February 27, 2020

Make No Mistake, Anti-Semitism Happens Everywhere

Photo by Try Media/Getty Images

Articles about rising anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews in German streets often are paraded as proof as that European Jewry has no future, and why Jews belong only in Israel.

You rarely find articles about another trend: Israelis leaving Israel.

Israelphiles might not think the miraculous country is such a stressful, troubled, difficult place to live, because pro-Israel propagandists post messages about how Israel is so strong; how it effectively fights terrorism (while actually having a record of giving in to terrorism, i.e., the Oslo Accord and Gaza pullout); how, statistically, Israelis are happier than others; how only in Israel can you walk on biblical lands; how Jews rose from the ashes to create self-sovereignty.

It’s true that Israelis live lives of great purpose. Some — especially immigrants from Western countries, who make the greatest material sacrifices — feel better about this great purpose when the media goes berserk about anti-Semitism in Europe. I know I used to.

People often ask if I’m scared living in Germany. Not as scared as I was living in Israel during the Second Intifada, when I was afraid to go on a bus, eat in a café or dance in a nightclub lest I get blown up. Those were the hardest years of my life. But I stayed and fought through the violence out of my love for Israel.

But journalists aren’t as interested in the frenzy of violent Palestinian anti-Semitism. Israel probably has more “no-go zones” per capita than Europe. Religious Jews wouldn’t dare set foot in some Arab-Israeli towns. In Palestinian cities, where Israelis aren’t allowed to enter, I’m not even sure what would happen to a kippah-wearer, because it’s hardly been tried. In Jerusalem’s Old City, Jews repeatedly have been attacked simply for looking Jewish. The kind of Jew-hatred taught in “Palestine” — under Israel’s nose — is second to none.

Mainstream foreign media usually bury such stories or, worse, blame the “Occupation.” Zionists worldwide will not blame the Israeli government for its weakness in combating anti-Semitism on its own turf; rather, they’ll attack Europe and the media for standing idly by. I guess it’s much nobler to die under a Jewish government in Israel as a “martyr” (even if Judaism doesn’t have “shahids”).

Journalists aren’t as interested in the frenzy of violent Palestinian anti-Semitism. Israel probably has more “no-go zones” per capita than Europe.

Sometimes I wonder if this “rising European anti-Semitism” narrative is being hyped up or deliberately crafted. Pop psychology dictates you materialize what you focus on. No wonder that weeks after Germany’s anti-Semitism czar, Felix Klein, announced Jews shouldn’t wear kippahs in public, they were attacked in Berlin and Hamburg.

It’s as if the pundits want there to be more anti-Semitism, especially the right-wing brand, which distracts from the politically incorrect Islamic breed. The topic of anti-Semitism gives journalists juicy subject matter as well as reasons for nonprofits to send out email solicitations. Meanwhile, people mostly ignore the Islam-appeasing, anti-Israel left (epitomized by the U.K.’s Jeremy Corbyn).

Most Israelis like to think persecution only comes in the form of the “goy.” Unfortunately, on a day-to-day basis, I often have felt more mistreated by social, economic and security policies of the quasi-socialist Israeli government than I have in Germany.

I was reminded of that during a recent visit to Israel. My joy was cut short because Islamic Jihad decided to shoot rockets at Israel for the umpteenth time. For an entire day, without warning, the government shut down schools all over the country. My friends and family didn’t go to work unless their offices had shelters. Everyone complied as if rockets are simply rain. But for some reason, anti-Semitic attacks have been allowed to become routine in Israel.

As most Israelis living in Europe can attest, life is much easier there. I’ll go so far as to say the modern Germany day-to-day system seems to operate more by the golden rule: Treat residents as they want to be treated.

Less red tape makes it easier to start a business; unlike in Israel, with its highly regulated, monopoly-filled economy that makes it among the most difficult for starting a business within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Cost of living matches salaries, unlike in ever-expensive Israel. Traffic moves and it’s easier to get around, unlike in Tel Aviv, where the ill-organized subway construction has caused chronic gridlock for years. My German clients generally and generously pay me on time, unlike some Israeli employers. And don’t get me started on a third election, which displays contempt for the electorate. But I suppose that kind of contempt can’t be categorized as anti-Semitism.

Zionists will argue that the meaning of Israel overrides such “material” opportunities, but that logic gives the Israeli government a pass from creating conditions for citizens to live better, easier and in more dignity with all they go through.

I’ve been accused of bad-mouthing Israel when Israel needs all the support it can get. However, braggadocio and bravado don’t necessarily make people like Israel or Jews any better. Honest vulnerability often is much more attractive and results in sympathy. And honest, public discussion should spur the Israeli government to enable the truly secure, peaceful, easy day-to-day life Israeli citizens deserve.

Knowing Israel also is my home gives me confidence to live in Germany. I’m so thankful for Israeli citizens who are on the front lines. Let’s support and protect one another, not try to “best” each other as to whom is the better Jew or Zionist. Let’s work together to ensure Jews feel safe everywhere — especially in Israel, where I’ve felt the most scared living as a Jew.

Orit Arfa is a journalist and author based in Berlin. Her website is oritarfa.net.