'Time for Jews to leave Europe?' Is Barcelona's chief rabbi right?

The reaction of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Catalonia to the terrorist onslaughts in Barcelona and across Catalonia this past week was instructive. First, it offered lip-service condemnation of the Barcelona terrorist attacks. Then, with that out of the way, it condemned the European Union for “human rights violations” and took aim at its real enemies — especially the occupiers of “Palestina”:

“We also do not forget the victims of military occupations, of wars and terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestina, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and many other places where what happened yesterday in Barcelona is a daily occurrence.”

This “statement” came as a stunned nation of Spain and the rest of the world mourned 14 dead and over 100 wounded, with the shocked understanding that, if not for a premature explosion in an Islamist bomb factory, hundreds more might have been murdered.

The chief rabbi of Barcelona, Meir Ben Chen, is not waiting to find out. Labeling Spain a hub of Islamist terror, he is lamenting that “Europe is lost” and calling on his flock to leave now.

Now authorities are belatedly trying to figure out if a local imam radicalized the 12-man cell. Whatever the truth, BDSers would never allow a crisis to go to waste or allow the facts to get in the way. Their 24/7 goal: Demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.

But did hatred of Jews factor into the Barcelona massacre? Apparently, it was a motivating factor for at least one key player: Moroccan-born Driss Oukabir, the legal EU resident who rented the white Fiat van used to plow down tourists in the popular Las Ramblas district.

Days before the mass murder-by-vehicle attack, Oukabir posted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tirades on social media. And was it just a coincidence that the van landed in front of a kosher restaurant (a rarity in Barcelona) called Maccabi and near another called Maoz Falafel? Only the driver of the van, who was shot and killed by authorities on Monday, may have known for sure.

The chief rabbi of Barcelona, Meir Ben Chen, is not waiting to find out. Labeling Spain a hub of Islamist terror, he is lamenting that “Europe is lost” and calling on his flock to leave now.

Panic? Overreaction? Maybe not. Jewish leaders in Europe are reeling from a series of recent attacks by Islamists targeting not only tourists, but also Jewish institutions, including the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the Hypercacher supermarket in Paris.

Meanwhile, bigots have had a field day in their online swamp. One tweeter declared: “Jewish-engineered non-white invasion of Europe ends with Muzzies slaughtering Jews.” A second speculated that it was “most likely planned by Jews.” A third drew the lesson that to increase our guard against “Jewish Power.”

But beyond Islamists and marginal online Jew-haters, anti-Semitism in the Eurozone is now also deeply embedded in the mainstream. There are areas in leading capitals, including London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm, where no Jew dares to wear a yarmulke or a Jewish star necklace in public. In Sweden, anti-Semitic attacks go virtually unchallenged and unprosecuted by authorities.

Just how deeply embedded was highlighted not long ago by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, a respected author and researcher on anti-Semitism who attracted headlines and criticism with his assertion that “well over” 150 million citizens of the European Union (population 400 million) believe “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” Gerstenfeld based his conclusion on a poll conducted by Germany’s University of Bielefeld for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation that asked 8,000 people across eight EU member states whether they agreed. On average, 40 percent responded yes. 

Another report estimates that 11 million Spaniards harbor anti-Semitic views. Too many in the European Union, including major media, reflexively and habitually blame civilian Israeli communities (settlements) or Israeli self-defense against Palestinian terrorism for the spread of Islamist terrorism. And in the UK, rather than standing up for a Jewish community reeling from a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been rife with anti-Semitism and extreme anti-Israel antipathy.

Today, the anti-Jewish bigotry among Islamists who preach bullying, violence and terrorism, combined with the apathy and even open hostility among ruling elites in many European societies to their Jewish neighbors, renders useless the post-World War II pledge of “Never Again.”

Unless European leaders of state, culture and media dramatically change course, Barcelona’s chief rabbi may be right. For the Jews, at least, “Europe is lost.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean, Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Follow the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Facebook and on Twitter

Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.