Press Releases

The Rise of Antisemitism in Europe: Could De Facto Again Become De Jure?

The New York City Bar Association, through its European Affairs Committee, has issued a report surveying laws, proposed legislation and regulations, legal proceedings and political events that “suggest a revival of attempts at state-sponsored or state-sanctioned antisemitism in Europe.”

Prompted by the resurgence of violent and other widespread and large-scale acts of antisemitism worldwide, and specifically in Europe, and as “laws and regulations that can be considered antisemitic in their intent or impact have been proposed in European parliaments and agencies, and in some cases enacted and promulgated,” the report states that these developments are “of grave concern, both for Europe’s Jewish population and for other religious, racial, ethnic, and national groups.”

Following a recounting of antisemitic laws from the Early Middle Ages through the 2000s, the report cites the current resurgence of such legislation in countries throughout Europe, focusing on two themes:

  • Legislation that prohibits speech alleging that a country collaborated with the Nazis or was responsible in any part for the Holocaust, notwithstanding the irrefutable historical record of their then ruling governments’ complicity with the Nazi occupation and the persecution, deportation and murder of their Jewish citizens; and
  • Legislation that restricts or prohibits religious practices, such as the ritual slaughter of animals (kashrut/kosher and halal) and circumcision.

In an “Analysis” section, the report states that while many of these laws on their face may not appear to directly threaten Jews or the practice of Judaism, “as history has demonstrably made clear, official actions that on their face are not specifically directed at Jews, or for that matter a specific religious or national group, have nonetheless served as a reliable harbinger of, and conduit for, far more pernicious consequences.” Historically, expulsion and extermination “had their origins in, and were abetted by, discriminatory laws that comprised restrictions on worship, special taxation, segregation, occupational quotas and prohibitions, and confiscation of property,” the report adds. “In light of this history, European Jews may rightly view legislation that is impliedly or ‘coincidentally’ antagonistic to Jewish custom and practice as a veiled but well-established testing ground or launching pad for, or a precursor to, much worse. An Appendix to this report sets forth the chronology of post-World War I antisemitic laws against the chronology of the current laws and measures here cited, as indicative of a pattern with a disturbingly familiar historical precedent.”

The Holocaust “was a long time in coming,” states the report. “What ultimately enabled and facilitated the Holocaust was the evolution and progress of technology and transportation, and it fell into the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators at just the right time for them….The availability of various forms of mass media enabled the Nazis to spread antisemitism, abet fifth columns and to undermine governments. And modern roadways and railways enabled them to conquer nations and to transport the victims they exterminated. 

“The potential means of persecution today are more varied, more available and more widespread. Telecommunications across borders, through social media and official channels, are immediately transmittable and literally at hand. The propagation of lies and hatred, and incitement to violence, can gain support and viability through unrestrained and unfiltered Internet channels, and can be communicated instantly to and from anyone with a cell phone, tablet or computer.”

The report concludes, “Because history and experience so clearly demonstrate that laws have been used to abet, exploit and legitimize religious, racial and ethnic discrimination and persecution, the European Affairs Committee seeks to raise awareness in, and action by, international government and non-government institutions and human rights organizations. Moreover, the Committee wholly endorses the work of organizations and individuals worldwide who monitor and publicly speak out against antisemitism, and provide counsel and other aid to oppose official initiatives that are antisemitic or similarly discriminatory of other religious, racial and ethnic groups.”

The report can be read here: