LONDON — A few years ago, I was a guest on “Start the Week,” a BBC radio discussion show. Among the other guests was the novelist Eva Figes, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and a fierce critic of Israel. Israel, she suggested,would have built gas chambers to exterminate the Palestinians but for the fear it would “be found out.”
What astonished me was not simply Ms. Figes’s comment itself, but the fact that I was the only one who challenged her on it. The other guests may well have felt that a Holocaust survivor had some special license to speak harshly about Israel; I certainly don’t see them as anti-Semitic. But in suggesting without a speck of evidence that Israelis had a desire to build gas chambers, Ms. Figes had, for me, given the history of the Holocaust, crossed a line.
I was reminded of that discussion as the question of anti-Semitism has returned to Europe — often disguised as anger against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Synagogues have been attacked, Jewish-owned shops smashed, Jews beaten up. At pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London, placards comparing Israelis to Nazis have become common. There have even, reportedly, been chants of “gas the Jews” at demonstrations in Germany.
Today’s anti-Semitism in Europe is more than a replay of old themes; it is also the product of new developments. One is the growth of Muslim communities, or rather, their transformation.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Muslim communities in Europe were broadly secular. Since the late ’80s, though, secular movements have been marginalized, while religious fervor has grown. Support for the Palestinian cause has always