There is no question that anti-Semitism in Europe has been on the rise during the last few years. The European left, for a range of reasons, has gotten into the habit of viewing Israel, and by extension all Jews, as the foremost challenge to peace on earth and goodwill toward men. As Europe’s Islamic communities have expanded, moreover, and their members grown less and less shy about expressing – and acting upon – their opinions, the articulation of anti-Semitic sentiments and the commission of anti-Semitic acts by young Muslim men has increased accordingly.
While all this has been going on, a number of European governments have chosen to look the other way. Many political leaders in Europe, indeed, have fueled anti-Semitism by word and deed. The Italian government, however, has been an exception.
It was in October 2009 that two committees of the Italian Parliament voted to commission an in-depth study of anti-Semitism in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. They established a sub-committee to perform the inquiry, and put the Jewish writer and parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein (whom I profiled here recently) in charge. Now the sub-committee’s report has been released, and its findings are well worth attending to.
The report acknowledges “a strong resurgence of anti-Semitism in European societies” in recent years – a new kind of anti-Semitism that is “less overtly racist, and therefore more subtle and insidious,” than previous varieties, and that is being spread especially through online social networks. As a consequence of this new brand of anti-Semitism, “Jewish communities in various Western countries have had to deal for the first time with a new atmosphere of insecurity” and “a new cultural climate.” Though Italy is nowhere near as severely plagued with anti-Semitism as many other European countries, recent years have nonetheless seen a rise in anti-Semitism on the Italian far left, which, like its counterparts elsewhere in the West, has come to view Israel as “a state based on apartheid against the Palestinians,” takes the view that “the victims of the past have become today’s executioners,” and relativizes the Shoah by essentially equating it to what is routinely, and absurdly, depicted as a “Palestinian Holocaust.”
The report offers its share of sobering statistics. It references a 2010 study showing a steady rise in Italian anti-Semitism between 2001 and 2009, and another study indicating that “44 percent of Italians express attitudes and opinions in some way hostile to Jews and 12 percent are fully-fledged anti-Semites.” Fully 22% of Italians between the ages of 18 and 29 were hostile to Jews, and the figure was even higher among males in northern Italy. One-fourth of Italians surveyed agreed with the statement: “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews.” (In other European countries the figure was even higher: 35% in Germany and Britain, 41% in the Netherlands, 48% in Portugal, and no less than 55% in Poland.) One-third of Italians regard Jews as “not very nice,” and one-fourth don’t consider them “fully Italian.” Among Italians between the ages of 18 and 34, 22% were anti-Semitic, even though 71% of them “had never had any direct contact with Jews.” Of Italians in this age group, 51% balked at the idea of their daughter being in a relationship with a Jew, 38% didn’t want a Jewish boss, and 25% didn’t care for the idea of having Jewish neighbors.
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