A blog post has been making the rounds titled, “How to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic.” I suppose that such a position is theoretically possible. But anti-Semitism is so deeply embedded in anti-Israel circles that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the outcry against Israel’s recent actions against Hamas, on the one hand, and hatred of Jews, on the other.

Since hostilities broke out between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas in early July,  raw, unadulterated anti-Semitism at a level not seen since the Holocaust years has become commonplace on the streets of Europe and elsewhere.  Chillingly, a recent Newsweek cover story bore the title “Exodus: Why Europe’s Jews are fleeing once again.”


In England, about 100 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in July, double the expected number. Eighty percent of British Jews believe they are being blamed for Israel’s actions, according to an Institute for Jewish Policy Research survey, and the London Jewish Chronicle found 63 percent say that they “question” their future in the country. A potent symbol of the displacement of anger at Israel onto Jews was the decision by a Sainsbury supermarket in London to remove all kosher products from the shelves so that anti-Israel demonstrators outside would not ransack the premises.

In France, several pro-Hamas rallies that began peacefully degenerated into anti-Semitic mob scenes. In the course of one week in July, eight synagogues were attacked and cries of “Death to the Jews” and “Slit Jews’ throats” were heard. A Jew living in a Paris suburb, too afraid to give his name, told the London Sunday Times that the chants “took us back to 1938.” Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewry, emphasized, “They are not screaming, ‘Death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris. They are screaming, ‘Death to the Jews.’”

The situation in Germany is much the same. A Jewish woman in Berlin told The New York Times that friends were removing mezuzot from their doorposts for fear of being targeted by anti-Semites. There have been attacks on synagogues. Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of German Jews, told the Guardian, “You hear things like ‘the Jews should be gassed,’ ‘the Jews should be burned’—we haven’t had that in Germany for decades.” And echoing Cukierman, he noted, “Anyone saying these slogans isn’t criticizing Israeli politics. It’s just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else.”  

Smaller Jewish communities are not immune. On August 16, protesters attempted to break into a synagogue in Geneva, Switzerland, during Shabbat services, carrying a placard declaring, “Every synagogue is an Israeli embassy.” A doctor in Antwerp, Belgium, refused to treat a Jewish woman for a fractured rib, telling her son to “send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she’ll get rid of the pain.” In Uppsala, Sweden, a Jewish woman wearing a Star of David necklace was beaten up badly, but refused to report the incident to the police for fear of retaliation. And a Jewish school in Copenhagen, Denmark—founded in 1805 and believed to be the second oldest in the world—was spray-painted with anti-Semitic slogans and had its windows broken.

It’s not just Europe. An alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents has been reported in Australia, including teenagers threatening to kill Jewish elementary-school children on a school bus. In Venezuela, where the government itself is fomenting anti-Semitism, President Maduro told a regime-sponsored rally that “the Jews who live in our lands” had the responsibility to stop Israel’s killing of “innocent boys and girls.” Maduro, in fact, has outdone his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, whose regime repeatedly harassed the Venezuelan Jewish community and fomented anti-Semitism. 

Jews in European, Latin American and other countries should be able to feel as comfortable as Jews do here in the United States. But as a European Union survey revealed last year, 21 percent of Jews experienced at least one incident of anti-Semitism – verbal insult, harassment or physical attack – compared to only 7 percent in 2008. No
doubt the 2013 figure has increased significantly and is continuing to rise.

Some European leaders have spoken out against incidents of anti-Semitism. American leaders have done so as well, and there is now an initiative in the U.S. Congress on the subject. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced H.Res 707, condemning incidents and expressions of global anti-Semitism. Quick passage of this important measure and similar action by the Senate would make clear U.S. government concern for the well-being of Jews under assault, and step up American advocacy to encourage a worldwide effort to counter the evil of anti-Semitism.

Lawrence Grossman is the American Jewish Committee’s director of publications www.ajc.org