ANTI-SEMITISM ON A RISE IN THE WEST

The great United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, which rants against violations of religious freedom in India, should mind its backyard

Describing the reason for penning down his hellish experiences at Auschwitz, legendary and prolific chronicler of the holocaust, Elie Wiesel, movingly wrote, “Did I write it so as not to go mad or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness, the immense, terrifying madness that had erupted in history and in the conscience of mankind?” According to certain disturbing reports that have just seen the light of day, traces of that madness continue to afflict the psyche of the West.

A recent report released by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which analyses discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in EU member states, points at an alarming rise in anti-Semitic sentiments in Europe. Across the ocean, in the US too, disturbing reports of anti-Semitism, especially among impressionable minds, have started surfacing. The case of the Pine Bush Central School in New York district is a most recent example of how deeply ingrained anti-Semitism is in the Western psyche.

Children faced segregation, taunts and mental torture by their co-students for being Jewish. Epithets like ‘Christ killer’, ‘stupid Jew’, ‘dirty Jew’ were rampantly hurled while classroom walls, blackboards and washroom doors were regularly defaced with swastikas. A sixth grader was seen shaping his hand like a gun and saying that he was killing Jews while some seventh graders were discovered forcibly painting swastikas on the cheeks of Jewish girls in their class.

Mr Charles C Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Washington, DC-based Newseum Institute, recently cited a 2011 FBI report on hate crimes in the US which revealed that out of 1,318 hate crimes detected that year 62 per cent were religiously motivated and aimed at Jews. The EU report has also revealed how “anti-Semitism continues to be a reality in many EU Member States” and “expressed in forms of insults, threats, attacks or vandalism”. Such anti-Semitism, the report noted, was hindering the “people’s ability to live their lives openly as Jews, free from fears for their security…”

Eight EU member states were surveyed. Of the 5,847 Jews interviewed, 76 per cent believed that “the situation has become more acute and that anti-Semitism has increased in the country where they lived over the past five years.” Close to half of those surveyed worried “about being verbally abused and harassed in public places” because they were Jewish, while 33 per cent feared of being physically assaulted.

Displaying how deep the anti-Semitic mentality had percolated and had affected young minds, 66 per cent parents and grandparents of school-aged children worried their children would be subjected to “anti-Semitic verbal insults or harassment at school or en route.” Over half the respondents witnessed, in the past 12 months, someone claim that the “Holocaust was a myth or that it was exaggerated.” A rise in ‘online anti-Semitism’ was recorded, with 73 per cent believing that it had increased over the last five years. Referring to the “most serious incident of anti-Semitic harassment” in the last five years, 27 per cent said that these were “perpetrated by someone with Muslim extremist views”, while 22 per cent pointed at the Left-wingers.

Unfortunately the shards of the Kristallnacht still continue to spill blood in the West a full 75 years after the event. Like the EU, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, which unfailingly rants against violations of religious freedom in India, may do well to take cognisance of the continuing rise of a noxious and anti-human habit in its own backyard. That would be a great service to humanity and to the memory of all those who perished in the “terrifying madness” of the Holocaust.

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