Australia/Israel Review


Europa Europa: Hamas’ useful idiots

Nov 24, 2023 | Alex Benjamin

Protesters in London: A chilling atmosphere for European Jews (Image: Shutterstock)
Protesters in London: A chilling atmosphere for European Jews (Image: Shutterstock)

Less than a week after the October 7 Hamas massacre, I was sitting opposite a senior Israeli diplomatic figure in Brussels. “Think of this as a traffic light,” he told us. “Right now we are on green – the world supports us, feels sorry for us. In about a week or two from now, it will go to orange – the support will slowly slip away, and then it will turn to red, when we are in Gaza. And then we will lose support.” That observation turned out to be prescient. 

“I prefer to stay alive and be criticised than be sympathised,” Golda Meir once said. Jews in Europe know this feeling very well. Time after time, operation after operation, we have seen spikes in antisemitism whenever Israel defends itself. But nothing could have prepared us for recent weeks. 

My mother, who is in her eighties, remembers the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas with crystal clarity. For me, it was September 11. I was a press officer in the European Parliament watching CNN without comprehending what I was seeing, initially thinking the first plane was an air traffic control accident. Then the second plane struck.

I thought of this after the Hamas massacre. A mere 24 hours afterwards, the pro-Palestinians were out in force, decrying a genocide, as if Israel’s September 11 multiplied by at least ten didn’t warrant any response whatsoever. And I thought, what would the reaction have been in New York after September 11, or after Bataclan in Paris in 2015, or Madrid in 2004, if the supporters of terrorism had organised demonstrations in the street to condemn the victim nation? It would have been unthinkable. 

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is chanted with impunity. Posters of hostages are ripped down. Jewish homes are being daubed with Stars of David. 

“They are tracking flights from Israel and knocking on doors to identify Jewish homes;” “I must wear a bullet proof vest to take my children to school;” “Jew hate that I haven’t witnessed since the Holocaust” – these are just some of the comments relayed to the EU Co-ordinator for Combatting Antisemitism Katharina Von Schnurbein from senior Jewish leaders in the Netherlands and Portugal and a Holocaust survivor in Belgium.

Here at the offices of the European Jewish Association, we have had to hire extra security. On a wall opposite our office, they daubed “free Palestine” (curiously, with a hammer and sickle). At the hipster coffee place on the corner frequented by EU officials, the staff put a sign up saying “Dear EU workers, please do all you can to stop the genocide in Gaza” and, for good measure, added a Free Gaza sign beside it. 

The Jewish Agency is reporting a huge rise in inquiries about Aliyah (immigration) to Israel. Some European Jewish leaders are advocating moving east to places like the Czech Republic or Poland to escape what they see as a Western Europe lost to the Jewish people.

Can this all be explained away by demographics? I’m not so sure. Let’s take France – Jews represent 0.7% of the population and Muslims, 10%. 

Reported antisemitism is everywhere up by huge amounts, some reports say as much as 1400% in some places. This is bigger than any demographic shift.

Less than a year ago, in a conversation with a senior EU figure, I decried the EU’s position on Israel, which makes a sharp distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. The former, in their eyes, is legitimate political opinion, the latter beyond the pale. 

The classification of anti-Zionism – the demand for destruction of a Jewish state that has existed for more than 75 years – into the political opinion box instead of the hateful prejudice box is one key reason why Jews find ourselves in the worst antisemitism crisis since the Shoah. 

Are we surprised? A better description is deeply disappointed. After all, Article 30 of the Hamas charter is clear: 

Jihad is not confined to the carrying of arms and the confrontation of the enemy. The effective word, the good article, the useful book, support and solidarity… all these are elements of the Jihad. 

For Hamas, this anti-Zionism/antisemitism divide has been a veritable boon. And since October 7, business has been booming. Politicians, the media, mass protests – the politics of anti-Zionism are in full swing. 

Meanwhile, Jews, not Israelis or Zionists, are demonised throughout the Hamas Charter in classically antisemitic terms – including citing not only the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but also an Islamic tradition which prophesises that the Muslims will murder all Jews before the Day of Judgement. There was never any anti-Zionism/antisemitism separation from the Hamas perspective; this has always been about Jews – full stop. 

Hamas must see most of Europe as a bunch of useful idiots in its war against the Jews. I’m not necessarily inclined to disagree. 

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