Anti-Semitic incidents in western Europe peaked to a level not seen since
the close of World War II, according to numbers released by the Jewish Agency
on Sunday, three days before the commemoration of International Holocaust
The data showed a
spike in anti-Semitic violence during and after the IDF's Operation Cast Lead
in the Gaza Strip last winter.
During the first three months of 2009 - part of which included the IDF
- more anti-Semitic incidents (including anything from verbal threats to
violent attacks) took place in western Europe than during all of 2008.
631 incidents occurred in the first half of 2009, compared with 431 in 2008. In
some 600 anti-Semitic incidents took place during 2009.
In the , some
one hundred incidents were noted following the incursion, the same number as the
country had witnessed the entire previous year.
Additionally, the agency data noted that election campaigns in and gave way to public displays
of anti-Semitism, which surfaced as tools for the competing political parties.
In , a story surfaced
during that country's election campaign that had brought 25,000 Ukrainian
children to the Jewish state for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs.
Such stories also spurred the agency to warn of what they called the
appearance of the "modern blood libel" - a concept that at its root
began in European countries during the Middle Ages and ran the gamut from
accusing Jews of using Christian children's blood for Pessah matzos, to outright
charges of human sacrifice or cold-blooded murder.
The data, which was released as part of an annual report on global
anti-Semitism, was presented during a press conference at the Jewish Agency's
main offices in ,
and included comments from Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Jewish
Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, the head of the agency's Task Force on
anti-Semitism Amos Hermon, and agency spokesman Gil Litman.
"Classical anti-Semitism is changing, and it's been replaced with a new
anti-Semitism, which takes its shape in the form of unbridled attacks against
the idea of a Jewish state," Sharansky said at the start of the
After describing initial disagreement over that assessment from those who
accused the agency of "blurring the lines between legitimate criticism of and anti-Semitism," Sharansky
clarified the statement with a list of criteria that he said constituted
illegitimate criticism of .
"We've identified [such criteria] through a '3-D principle'," he said,"demonization,
delegitimization and a double standard. And if you look at anti-Semitism
throughout the ages, we see these principles at play as well - the demonization
of Jews, the delegitimization of the Jews as a nation, and a double standard towards
Jews as a people and a religion."
All three of those criteria, Sharansky added, were alive and well the world
over, specifically in .
Sharansky warned that beginning with the appearance of an article in the
Swedish daily tabloid Aftonbladet
in August, which accused IDF soldiers
of harvesting organs from Palestinians during military operations, the
"modern blood libel" was now returning, and recreating the same image
of its original, medieval predecessor.
Sharansky also pointed to the Ukrainian story as evidence of the blood
libel's return, along with an incident last week, in which an American man
posted a video on Youtube accusing the IDF of harvesting organs from Haitian
survivors of that country's catastrophic earthquake. The IDF has been in since the
quake struck nearly two weeks ago, providing much-needed medical assistance to
The report went on to list Iran and Venezuela as the world's most
anti-Semitic countries, and warned of the strengthening ties between extreme
left-wing activists and Islamists, as well as more tolerance shown to Muslim
acts of hate against Jews.
Although much of the press conference focused on the worrying data,
Sharansky and his counterparts added that they were using the new information
as an opportunity to step up vigilance in combating anti-Semitism.
While the bulk of the initiatives they announced included drawing on
existing groups and individuals to make progress in the fight against
anti-Semitism, Sharansky also presented a plan to augment the number of
emissaries engaged in public diplomacy in large universities overseas. While
there are currently 19 such emissaries, Sharansky said that he wanted that
number to exceed 100.
Additionally, Sharansky said that creating new avenues for fighting anti-Semitism
might not be the best method, while existing efforts could still be
consolidated and better-integrated with one another.
"Anti-Semitism is a very old phenomenon," he said. "And so is
the fight against it. We're not trying to create anything new here, but revamp
the efforts we've already extended."
Post staff contributed to this report.