Denmark / 01-03-2013
Alarm over rising antisemitism in Denmark
Danish officials say they’re alarmed by the frequency of antisemitic attacks. The rise in physical and verbal assaults in Denmark is in line with claims by Jewish communities that anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout Europe. At a forum staged by Copenhagen City Council, Danish Jews urged the authorities to take action.
Claus Bentow and his family only feel completely secure in their apartment in a middle class area of Copenhagen. Here Bentow and his sons can freely wear the kippa. Outside they are forced to hide their religious identity. Like other Jewish families, they’ve been advised not to send their children to public schools.
Claus Bentow, security advisor:
“I’ve been attacked three times and I have absolutely no confidence in the authorities of the country. And we are quite scared on our own behalf and our children. And we are certainly considering moving if this problem escalates any more than it already has."
Mette Bentow, officer manager:
“Being a Jewish mother adds to a whole new level of concern every mother has for her children. The fact that we put our children in a Jewish school surrounded by barb wires, cameras, guards, police patrolling, trying to explain to your children why people spit at us or shout at us."
At a special forum designed to raise awareness about rising antisemitism, Bentow dismissed official figures that said there were about one attack a week in Denmark. He said the figure was much higher because so many assaults were not reported because of the perceived impotence of police investigations.
Rasmus Jarlov, Conservative leader Copenhagen council:
“Jews are definitely facing a lot of hate crime. They probably face more hate crime than any other group we have. It’s a small minority and therefore there’s not a lot of focus on it."
The audience listened in sorrow as a boy with a Muslim father and Jewish mother described what happened to him in a Muslim quarter of the city.
Moran Jakob, aged 16:
“I heard someone call me a Jewish pig, go to Hell, throw a stone at me. I try to protect my girlfriend of course because they tried to hit her and one of them took a hot knife, a little knife, you know, and stabbed me in the leg."
After Israel’s clashes with Palestinians in Gaza, the Israeli ambassador to Copenhagen has warned visiting Jews to be extremely discreet and not to wear religious symbols in public.
Rabbi Bent Lexner, Copenhagen synagogue:
“It’s definitely the antisemitism in Europe today if not first of all the classic antisemitism because it’s anti Israel, it’s anti-Zionist. It’s not the way the Christian way of antisemitism and that is the first thing. Second, it is part of life in Europe today."
What distresses Jews is that during the second world war, Denmark saved their community by smuggling them to Sweden. Now Denmark is no longer a safe haven.
One of the impacts of this growing antisemitism is that an exodus of Jews has begun. They are moving to countries where Jews can live in comparative safety such as Israel, the United States and Britain.