The targeted murder by a Muslim of an elderly Parisian Jewish woman connects hatred of Jews today to that of Europe's past. And it's not just in France.
The murder last Friday of Mireille Knoll, an elderly Jewish woman stabbed to death and partly burned after her killers set fire to her small Parisian apartment, has made front-page headlines across across France — for reasons, both past and present.
News reports have noted that the 85-year-old victim of what has been classified as a targeted anti-Semitic attack had, decades earlier, narrowly escaped occupied France's 1942 Vel" d'Hiv Roundup and Nazi deportation. But the brutal killing also took place on the same day as an Islamic terror attack in a supermarket in southern France in which four people were killed — and also almost exactly one year after the murder of another Jewish woman, 65-year-old Sarah Halimi, in the same Parisian neighborhood.
It is neither new nor limited to France.
The similarities between those two murders are indeed striking. Knoll and Halimi each knew their killers, in both cases Muslim neighbors, and were targeted because of their religion. France, which is home to Europe's biggest Jewish community, has seen a rise in violent anti-Semitic acts and crimes in recent years, including the 2015 attack on a kosher supermarket near Paris and the 2012 assault on a Jewish school in Toulouse, both perpetrated by Islamic extremists.
As disturbing as it might be for some in Europe to face, it is undeniable that the most pressing danger facing the Jewish population right now doesn't come from far-right groups but from radicalized Islamic minorities. Many in France are calling this a "new form" of anti-Semitism, but it is neither new nor limited to France.
Germany too is experiencing a rise in anti-Semitic acts, as Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged earlier this year. The case of a Jewish girl being bullied and facing death threats by fellow Muslim pupils in a Berlin school has made its own round of headlines this week in German papers. It's not an isolated case either, coming after reports a few months ago that the son of Wenzel Michalski, the director of Human Rights Watch Germany, had been the victim of anti-Semitism from Muslim children at school, with acts that went from insults, bullying and hitting to a mock execution.
"School yards have always been merciless amplifiers of what's been whispered and talked about among adults — and so there is also a reflection and intensification of anti-Jewish and Christian hostility, which is unfortunately preached in many mosques," columnist Matthias Drobinski writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung. Particularly troubling, he adds, is that "school administrations appear to react halfheartedly, powerless, showing the wrong sort of tolerance."
A similar charge of awkward leniency is currently being made in Britain against the Labour Party, with Jewish leaders writing an open letter accusing the party's leader Jeremy Corbyn of "siding with antisemites rather than Jews," after a controversy of an apparent endorsement of an anti-Semitic mural. The open letter blames "the far left's obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel."
We've passed the first basic step of problem-solving — identification.
But the Labour party's problem with anti-Semitism goes deeper than that, according to The Economist. "Another source of Labour's anti-Semitism is British Muslims," the magazine writes before mentioning a poll from last September which found that "55% of Muslims held anti-Semitic attitudes, with 27% believing that "Jews get rich at the expense of others," compared with 12% of the general population."
The fact that these cases are being reported on and are sparking national debates — unlike what Le Figaro described as "media silence" following Sarah Halimi's murder last year — shows that we've passed the first basic step of problem-solving — identification. Now it's time to find solutions.