Anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe, Tel Aviv University’s research reveals

Jews to the gas!” and “death to Zionists!” were slogans thought to belong to the past. Sadly, those slogans have been heard again more than once in the past years. Violent attacks against Jews spiked significantly last year, a research conducted by the Kanton Center of the University of Tel Aviv found. An increase in almost all forms of anti-Semitic manifestations in the public space as well as in the private one marked the year 2018 as the worse for number of Jews killed (13), compared to previous years, according to Tel Aviv researchers.

The research registered a total of 387 major violent cases of Anti-Semitism around the world with nearly 25% (over 100 cases) taking place in the US. But it is in Europe that the Jewish community faces the biggest numbers of attacks: the UK recorded 65 attacks against Jewish people, Germany and France had 25 each, Belgium 19 and the Netherlands 15, for a total of 172 attacks in these countries. Attacks included vandalism, threats, weapon-less means against people and propriety, including cemeteries and synagogues that remain traditional targets.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said “anti-Semitism was spreading like poison” on 11 February 2019 denouncing that anti-Semitic attacks in France rose by 74% last year. It was reported that the “Yellow Vests” movement had carried signs and chanted slogans labelling French President Emmanuel Macron as a “whore of the Jews.” Because of this climate of hate, over 2,300 left their French hometowns Jews moved to Israel.

In Germany 1,646 anti-Semitic crimes were reported, including 62 acts of strong violence (a rise of almost 70%) that left 43 people injured. Anti-Semitic expressions and assaults (such as the attack on a kosher restaurant) by neo-Nazi activists continue, and extreme right hate discourses, including anti-Semitism, strengthen in light of social changes.  Moreover, stereotypes of classical anti-Semitism characterize manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred, deriving also from Muslim minorities. Last year, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Interior Stephan Mayer told Die Welt  that “as a last resort, we should take away people’s right to stay in Germany if they have committed an offense motivated by anti-Semitism.”

QUATZENHEIM, FRANCE – View through security gate of vandalised graves with nazi symbols in blue spray-painted on the damaged graves – Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim near Strasbourg – Hadrian/

In Italy, 197 episodes of anti-Semitism were documented, a 60% increase compared to 2017. The episodes included cases where 20 plaques honouring Rome’s deported Jews during the Holocaust were stolen, Italian News Agency ANSA reported. Pro–Palestinian supporters challenged the Jewish brigade in Milan during the 25 April 2018 celebration of “Liberation Day”  (which commemorates the end of the second world war and the end of Nazi occupation of the country). The demonstrators of the Jewish Brigade, a formation of the British Army composed of Jews who fought the Germans in Italy, were accused of being “assassins” and “fascists.”

In the UK, anti-Semitism has not only increased by 16% since 2017, but also reached its peak (even compared to 2014) with 1,652 documented incidents. More than half of the incidents included verbal assaults and online anti-Semitism. In interviews with thousands of British Jews, almost a third of them said they have considered leaving the UK over the past two years due to anti-Semitism, according to a poll conducted by Campaign Against Anti-Semitism watchdog group.

One of the main problems of anti-Semitism is its normalization and mainstreaming: “Ant-Semitism in public forums, debates and discussions is manifested in all media channels, most notably the social networks. Anti-Semitism is no longer an issue confined to the activity of the far left, far right and radical Islamists triangle – it has mainstreamed and became an integral part of life,” the report of the University of Tel Aviv finds. “Anti-Semitism in France in 2018 is daily (…) not one day (passes) without an anti-Semitic act,” says a report of the French Ministry of the Interior and the SPCJ (Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive).

Perceptions among Europeans of Anti-Semitism are very divided, according to the latest Eurobarometer findings of 2019. Four in ten Europeans do not consider it to be an actual issue in their country compared to the nine in ten (89%) European Jews who deem that anti-Semitism has increased in their country, with more than eight in ten (85%) considering it to be a serious problem.  Jews around Europe rate Anti-Semitism as the biggest social or political problem where they live.

Given this situation, political, civil and religious leaders have been repeatedly addressed and requested to act urgently, through education, information, legislation and enforcement, and by setting standards of leadership that match the declared values of their respective countries. Consequently, workshops and conferences, encounters and media footages, concluding with declarations and promises regarding anti-Semitism have almost become the order of the day, as part of efforts to tackle the problem.

“We should fight against anti-Semitism with more education at all level!” Levi Matusof, Director of the European Jewish Pubblic Affairs, says to The European Post. “As Jewish leader I also encourage my fellow Jewish citizens in Europe and worldwide to strengthen their faith and practice to Judaism. We will not bow down to those who try to scare us!,” Matusof added.