The events of October 7, 2023, which shocked the civilized world with crimes against Israeli civilians, have marked a significant milestone in 21st-century history.

The attack by Hamas militants on Israel, accompanied by a massacre of peaceful citizens and the taking of hostages, sparked a broad discussion on whether Holocaust-like events could recur and how the world must respond to attempts by certain terrorist forces to systematically destroy representatives of the Jewish people. The discussions surrounding the interpretation of the events of October 7 have become a central topic for politicians, public figures, and researchers studying modern genocides.

On October 31, 2023, during a speech at the UN Security Council, Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, wore a yellow Star of David, promising that his team would wear yellow stars until the organization condemns Hamas's actions. Some Israeli historians did not support his gesture. Dani Dayan, head of Yad Vashem, categorically opposed this act, stating that "the yellow star symbolizes the helplessness of the Jewish people": now, the Jewish people have "an independent country and a strong army," so it is appropriate to "place a blue-and-white flag on the lapel, not a yellow patch."

Immediately after the war in Israel began, a debate arose over whether these events could be considered genocide. American researcher Aviva Halamish, in her article in Israel Studies, declared the comparison of the events of October 7, 2023, to the Holocaust incorrect. Recognizing the similarity of the events of October 7 with the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, she notes, "When we compare events and rely on the past to better understand the present, we must look at both the similarities and the differences. Applying this rule to current events requires, first of all, a clear reminder of the meaning of the term 'Shoah' – the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children by Nazi Germany and its accomplices during World War II to achieve the 'final solution to the Jewish question' by destroying the Jewish people and their culture. A deep understanding of the Holocaust as a unique historical event, sui generis, deprives it of the right to serve as a direct analogy to the catastrophe of October 7. The unspeakable atrocities committed by fanatical fundamentalists, Palestinian terrorists from Hamas, were carried out within one day on the territory of the sovereign state of Israel."

In contrast, some researchers sided with Hamas. Political scientists Raz Segal and Luigi Daniele published an article in the Journal of Genocide Research titled "Gaza as the Decline of Israeli Exceptionalism: Holocaust and Genocide Studies from Unprecedented Crisis to Unprecedented Change." In response to the discussion about the events of October 7, 2023, they accused the state of Israel of genocide against Palestinians, noting, "...Israeli journalists and senior politicians denied the existence of Palestinians, their right to a state, and the collective protection of civilians long before October 7, 2023, in the context of cumulative state criminality and settler violence in 2023, which was the deadliest year for Palestinians."

This polarization of opinions regarding the interpretation of the events of October 7, 2023, in the academic world has complicated the scholarly discussion on this issue and added more political undertones. Meanwhile, the support of leading politicians and Western governments formed almost immediately after these tragic events and has rarely been questioned since.

The events of October 7 also highlighted the relevance of modern European policies aimed at protecting the Jewish community in EU countries within the framework of the EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life. From this perspective, the existence of such a program makes the efforts of EU countries more coordinated and allows for combating threats to the Jewish community across all regions of the EU.

The escalation of the situation in the Middle East following the mass massacre of Israelis on October 7, 2023, has brought the issue of the security of Jewish communities in Western Europe to the forefront. Governments in these countries have had to implement unprecedented security measures in cooperation with law enforcement, executive judicial bodies, and Jewish organizations. European countries are currently developing legislation dedicated to combating antisemitism and promoting the development of Jewish communities.

In this context, the activities of the Working Group on the Implementation of the EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life, led by European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, will be of great importance. There is active discussion in Brussels about the idea of creating a special research unit in Luxembourg or another European country to study Jewish history and culture.

Governments of most European countries are now intensifying measures to prevent migrants who hold antisemitic views from successfully naturalizing. Judicial practices regarding individuals who commit hate crimes based on antisemitism are also being established, with enhanced measures against repeat offenders.

A new factor in this situation is the efforts of the pro-Palestinian lobby in Europe, which has strong media support and significant contracts with law firms, and is fighting against Jewish communities and governments in judicial instances. While combating antisemitism based on certain definitions of the phenomenon has been relatively successful, the tasks of the European Commission and non-EU European governments to assist and revive Jewish life on the continent remain undefined. Jewish communities are requesting European grants for various programs, mainly those related to the restoration of cultural objects in different parts of Europe, but other forms of assistance to Jewish communities are currently undefined and are a subject of discussion among European experts.

Additionally, communities need restitution of property taken during the Holocaust, state support in developing Jewish history museums, networks of Jewish schools, and the creation of departments or universities specializing in "Jewish studies." All these issues are on the agenda of the leadership of the EU, the UK, and Switzerland and require discussion and resolution.

Overall, the significance of the events of October 7, 2023, for contemporary politics and interethnic relations in Europe and worldwide cannot be overstated. These events could significantly influence legislative work and affect the policies of EU countries, the UK, Switzerland, and other civilized countries regarding the "Jewish question" for decades to come.

Attacks on peaceful residents of Israel and the brutal massacre conducted by paramilitary units of Hamas, and subsequent attacks on members of Jewish communities in Western European countries, have highlighted the relevance of combating antisemitic ideologies and conspiracy theories, placing this issue on the agenda of many governments and political parties. Europe will need to create a large number of educational and awareness programs and strengthen measures to accept migrants infected with ideas of hatred toward Jews and to promote biblical values, the spirit of freedom, and multiculturalism. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski from Berkeley, USA, Wikimedia commons.

Oleh Kozerod, Ph.D., D. Litt.