SARCELLES, France — From the immigrant enclaves of the Parisian suburbs to the drizzly bureaucratic city of Brussels to the industrial heartland of Germany, Europe’s old demon returned this summer. “Death to the Jews!” shouted protesters at pro-Palestinian rallies in Belgium and France. “Gas the Jews!” yelled marchers at a similar protest in Germany.
The ugly threats were surpassed by uglier violence. Four people were fatally shot in May at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. A Jewish-owned pharmacy in this Paris suburb was destroyed in July by youths protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany, was attacked with firebombs. A Swedish Jew was beaten with iron pipes. The list goes on.
The scattered attacks have raised alarm about how Europe is changing and whether it remains a safe place for Jews. An increasing number of Jews, if still relatively modest in total, are now migrating to Israel. Others describe “no go” zones in Muslim districts of many European cities where Jews dare not travel.
But there is also concern about what some see as an insidious “softer” anti-Jewish bias, which they fear is creeping into the European mainstream and undermining the postwar consensus to root out anti-Semitism. Now the question is whether a subtle societal shift is occurring that has made anti-Jewish remarks or behavior more acceptable.
“The fear is that now things are blatantly being said openly, and no one is batting an eyelid,” said Jessica Frommer, 36, a secular Jew who works for a nonprofit organization in Brussels. “Modern Europe is based on stopping what happened in the Second World War. And now 70 years later, people standing near the European Parliament are shouting, ‘Death to Jews!’ “
This is not the Europe of 1938. French leaders have strongly condemned the violence. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany this month led a rally against anti-Semitism in Berlin at which she told Germans, “It is our national and civic duty to fight anti-Semitism.”
Europe has seen protests and outbursts of anti-Semitism whenever the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has erupted, and some analysts say this summer’s anger is a cyclical episode that like others will fade away. Some note that the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents this year in France, for instance, is well below some years in the 2000s.
Yet as European support for the Palestinian cause and criticism of Israel have hardened, many Jews describe a blurring of distinctions between being anti-Israel and being anti-Jew.