We Must Continue the Fight Against Jew-Hatred in Europe | Opinion

When we think of antisemitism today, images of street attacks, burning synagogues and swastikas are the first things that come to mind. These senseless and hate-filled acts are the bread and butter of the Jew-hatred our people have experienced for thousands of years.

But the scars that physical attacks can leave sometimes pale in comparison to the poison that cultured people in suits and powerful positions of leadership can unleash when they set their minds to it.

Jew-hatred in "civilized" settings takes root by undermining the loyalty of, and confidence in, innocent souls. Evidence may not exist, but who needs evidence once a juicy rumor takes root?

Take the case of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the diplomatic service and combined foreign and defense ministry of the European Union. Seven years ago, the EEAS began a targeted and malicious campaign of disinformation and retaliation against a longstanding EU official for the sole crime of being Jewish—a charge of dual loyalty to one's home country and to Israel that has plagued countless patriots around the world.

In what has played out like a modern-day Dreyfus Affair, an attorney and 25-year veteran of the EU government (called "Eva" here for her own protection) became the target of entirely unsubstantiated rumors that she was engaged in espionage on behalf of the State of Israel. The goal of this campaign was clear: to remove Eva from her role in the Middle East peace process. Allegations that Eva was leaking confidential information were documented and spread widely despite no evidence to support the claims.

Once Eva's colleagues had "learned" that she was a "traitor," security investigations, including hazy charges of contact with foreign agents—such as Israeli Mossad agents, Turkish officials and persons with connections to Russian intelligence—were easy enough to believe.

Eva underwent years of merciless disciplinary processes before the allegations of espionage mysteriously disappeared (while not being formally retracted), but this was not the end of the saga. New charges of misconduct surfaced—including absenteeism and failure to perform one's duties—with no supporting evidence. Nevertheless, these charges served as the basis for withholding Eva's salary and, ultimately, dismissing her from the EEAS, despite her successfully demonstrating that the charges were completely unfounded. When Eva sought help from outside Jewish organizations, the EEAS ignored the numerous calls to properly investigate the situation and criticized Eva for her alleged disloyalty in raising "baseless and false" claims of antisemitism.

Meanwhile, the EU simultaneously represents itself as being at the dawn of a new era. While working toward unveiling a "strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called antisemitism "a poison for our society." She added: "It is up to all of us to fight it. To prevent it. And to eradicate it."

President of the Central Council of Jews
President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Josef Schuster speaks during the ceremony marking the reopening of the Carlebach Synagogue in Luebeck, northern Germany on August 12, 2021. CHRISTIAN CHARISIUS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Unfortunately for veteran civil servants—and so many others—the European Commission does not hold itself to the same standards to which it purports to hold EU citizens. Centuries of pogroms, mass murders, expulsions, persecutions and the Holocaust will not be erased by a 26-page strategy communication. Entrenched, systemic Jew-hatred won't be uprooted because someone says it should be.

Fifty percent of all Europeans consider antisemitism a problem, while 44 percent of young Jewish Europeans have experienced antisemitic harassment, according to an Institute for Jewish Policy research study. Recently, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights reported that 90 percent of European Jews felt antisemitism had increased in their home country, and that one in three people have considered emigrating.

Populist political parties are winning elections across the continent and reports of fear, intimidation and physical violence targeted at Jews on the streets of glittering European capitals are at a height not seen since the 1920s and 1930s.

As we await an imminent decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Eva's case, it is not only a favorable outcome that we are striving for. After all, if the CJEU fails to find the EEAS's behavior a symptom of systemic racism and Jew-hatred, have we really won? If the court takes for granted the mainstreaming of antisemitism in the EEAS's treatment of Eva, how can anyone argue that justice has been served?

Where is the justice in this world when the bar is set higher for Jews than for other minorities? For how many centuries must we continue to scream into the wind for justice? To be treated as equal humans?

How are we still fighting this same fight 75 years after the Holocaust, 100 years after the Russian Revolution, 500 years after the Spanish Inquisition and 800 years after the Crusades?

We have seen this story before—Jews punished for the sole crime of being Jewish—and something must be done about it.

The tragic pattern simply must end here.

Brooke Goldstein is a human rights attorney and founder and executive director of The Lawfare Project.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.