New and Old European Anti-Semitism: Lessons from the Matisyahu Saga

The modern mainstreaming of Jew hatred reaches a new level in Spain.

Europeans, at least the folks on the Western side of the continent, like to think of themselves as enlightened, freethinking and humanistic, but events at last week’s Rototom Sunsplash music festival near Barcelona demonstrate that the situation is quite the opposite. Organizers of the event caved into pressure from BDS activists and disinvited Jewish reggae sensation Matisyahu under the pretext that he was too supportive of Israel and unsupportive of “Palestine.” Matisyahu refused to release a statement, as demanded by the event’s organizers, critical of Israel’s policies. He was the only performer targeted for special treatment.

The ban sparked immediate worldwide outrage from Jewish leaders as well as the Spanish government and press. Matisyahu is not an Israeli citizen and was targeted merely for being Jewish and for ostensibly having pro-Israel views. Others were indignant over the fact that the Sunsplash organizers were attempting to control political thought by making pro-Palestinian views a condition precedent for performing. After facing a torrent of negative publicity, the festival organizers quite shamefacedly reversed their initial odious decision to ban Matisyahu and re-invited him. Matisyahu accepted and despite the presence of anti-Semitic protestors waving Palestinian flags, defiantly sang his hit song “Jerusalem,” which is peppered with references supportive of Israel.

The event represented a victory over the BDS movement, but also uncovered an ugly malevolence that permeates the European continent. Despite the Holocaust and centuries of repression against European Jewry, Europe still remains rife with the stench of anti-Semitism and if anything, anti-Semitic attitudes are actually increasing. The core of the problem lies with the failure of European governments to acknowledge the fact that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. There is no difference between the two. Those who are anti-Zionist, who deny the right of Jews to exercise and fulfill their national aspirations, are unequivocally anti-Semitic. 

Much of the blame for resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe rests with the growing Muslim population on the continent, particularly in France, Britain, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries where Muslim immigrants are offered generous entitlements. In mosques across Europe, anti-Semitic sermons are the norm, often borrowing heavily from ideas promulgated in 7th century Islamic texts as well as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious early 20th century forgery that represents the bible of modern-day anti-Semites. But it would be unfair to place the blame for this scourge entirely on Europe’s Muslims. Europe’s hard-Left and left-of-center parties shoulder equal, if not greater culpability.

These political parties have attempted to mainstream anti-Israel political thought by incessantly attacking and vilifying the Jewish state, challenging its legitimacy and partnering with various terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Their relentless assaults against Israel represent a new but no less pernicious form of anti-Semitism, accepted as chic among leftist circles. 

Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party politician who is currently vying for Labour Party chief and actually has a realistic shot of achieving this goal, is the face of Europe’s new anti-Semitism. He claims to condemn anti-Semitism in all forms yet cavorts with Holocaust deniers, refers to Hezbollah as a “friend” and endears himself to people like Raed Saleh, the rancid Muslim Sheikh who blamed Jews for 9-11 and peddles ancient anti-Semitic blood libels. 

Yet despite his shady past, Corbyn remains enormously popular in leftist circles and enjoys strong union support. Those who back him are either indifferent to his overt anti-Semitism or actually subscribe to his abhorrent views. For those who are indifferent, they should be reminded that when Hitler ascended to power, only 7% of Germans were actually hard core Nazis; the remainder were indifferent.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to his credit has taken an admirable stand against the menace of new anti-Semitism declaring forcefully in the French National Assembly that anti-Israelism is anti-Semitism. But the French are adept at sending mixed signals; cozying up to the Mideast’s worst tyrants while adopting policies extremely hostile to Israel. French politicians have employed vile pejoratives to describe Israel and its leaders while other French officials have engaged in deliberate historical mendacity in an effort to sever the Jewish nexus to the Land of Israel. In the latest outrage, France’s ambassador to the U.S., Gérard Araud, issued a tweet seemingly supportive of the anti-Semitic BDS movement. 

The difference between new- and old-style anti-Semitism is purely semantic but the two forms of xenophobia are virtually indistinguishable. New anti-Semitism masquerades itself as a human rights issue, but routinely manifests into old-style anti-Semitism as evidenced by Sunsplash fiasco where a Jewish performer was singled out by BDS activists and event organizers simply for being Jewish. It also manifests itself in more malevolent forms as was the case last summer when Arab and leftist protesters took to the streets in a Paris suburb and chanted “slaughter the Jews,” and “death to the Jews.” With few exceptions, “enlightened” Europe has at best, willfully and shamefully turned a blind eye to this malign influence.