Lately, there have been many reports of increasing anti-Semitism around the world, especially in Europe.
I cannot help but find this anti-Semitism shocking and disheartening–but most of all, alarming.
Surely no one could forget what sparked the horrific event that was the Holocaust. The atrocities and horrors leading up to WWII are drilled into American students’ heads. We read Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl,” we learned the definitions of “genocide,” “Third Reich” and “Kristallnacht,” and we were taught to despise the racist acts of Adolf Hitler and his followers.
This history doesn’t seem to be stopping anti-Semitic citizens from expressing their intolerance.
According to the Jewish daily newspaper Haaretz, the Athens Holocaust Memorial in Greece was yet again defiled on Oct. 30. Last month, during the start of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, armed guards were obliged to protect synagogues from destruction and aggression throughout Germany, CBS reported. Anti-Jewish demonstrations have become common. PBS reported that thousands of Jews are escaping France, which has the highest population of Jews in Europe, for fear that their lives are in danger.
So why, in 2014, has there been such a growth of racist beliefs and actions?
Certainly, the main cause of this anti-Semitism could be traced to the conflict between Israel and Gaza, stemming from Jewish peoples wanting their own country and demanding other countries recognize Israel’s existence. The core of this conflict goes back as far as the mid-20th century, but intense fighting began again in July of this year spurred by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic organization. The Gaza-Israel conflict is the all-encompassing effect of perpetual and unresolved tensions between the states. Officially, as of September, the war is over, although both Israel and Gaza are feeling after effects, as seen by the hateful prejudice that’s boiling over in Europe.
Many people across the world have questioned Israel’s violent tactics. However, it’s important to note that anti-Israeli Hamas is often considered a terrorist group. Millions of Palestinians are now refugees, and many civilians have died in the Gaza-Israel conflict. Thus, while some claim Israel is justified in standing its ground, many have taken the stand that Israel is at fault for much of the violence and dissension enveloping Europe.
Still, the violent acts against Jews and synagogues are abominable. However, what I find the most worrisome isn’t the extreme and illegal racist deeds, but the more “tolerable” prejudice that may be infiltrating European culture. While the warfare occurring in many Europeans’ backyards may have evoked strong emotions, is that reason enough to detest any and all practicing Jews? Will Europeans–or even the rest of the world–begin to believe anti-Semitic beliefs are called-for and acceptable?
Discriminatory slurs, jokes and overall prejudices are inexcusable. I’m concerned that freedom of speech will be abused and will be an instrument for the argument that protests, demonstrations, writings–essentially anything that can be used to spread beliefs–are totally legal and valid ways to spread prejudice.
Where do we draw the line? When does freedom of speech infringe upon a person’s right to safety and personhood?