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We ignore the new anti-Semitism taking hold at our peril

As Europe prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, the warning signs from history are hauntingly familiar

Richard Ferrer
Tuesday 29 July 2014 14:45 BST
A rioter throws a stone towards riot police following a pro-Palestinians demonstration, in Sarcelles, north of Paris
A rioter throws a stone towards riot police following a pro-Palestinians demonstration, in Sarcelles, north of Paris

The oldest hatred, this time cloaked as legitimate concern for Gaza, has once again cast its ominous shadow across Europe.

From Berlin, Paris and Rome to Amsterdam, Ankara and Istanbul, protests are turning into pogroms.

In France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned of a “new anti-Semitism” taking hold. Synagogues are being firebombed and Jewish shops pillaged. Gangs of young men, intoxicated by a cause and angered by their own inadequacies, roam the streets chanting “death to Jews”.

Life isn’t this terrifying in Britain, but the malicious mood music can still be heard loud and clear.

More than 100 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported across the UK since the start of July – double the number under normal circumstances. Cases include a brick thrown at a Belfast synagogue and “baby murderers” shouted at a synagogue in Liverpool. In north London, a rabbi was verbally abused by youths shouting, “Free Palestine, F*** the Zionists, F*** the Jews.”

On Twitter, Liberal Democrat MP David Ward declared that if he lived in Gaza, he would probably fire terrorist rockets at Israelis, and Labour MP Graham Jones said to one of my Jewish News reporters “ You’re killing children” in Gaza, a remark for which he has since apologised. And the hashtags #HitlerWasRight and #HitlerDidNothingWrong continue to trend worldwide.

Complacence is a natural human instinct. We often ask why Jews of 1930s Europe didn't see the warning signs. Too often we choose to ignore them, bolstering ourselves with the reassuring maxim, “It won’t last forever.”

This time, I’m not so sure.

As Europe prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, the warning signs from history are hauntingly familiar. Nazi imagery has been used to abuse Israel and Jews at ‘Free Palestine’ rallies in London. Decent, fair-minded people, horrified at the appalling loss of life in Gaza (if not Hamas rockets), join these demonstrations.

They march among barbaric Jew-hate banners and chant: ‘Hitler Was Right’… ‘Well done Israel, Hitler would be proud’… ’Hamas, Jews to the gas’… ‘From The River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!’

These crowds are comprised of the usual suspects. Stop the War Coalition members, whose selective fury is blind to victims of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hezbollah or, tellingly, Hamas; trade unionists (you cannot have credentials on the left unless you vilify Israel); ‘V for Vendetta’-masked anarchists; sanctimonious students getting up early to look cool in kaffirs and day-trip do-gooders who worry about rocketing house prices, not their houses getting rocketed.

And up on stage, whipping them all into a frenzy, George Galloway and Jenny Tonge – those demagogues of Israel denunciation, drunk on their own righteous indignation.

Looking at them all marching and hysterically slandering Israel as a “terrorist state”, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Israel is the best and worst thing that’s happened to the Jews.

The best, for being a shelter from a 3,000-year storm that culminated in the gas chambers. The worst, for being the focal point of global anti-Semitism, gifting ancient hatred a geographical focus. For many of these marchers an Israeli is a Jew and a Jew an Israeli. And ‘X’ marks the spot.

Israel’s other big problem is, of course, its location – slap bang in the middle of a really bad neighbourhood. From Gibraltar to the Khyber Pass, it’s hemmed in by despots, dictators and angry Islamists like Hamas who won’t tolerate democracy and diversity in their midst.

The 2,000 rockets that have targeted Israel’s towns and cities in recent weeks are fired not out of resistance from occupation, but a genocidal, psychopathic obsession with Israel’s annihilation. You remember the chant: 'From The River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!’

There can be no political solution because Hamas is not a political party. It is an ideology. It wants to kill Jews. Every last one. If it’s the last thing it does. If it achieved its ideological aims it would spell danger for the entire free world.

The only way forward, the only chance to end this merry-go-round of misery, is for the Palestinian Authority, bolstered by the EU, UN and USA, to finally remove this malignant cancer from their midst. Then there will be genuine be hope for peace.

Put that on a banner and wave it.

Of course, all this can be complex and tough to follow. There are blurred lines. So the rent-a-mobs keep marching and the rent-a-gobs keep chanting.

And as long as they do, the boundary between rational and irrational debate about Israel will continue to shift. Where it will come to rest in the coming weeks is a question that’s now causing immense unease among Jewish communities worldwide.

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