“Anti-Semitism is on the increase…and enlightened people are not immune to it.” These words, written in 1945 by the renowned British author George Orwell in an essay titled “Anti-Semitism in Britain,” might just as easily have been written in 2005.
Richard Jinman, reporting on February 11, 2005, in the English newspaper “The Guardian,” wrote:
The number of abusive or violent attacks on Jewish people in Britain reached record levels last year, according to figures released yesterday. A total of 532 “anti-Semitic incidents”-defined as malicious acts on Jewish people or property-were recorded in 2004…. The figure was a 42% increase on the 375 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2003 and considerably more than the previous record of 405 in 2000. Among the 532 incidents were 83 physical attacks (up 54% on the previous year), four of which were life-threatening.1
If one wants further proof, one need only look at the party photograph taken earlier this year of England’s Prince Harry dressed up in a Nazi uniform.
Does it mean that Prince Harry hates the Jews? Perhaps not. But it does show that he is painfully ignorant of history. His widely reported “stunt” – for which he hurriedly and unconvincingly apologized – spits in the face not only of the Jewish people, but also of every civilian and military family in England who lost loved ones in World War II.
This widespread ignorance has fertilized the soil from which a fresh crop of “Jew hatred” has begun to spring, not only in England, but across all of Europe.
A Spreading Virus
Just as a virus has the power to mutate and reemerge in a more stubbornly pervasive form, the latest waves of anti-Semitism seem to be taking hold and spreading at an ever more alarming rate. One measure of this is the firebombing of a synagogue in Lugano, Switzerland, this past March-the first incident of its kind there in decades. The fire, which was accompanied by another arson targeting a Jewish-owned shop, destroyed the synagogue library.
Regretfully, we are used to reading about such destructive acts in France and Germany – but Switzerland? Dr. Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, stated that the “…firebombings of the Synagogue of Lugano and a nearby Jewish shop are testimony to the ever-rising anti-Semitic violence in cities where, since World War II, attacks on Jews were thought to be taboo.”2
The World Jewish Congress, which keeps a close watch on such matters, has this glum assessment of the present situation: “Anti-Semitism in Europe has risen exponentially in the recent years…[and] is at a level unseen since the end of the Second World War.”3 According to the WJC, a report just issued by France’s National Advisory Committee on Human Rights indicates that ethnic and religious-based incidents of violence in France have reached their highest level since 1994-including a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2003-2004 from 601 to 970.
The Anti-Defamation League, which was founded in 1913 and is one of the most important monitors of anti-Semitism worldwide, issued an open letter to Dominique Perben, the French Minister of Justice. Written by Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s National Director, the letter says, in part,
The recent report of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights indicating that anti-Semitic incidents increased dramatically in 2004, not only in number but in severity, is extremely disturbing…. It is good that France is addressing the problem of anti-Semitism. It is now critical that sufficient action is taken to make a difference on the ground to ensure that the Jews of France will feel completely secure in their country.4
Why is This Happening?
In an article written late last year for the U.S. Department of State, Edward B. O’Donnell, Jr., Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, observed:
What we are seeing today in Europe is a perverse combination of the new and the old. The old is the ancient strain of European anti-Semitism….The new is the complex mixing of ethnic groups in Europe since the end of World War II….This is a variation of the classic warning about new wine in old wineskins. The new population mix…is having difficulties adjusting to the new situation into which it has been thrust. It lashes out at the very society of which it seeks to be a part. One of the results has been repeated attacks on Jewish community facilities and on individual Jews.5
These comments demonstrate uncommon insight, for they draw the connection between the past and present. In other words, the ancient prejudices are reemerging, dressed up in modern clothing. However, the root causes have not changed. Jealousy, fear and religious bigotry all have their part to play. But underneath it all is the same hatred engendered by our adversary, Satan.
Do these troubling developments mean that an overwhelming or even a simple majority of Europeans hate the Jews? The polls seem to indicate not. Even in France, most people disapprove of anti-Semitism. However, there is absolutely no doubt that this minority of haters has recently felt far more emboldened.
One of the most important reasons for this is the rise of hostility against the Israeli government and the media’s torrent of criticism against Israel. While many people (including many Israelis) freely cite this Israeli administration’s shortcomings as “the loyal opposition,” the fact of the matter is that many detractors of the Jewish people have used the increase in political criticism as a cloak for religious and ethnic hatred that has, in truth, little to do with politics.
What Can We Do?
As believers in Messiah, we have a vital part to play to stem this tide. Starting at home, we are charged with the task of praying for the Jewish people and demonstrating our support by coming alongside our Jewish neighbors with affirmation as well as the encouraging words of the Gospel.
We must speak out against religious and ethnic hatred wherever we find it-not only against the Jewish people, but against anyone. The Body of Messiah has a prophetic ministry to stand against anyone whose words and actions betray that their source is the Master of Lies.
We must also search ourselves. Is there any false thing in us that needs the power of regeneration that only the Spirit can supply? For did not our Master tell us, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5)?
The soul-killing sickness of anti-Semitism has only one sure antidote: the perfect love of Messiah that “casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and carries us from death to life.