The Roots of the Killing In Belgium

While the governments of Belgium and France have pledged to apprehend the culprits responsible for the murder of three Jews in Brussels and for the beating of two leaving a synagogue in France, they also must come to grips with their own culpability for the mounting acts of violence against Jews in Europe.

Many European nations have never fully acknowledged the role that their history of anti-Semitism played in the Holocaust. Countries such as France, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Hungary, Romania and others — where Jews were rounded up, deported and ultimately killed — have always pointed fingers at the Germans as the nation responsible for the genocide. The “excuse” for the deportations taking place on their soil is that since the Germans were occupying their countries, they had no recourse other than to comply with orders. And the Germans like to duck culpability with the claim that they were ruled by a brutal fascist regime under which resistance was impossible.

In reality, in countries where there was less anti-Semitism and where governments resisted the deportation of Jews, Jewish lives were saved during the Holocaust. Denmark managed to save almost all of its Jews from deportation.

The unfortunate truth is that European anti-Semitism didn’t start with the Holocaust nor did it end when the concentration camps were liberated. Europe has a centuries-old history of blood-libels and pogroms, and the vile hatred that energized them has not gone away; it has metastasized and become a more sophisticated and subtle form of anti-Semitism.

France and Belgium protest that they protect Jews and are vehemently opposed to any kind of bigotry or anti-Semitism. But if, as they claim, they are liberal and encourage diversity, why are Jews leaving?

Jews no longer feel safe in France and are leaving the country for Israel in record numbers. In 2013, 3,300 Jews emigrated from France, a 73 percent increase over 2012. This year, the number will likely be higher, projected to reach 6,000. Belgium has seen a similar exodus. One Belgian newspaper predicted that Belgium won’t have any Jews in 50 years.

Yes, Jews are officially protected, but why must they be protected at all? Why, nearly 70 years after being liberated from camps surrounded by barbed wire, must European Jews surround their own schools, shuls and institutions with the same barbed wire?

It’s because Europe still has its problem of anti-Semitism. Twenty-first-century Europe has traded in the blood libels of medieval times for a modern version, namely, the so-called oppression of the Palestinians. And that new libel has been costly and deadly for European Jews the same way blood libels were during the 15th to 19th century. It’s abhorrent for Jews to ingest human blood, just as it’s repugnant for Jews to kill innocent Arab civilians. When European government officials criticize Israel for its policies in Yehudah and Shomron and Gaza, anti-Semites see that as license for committing violence against Jews. “Israel” has become the code word for “Jews.”

We are not advocating that governments should never debate, criticize or disagree with policy decisions carried out by the Israelis. But before they do that, before they call for boycotts and divestments, why don’t they launch more blistering criticism and call for boycotts against the most flagrant abusers of human rights?

While the EU turns apoplectic every time a housing development is constructed in Yehudah and Shomron, there are hardly any protests against the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet, where many are imprisoned, tortured and killed for attempting to practice their religion. There’s no divestment movement of Chinese assets, there are no labels on Chinese products that say they were made in a nation that oppresses religious minorities. The Russians carpet-bombed civilians in Chechnya; yet the EU didn’t boycott Russian products.

If European governments want to get serious about combating violent acts against Jews, they have to recognize that their antagonism to Israel is the same cancerous anti-Semitism as that which has afflicted the continent for centuries. The latest incidents in France and Belgium aren’t isolated incidents, but a tragic continuation and perpetuation of a millennia-old culture of anti-Semitism.