Report finds dramatic increase in anti-Semitic harassment in the West

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Star of David. Credit: Patrick Lentz via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

A drastic uptick in anti-Semitic harassment in the West has left many Jews feeling threatened, to the point where many have either fled their home countries or relocated within them, a new report finds.

The report, published by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, found a worldwide 9 percent decrease in violent anti-Semitic attacks from 2016 to 2017. However, this decrease coincided with a significant increase in harassment of Jews in the United States and many countries in Europe.

“A certain corrosion of Jewish communal life has been noticed, and Jews suspect that anti-Semitism has entered a new phase: expressions of classic traditional antisemitism are back, and for example, the term ‘Jew’ has become a swear word,” the researchers wrote, according to The Times of Israel.  

“(O)nce there are Jews who do not participate in Jewish traditional gatherings, or do not appear in the public sphere identified as Jews, the ability to live a full Jewish communal and individual life is jeopardized,” they added.

The increase in harassment has a committee of U.S. representatives calling for further study of and increased protections for the Jewish population in the United States.

“We are gravely concerned by the staggering increase in anti-Semitism across Europe,” the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism for the U.S. House said in a statement. The co-chairs include Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Kay Granger (R-TX), and Marc Veasey (D-TX).

“It is inexcusable that Jews in Europe are living in fear of violence, harassment, and abuse in 2018 for no reason other than their faith. When widespread anti-Semitism goes unchecked in Europe, the results are heinous, sometimes even deadly, and we must redouble our efforts to reverse the trend of such bigotry,” they added.

In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League also reported an increase in overall anti-Semitic incidents - 1,267 in 2016 to 1,986 in 2017 - with a decrease in violent attacks from 36 to 19. They also reported a doubling of verbal abuse of Jews for the second year in a row in schools and on college campuses.

The report comes after a February survey of 1,350 American adults, by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that 41 percent of respondents and 66 percent of millennials could not identify Auschwitz as a concentration camp, leading to concerns about Holocaust education in the U.S.  

It also comes after U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, after which there were numerous upticks in anti-Semitic activity, the Tel Aviv report noted.

In light of the Tel Aviv report, the U.S. House Task Force called on the Senate to pass H.R. 672, the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act, which would “require the State Department to document the security challenges of European Jewish communities, U.S. partnerships with European law enforcement agencies to counter anti-Semitism, and efforts by European governments to acknowledge, adopt and apply a working definition of anti-Semitism.”

They also urged the Administration to immediately appoint a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and called on the U.S. House to pass H.R. 1911, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act, which would “strengthen and elevate the Special Envoy position.”

The Tel Aviv report attributed the decrease in worldwide violent anti-Semitic attacks to “Better security and intelligence, more protective measures, allocation of government budgets, less Jews with identifying signs on the street, the immigrants diverting right wingers’ attention.”

However, the necessity for increased protection has left many Jews feeling threatened, the report notes, “because the presence of security measures means that they are a necessity, and because it is overshadowed by the many verbal and visual expressions, some on the verge of violence, such as direct threats, harassments, insults, calls to attack Jews and even kill them en masse.”

Among the countries that have seen increases in anti-Semitic incidents are the United Kingdom, which saw a 3 percent increase; Australia, which saw a 9.5 percent increase; and Poland, which saw an overall increase in racist incidents, though their reporting office did not distinguish between anti-Semitic attacks from others.

Bucking the trend of a decrease in violence but an increase in other incidents were Germany and France. Germany saw an increase in all types of anti-Semitic incidents, while France saw an overall decrease in all incidents but an uptick in violent incidents over the last year.  

Also troubling, the report notes, is the “internal exodus” happening in France and Belgium, where tens of thousands of Jews are relocating in order to avoid anti-Semitism.

“In France and in Belgium it is hard to find a Jewish child in a public school, despite the heavy budgets that the governments in both countries have invested in security and educational programs,” the report noted.

The report said that a specific cause could not be clearly identified for the increase in anti-Semitic incidents, which occurred across political platforms and cultures, including “rightist anti-EU and anti-immigrant parties” as well as among left-leaning activists, and recent Muslim immigrants and refugees.


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