Text size

In a letter taped on the United Talmud Torah school in Montreal, which was firebombed on Passover eve, the criminal perpetrators wrote that their attack constituted "revenge for the murder of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin." They threatened to persist with attacks so long as "the crimes in the Middle East continue." Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, a graduate of a branch of the school, said that the arson proves "anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head anew in Canada."

Indeed, a report released recently by the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada discloses that 584 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the country in 2003. This is the largest annual figure recorded since the organization started to keep tabs in 1993 on anti-Semitism in the country. The report points to the doubling of Muslim immigrants to the country over the past decade as a factor that might explain the troubling data.

Similarly, the data in a report compiled by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, and funded by the European Union, pointed to Muslim minorities as being mainly responsible for the proliferation of anti-Semitic incidents on the continent. The sharpest rise in the number of incidents - from 32 in 2001 to 193 in 2002 - belonged to France, the country which hosts the largest concentration of Muslims in Europe. These statistics confirm conclusions reached by Israel's Foreign Ministry: the ministry claims that in recent years, particularly since the start of the current intifada, at least 95 percent of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe were caused by Muslim immigrants.

Most Jewish community leaders interviewed by authors of the Monitoring Center report stated that immigrants, or youths with an Arab appearance, were behind the majority of the attacks. Many spoke about rising fear of appearing Jewish in public; some went so far as to define Europe as a "continent hostile to Jews." Haaretz's Passover Eve supplement analyzed in-depth the new phenomenon of Muslim anti-Semitism, which differs in essence from "classic" European anti-Semitism, whose roots were in far left radicalism.

The explanation for displays of hatred by Muslim communities toward Jewish ones is rooted in more than one sphere. For generations, violence toward Jews in the Diaspora has represented an accepted means of projecting feelings of frustration and resentment nursed by weak sectors of host societies, sectors which angrily observe the achievements of the Jewish minority. But, in addition to domestic factors, which require governments to take vigorous action in areas of education and law enforcement, the influence of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute on the Muslim world generally, and on the Arab people in particular, must be considered. Feelings of solidarity toward the suffering endured by the Arab Muslim population which lives under the Jewish Israeli occupation, and the assassination strikes against political-religious leaders in the territories, thrust short-tempered Muslims into the hands of fanatics, who, in turn, direct rage toward neighboring Jews.

The tight link between the demise of the peace process and the escalation of violence in the territories on the one hand, and the increase of anti-Semitic incidents in the Diaspora on the other, forces decision-makers in Israel to consider the consequences of their policies for Jews overseas. They must remember that the state of Israel was founded as a sanctuary for Jews, and not as a source of inspiration for new forms of anti-Semitism.