To the extent that it suggests that Israel and Judaism have been thoroughly conflated in the minds of many Europeans, the Sainsbury’s kosher controversy is similar to other recent incidents. Kosher products — in the case of the Sainsbury’s branch in question, some apparently from the U.K. and Poland — were intuitively understood to be stand-ins for Israel itself, just as French Jewish males wearing kippot were understood by their attackers to be stand-ins for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
We have learned a number of unfortunate truths about the nature of the global anti-Israel movement this summer. One is that the war in Gaza is understood by many to be a continuation of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, and not of the 1967 Six Day War. Which is to say, many protesters are challenging Israel’s very right to exist, not its policies in the territories it came to occupy in 1967 (or in Gaza’s case, territory it occupied in 1967 and then turned over to Palestinians in 2005). A second is that the line separating anti-Zionism — the belief that Jews have no right to an independent state in at least part of their ancestral homeland — and anti-Judaism, already reed-thin, has pretty much vanished.
And yet, the Sainsbury’s incident is disturbing not so much for what it says about the nature of European anti-Israelism, but for what it says about the broader response within Europe to forces of intolerance and hatred.