Caught By Surprise

    In the past month we've seen a series of attacks on European Jews and their institutions. In France, synagogues and Jewish community centers have been bombed. In Brussels, the chief rabbi was beaten, and Belgian Jews have been warned not to wear traditional religious attire in public. Jews in Berlin were issued similar warnings, and vandals in western Germany defaced a synagogue with the words "six million were not enough." In the famously tolerant Netherlands, thousands marched through the streets carrying signs in Arabic that read "Heil Hitler," "Jews into the Sea," and "Jews are Dogs." Even in London, a city not known for anti-Semitism, a synagogue was vandalized, and a member of the House of Lords said that "the Jews having been asking for it." In this case, the "it" was suicide bombing. This virulent anti-Semitism caught commentators by surprise and produced explanations that refused to look the facts squarely in the face. The standard explanation among European pundits is that these and other incidents are connected with anger over Israeli actions in the West Bank. The problem with this explanation is that the people committing the anti-Semitic acts haven't made this connection. For them, a Jew is a Jew -- whether in Israel or in Paris. A more accurate account begins with a candid explanation of who is committing the worst of the acts: They are Islamic immigrants and their children. The worst violence in France was perpetrated by young men of North African origin, often manipulated and egged on by Islamic radicals. As the New York Times points out, "hateful images of Jews" are a staple of Islamic popular culture. Jews are often compared to animals like monkeys and dogs. As this Muslim population moves into Europe, they bring these attitudes with them. This doesn't mean that all these immigrants are anti- Semites, but it stands to reason that as their numbers grow, so does the possibility for the kind of violence we've witnessed. And I'm sorry to say that European elites, including the press and government officials, often exhibit anti-Semitism on their own -- which brings me to a second overlooked factor. Rabbi Daniel Lapin recently wrote in National Review Online, American sympathy for the Jewish people lies in our "reverence for the Bible" and the influence of Christianity on our culture. Christians take seriously God's words in Genesis 12:2: Speaking to the Jews, He said, "I will bless those who bless you, curse those who curse you." In Europe, Lapin writes, Muslims and "post-Christians" -- those without the influence of Christianity -- join to revile Jews, both in and out of Israel. They agree with the member of the House of Lords who said that "the Jews have been asking for it." In contrast, Lapin sees American Christians rallying alongside Jews on behalf of Israel's right to defend her citizens. Lapin's words put the lie to attempts to depict Christianity as a source of intolerance. Events in Europe show that just the opposite is the case: It's the absence of Biblical faith, not its presence, that threatens the Jewish people. To put it simply, for Christians, anti-Semitism is disobedience to God. For further reading: Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial (Encounter, 2001). Rabbi Daniel Lapin, "Anti-Semitic Awakening," National Review Online, 7 May 2002. Patrick E. Tyler, "Shock of Sept. 11 Is Making Americans More Supportive of Israel, Polls Suggest," The New York Times, 13 May 2002. (free registration required)


Chuck Colson


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