It’s like a forest fire – you may think it’s out, but a smoldering ember can reignite it at any time and create unimaginable havoc.
So it is with anti-Semitism.
And like professional firefighters keep spotters on the ground after fires are extinguished to watch for flare-ups, there are groups out there – in Europe in particular – that keep their eyes peeled for relapses of that dangerous and insidious disease and leap into action to stifle them before they infect the entire host.
Most recently, the malady is threatening to escape containment in Greece, where a major European Jewish organization is urging governments on the continent to “adopt measures to tackle anti-Semitism and far-right extremism, including possibly banning a hard-line Greek party that did unusually well in recent elections,” and to do it fast, Associated Press reports.
The president of the European Jewish Congress met with the Czech Prime Minister last week “to seek his support for ‘emergency measures’ to protect the continent’s Jewish communities from violent hate crimes,” A.P. reports.
In particular, Europe’s Jews are concerned about a Greek party called Golden Dawn, “that did well during Greece’s May 6 election and whose leader claims that Nazi concentration camps did not use ovens and gas chambers to kill prisoners during the Holocaust,” according to A.P.
The party says it’s not neo-Nazi but campaigned on an anti-immigration platform.
This party’s success in the last elections “should have sent shock-waves through Europe,” The Jewish Congress’ leader said.
Recent studies show that while the number of anti-Semitic attacks last year were fewer than in previous years, their nature was more violent, a trend the congress’ leader called “dangerous.”
“Before calling on European leaders to act against hate on the street, they must clear their own house and that means banning and ostracizing any politicians and political parties that preach hate and violence,” he said. “While we highly value freedom of speech, we all recognize that there must be restrictions, and the visceral hatred propagated by the Golden Dawn is surely outside the boundaries of appropriate political discourse.”
The man plans to meet with the EU foreign policy chief and the Spanish prime minister and has consulted with the new French president, A.P. reported.
The congress’ leader said “the current economic crisis creates ripe conditions for anti-Semitism and that radical Muslim communities in Europe are ready to attack Jews because of the tension between Israel and the Palestinians and other Middle East countries,” A.P. reports, and from the perspective of someone who’s done some study on the history of the issue, he is absolutely right.
In fact, the basis of my Masters thesis was that history teaches us that when religious fundamentalism, social unrest and economic instability converge at once, “they” will go after the Jews. I suggested that while the Jews would not necessarily be the last group targeted in such a scenario – since all the other possible targets have being non-Jews in common, and anti-Semitism has for years been such an effective rallying banner – but they would be the first.
It was many moons ago that I made this proposal to my academic supervisors, and I had an entirely different religious fundamentalism in mind at the time, but the basic theory seems to be holding true, and that’s terrifying.
I was also suggesting that the same factors that have numerous times over the centuries ignited seemingly unstoppable anti-Semitic episodes in Europe, could have the same effect in the United States as well, but was scoffed at by many who believed then, and likely still do, that no such thing could ever happen here.
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