There has been 'a certain corrosion of Jewish communal life'

European anti-Semitism may be constricting Jewish life on Continent — report

Number of violent anti-Jewish attacks worldwide drops but harassment rises dramatically, according to Tel Aviv University annual survey

In this photo taken on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, President of the Jewish Community Bruno Carmi stands inside a synagogue in Verona, Italy, February 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
In this photo taken on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, President of the Jewish Community Bruno Carmi stands inside a synagogue in Verona, Italy, February 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

European Jews feel increasingly threatened by anti-Semitism and, in some places, are even relocating within or beyond the borders of their countries to escape it, according to the latest annual report on global anti-Semitism from Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, released on Wednesday.

Violent incidents targeting Jews worldwide decreased by nine percent from 2016 to 2017 — from 361 to 327 — but appeared to grow more brutal, the report finds. (The figure does not include the French Jewish community, which is still examining the data.) Meanwhile, the lower incidence of violence was accompanied by a dramatic increase in harassment, especially in schools and on social media.

“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 report finds.

The researchers worry that “once 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.”

There is a major gap between the first ten months of 2017, which saw relatively constant and not unusual levels of anti-Semitism, and the last two months, particularly following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 9, which “was often used as a pretext for stormy demonstrations accompanied by attacks on Jews, by antisemitic slogans including calls for murder, and by the burning of the Israeli flag.”

Throughout Dan Meridor’s speech at King’s College in London on February 13, 2018, anti-Israel protestors shouted in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings. (Courtesy Pinsker Centre)

“These incidents do not necessarily originate in Muslim and Arab circles and countries but rather come from a variety of groups and circles, from most of the political spectrum, left wing groups included,” the report said.

Violent incidents are down “for the same reasons we noted in 2016,” the report said: “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.”

But these measures have their own costs. The decline in violence “is not perceived in Jewish communities as a sufficient development per se, 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. These take place in working places, schools, universities, playgrounds, near Jewish homes and institutes, on football [soccer] fields, demonstrations in the streets, and all the more so in social networks. For instance, following a year (2009) with nine violent cases in Hungary, 90% of its Jews said anti-Semitism is a very grave problem, an answer which indicates that the so-called non-violent manifestations of antisemitism determine their feeling of insecurity.”

The United Kingdom saw some 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents of all types recorded by the Community Security Trust, a 3% increase over 2016. Australia saw a 9.5% increase. Racist incidents are on the rise in Poland, with the country’s National Public Prosecutor’s Office reporting 947 legal proceedings related to racism — the figures don’t distinguish anti-Semitic cases from others — in the first half of 2017, up from 863 and 848 in the first halves of 2016 and 2015, respectively.

France saw a 7.2% decrease in overall anti-Semitic incidents, according to Interior Ministry figures, but violent ones rose from 77 in 2016 to 97 last year.

More dramatically, France’s Jews appear to be changing their behaviors due to the perception of anti-Semitism in the country. “According to Jewish community estimates, several tens of thousands have changed their location inside France — an ‘internal Exodus.’ 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.”

An inscription reading ‘They were Flammable’ and a Nazi swastika are seen in Jedwabne, Poland, September 1, 2011, on the monument dedicated to Jews from the town of Jedwabne burned to death by their Polish neighbors in 1941. (AP/Michal Kosc/File)

According to government data, Germany saw an increase in all types of anti-Semitic incidents, with 24 violent ones compared to 15 in 2016, and some 707 overall, compared to 644 last year. Incitement cases bring the total up to 1,435, the report says.

In the United States, where some three-quarters of Diaspora Jews reside, the Anti-Defamation League registered a dramatic jump from 1,267 incidents in 2016 to 1,986 in 2017, though the number of violent attacks dropped from 36 to 19. The figures include 952 incidents of vandalism, an 86% jump from 2016.

Discounting the 163 bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers by an American Jewish teenager living in Israel, overall incidents still rose by 43% in 2017. On schools and college campuses, verbal abuse of Jews doubled for the second year in a row, the report finds, rising from 114 incidents in 2015 to 235 in 2016 to 457 in 2017.

The report notes that “there is still no clear-cut answer” as to the source of the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in some areas, pointing to anti-Semitic incidents from “rightist anti-EU and anti-immigrant parties,” as well as in left-wing activist circles and among Muslim immigrants and refugees who arrived in 2016. In some cases, these sources are intertwined in confusing ways, the report notes, such as when right-wing parties insist they love Jews and seek to mobilize Jewish communities to their anti-immigrant cause, even as some Muslim communities speak out against anti-Semitism and join forces with Jewish institutions in fights against ritual bans and far-right violence.

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