The constant threat of anti-Semitism: Hate speech emerges after Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack

Flowers lay outside Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, France on Jan. 14 after the terrorist attack. Since then, 54 people have been arrested for hate speech and anti-Semitism. (Jacques Brinon | AP)
Flowers lay outside Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, France on Jan. 14 after the terrorist attack. Since then, 54 people have been arrested for hate speech and anti-Semitism. (Jacques Brinon | AP)

Religious intolerance continues to evoke violence in our contemporary world. If you are Jewish, however, this is nothing new.

On Jan. 9, as reported by the Associated Press, four French Jews were killed during a hostage siege at a kosher market in Paris. These victims, along with 17 other people, were killed in a three-day rampage by terrorists claiming allegiance to al-Qaida in Yemen and the Islamic State (ISIS).  One of the attacks within those three days was the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Other recent attacks included deadly strikes on a Jewish school and on a Belgian Jewish museum.

According to the Associated Press, researchers at Tel Aviv University have reported a significant and “chilling” increase in deadly attacks against Jewish communities over the past decade, including various deadly shootings within the past couple of years. Anti-Semitism is growing in Europe. “Within living memory of the Holocaust, ‘never again’ has become ‘ever again,’ ” Jonathan Sacks of the Wall Street Journal said.

While it is not fair to compare Europe today with Germany in the 1930s, the climate for Jews is, at the very least, intolerant and rife with violence. Yet, religious intolerance and violence does not end with Judaism. Radicalized groups such as Boko Haram, ISIS and al-Qaida carry on the legacy of Hitler and Stalin in the contemporary world. As Sacks said, “the assault on Israel and Jews worldwide includes attacks on Christians and other minority faiths.” Yet, Jews consistently have been targeted throughout history and the religious-based violence continues today. Why is this?

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there is a long tradition of using Jews as scapegoats in society. To start, Jews were “driven nearly two thousand years ago by the Romans from the land now called Israel. They spread throughout the globe and tried to retain their unique beliefs and culture while living as a minority.”

While some European cultures accepted Jews, others that were increasingly becoming Christian began to isolate the Jewish people. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum revealed, “For centuries the Church taught that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death.” So, this is where it all began. The Jews were outcasts, because, for one, they killed Jesus, right?

However, most historians today say that the Romans executed Jesus. But this is how it all began: first the Jews killed Jesus, and then they were responsible for everything wrong in the world. Now, of course there is a lot of history between the beginning of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the modern day, but this is simply where it all began.

Now, I ask, is it possible to ever fully attain religious tolerance on a global scale, to end the violence and murder that occurs under the name of various religions? Will there ever be peace for the       Jewish people?

The answer, at the moment it seems, is no.

Last summer, according to the New York Times, after Israel moved into Gaza, people attacked and vandalized Jewish-owned shops in Paris. In 2012, a French-Islamist killed a teacher and three students in Toulouse, France. As mentioned previously, another French-Islamist murdered four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels. The list of attacks against Jews is endless. And sadly, so is the list of violence fueled by intolerance and hatred, such as the 2,000 people feared dead in northern Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram. The violence will not end anytime soon, and thus, the hope for religious tolerance seems unlikely and perhaps impossible.

The point is, however, that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, religious-based violence continues to claim innocent lives and the end is nowhere in sight. Perhaps we should begin with learning more about other religions, and use that knowledge to spread understanding and acceptance. Intolerance is fueled by ignorance. Our globalized world should encourage a more vibrant communication and a deeper understanding. Intercultural competence is key in this matter. More knowledge may generate more tolerance. But how can one promote reason and tolerance while groups such as ISIS continue to plague our world? How can anyone of any religion feel safe in areas of intolerance such as this?

It is easy to blame religion for the violence, but it is right, rather, to place the blame with the killers who use their religion to justify their malevolence. This is where we should begin, for now.