Op-ed by Dr Moshe Kantor: Europe’s rising antisemitism demands a new social contract

The recent deadly attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh demonstrated more than ever that the threats from both the far right and the far left are rarely about individual Jews, but against Jewish collectivity.

“The Jews,” as in “All Jews must die” — the phrase that the far right Pittsburgh shooting suspect Robert Bowers allegedly shouted as he shot at the worshippers in the Tree of Life Synagogue – disregards the diversity of the Jewish people. Whether religious, cultural or political, the only thing that mattered was that they belonged to the Jewish people.

On the far left, many hold a paramount hatred against the Jewish collectivity and substitute the term Jews for Zionists, meaning that the Jews do not constitute a people deserving of national sovereignty and self-determination in their ancestral and indigenous homeland.
In recent years, we have seen that this effortlessly shifts into ancient antisemitic motifs, especially in Europe, and singles out Jewish collectivity from all peoples on earth.

When Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote “The Social Contract” in 1762, he created a new format for a relationship between the people and their rulers. This was the dawn of a new system of government. However, the Jews were not to be part of this wave of equality and association.

Later in 1789, speaking in a debate on the eligibility of Jews for citizenship, the Count of Clermont-Tonnerre spelled out in a fateful sentence the terms in which Jews could be included in the new political exemption. “The Jews,” he said, “should be denied everything as a nation, but granted everything as individuals.”

It was possible to allow individual Jews into the new social contract, but not Jewish collectivity, and it has been that way ever since.

However, after the Holocaust, the greatest destruction and attempted annihilation of the Jewish people, it was felt that a new social contract was being signed between the nations of the world and the Jewish nation.

The return of Jewish sovereignty was welcomed and Jewish communities in more places than ever before in history were given full and equal rights.

But now, in 2018, this social contract between the nations of the world and Jewish collectivity is tearing apart at the seams. The Jewish state is being singled out among all nations for boycott, divestment and sanctions, viciously attacked in international forums, and is the subject of age-old antisemitic myths like the blood libel and global control.

Has the world learned the lessons of the Holocaust? I don’t think so. In Jewish communities around the world, Jews have to fight for their right to full understanding and equality. In France, Belgium, Scandinavia and now the US, the Jews are constantly being targeted, not for what they do, believe in, or think, but because they belong to a certain community, the Jewish community.

In Europe, due to rising radicalism, populism, a weak political center, economic imbalances and terrorism – combined with a lack of historical memory – antisemitism is no longer considered an absolute evil. And it’s likely to get worse. The ultimate goal is to change what has sadly become the new normal.

Radicalization of the political spectrum continues with the severe weakening of mainstream parties, which are expected to continue suffering major losses to the far right and far left.
That is why we need to create a new social contract between the Jewish people and the nations of the world. We need governments to restate their obligations to all their citizens, by ensuring equal right and protection, by allocating funds and resources to ensure the security and well-being of the Jewish community.

Jews have always been loyal to the nations where they resided, and hold strongly onto the rabbinic dictum that “the law of the land is the law.” We contribute to all walks of life, whether medicine, science, technology, arts and entertainment, often disproportionately to our overall numbers. We do this as proud Jews and as loyal servants to our nations.

Netanyahu joins world leaders in lamenting results of CNN poll on antisemitism. We ask for nothing more than full equality and respect, to be both a loyal and dependable citizen and an open and proud member of the Jewish collectivity. Our holy texts do not force us to decide between the two and inspire these feelings of loyalty to our rulers and governments.
Nonetheless, we are being asked to decide.

On the far right, they try to force us out of our countries; on the far left they try to force us out of our collectivity. We need governments around the world to speak openly and honestly against both these discriminatory efforts. Now is a time to speak against these trends and for our Jewish collectivity to be recognized and defended by those in leadership positions.

This is why we reach out to the leaders of the world, to repair this social contract before it is ripped to shreds before our eyes. Without this social contract, our existence will become even more challenging, antisemitism will increase and we will see more attacks like those in Pittsburgh, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

related

Subscribe to EJC newsletter

Get EJC's bi-weekly newsletter, including the latest statements and news from the European Jewish communities, direct to your inbox.

European Jewish Congress will use the information you provide on this form to contact you. We will treat your information with respect and will not share it with others. By clicking Subscribe, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Statements

World leaders will gather in Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Heads of State from Europe, North America and Australia have been invited to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, taking place on 23 January 2020, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

The event, titled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” is being organised by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, headed by Dr. Moshe Kantor, in cooperation with Yad Vashem, under the auspices of the President of the State of Israel, H.E. Mr. Reuven "Ruvi" Rivlin.

EJC calls on the Lithuanian government to provide stronger protection after community shutters institutions

EJC has called on the Lithuanian Government to take stronger measures and appropriate action to protect the Jewish community after its leaders made the decision to close the city's sole synagogue and community center following threats and a rise in antisemitism.

Latest CST report confirms worrying trend of spiralling antisemitism

EJC is deeply concerned by the latest CST Antisemitic incidents report, which saw the highest ever number of incidents ever recorded in the first half of a calendar year in the UK.

EJC President Kantor expresses concern about a Jewish future in Europe after release of FRA report on young Jewish Europeans

EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor has expressed great concern over the results of the FRA report “Young Jewish Europeans: perceptions and experiences of antisemitism.”

The study, at the initiative of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), critically records the experience of antisemitism among young European Jews, who are all too often the target of anti-Jewish hate.