Antisemitism Resurgent: Manifestations of Antisemitism in the 21st Century

Reviving Anti-Jewish Laws

In the twenty-first century, Jews enjoy more political and economic freedom than at any other time in history. But while Jews are not directly targeted by state sponsored regulations, they have found themselves targeted indirectly by new laws that restrict historical practices of the Jewish community. In the twenty-first century, European nations have begun to restrict religious slaughter of meat, public displays of religious clothing, and the practice of circumcision. Europe’s far-right parties have spearheaded these types of restrictions to curb growing Islamic migrant communities, but Jews have also found themselves caught in the crossfire. Many of these new legalistic restrictions on Jewish life have also garnered support from the left under the guise of protecting human—and animal—rights.

Across Europe, governments are imposing restrictions on the practice of circumcision on the basis of protecting the rights of children. The right views circumcision as an alien practice imposed by Muslim immigrants, while left-wing political parties also argue the rights of children outweigh their parents’ rights to freedom of religion. A German court issued a non-binding ruling in 2012 that male circumcision for religious purposes “causes bodily harm” that outweighs parents’ right to their beliefs.* In September 2013, the children’s ombudsmen representing Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway jointly called for a ban on the practice.* Iceland’s government became the first in 2018 to announce a proposed ban on non-medical circumcision, which Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic leaders called an attack on religious freedom.* Jewish groups have warned that criminalizing circumcision would make Jewish life impossible, as it is an integral part of the Jewish lifecycle.

Circumcision is not the only Jewish practice under legal threat in Europe. Spurred by both far-left animal-rights groups as well as by far-right xenophobes, Belgium became the latest in a growing list of European countries to ban kosher slaughter in January 2019.* European law requires that animals be stunned prior to slaughter.* Both kosher and Islamic halal laws require the animal to be in perfect health prior to slaughter. Stunning is considered an abrogation of the laws of kosher slaughter (“shechita” in Hebrew) because the animal is no longer in perfect health.* In both Jewish and Islamic ritual slaughter, a sharp knife is used to cut the trachea, esophagus, and the carotid arteries of the throat in one fluid motion, causing instant death.

Several European countries have moved to eliminate religious exemptions. Poland banned kosher slaughter in 2013, though a court overturned the decree the following year after a religious freedom challenge by Poland’s Union of Jewish Religious Communities.* In December 2018, laws banning the methods of kosher and halal slaughter went into effect in Belgium. Belgian Jewish leaders told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency they feared the ban would be a prelude to a ban on importing kosher meat from elsewhere within the European Union.*

While they are largely at odds with each other, the left and the right have found common ground in opposing circumcision and religious animal slaughter. Both sides argue the issues as promoting the rights of animals and voiceless children. Europe’s right wing, however, has also made clear that practices such as circumcision are viewed as a foreign import by Muslim migrants and thus these restrictions would protect Europe’s identity.* The antisemitism of these laws is not as blatant as those of the past as Jews are not the specific target, but the effect is the same: Jews would be forced to either relocate to other countries or abandon their core religious practices.*

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Historic professional, societal, and political restrictions on Jews helped give rise to some of the most enduring conspiracies about Jewish influence.

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