Harvard University professor and frequent COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse once wrote that the most successful ideology of the 20th century was anti-Semitism. Unlike Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, all of which attempted to use Jew-hatred, anti-Semitism has adapted and survived into the 21st century.
New evidence of this persistence comes today from the Anti-Defamation League,which released a survey of attitudes toward Jews in seven European countries (Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom). The results show, as the ADL says, that “classical anti-Semitic canards” still resonate in Europe.
Among the highlights:
* 31 percent of European respondents blame Jews in the financial industry for the global financial meltdown.
* Nearly 40 percent of all respondents believe “Jews have too much power in the business world.” 67 percent of Hungarians believe it to be true.
* 41 percent of Europeans think “Jews have too much power in international financial markets.” In Spain the figure is 74%.
* 44 percent think Jews talk too much about the Holocaust. A majority of respondents in Austria, Hungary, and Poland believe it to be true.
* Ironically, the good news is that only 23% of those surveyed continue to blame Jews for the death of Jesus. But maybe this has more to do with the reported decline in Christian religious belief in Europe than rejection of the deicide myth.
The survey was taken in late December and early January, so there is good reason to believe that the massive campaign of defamation and incitement against Israel and the Jews as a result of Israel’s incursion into Gaza helped stoke the hate meter. On that score, the survey provided some insight, with 38 percent of those surveyed believing that violence directed against Jews is a result of anti-Jewish feelings, while 24 percent believing it is a result of anti-Israel sentiment. That gives us some clue, but what isn’t clear is how much of this hate is a holdover from 2,000 years of traditional European Jew-hatred rooted in religious prejudice, and how much of it is the result of the influence of the anti-Zionist rhetoric that has become commonplace in discussions of the Middle Eastern conflicts. The latter has found a new foothold in Europe as the result of large populations of Muslim immigrants and the intellectual Israel-bashing of Western elites.
Israel’s foes have utilized these classic anti-Jewish themes, highlighted by the ADL survey, and given them new life. While fewer Europeans think that the Jews are “Christ-killers,” growing numbers of them are still prepared to buy into notions about Jewish control of world finance.
But let’s be grateful for one aspect of this story: The only thing apparently missing from the survey is a question about whether Jews are responsible for global warming. That would be the moral equivalent of the medieval belief that the Jews were poisoning the wells. But let’s not give the Islamists and the Euro Jew-haters any ideas.