European leaders are increasingly worried about the latest specter haunting the continent -- the specter of anti-Semitism. "Today throughout Europe Jews wait anxiously for the next news of a synagogue vandalized, a cemetery desecrated, a Jewish school set on fire, Jews attacked in the streets," said Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, before an audience in Brussels earlier this year. "Let it not be said of us that we saw the tiny flame but did not put it out until it became a raging fire."
It's not only religious figures who are warning about a revival of anti-Jewish hatred. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) met on September 13 and 14 in Brussels to address the issue, its third conference in less than a year. The OSCE's "Berlin Declaration," signed in April by representatives of all 55 nations in attendance, insists that no political controversy (the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example) could justify attacks on Jews. Earlier this summer, at the first-ever U.N. conference on anti-Semitism, Secretary General Kofi Annan decried "an alarming resurgence" of violence against Jewish institutions. French President Jacques Chirac, mindful of his nation's reputation as a hothouse of anti-Semitism, recently announced the creation of a government agency to combat "odious and despicable acts of hatred" against Jews. Last month a French high court ruled that a Lebanese TV channel would lose its right to broadcast into France if it continued airing anti-Semitic programming.
Public declarations and legal rulings could help combat racism. So could a crackdown on Muslim extremists, who are generating a good deal of the violence, especially in Western Europe. The problem is that these measures are limited by a public culture increasingly cut off from its deepest resources for promoting tolerance: Europe's Christian ideals and heritage.
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