Recent accounts of anti-Semitism rising worldwide have sparked terror in the hearts of Jews, reminiscent of an earlier era. Ten days ago the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released an unprecedented study on hostility towards Jews that went viral (see video below). It showed that worldwide anti-Semitism ranked surprisingly high at 26 percent. Moreover, almost half of those surveyed said that they had never heard of the Holocaust.
According to the study, 93 percent of those living on the West Bank and Gaza have anti-Jewish feelings, which is not unexpected. Among European countries, the highest ranking country was Greece, at 69 percent. Compare this to a YouTube video made in France six months ago, demonstrating the Neo-Nazi modern adaptation of the Hitler salute that garnered some 120,000 hits. (See video below.)
This past weekend the European Parliament held its 2014 elections on “Super Sunday.” For Hungary, Fidesz won with Jobbik coming in second. In France, the far-right National Front and its incendiary leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won their country’s elections for the first time ever in the European Parliament, shocking the nation. Exit polls indicated that they garnered approximately 25 percent of the country’s vote, while the ruling party received only 14 percent, which could eventually lessen the control of the ruling Socialist Party in France. The National Front party was initially formed on anti-immigration rhetoric, which has since been substituted with promotion of France’s departure from the euro.
The European elections allow members of 28 E.U. member states to decide the composition of the European Parliament and help to determine the president of the European Union. In other European Parliament elections, the U.K. and Greece also saw big wins for far-right groups. Across Europe, there were exceptions to the trend towards extremism, but not many.
Earlier this month, in Hungary, Tamas Sneider, a former skinhead was elected deputy speaker of the country’s national legislature, as a member of Hungary’s neo-Nazi Jobbik party. In 1992 Sneider had been arrested for the beating of a Hungarian of Roma descent, which is in sync with the current vast mistreatment of the Roma in Hungary. After the recent vote, at a press conference, in response to questions about the 1992 incident, Sneider said that since everyone already knew about his past, it was time to move on and discuss his plans for the future.
In November Hungary’s Jobbik party presented a statue that commemorated the deeds of Admiral Miklós Horthy. The statue was not condemned by the ruling party in Hungary, Fidesz. This hearkens back to Horthy’s early alliance and compliance with German rule and dogma, until the Germans were defeated in the eastern front in 1942 and 1943 and Hungarian units suffered great losses. Hungary tried to negotiate an armistice with the western Allies, only to be occupied by force in March 1944.
This led to nearly 500,000 Hungarian Jews outside of Budapest being forced into ghettos and then in mid-May 1944 systematically deported to Auschwitz. By July 1944, the only Jewish community in Hungary that had not been deported was in the capital, Budapest. Fearful of reprisal from the western Allies and concerned about military losses, Horthy ordered that the deportations halt in July 1944. He was arrested following a German coup d’état in October 1944. After the German Nazis took over in Hungary, the Jews of Budapest were ghettoized and persecuted, as well.
One month ago, Hungary observed the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust with government-sanctioned commemorations. The largest Jewish group in the country boycotted these events, saying that they were an attempt to deliberately conceal the government’s responsibility for its complicity in heinous crimes. These events occurred simultaneous to the Hungarian cabinet’s plans to build another monument minimizing Hungary’s alliance with the Nazis.
The new monument would commemorate Nazi occupation of Hungary in 1944. This statue depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel who is being swooped down upon by Germany in the shape of an imperial eagle. According to the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Mazsihisz, this statue effectively deflects responsibility on Hungary and casts the nation as a victim, not a perpetrator, of Germany’s occupation during World War II.
Prime Minister Orban and Fidesz have not distanced themselves from the Jobbik party’s fascist policies in Hungary. Urgent requests and demands have come from several fronts. Hungarian Jewish groups and politicians of the opposition party have made demands and protestors have tried to disassemble construction barriers to stop the recent statue project. Orban responded that there was no room for movement in his position.
In Ukraine, synagogues are being fire-bombed and the White power flag and the Confederate flag are clearly displayed in the Ukrainian parliament. The fusion of thinly veiled government-sanctioned actions and overt anti-Semitic actions has given rise to terror for Jews worldwide. With statistics and real life actions such as these, Jews and concerned others wonder what is next, and where it will stop?
In light of the ADL’s recent comprehensive survey, videos such as one by Lori Patatnik in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, have begun to be aired. In her recording entitled, “Is your neighbor anti-Semitic?” (see below), she asks whether Jews know the true feelings of their neighbors.
Answers to questions about anti-Semitism are not easily discerned. And, throughout the world, there are those both with malicious intent and those who speak in ignorance. While the haters certainly give reason for fear, the latter group can present hope for the Jewish people, who have always believed that education is deeply essential. In the context of a school curriculum or church program, and in talking with individuals, Jewish people can speak and educate about Jewish lives and history.
In doing so, there are surprises to be found, and healing in the interactions. Even when people have not previously known about the Holocaust or about Jewish people, their potential neutrality can open doors of communication. For true anti-Semitism, the only resistance is revised and enforced legislation, and even then, the rising terror among Jews and those who care for them cannot be abated. However, for those who are young or unaware, education can attenuate the fear and begin to alleviate old wounds. It is in striving to tip the balance towards the latter that change can occur.
Video of a new global study from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that measures anti-Semitism:
The video below demonstrates the use of the Neo-Nazi Hitler salute in France and elsewhere, even side-by-side with unaware Jews.
Lori Almost Live asks “Is Your Neighbor Anti-Semitic?”
By Fern Remedi-Brown