In commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the November Pogroms, our Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman reflects in an EU Observer op-ed on soaring anti-Semitism following the October 7 massacre by Hamas and the toll it’s taken on Jewish communities thus far.
On October 13, Jewish institutions across the world — community centers, synagogues, welfare offices, elderly homes — had to take additional security precautions. Special advisories were issued, many Jewish schools and kindergartens remained closed.
The occasion? Following its October 7 massacre of more than 1,400 people, Hamas leadership had called for “the entire Islamic Nation to join the Jihad against Israel,” and declared Friday the 13th a global ‘Day Of Rage.’
The discourse has remained just as virulent since. And it has not only affected the state of Israel, but also Jewish communities across the world.
So how seriously to take it? After all, the Ayatollah Khamenei — Iran’s Supreme Leader — regularly calls for the destruction of Israel and of America, underlining as recently as 1 November that “Death to America is not a slogan, it is a policy.”
When a fatwa was placed on Salman Rushdie by Iran’s first supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1989, the former spent the following decade living inconspicuously in London under permanent police protection. 33 years later, in 2022, the fatwa caught up with him — Rushdie was stabbed multiple times on stage ahead of a public lecture in New York. He survived, but was permanently blinded in one eye.
In these days of turmoil, it is hard to evaluate what is too much or too little caution.
My friend’s house was tagged on 1 November. The tag read simply ‘Mort aux Juifs” [Death to Jews]. It was the only tag on the block, in an unassuming neighbourhood of Strasbourg. Buildings in Paris and Berlin have been marked with Stars of David. I now glimpse across my building’s doorstep every day when I leave and return home.
A woman in her early 30s — around my age — was stabbed in Lyon in her house this past Sunday. A swastika was drawn on her door and the assailant is currently on the loose. I wondered if the name listed on her door sounds ‘more Jewish’ than mine.
The upsurge of antisemitism that paradoxically started right after October 7 as a traceable list of incidents, for which small inventories could be kept for police action and posterity, has quickly spiraled into an avalanche of hatred unprecedented in my lifetime.
Kosher stores vandalised, graffiti on synagogues and other places of Jewish cultural significance, the Jewish section of Vienna’s central cemetery set ablaze. Jewish students intimidated on university campuses — in one instance a Stanford lecturer was suspended for allegedly separating Jewish students in class.
To date, since October 7, some 1,100 incidents have been recorded in France, over 1,000 recorded in Britain, a 388 percent increase in incidents has been recorded in the United States, 240 percent in Germany, with figures in motion.
Many of those who have taken to the streets amid the war between Israel and Hamas have done so to support the legitimate quest for statehood for the Palestinian people. It is also safe to assume that many see a two-state solution where a secure Israel can peacefully coexist next to a free Palestine as a desired outcome.
Yet others might join in chants of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” without much awareness about the origins of the slogan — the Hamas founding charter — or thought about its necessary implication: the dissolution of the only majority-Jewish state in the world and the displacement of its population, including by violent means.
Amongst the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in gatherings over the last month, we are bound to find a diversity of opinions, imagined outcomes and understandings of what might constitute a desirable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Yet, the October 7 massacre by Hamas in Israel, the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust, has elicited reactions antithetical to any naïve expectations we, Jews, collectively may have had. From Beirut to Toronto, Amman to Paris, Istanbul to Barcelona, Sydney to Brussels and across the world — thrills, jubilation and — as one Ivy League professor put it — “exhilaration” — celebrating the barbaric violence perpetrated by terrorists against civilians: women raped, babies burned alive, brutal executions of the elderly — all declared fair game by those in the ‘liberation by any means necessary’ school of thought.