Ben Judah: Europe’s ubiquitous anti-Semitism
Some physical threats persist. A young male Jew wearing a yarmulke in the cities of so-tolerant Scandinavia (Malmö, for example), or even on some of the streets of Paris in laicized France, risks a beating or worse. And sometimes terrorists of the left or right decide to shoot up a supermarket, a community center, or a synagogue. When they do, the press usually describes them as lunatics rather than ideologues. After the bodies have been taken to the morgue and the blood has been mopped up, it is easier to rationalize the murders that way.
But in the West, no one is going to massacre Jews or send them to concentration camps. Other parts of the world—the Arab world most notably—have been subject to such thorough ethnic cleansing in the recent past that there are no Jews left to pummel or kill. To be sure, that does not stop virulent anti-Semitism without Jews, a phenomenon noted in Poland under communism in its later stages, and present today in countries such as Pakistan, whose press prints cartoons indistinguishable from those in the Nazi broadsheets of nearly a century back.
Social anti-Semitism, the kind permissible in polite society, continues. But even that has changed. Once upon a time, it was a kind of establishment or upper-crust disdain for pushy newcomers, the sons and daughters of immigrants on the make. Sometimes it was subtly expressed. “Well, there goes your Semite, Hugh. A different god, a different mountaintop,” said John Gielgud in Chariots of Fire, a movie about the 1924 Olympics. In the 20th century, it was usually just doors firmly shut at clubs and universities. Why were so many hospitals with names such as Beth Israel founded in the early 20th century? In part, to give Jewish doctors a place to practice the healing arts. But social anti-Semitism, in the sense of nonviolent Jew baiting, still exists in the West, even if some posh columnists for prestige publications on the left or right are more likely to drizzle their venom on “neoconservatives” than on “hawkish foreign-policy Jews.”
Franklin Foer: This week in anti-Semitism
Its ugliest forms have been most clearly on display in Britain of late, where the leader of the Labour Party refuses to acknowledge, and certainly act against, the persecution of Jewish members of his own party, a number of whose parliamentary members have now quit in disgust. Jeremy Corbyn’s friendship with terrorist groups, his willingness to pose near or under anti-Semitic caricatures, and his failure to do anything to suppress the vile attacks on fellow leftists who happen to be Jews are, at the moment, unique in liberal democracies. But other leaders in democracies or quasi-democracies play with Jew hatred: Why else does Viktor Orbán so insistently invoke the image of George Soros, a bogeyman that some American white nationalists have similarly summoned up? Jew hatred is of both left and right.