The case for Israel is now playing out on the streets of Paris.
Over the weekend, pro-Palestinian rioters marched into a Jewish suburb in the French capital to break Jewish things. They torched cars, lobbed firebombs into a synagogue, and burnt Jewish-owned stores to the ground. One group of men reportedly spoke loudly of “hunting Jews and killing them.” That followed last weekend’s attempt to storm two other Parisian synagogues to a chorus of “Death to Jews!” and “Hitler was right!” They were only held in check by Jewish vigilantes who took up arms to defend those trapped inside.
The case for Israel is now unfolding in the heart of Berlin.
This past Friday, an imam was filmed delivering a Friday sermon beseeching Allah to destroy the Zionist Jews. “Count them and kill them to the very last one,” he prayed. A day before, an angry mob gathered to demand the same thing. “Jude, Jude feiges Schwein! Komm heraus und kampf allein!” it bellowed in unison—“Jew, Jew, cowardly swine, come out and fight on your own!”
The case for Israel is now parading through London.
British Jews have experienced a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents over the last several weeks, from verbal abuse to attacks on buildings and people. One woman was reportedly assaulted by a breakaway group of 50 pro-Palestinian protesters who heard her discussing the Gaza conflict on her cell phone. They cried out “get her” and surrounded her, pushing and calling her a Jew, Zionist, murderer, and thief.
Evidence of this disease has revealed itself in American cities as well. In Boston, Jewish students reported that police had to rescue them from a “die-in” protest against Israel’s operation in Gaza. The demonstrators had swarmed the students, pushing, shoving, and screaming “Jews back to Birkenau” and “Drop dead, you Zionazi whores.”
But surely, as the Economist argued last month, Jews in the 21st Century Diaspora remain safer than Jews in the Holy Land. Perhaps it’s not so bad for the Jews of Europe, given that the Jews of Israel live in mortal risk of rocket strikes and terrorist attacks.
The 430 French Jews who immigrated to Israel last week, however, would beg to differ. They followed the 3,500 French immigrants who arrived in Israel last year and the 5,000 more who are expected to soon join them. These Jews fled bourgeois Paris for Ashkelon and Ashdod, swapping the Champs-Élysées for the bomb shelters of Sderot and Be’er Sheva. Did they trade one threat for another more dangerous one? The Molotov Cocktails of French rioters are far less lethal then the rockets and tunneleers of Hamas. But these Jews would gladly trade the Police Nationale for the Israel Defense Forces. Because only in Israel can these Jews know in their bones that that with every last stick, and without any agenda, they will be defended to the death.
Not every place in the world, of course, is like this for Jews. In the United States, the Jewish community is overwhelmingly secure, prospering in a society that celebrates it. But each chant of “gas the Jews” in Berlin, with all of its hideous echoes, underscores the need for a refuge.
There are those who would have us believe that what we are witnessing in the world’s most cosmopolitan capitals is boiled-over frustration with Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Because, apparently, to borrow a line from Hamas, firebombing European synagogues is a “natural response” to the conflict in the Middle East.
Israel’s operation in Gaza is not causing deep-seated prejudices, it is revealing them. And behind all of that hatred lies the need for Israel—the case for Jewish sovereignty is the case for Jewish safety.
Jordan Chandler Hirsch is staff editor at Foreign Affairs.