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A New Brand Of Antisemitism, From France To Germany To Britain

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.

Paris march in memory of slain Mireille Knoll on March 28
Paris march in memory of slain Mireille Knoll on March 28


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.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A "Third Rome": How The Myth of Russian Supremacism Fuels Putin's War

Tracing the early roots of the concept of the "Russian world" that sees the Russian state as eternal and impervious to change. Its primary objective is the establishment of a robust national state, a realm of expansionism where autocracy is the only form of governance possible.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives a gala reception at the Grand Kremlin Palace

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives a gala reception at the Grand Kremlin Palace

Alexei Nikolsky/TASS/ZUMA
Vazhnyye Istorii


Looking back at the start of the 16th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow had emerged victorious over its Orthodox rivals, including principalities such as Tver and the Novgorod Republic. At the time, a significant portion of the eastern Slavic lands was under Catholic Lithuania's control.

So, how did Moscow rise to prominence?

On the surface, Moscow appeared to fill the void left by the Mongolian Golden Horde. While Moscow had previously collected tributes from other principalities, it now retained these resources for itself. There was an inclination for Muscovy to expand further eastward, assimilating fragments of the Genghisid empire. However, aligning the descendants of ancient Rus’ with the heirs of Genghis Khan would necessitate a fundamental shift in the state's identity. This was particularly complex due to the prevalent ideology built around religion, with the Tatar khans, unlike the Russian princes, adhering to Islam.

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In the early 16th century, a Pskov monk named Philotheus introduced a new idea: that Moscow represented the "third Rome."

According to Philotheus, the first Rome had succumbed to Latin heresy (Catholicism), and the second, Constantinople, had fallen to Turkish conquest. He believed Moscow was now the capital of the only Orthodox state remaining in the world. Philotheus presented his worldview to Grand Duke Vasily III, advocating for the unification of all Christian kingdoms into one.

The descendants of ancient Rus’ sought to trace their lineage back to Prus, the legendary brother of the first Roman emperor Augustus Octavian, establishing a link between Russia and the first Rome. Even though historical evidence doesn't support these claims, Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrible, proudly asserted his connection to Augustus Octavian. He took the concept of the third Rome very seriously and became the first Russian ruler to take on the title of the tsar.

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