Last year the world saw a “considerable escalation in anti-Semitic manifestations, particularly violent acts against Jews,” constituting a 30-percent increase over 2011, according to a Tel Aviv University study released on Sunday.
The report, published by the university’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, said the escalation followed two years of decline.
There were 686 acts of violence and vandalism last year, including “273 attacks on persons of all ages; in addition, 190 synagogues, cemeteries and monuments were desecrated, and over 200 private and public properties damaged.
There were 50 attacks with a weapon, 89 without, 166 direct threats on lives, and 373 cases of vandalism.”
There was a strong correlation between the number of attacks and the size of a country’s Jewish population, the report’s authors noted, saying that “most of the attacks (510) took place in countries where the largest communities outside Israel reside: France (200), the US (99), the UK (84), Canada (74) and Australia (53).”
The “overall number,” said European Jewish Congress president (and the TAU center’s namesake) Dr.
Moshe Kantor at a press conference announcing the report, “was influenced by a large growth in violence in France, particularly following the terror attack on the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse, as well as in Hungary, the UK, Germany and Australia. The resulting wave of violent incidents in France demonstrates that hatred toward the Jews is rooted in the worldview of extremist elements.”
Kantor said that rather than being a “shock to the system,” the Toulouse attack, in which a rabbi and four children were murdered by Salafist Mohamed Merah, “had the opposite effect and perhaps allowed terrorist groups in Europe to become more encouraged.”
This, he said, demonstrated that “anti-Semitism breeds anti-Semitism” and that “authorities have to act quickly and forcefully to prevent such escalations in the future.”
The EJC president also recommended that legal authorities provide additional attention to what he termed “enclave extremist Muslim communities,” where he said that “radical anti-Semitism grows and spreads.” The increase was caused by three factors, the Kantor Center asserted: the “copycat” effect caused by the Toulouse terrorist attack, an “escalation in the activities of the extreme right-wing and the strengthening of parties with a clear anti-Semitic agenda” in Europe, and a “moderate, short-lived increase” in attacks caused by Israel’s Pillar of Defense operation against the Hamas regime in Gaza.
The report noted the rise of anti-Semitic parties on the far Right in Greece, Hungary and the Ukraine.
“In Hungary and Greece, as well as in Ukraine, vociferous representatives of these parties openly incite in parliament against local Jewish communities. Blatant anti-Semitic and anti- Israel expressions appeared to ignite violent activity in Hungary, and a significant rise in desecration of cemeteries and Holocaust memorials was recorded in Poland,” a summary of the report’s findings provided to the press noted.
Ukraine’s Svoboda (“Freedom”) party, which holds 8 percent of the seats in that country’s parliament, initially went by the moniker the Social-National Party of Ukraine, a name reminiscent of the National-Socialists (Nazis) of Germany, and the logo of Greece’s Golden Dawn party bears striking resemblance to the Nazi swastika.
Svoboda party leader Oleg Tyagnibok has previously stated that “Ukraine is being controlled by a Russian- Jewish mafia.” “We identify Hungary as experiencing the most worrying racist and anti-Semitic trends in Europe,” Kantor said. “Almost every week we witness an attack on minorities or outrageous comments from far Right and neo-Nazi politicians. As polls show, [the far-right party] Jobbik is making significant gains.”
A “recent poll showed that Jobbik has become the most popular political party among university students in Hungary,” he said.
Kantor also pointed out that one Jobbik lawmaker called Jews a “security risk” and that there have been calls to register Jews in Hungary.
Kantor called for “an extremely strong reaction, both from the Hungarian government and the European Union to fight against these phenomena.” The Kantor Center cited opinion polls conducted by the Anti- Defamation League that found that an average of 30 percent of respondents in 10 European countries “hold anti-Jewish prejudices and anti-Semitic views,” with the highest percentage located in Spain.
“The escalation of harassment and street violence continued in 2012, notably in Western Europe, as well as in North America and Australia. In many cases, easily identifiable religious Jews and pupils in Jewish and general schools were the targets,” the report found.
In many cases, the risk of attack has prompted religious leaders to recommend that community members to “remove signs of their Jewishness when on the street.”
Kantor concluded his remarks by saying that the current economic difficulties facing Europe constitute an “atmosphere that these neo-Nazis thrive in, just as their forerunners did in the 1930s” and that while “our economies will eventually be repaired, Europe’s moral center may not be.”
European Jewry, he said, is launching a campaign among EU leaders to “raise awareness” and the EJC is pushing for a “public hearing at the European Parliament about Hungary.”
“We cannot afford another breaking point year like 2012, we must act now,” Kantor said.