A new survey by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism in Tel Aviv has revealed a strong surge in violent anti-Semitism in 2009, which in western Europe has now reached the highest level in decades.
The number of recorded violent incidents against Jews, or Jewish sites, totaled 1,129 last year, compared to 559 in 2008 – a rise of 102 percent. In addition, there were “many more hundreds of threats, insults, graffiti signs and slogans and demonstrations featuring virulently anti-Semitic content… sometimes resulting in violence,” according to the report.
“The year … was the worst since monitoring of anti-Semitic manifestations began two decades ago, in terms of both major anti-Semitic violence and the hostile atmosphere generated worldwide by the mass demonstrations and verbal and visual expressions against Israel and the Jews,” the study states.
Dina Porat, the director of the Stephen Roth Institute, told journalists at a press conference that anti-Semitism was directly linked to anti-Zionism. “Political goals are imbued with anti-Jewish sentiment and equations of Jews to Nazis,” she said. Her study was published on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day Yom HaShoah.
In Britain, 374 manifestations of violence against Jews were recorded in 2009, compared to 112 in 2008. France – which has the largest Jewish community in Europe – reported 195 violent attacks against Jews, compared to 50 in 2008. Canada saw 130 incidents in 2009, compared to 13 in 2008, and the United States 116 compared to 98. The study records 566 incidents of vandalism targeting Jewish property worldwide in 2009, constituting 49 percent of all incidents. Germany, Russia and Ukraine were not as badly affected by the rise, and may even have seen a decrease in incidents for 2009, the report found.
Forty-one incidents were armed assaults against Jews because of their religion. Thirty-four arson attacks were recorded. Threats of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions accounted for 29 percent of all incidents.
The report attributes the surge in anti-Semitic acts in large parts to the 2009 Gaza war. However, Professor Robert Wistrich of Hebrew University in Jerusalem was quoted as saying by ‘Voice of America’ that “All kinds of new pretexts can serve to ignite anti-Semitism, particularly through anti-Israel feeling, through anti-Zionism; and above all it is Israel that has become the obsession of the anti-Semites.”
Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, which co-sponsored the report, criticized some Jewish communities for “remaining silent” on anti-Semitism, but praised French and British Jewish leaders for speaking out forcefully against anti-Semitism. Kantor also said that the rise in anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe was a “new phenomenon financed and organized by pro-Islamic, pro-terrorist organizations and states.”
Porat said: “We had the feeling, which was corroborated by the facts, that the radical left – sometimes together with Jews and former Israelis, this is very disturbing – worked together with the radical Muslim leadership, using anti-Semitism and the Holocaust as political tools, to make Israel as a Jewish state a political target.”