Welcome to Europe, American Jews

Most American Jews have been unaware of the precariousness of Jewish life across the Atlantic.
May 24, 2021
A demonstrator makes a finger gun hand gesture on Kensington High Street on May 22, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Jews of America. Meet the Jews of Europe. You have a lot to talk about. No longer are you just co-religionists. You are fast becoming co-statistics, your peoplehood assaulted on both sides of the Atlantic.

Violent Islamic hatred of Jews has come to your streets—yes, those same streets naively believed to be immune from ancient hatreds. Over the past week, with a war in Gaza that began with the first of thousands of rockets fired upon Israel, Jews in Los Angeles, New York City and Miami experienced an unfamiliar sensation of collateral damage.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have had an Iron Dome of their very own—one blanketing Beverly-Fairfax, Bal Harbour and the Diamond District?

At the same time, in capital cities throughout Europe, marauding bands of Muslim men, ostensibly protesting the loss of life in Gaza, shouted, “Death to Jews.”  Britain’s crime statistics showed a more than 400% increase in threats made against Jews since hostilities in the Middle East began. Synagogues in the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain were vandalized.

This is Europe—the crime scene of the Holocaust, where the Final Solution came close to achieving its aims, a mere 76 years ago.

American Jews are receiving a bitter taste of what European Jewry has experienced for nearly two decades. A gang of masked pro-Palestinians attacked diners outside a sushi restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles. The only pleasantry exchanged was, “Are you Jews?” Once that was settled, the chant “Death to Jews” quickly devolved into a rumble. An Orthodox Jew was chased down a street in Los Angeles by cars adorned with the Palestinian flag.

One kippah-wearing victim was beaten in New York’s Diamond District. Another was punched and pepper-sprayed near Times Square; a woman was lit on fire by a firecracker. In Miami, a car pulled over and threw trash on a Jewish family, and then talked trash: “Free Palestine” and “We’re going to rape your wife.”

Jews in Europe have grown accustomed to such assaults on body and human dignity.

Jews in Europe have grown accustomed to such assaults on body and human dignity.

It began in France with the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006. More recently, the murders of two Jewish women in their homes, Sarah Halimi, tossed from her balcony in 2017, and Mireille Knoll, stabbed and set aflame in 2018. In between saw the murders of a teacher and three students at a Jewish day school in Toulouse, in 2012. Four Jews were killed at a Parisian kosher market in 2015. Two hundred Jews were trapped inside a Paris synagogue while an outside mob chanted, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas,” in 2014.

The rest of the continent was not much safer. The firebombing of a synagogue in Germany. Spray-painted swastikas on Jewish businesses in Rome. Four murdered at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Norway’s Jewish Museum closed due to security concerns. An attack on a synagogue in Denmark, during a bat mitzvah, that left a Jewish security guard dead.

In each of these instances, the assailants were Muslim.

The Middle East conflict had gone mobile, its theater of war easily transferable to major European cities that had opened its borders to Muslims. A strict adherence to Sharia law was not a disqualifying question, nor whether they had any objection to liberal democracy or multiethnic societies. The “No-Go” zones of Paris, and murdering European Jews for events taking place in Israel, are prime examples of Muslims totally ignoring the memo about liberalism.

Of course there are Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic who accept the dictates of secular law and do not follow the Koran’s edicts on Jews, infidels, women and homosexuals. And surely they are not responsible for these crimes.

The irony, of course, is that progressives who champion social justice and who treat Islamists as members in good “intersectional” standing, fail to realize that Islamic fundamentalism’s hatred for homosexuals and lesbians, especially those who can read a book and drive a car, rivals their animosity toward Jews.

Most American Jews have been unaware of the precariousness of Jewish life across the Atlantic. Yes, there were the synagogue killings in Poway and Pittsburgh, in 2019 and 2018, respectively. But these were committed by lone, right-wing domestic terrorists. Jew-hatred on the hard-left is more widespread, and fashionable. The general consensus has been that while life on campus or at cocktail parties can be miserable for Jews with kind words about Israel, or who dare criticize Palestinian terrorism, Jewish lives have never been in jeopardy.

Does anyone still have that comforting thought?

The Jews of Europe stopped wearing Stars of David and yarmulkas years ago—even avoiding Jewish events and venues. The divine protection of mezuzahs didn’t seem to repel angry pro-Palestinians, so why advertise that the inhabitants of this home are Zionists who deserve to die, whether they care about Israel or not.

American Jews are now deciding whether to keep their religion anonymous. Baseball caps, preferably with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame insignia, will soon become the Jewish head-covering of choice.

It would be a mistake to become complacent in the wake of the called ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. There is a long history of Muslim massacres of Jews—in Hebron in 1929, for example, where 69 Jews were slaughtered—that does not depend on the existence of a Jewish homeland. Israel did not declare its independence until 1948. There are always reasons to kill Jews, and open season on hunting down Jews, in the United States, has apparently begun.

It would be a mistake to become complacent in the wake of the called ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The Anti-Defamation League has monitored 17,000 recent tweets with variations of “Hitler was right.” One read: “GAS THE KIKES RACE WAR NOW.”

In response, Jewish leadership could not be more cowardly—or equivocal. Senators Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein, along with Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff, are terrified of angering the Squad, who could mount more progressive challengers in their next primary elections. None of them are generally lacking for swagger. Remember how visible they were during the impeachment of Donald Trump. Admittedly, Trump’s presidency was flawed, but his support for the Jewish state, recognition of Israel as ally, and honesty about Palestinian intentions, was second to none.

Before the pandemic, Hasidic Jews were assaulted in New York and New Jersey. During the summer of Black Lives Matter, several notable African-Americans traded in vile anti-Semitic tropes. No one paid much attention. Social justice doesn’t apply to “white-privileged” Jews; their activism on behalf of others goes unreciprocated.

For decades, the diaspora scoffed: “Who would want to live in Israel? Sure, the beaches are lovely. But all that fighting with the Arabs . . . .”

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.”

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