Tuesday, October 27, 2020 -
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Something to watch . . . closely

In the news business, editors wade daily through a steady stream of information, trying to determine what has relevance, importance or interest to the reader. There are always lots of stories that never make it to publication for a variety of practical, not substantive, reasons, and this is routine procedure in every newsroom we’ve seen.

Although they might not make it into print, such stories are neither ignored nor forgotten, for while they might not reveal a great deal in and of themselves, taken cumulatively, they can often shed light on very important stories indeed.

Such, we believe, is the case with a recent spate of small stories which, when viewed as parts of a larger whole, might well reveal a disturbing trend.

For the past year or so, a fairly impressive list of briefs has arrived from Europe, dutifully reported by wire correspondents, describing what can only be called a pattern.

This week, a report came in of a 27 year-old man in Budapest who was attacked in that city by “three hooded assailants” who, before beating and injuring him, asked whether he was Jewish.

There have apparently been enough such anti-Semitic incidents to compel Chief Rabbi Somlo Koves to express his personal concerns to the Hungarian prime minister. Even his own family, the rabbi said, has recently suffered anti-Semitic verbal abuse.

Also from Hungary this week comes a report that a neo-Nazi paramilitary group, calling itself the Hungarian Guard Movement, was able to attract some 3,000 supporters to three rallies in that country over the last weekend.

This ultra-rightist cadre is fond of uniforms and flags highly reminiscent of the Hungarian Arrow Cross, a murderous fascist band that allied itself with Hitler during WW II, and enthusiastically followed Nazi orders.

These are only the latest such reports. For months, similar stories have been arriving from Berlin, Paris, Kiev, Cracow, Vienna, London and a host of other European cities. Sometimes they describe anti-Semitic acts of a banal nature — swastikas and obscenities scrawled on synagogues or tombstones.

Sometimes, they describe things a bit more serious — physical assaults against Jews, firebombs thrown at Jewish institutions.

And sometimes — as in the infamous case of French Jew Ilan Halimi — the reports concern acts of anti-Semitic murder.

Jews are by no means the only victims of this trend. In fact, they represent one of the comparatively minor victims, based on their relatively low population in Europe and the growing number of Muslims, who are the primary targets of the haters.

Attacks against people of the Roma community — the Gypsies, who, like Jews, have a very long history of persecution in Europe — are increasing at an even more alarming rate.

There are any number of plausible explanations — the faltering economy, growing racist resentment caused by immigration to European nations,  fears of international terrorism, anger at Israel for military actions it has taken in the Middle East.

We have no way of knowing whether these attitudes and actions will change with the economic or political weather or whether they’re settling down for a long and violent stay.

The increasing frequency and severity of these reports are undeniable. Whether they suggest that Europe is reaching some sort of anti-Semitic or xenophobic tipping point remains debatable.

All we can say for certain is that we are very concerned, and that the situation must be watched — and very closely.

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