Israeli researchers reported Wednesday that violent attacks against Jews spiked significantly last year, with the largest reported number of Jews killed in anti-Semitic acts in decades, leading to an “increasing sense of emergency” among Jewish communities worldwide.
Capped by the deadly shooting that killed 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, assaults targeting Jews rose 13 percent in 2018, according to Tel Aviv University researchers. They recorded nearly 400 cases worldwide, with more than a quarter of the major violent cases taking place in the United States.
But the spike was most dramatic in Western Europe, where Jews have faced even greater danger and threats. In Germany, for instance, there was a 70% increase in anti-Semitic violence.
“There is an increasing sense of emergency among Jews in many countries around the world,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across the continent.
The report also found that anti-Semitism was being promoted actively by government officials in countries on three continents, singling out officials in Venezuela, Turkey, Poland and Ukraine as promoters of hatred of Jews.
The report states that in Venezuela, “Antisemitism is mainly promoted by the state and its various agencies” under the disputed leadership of President Nicolás Maduro.
“Particularly, the anti-Israel policy, the close ties to Iran and its proxies, as well as the adoption of the Palestinian narrative, negatively affect the Jewish community because of the conflation between Israel, Zionism, and Judaism,” the report states.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “often equates Israel with Nazi Germany, while his adversaries use the term ‘Jew’ as a smear against him,” the report says. Anti-Semitism is manifested “increasingly in government officials’ statements” that portray “Jews as cruel killers,” the text reads.
In Ukraine, senior officials have spoken out against anti-Semitism, including former president Petro Poroshenko, the authors wrote. But “several anti-Semitic statements by officials were also recorded,” as well a city-approved march in Lviv featuring Nazi uniforms. Officials in Poland also resorted to anti-Semitic rhetoric.
“It is now clear that anti-Semitism is no longer limited to the far-left, far-right and radical Islamists triangle — it has become mainstream and often accepted by civil society,” he said.
Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry releases its report every year on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Wednesday at sundown. This year, the report comes just days after another fatal shooting attack Saturday against a synagogue in southern California. The attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover killed one woman and wounded three people, including the rabbi.
In addition to the shooting attacks, assaults and vandalism, Kantor also noted the increased anti-Semitic vitriol online and in newspapers, including a recent anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in The New York Times’ international edition. It depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog wearing a Star of David collar and leading a blind and skullcap-wearing US President Donald Trump.
The Times has since apologized, calling the image “offensive” and vowing to refrain from publishing such bigoted cartoons again. Still, it sparked outrage among dozens of American Jewish groups that subsequently sent a letter calling on the newspaper to “become far more sensitive to anti-Semitism in the future.”
“Anti-Semitism has recently progressed to the point of calling into question the very continuation of Jewish life in many parts of the world. As we saw with the second mass shooting of a synagogue in the US, many parts of the world that were previously thought of as safe no longer are,” Kantor added.
“Anti-Semitism has entered gradually into the public discourse,” he said.
The ascendancy of British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has also contributed to a growing sense of fear among Britain’s Jewish community. Critics say Corbyn, a longtime critic of Israel, has long allowed anti-Jewish prejudice to go unchecked. Corbyn’s supporters have been accused of sharing Holocaust denial and international Jewish banking conspiracies on social media. Several members of the party have quit it in protest.
Similarly, the inclusion of anti-Semitic activists in the Yellow Vests protests in France have raised greater concerns in a country in which anti-Semitic acts already account for half of all its documented hate crimes.
Kantor added that there has been an improvement in cooperation between Jewish communities and law enforcement agencies in Europe, and several European governments have taken strong steps as well, including fully adopting the working definition of anti-Semitism as outlined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
The report says there has been a growing awareness of the threat among government agencies responsible for the well-being and security of their Jewish citizens.
Israel has also taken steps, hosting a global forum to combat anti-Semitism, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial has reported wide participation in its online course on the origins of anti-Semitism. Netanyahu said following the attack in southern California he would be convening a special meeting over the rising anti-Semitic attacks worldwide.