Anyone who denies the anti-Semitism in the anti-Israel movement is not paying attention to Europe. The despicable pro-Palestinian riots in France, along with attacks on Jewish individuals in the streets, are anti-Semitic not because the assailants support the Palestinians or march outside synagogues. They are anti-Semitic because they devolved into the classic rhetoric and symbolism of Jew hatred — swastikas, blood libels, conspiratorial control of world institutions — or because they target Jews for being Jews.
Elsewhere, the disproportionate attention given to Israeli misbehavior — while other countries with far worse records are treated far less harshly — reeks of a hate-filled double standard. The depiction of Israel as a spearhead of Western colonialism — and the Mideast conflict as a clash between “European” and “brown” people — depends on a stereotypical and caricatured image of the “Jew” that ignores the diverse reality of Israel (which includes, not coincidentally, brown and black people who were either thrown out of or made miserable in a wide range of non-European, “post-colonial” countries).
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is not anti-Semitic because it seeks justice for the Palestinians, but because it sees no place for the Jewish state or the Jews who live there.
So what can be done? European governments must act decisively to stem this tide of hatred. The World Jewish Congress “has called on European governments to strengthen police protection of Jewish sites and to ban or disband violent rallies,” writes Robert Singer, the CEO of the WJC. “Governments must stop the agitation and protect their Jewish populations or Jews will ultimately turn their backs on those countries.”
Peaceful demonstrations are the right of people living in democracies. But no one is entitled to use protected speech as a vehicle for hatred and incitement. While Jews know more than anyone the price of hateful discourse, the problem is not the Jews’ alone. As Singer concludes, a “continent in which Jews do not feel comfortable is not a healthy place for anyone.”