Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett painted a dark picture of Jewish life in Europe on Sunday, telling the cabinet anti-Semitism on the Continent has reached an “unprecedented” level.
The minister briefs the government on such trends every year immediately prior to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on Wednesday, January 27.
Jewish emigration from Western Europe had a “record year” in 2015, Bennett said, referring to the almost 7,000 Frenchmen who arrived in Israel over the past year.
Bennett also cited statistics indicating that anti-Semitic incidents in London rose more than 60 percent during the 12-month period ending November 15 and that incidents in France shot up 84% in the first quarter of 2015 when compared to the same period the previous year.
While Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, which tracks such activity, has not yet released final statistics for the past year, 2014 saw a 40% surge in violent anti-Semitism globally.
Such trends, Bennett contended, “represent a significant challenge to the fabric of Jewish life in Europe and beyond,” adding that he viewed anti-Semitic violence as stemming from “European Muslims born in Europe and educated in European education systems” rather than from newly arrived refugees.
Aside from Islamic anti-Semitism, increasing support for BDS also presents a grave threat to Jews, he contended, stating that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement was “gaining momentum” in Europe and that it “promotes a boycott not only of Israel but the representatives and Jewish events, as well.”
Delegitimization of Israel and activities such as demonstrations against the Jewish state and accusations that it is “bloodthirsty and illegitimate” create a “slippery slope leading, in the end, to attacks against Jews who identify with Israel,” he warned.
In late 2013, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency reported that a third of European Jews it had polled had admitted to refraining from wearing religious garb or Jewish symbols out of fear, with a further 23% avoiding attending Jewish events or going to Jewish venues.
This month, a senior community official in Marseilles called on Jews to cease wearing kippot in public for fear of being attacked. In response, French lawmakers donned skullcaps to show solidarity with their Jewish constituents.
“At the same time that Muslim anti-Semitism against Jews is worsening, anti-Semitism seeks new dimensions.
Anti-Semitism seeks to quietly find a safe place in academic buildings, under roofs of organizations dealing with alleged human rights, and there is a worsening of incitement and hatred,” Bennett said.
There is a culture of hostility to Israel that makes Jews feel uncomfortable on American campuses, Bennett said, asserting that around 75% of American university students have witnessed anti-Semitism within the context of activities of anti-Zionist campus organizations or from anti-Israel professors.
Muslim anti-Semitism and the rise of the anti-Islamic far right feed into each other, he added, calling the two trends and hostility toward Israel threats to communities across the Continent.
Bennett also cited a 2012 study that found that as many as 40% of respondents in many European countries believed Israel was conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.
“This is a very important and significant report,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Anti-Semitism still exists and is becoming ever more vicious. I call on the international community to take action against anti-Semitism and strongly condemn all displays of anti-Semitism.
“It cannot be that 70 years after the Holocaust anti-Semitism can still be seen in full force. In light of what happened in the past, it must be ensured that such a disaster does not recur and this is the responsibility of the EU and the UN, which are silent in face of these worrying data.”
Also on Sunday, the World Zionist Organization released the results of a survey it conducted that found that 67% of Israelis are concerned for the lives of Jews abroad, while 83% said they were willing to invest in absorbing immigrants, even at the expense of employing Israelis, and that the state should intervene in the labor market to aid such absorption.