This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News.
The American Jewish community is reeling not just from the shock of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack but also from the explosion in domestic Jew hatred it has provoked. Antisemitic vandalism, harassment, intimidation, and violence, including an incident last week where Queens high school students rioted over a teacher attending a pro-Israel rally, have skyrocketed across the country. Personal relationships have been shattered by the realization that some friends support Hamas.
While Americans have seen rising antisemitism in recent years, this level is uncharted territory. For Europeans, it is heartbreakingly familiar. Some of us have long warned that the antisemitism in Europe would cross the Atlantic and land on American shores. Seeing that gloomy prediction fulfilled has been profoundly depressing.
But even for Europe, the sheer intensity and quantity of antisemitic incidents and violence is new. In Germany, there was a 240% increase year-over-year in antisemitic incidents the week after Oct. 7. The situation in the U.K. and France, where I live, is even worse.
According to CST, a British Jewish security organization, in the month after Oct. 7, antisemitic incidents in Britain more than quintupled year-over-year, the highest level ever reported. In London, antisemitic incidents jumped 1,350% between Oct. 1 and Oct. 18 compared to the same period last year.
In France, more than 1,500 antisemitic attacks occurred in the month after Oct. 7.
But it’s not just the quantity of antisemitism — it’s the pride with which it’s expressed. It is as if the horrific pogrom in Israel has unleashed a sleeping hate. A video recently went viral of passengers on the Paris Métro chanting, “F— the Jews and f— your mother, long live Palestine, we are Nazis and proud of it.”
These antisemites have no shame and no fear of consequences. How could Jews not be afraid? Jews now conceal their identity, removing mezuzahs from their doors and hiding their Jewishness.
A call from a friend in Israel, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, resonated deeply with me. After Oct. 7, she considered seeking refuge in Berlin, but the explosion of antisemitism in Germany changed her mind. Instead of joining her children in Berlin, she warned them not to speak Hebrew in public.
This virus of antisemitism has spread to the U.S., where college campuses and city streets have been taken over by anti-Israel protesters raging, “From the river to the sea!” — a call for the mass murder of Israelis, and “Globalize the Intifada!” — an appeal to kill Jews worldwide.
These groups attempt to rebrand Zionism as a racist ideology and Israel as a genocidal state. This absurd belief system, driven by a mix of ignorance and an ideology that only sees people in the categories of the oppressed and the oppressor, has turned the important cause of antiracism against one of the smallest minorities in the world: Jews.
It has permitted antisemites to pose as antiracists and progressives under the misapprehension that celebrating the calculated brutalization of 1,200 Israeli civilians is “punching up.”
Jews make up less than half a percent of the world’s population and just a bit more than 2% of the American population. Yet, in France and the U.S., Jews are subject to 60% of religious-based hate crimes. If your ideology makes you believe that a tiny, historically and currently persecuted minority is an oppressor, it’s time to reexamine it.
Public events and social media feeds have unmasked those who believe Jews are white oppressors unworthy of sympathy. This can be a hard reality to grasp for American Jews, who have traditionally associated with the Left and have grown accustomed to the more readily identifiable antisemitism of right-wing Neo-Nazism.
Not so in France, where antisemitism also comes from the far Left and from Islamist extremists.
The most important lesson from Europe is that all forms of antisemitism must be confronted and condemned, regardless of the propagator’s political views.
Successfully combating antisemitism will require a whole-of-society effort. I was heartened to see America develop the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, to which the American Jewish Committee has contributed, including by drawing from our experience in Europe. I hope it is implemented quickly and effectively.
But countering antisemitism today will also require confronting the underlying causes, including ideologies on both sides of the political spectrum that are ripping apart our societies, in Europe and in the U.S., of which antisemitism is the first visible symptom.
Antisemitism flourished in Europe for centuries before the U.S. was founded. It not only killed millions of Jews but also destroyed the continent. May America’s history of antisemitism be far shorter and less painful than ours.
Rodan-Benzaquen is the managing director of American Jewish Committee (AJC) Europe.