Denis MacShane is the Labour MP for Rotherham, and was the Minister of State for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office until the ministerial reshuffle that followed the 2005 general election. His book “Globalizing Hatred: The New Antisemitism” was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in September 2008.
“As Europe faces up to its old demons of financial breakdown and job losses, a wind from the past is blowing through the continent. The politics of moderate center-right and left-liberal democracy that took power after 1945 are giving way to a new old populism. The extravagant rhetoric of the demagogic left and right is gaining ground, and the most obvious manifestation is the return of anti-Semitism as an organizing ideology. Consider the numbers: according to a recent Pew survey, the percentage of Germans who hold unfavorable views of Jews has climbed from 20 percent in 2004 to 25 percent today. In France, which has the largest number of Jews of any European nation, 20 percent of people view Jews unfavorably—up from 11 percent four years ago. In Spain, the figures are even more striking: negative views of Jews climbed from 21 percent in 2005 to nearly one in two this year. In Britain, where the numbers have remained around 9 percent for some time, anecdotal evidence of increased animosity abounds: youngsters returning from the Jewish Free School in middle-class North London are now frightened to go home on public buses on account of anti-Jewish attacks. Their parents hire private buses, as the London police seem unable to staunch anti-Semitic assaults on their children. In Manchester, a Jewish cemetery had to have a Nazi swastika hurriedly cleaned off its walls before a VIP party arrived.”
MacShane concludes, “As jobs are lost and welfare becomes meaner and leaner, the politics of blaming the outsider can only grow. The hard-won European politics of breaking down frontiers and trying to legislate for tolerance will get harder to defend, still less to promote. European populism and the anti-EU nationalism of both the right and the left is now the politics to watch. As America celebrates its first nonwhite president and the hope of a new politics, Europe may be beginning to revisit its past.”
With the recession beginning to bite harder and forecast to last at least a year, with the steady rise in radical political and religious extremism, anti-social behaviour and the threat of terrorism ever before us, the temptation in 2009 will be to retreat into our shells or begin to blame others for our woes. Remember Oswald Mosley and his Black Shirts that fed off the back of the Great Depression? How do we avoid it ever happening again?
If we are tempted to think it could never happen here, we need to think again. The Holocaust Research Centre of Royal Holloway University are collaborating with German educational institutions in a conference 27-29 January in Berlin on holocaust perpetrators. The conference will address how and why ‘normal’ people become genocide perpetrators. History must not be allowed to repeat itself.
While MacShane does not address the correlation between Antisemitism and anti-Zionism, or between Antisemitism and Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, at least not in the Newsweek article, the two issues are clearly linked. But legitimate criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians must not be used as an excuse for racism or attacks against Jewish people. What ever the causes of the rise of the new Antisemitism, it is totally unacceptable and must be repudiated unequivocally.
Adapted from an article in the January edition of Connection, the community magazine of Virginia Water.