The murder of an elderly Holocaust survivor in Paris has shocked Europe. However, Michel Friedman writes in this guest commentary, the killing should surprise no one: Anti-Semitism is omnipresent.
We're in the thick of it, and have been for a long time now: European anti-Semitism — hatred of Jews in Europe!
Examples are legion: France, where a Holocaust survivor was brutally killed because of her Jewish faith; Britain, where the Labour Party is rocked by anti-Semitic scandals and the leader does nothing about it; Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban rants about a supposed conspiracy by the Jew George Soros; Poland, which is desperately trying to define itself as the innocent party with regard to its anti-Semitism before, during and after the Holocaust, right up to the present day; Austria, where right-wing extremists skulking in government are lent respectability, for political reasons, by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Once again, it seems that anti-Semitism has been legitimized — and institutionalized through elections.
And, yes, it is happening in Germany, too. Jewish schools, kindergartens and community centers have needed protection against original and neo-Nazis for decades. A politician from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) described Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as a symbol of shame, and party members want to rewrite the culture of remembrance. And even then the AfD, a right-wing extremist party that uses unmistakably racist and anti-Semitic slogans, was elected to the Bundestag for the first time.
Every weekend, opposing football teams are vilified on the pitch as Jews — and hardly anyone makes a fuss. Jokes are told about Jews and, even though they're never funny, people still laugh. Again, hardly anyone makes a fuss. Jewish cemeteries are regularly desecrated. Hatred and contempt rage online.
Uninhibited misanthropes have been around forever. People who say this or that "simply has to be said" — and then spew nothing but sheer hatred, verbal violence, anti-Semitism and racism. But for this there is no justification, and there can therefore be no understanding, not even when such people are euphemistically referred to as "protest voters."
We have grown accustomed to structural anti-Semitism. And this is precisely the worst of it: Nothing disturbs us anymore. We have become numbed to it. In the daily spiral of excitement generated by modern media reporting, we have grown accustomed to far too much. But, because we no longer react when people go too far, we too become involved; we become the perpetrators' accomplices.
It is also true that, over the past few years, far-right and -left anti-Semites in Europe have been joined in their beliefs by some Muslims. Though such talk is ostensibly aimed at Israel, the rhetoric often extends to all Jews, regardless of where they live. People have been issuing warnings about this development for years, describing anti-Semitic incidents in German schools, for example, and the feeble response of people in positions of responsibility.
For decades the German state has entrusted young Muslims to aggressive and anti-democratic imams from Saudi Arabia or Turkey; then officials express insincere surprise when youth appear to have been radicalized.
Some refugees are anti-Semitic, too. They come from dictatorships that indoctrinate their populations with hatred for Israelis and Jews. However, this is at best an explanation; it is not an excuse.
The German elite make recurrent declarations of solidarity that never actually change anything: Such platitudes as "no tolerance for intolerance" only serve to assuage their consciences.
Additional staff are not hired for day care centers and schools. Local politicians regularly play down the threat from the neo-Nazi mob in order to prevent their regions from acquiring bad reputations — as if this weren't already the case in areas where right-wing terrorism is rampant. The police, the public prosecutor's office and the constitution are failing, not only in their investigations of the murders committed by the National Socialist Underground, but also during the PEGIDA demonstrations and at many other moments.
It is not primarily about showing solidarity with the Jews: It's about demonstrating a commitment to everyone and everything that goes into making this free country. What else has to happen for action to be taken? How many more grand speeches proclaiming "never again" or "nip it in the bud" can be given without the speakers falling silent in shame because they will spend the rest of the week doing nothing?
Anti-Semitic perpetrators despise democracy, pluralism, freedom, emancipation and enlightenment. Do we feel sufficient enthusiasm for these values? Do we defend them with understanding and passion? Or are the haters so loud only because others are too quiet?
I am writing all this not because I am a Jew, but because I am a human being — a human being like you. I am very worried. I am worried for you, too.