A day ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday released the government’s annual report on anti-Semitism. Overall, the report pointed to a deterioration in the security situation of Jews around the world, amid widening concerns about anti-Semitism.
The report combined the results of polls conducted in 2013 on anti-Semitism in Europe to paint a gloomy picture of a Jewish community in that continent that felt more intimidated than ever, even though the fact that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe did not rise in 2013.
The report also tracked developments that had a negative impact on Jewish life in a number of countries around the world — from a Chilean senator’s accusation that plainclothes Israeli soldiers were “mapping out” his country to the growing persecution of Jews in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen.
“There are those who, at first glance, will find in the annual report causes for optimism,” read the introduction written by Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein. “Unlike 2012, 2013 did not see a rise in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide. However, the truth is that the situation has only deteriorated — and significantly,” he said.
Edelstein wrote that while 2013 would not be remembered for high-profile anti-Semitic incidents, such as the shooting attack that shook the French city of Toulouse in 2012, it would be remembered as “the year in which the anti-Semitic atmosphere came to dominate the lives of Jews around the world, particularly in Europe.”
Citing a September poll by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the report noted that almost a quarter of European Jews avoid visiting places and wearing symbols that identify them as Jews for fear of anti-Semitism, and that nearly three-fourths of the Jews polled – 91 percent in Hungary – feel anti-Semitism has increased in the past five years.
That poll also revealed that nearly a quarter of European Jews don’t visit Jewish institutions or attend Jewish functions for fear of being attacked en route, one-third fear falling victim to anti-Semitic attacks, and slightly less than a third are considering emigration.
Two-thirds said they see anti-Semitism as a problem that significantly and continuously impacts their lives.
In Hungary, where the radical nationalist Jobbik party has made significant inroads, the threat was perceived as stemming from the far right, whereas in France and Belgium from radical Islam.
Also noted in the new report was that some 19,200 Jews made aliyah (the Hebrew term for immigrating to Israel) in 2013, a slight rise over the 18,940 who immigrated in 2012, according to the Jewish Agency. Immigration from France and other Western European countries was up dramatically in 2013, but immigration from the US was down.
The statistic that the Israeli government found most worrying was that “most Jews have reconciled themselves to anti-Semitism to the point that 77 percent of European Jews don’t report anti-Semitic incidents to any organization, Jewish, governmental or otherwise,” due to a deep-seated belief that the complaints won’t be addressed.
“As representatives of the State of Israel, we cannot accept this situation,” Edelstein wrote. “One of the objectives of the establishment of the State of Israel was that it would serve as a beacon of light for Jews around the world in the anti-Semitic darkness that shrouds their lives.”
The report said anti-Semitism was being legitimized around the world by social media, where anti-Semitic events, protests and content – most recently, the Nazi-inspired “quenelle” gesture, which has gone viral in recent weeks – could be promoted with a single click.
Calling the growth of the anti-Semitic quenelle salute and other trends “the new anti-Semitism, that hides behind so-called legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism,” the report said anti-Semitic incidents could not be blamed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with any measure of credibility.
“Although no violent conflict erupted between Israel and the Palestinians, there was no decline in the number of anti-Semitic statements and acts” in 2013, according to the report.
“The fact of the matter is that anti-Zionism, which is widespread mostly in the global left but not limited to it, has become a mask behind which genuine anti-Semitism is hidden, and so we must fight this trend the way we fight overt anti-Semitism,” Edelstein wrote.
The report stated that 2013 was a “complex” year in terms of anti-Semitism, because while no high-profile attacks took place, European Jews still reported feeling they were living in an increasingly anti-Semitic environment.
The reported quoted Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) president Roger Cukierman as saying French Jews were living in a “bad” environment.
Regarding attempts to outlaw Jewish ritual slaughter and circumcision practices, the report stated that these attempts did not specifically target Jews and were led by human and animal rights groups, according to researchers at the Kantor Center.
“That said, it’s clear that these demands have exacerbated the Jews’ distress,” read the report. “Moreover, these demands convey the message that Judaism and Jewish customs are cruel and unjust by nature,” thus contributing to the propagation of anti-Semitic stereotypes.
In conclusion, the report stated that “the soul, and not the body, is the main victim of the new wave of anti-Semitism.”
It added that the negative atmosphere in Europe “contributes towards changing the way European Jews see their country and environment, and augments their lack of personal security.”
JTA and Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report.