European anti-Semitism surged last year, but lower than ’09

Report finds 38% increase in anti-Jewish crimes, in part due to Gaza conflict; armed attacks double, arson triples

Illustrative: A monument at a Jewish cemetery in Wysokie Mazowieckie, Poland is found desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti, March 2012 (Jedrzej Wojnar/AP)
Illustrative: A monument at a Jewish cemetery in Wysokie Mazowieckie, Poland is found desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti, March 2012 (Jedrzej Wojnar/AP)

An annual report by Israeli researchers found anti-Semitic incidents surged worldwide in 2014, with violent attacks on Jews ranging from armed assaults to vandalism against synagogues, schools and cemeteries.

The report, released Wednesday by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, recorded 766 incidents, mostly in Western Europe, compared to 554 in 2013 — a 38% increase.

Prepared in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress — a representation organization for Jewish communities — the report said the increase was partly linked to last summer’s bloody war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip as well as a general climate of hatred and violence encouraged by the rise of the Islamic State group and its gruesome propaganda.

Last year marked the second most violent year for Jews in the past decade. It trailed only 2009, which also saw a spike in anti-Semitism following a conflict in Gaza.

“Many streets in our European cities have become hunting grounds for Jews, and some Jews are now forced to avoid community institutions and synagogues as a result,” said European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor. “Some are choosing to leave the continent, many are afraid to walk the streets and even more are retreating behind high walls and barbed wire. This has become the new reality of Jewish life in Europe.”

Armed attacks doubled to 68 in comparison to 2013 and a further 101 cases without weapons were recorded. Arson tripled, and there were 412 cases of vandalism. Of those, 114 were attacks on synagogues — and increase of 70%. A further 118 cemeteries and memorial sites, and 171 private properties were vandalized in anti-Jewish attacks.

France retained its top slot for the highest number of violent incidents with 164 attacks, compared to 141 in 2013.

However, in Britain attacks climbed from 95 in 2013, to 141 last year. In Australia, there were 30 attacks compared to just 11 in 2013. Anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled in Germany — from 36 to 76 — and in Sweden there were 17 anti-Semitic attacks, compared to just three the year before.

“The fight must be taken to the attackers instead of allowing it to affect the everyday lives of the victims. We need to move from defense to offense,” Kantor said.

The EJC said in a statement that Kantor and other delegates had met on more than one occasion with with EU First Vice President Frans Timmermans and EU High Commissioner for Security and Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini to ask for the establishment of an EU envoy and task force to tackle the rising anti-Semitism.

“We need a pan-EU body that will coordinate intelligence efforts between member state and the sharing of such information, assist with legislation changes to enable the member states to address this challenge with proper tools and deal with training and security measures in the protection of Jewish institutions by the authorities.” Kantor said. “The current system is failing to deal with this problem or to prevent the next attack.”

Earlier this month, a Dutch watchdog group reported there had been a 71% increase in anti-Semitic attacks in 2014, as compared to the year before. The Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, recorded 171 incidents in 2014 compared to 100 in 2013.

In February, a bipartisan group of US senators announced a new resolution condemning European anti-Semitism and calling on the US administration to work with European authorities to combat the phenomenon. The resolution, which was backed by a majority of senators and is therefore expected to clear legislative hurdles, renews calls for European states and the European Union to appoint special envoys to address anti-Semitism.

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