, feel that antisemitism has increased in the past decade, according the EU polling.

The simple fact of the matter is, for Europe’s Jews, prejudice exists seemingly on all sides of the political spectrum. Muslim antisemitism is shielded to some extent by the political centre. The massive increase of Muslims from the MENA region has inadvertently created a community at the heart of the continent who have inevitably brought with them a certain level of prejudice. It is an antisemitism with its roots in religious divides, but exacerbated by the political reality of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Responsibility must be taken for this.

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The response to the centrist order, however, both from the left and the right, has proven equally ruinous, with both sides citing racist tropes about “Jewish interference,” be it via George Soros and banking or the state of Israel itself, as obstructions to each one’s political agenda.

What these movements show, from the AfD to Corbynism, is that notions of defending European culture, or attempting to build a more “inclusive” society, come at the expense of Jews. This is a far more deeply rooted problem than attributing blame to any one group: it demonstrates that, at its core, all the major reactionary political movements of our time rely on scapegoats, just as those that went before did.

Far from offering anything new, right and left wing populists in Europe blame the same group they always have done. Europe’s great shame, for all we claim to learn, and to progress, still haunts us. Apportioning blame does not help; it is down to all sides to recognise it is a failing all are complicit in.

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