2021 was the worst year in a decade for antisemitism around the world, report finds

Joint summary by World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency says there was a daily average of 10 incidents, with attacks in Europe accounting for 50% of global total

Illustrative: A sticker with a swastika is seen in Anchorage, Alaska, on May 25, 2021. (Anchorage Police Department)
Illustrative: A sticker with a swastika is seen in Anchorage, Alaska, on May 25, 2021. (Anchorage Police Department)

Last year was the worse year for antisemitic attacks in a decade, seeing an average of ten incidents a day with the likelihood of many more incidents not being reported, according to an annual review published Monday by the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency.

The Antisemitism Report for 2021 was released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on Thursday.

2021 was “the most antisemitic year in the last decade,” the two organizations said in a joint statement, “but at the same time, this year no Jew in the world has been murdered on antisemitic grounds.”

The average number of antisemitic incidents reported in 2021 was more than ten per day, the report found.

“However, the actual number of incidents was significantly higher, since many are not reported by the victims out of fear, and due to the lack of surveillance and prosecution of local authorities and law enforcement agencies,” the statement said.

Europe was the leading continent in the number of antisemitic incidents during 2021, with close to 50 percent of all incidents globally taking place there.

The UK recorded a 49% increase in the first six months of 2021, with 1,308 incidents compared to 875 in the same period in 2020. Austria also recorded a doubling of the number of incidents, while in Germany the rate stayed roughly the same, with 1,850 antisemitic incidents recorded in the first 10 months of 2021 compared to 1,909 cases reported in all of 2020, according to the report.

In the German capital Berlin, 522 antisemitic incidents were recorded in the first half of 2021, an increase of about 27% compared to 2020, when there were 410 recorded incidents in the first six months.

By contrast, a trend of declining antisemitic incidents in Russia has continued, according to feedback from the local Jewish community. However, the report noted that sufficient documentation to verify the figures was not available.

Swastikas were spray-painted on Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim’s front doors, January 13, 2021. (Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center)

The next continent with the most antisemitic incidents was North America, with 30% of antisemitic incidents in the continent taking place in the United States, the report finds.

Within the US, New York recorded a 100% increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in 2021, with 503, compared to 252 in 2020. In Los Angeles, there was a 59.2% increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period in the previous year, LAPD data cited in the report showed.

The incidents mostly included vandalism and property destruction, graffiti and the desecration of monuments.

Physical and verbal violence accounted for less than a third of all antisemitic incidents.

Such episodes and attacks peaked during May, when Jewish and Muslim religious festivals led to clashes in Israel and a war with Hamas, the Islamist terror group ruling Gaza, the report said.

In addition, many European countries lifted their pandemic lockdowns that month, which allowed antisemitism that spread online “to move around the public space again,” the report said.

2020 also featured a rise in antisemitic incidents, which mainly took place in the digital realm, as countries imposed tight COVID lockdowns. But as countries resumed in-person gatherings the following year, such incidents took place outside of cyberspace as well.

“Many demonstrations against the COVID vaccines and restrictions included Holocaust motifs, such as the yellow star, as well as antisemitic conspiracy theories accusing Jews as spreaders of the pandemic to control the world,” the report said, expressing concern over the “trivialization of the Holocaust.”

The United Nations General Assembly last week adopted an Israeli-German non-binding resolution calling on all member states to fight against Holocaust denial and antisemitism, especially on social media. The Holocaust saw the genocide of six million European Jews between 1939 and 1945 by the Nazis and their supporters.

“Despite the grim statistics, this year we have also seen a little light emanating in various forms, such as the adoption of the IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] working definition of antisemitism by many countries, Holocaust education laws passed, laws passed to prevent the use of Holocaust symbols, and of course in the war on BDS,” the report concluded.

“It is the duty of every country to provide its citizens with security and to protect them in every event that takes place on its land, including the Jewish community,” said Raheli Baratz-Rix, head of the Department for Combating Antisemitism and Enhancing Resilience at the World Zionist Organization. “At the same time, the State of Israel will always continue to be an anchor for every Jew who desires it.”

The semi-governmental Jewish Agency is the executive branch of the World Zionist Organization.

The report came the day after a similar report by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry that also noted the spike in antisemitism in May caused by the 11-day conflict between the IDF and Hamas.

The ministry’s Antisemitism Cyber Monitoring System (ACMS), which focused on four social media networks — the largest of which was Twitter — detected 3.5 million social media posts with antisemitic content that were posted by some 430,000 users during 2021.

AFP contributed to this report.

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