- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

LONDON A wave of anti-Jewish attacks ranging from hate mail and graffiti to stonings, shotgun blasts, gasoline bombs and synagogue bombings has swept Europe from Britain to Ukraine as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians worsens in the Middle East.
A streak of anti-Semitism, never far beneath the surface of the Continent since World War II, re-erupted with the latest Palestinian "intifada," or uprising, in September 2000 and has taken a particularly ugly turn with Israel's campaign against Palestinian territories that started March 29.
In recent days, one synagogue in Marseille, France, has been doused in gasoline and burned to the ground; another in Lyon, France, was damaged in a car attack; a third, in Brussels, was firebombed; and a fourth, in Kiev, was attacked by 50 youths chanting, "Kill the Jews," who then beat up a rabbi. An unidentified assailant hurled a stone through the window of another synagogue in southern Ukraine yesterday.
In Britain, which takes pride in a "multicultural" society, police have logged at least 15 anti-Jewish episodes this month, including eight physical assaults, synagogues daubed with racist slogans and hate mail sent to prominent figures among the nation's 300,000 Jews.
The attacks prompted Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, to say that "anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe as a whole." He blamed Islamic extremists for "whipping up" sentiment against Jews in Britain and throughout the Continent.
But it is in France, where some 700,000 Jews and 4 million Muslims uneasily coexist, that the problem is particularly acute. The French Interior Ministry has recorded nearly 360 crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions in April alone, coinciding with the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The destruction of the synagogue at Marseille was the sixth attack on a Jewish religious site in France in less than a week. In Lyon, 15 masked assailants smashed two cars into a synagogue and set it on fire. Other arsonists tried to set fire to a synagogue in Strasbourg, but the damage was minimal.
There were also attacks on Jewish citizens. A man opened fire on a kosher butcher's shop in a village near Toulouse. A Jewish school at Sarcelles, near Paris, was ransacked. Youths stoned one Jewish school bus and set fire to two others in Paris, and a gang waded into a team of Jewish soccer players, beating them with iron bars.
In Belgium, authorities blamed the increased tensions in the Middle East for the attack on the synagogue in the Anderlecht district of Brussels.
"There is really a climate of hostility, which is a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being transposed into the most troubled district of our capital," said the local mayor, Jacques Simonet.
With one eye on the growing anti-Jewish violence and another on the 113th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday April 20, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which keeps track of neo-Nazi activities around the world, issued a travel advisory urging Jews to exercise "extreme caution" in traveling to France and Belgium.
In a telling reminder of the Holocaust, a synagogue in the German town of Herford was daubed with the words "Six million were not enough" a reference to the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of Nazis during World War II.
The war did not eliminate anti-Jewish sentiment. Less than a year ago, a survey showed that 24 percent of all Austrians would "prefer" to live in a country without Jews. And even in supposedly neutral Switzerland, a survey reported by the BBC "indicates that 16 percent of Swiss people are fundamentally anti-Semitic, while 60 percent have anti-Semitic views."
In Lithuania, Jewish leaders on Friday reported a rise in anti-Semitism that they believe is related to the prospects that property seized from Jews before World War II will be returned to its original owners. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas asked the international Jewish community on Tuesday to select representatives to open talks with the government on the issue of property restitution, Agence France-Presse reported. The extremist Freedom Union party then accused the government of "groveling to Jews," while another group ripped up an Israeli flag at a protest the following day.
Meanwhile in France, 70 persons have been questioned and 16 jailed in the latest attacks on Jews and Jewish interests violence that French authorities say has increased significantly since the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Even in Britain, attacks against Jews totaled 310 last year and 32 so far this year. One was an assault on a Jewish theological student, David Myers. He was reading a book of Psalms aboard a London bus when he was stabbed 27 times.
"If you talk long enough about killing Jews," said Rabbi Sacks, "one day it will happen, God forbid."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide