While in France on a ministry trip, I witnessed the convergence of several events confirming the serious state of anti-Semitism in Europe. The vise of what I call eschatological (pertaining to the last days) anti-Semitism is tightening on the Jews. That vise has two jaws, one made of classical anti-Semitism and the other of the new anti-Semitism falsely known as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.
I was in Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France near the German border on the week-end when the elections for the European Parliament took place. The shocking results showed that the extreme right parties of Greece, Hungary and France advanced further on the political scene. The European Parliament is made of 751 seats proportionally distributed to all the participating countries based of their population (France has 74 seats). France has about 65 millions people of which only 40% voted this May. This resulted in the extreme-right French party “Front National” (FN) of Marine Le Pen garnering 25% of the votes. France will thus send 23-25 FN seats to the European Parliament for the next five years. Greece’s Golden Dawn party won three seats, Hungary’s Jobbik party won four seats. As it stands, the extreme-right parties all combined will have 36 seats at the European Parliament. This is not enough to tip the scale but is enough to be a voice of change within the whole community. That voice will of course not be in favor of the Jewish community. This represents the first jaw of the vise.
During the same week-end, there was a killing at the Jewish Museum of Brussels in Belgium. resulting in the loss of four lives including two Israeli tourists and two Belgians. The attack was perpetrated by one individual who remains unknown and on the run. While Belgian government officials took a while to label the killing as an anti-Semitic act, other countries have expressed otherwise. Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his outrage when he said: “there are those in Europe that are quick to condemn every building of an apartment in Jerusalem, but do not rush to condemn, or condemn with weak condemnations, the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself.” French President François Hollande also claimed that they was no doubt in his mind that the attack was anti-Semitic. More will be learned once the killer is apprehended, but many around Europe are already drawing parallels between that killing and the Toulouse killings of 2012 known as “l’Affaire Merah” even though it is still unclear if the killer was a Muslim, from the extreme-right or simply a madman. This could turn out to represent either one of the two jaws of the vise of eschatological anti-Semitism.
Additionally,hours later, there was also an attack outside a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Creteil. Two Jewish men wearing their yarmulke (skull caps) were attacked by two men who are believed to be north African most possibly Muslims. The two Jewish men were attacked from behind, minutes before their assailants fled. This was not the first nor will it be the last attack on French Jews attending synagogue services. This one could represent the second jaw of the vise.
Antisemitic incidents occur almost daily all over Europe, and continue to grow not only in numbers but also in intensity. The vise of eschatological anti-Semitism keeps tightening on the Jewish community, so much so that we have seen more French Jews making aliyah to Israel in the first quarter of 2014 than the whole of 2013. But what if aliyah was not the answer?
I do not intend to advise Jews against making aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. Even though it is not for everybody, Israel remains the safest place for worldwide Jews, yet there is an aspect of aliyah that makes me a bit uncomfortable. The idea of leaving France or any other country for Israel is two-sided. On one hand, it can be seen as very justified to flee a country where you are unwanted at best and persecuted or even murdered at worst. On the other hand, there is a sense of surrender in a departure that can also be a cause for rejoicing and/or greater victory on the side of the perpetrators.
It is very much in line with the famous quote by German Pastor Martin Niemöller who said:
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.