On the one hand, it is completely unsurprising that Europe has become a swamp of anti-Jewish hostility. It is, after all, Europe. Anti-Jewish hostility has been its metier for centuries. (Yes, the locus of much anti-Jewish activity today is within Europe’s large Muslim-immigrant population; but the young men who threaten their Jewish neighbors draw on the language and traditions of European anti-Semitism as much as they do on Muslim modes of anti-Semitic thought.)
On the other hand, the intensity, and velocity, of anti-Jewish invective — and actual anti-Jewish thuggery — has surprised even Eurocynics such as myself. “Jews to the gas,” a chant heard at rallies in Germany, still has the capacity to shock. So do images of besieged synagogues and looted stores. And testimony from harassed rabbis and frightened Jewish children.
But I find myself most bothered by what seems to have been, on the surface, a relatively minor incident. The episode took place last weekend at a Sainsbury’s supermarket in central London. Protesters assembled outside the store to call for a boycott of Israeli-made goods. Quickly, the manager ordered employees to empty the kosher food section. One account suggests that a staff member, when asked about the empty shelves, said “We support Free Gaza.” Other reports suggest that the manager believed that demonstrators might invade the store and trash it. (There is precedent to justify his worry.)
After a good deal of publicity following the incident, Sainsbury’s apologized to its Jewish customers. “This will not happen again,” its corporate affairs director, Trevor Datsun, said, according to the Jewish Chronicle. “Managers will be told not to move kosher food because of some perceived threat.”
To the extent that it suggests that Israel and Judaism have been thoroughly conflated in the minds of many Europeans, the Sainsbury’s kosher controversy is similar to other recent incidents. Kosher products — in the case of the Sainsbury’s branch in question, some apparently from the U.K. and Poland — were intuitively understood to be stand-ins for Israel itself, just as French Jewish males wearing kippot were understood by their attackers to be stand-ins for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Be sure to bear the last paragraph of Goldberg’s excerpt in mind when reading this:
To the Editor:
Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.
The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.
As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.
(Rev.) BRUCE M. SHIPMAN
Groton, Conn., Aug. 21, 2014
The writer is the Episcopal chaplain at Yale.
So, there you have it. According to “the Episcopal chaplain at Yale,” the reason why we have “growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond” is because “the trend” of anti-Semitism “parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.” For “the trend” to subside, then, “Israel’s patrons abroad” have to pressure the government of the only Jewish state in the world to behave. Reverend Shipman doesn’t see fit to denounce anti-Semitism as a vile, despicable form of bigotry. He doesn’t see fit to state that there is no excuse whatsoever for anti-Semitism. He doesn’t even note that Hamas has committed–and continues to commit–acts of terrorism against Israelis. No; he is content to state that the reason why we have increased anti-Semitism is because the only Jewish state in the world has gotten uppity and bears responsibility for the persecution of Jews in other countries. The mind reels.
It is truly appalling, of course, that a man of God could think to state such sentiments–and in the “Letters” section of the New York Times, no less. But that’s where we are. Episcopalians should be ashamed. Yale should be ashamed. Reverend Shipman should be ashamed, but I’m not sure that he possesses the requisite wit or honor to so much as feel shame in moments like this one.
And despite all of the data points to the contrary, some people think that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.” Feh.