Global anti-Semitism is spiraling upward, driven by xenophobia and cultural clashes in Europe and by increasingly virulent anti-Zionism in the Arab world, according to a comprehensive study of anti-Semitic incidents released by a Tel Aviv University research institute on Sunday.
"Once, when we were talking about anti-Semitism we were talking about [desecrated] gravestones," Dr. Roni Stauber of TAU's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism told The Jerusalem Post. Now the main targets are religious Jews, since "they are identifiable" to attackers, he said.
There was a dramatic rise "in physical, verbal and visual manifestations" of anti-Semitism in 2006, according to the Roth Institute, which prepared the report. It was funded by the World Jewish Congress.
In all, 590 incidents of violence or vandalism were recorded in 2006, a 15 percent increase from 2004 and a seven-fold increase from 1989.
The 2006 figures also represents a 31% increase from 2005, when anti-Semitic incidents declined after several years of increases.
"In two countries - France and Norway - chief rabbis are calling on Jews not to step outside with Jewish symbols on their person," said Prof. Dina Porat, who edited the report along with Stauber.
Minister for Diaspora Affairs Isaac Herzog promised to study the report in depth, and said its conclusions come as no surprise in light of threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to eliminate Israel.
"Of course, this calls for a much more concentrated effort by world leadership and by democracies and institutions who are worried about the outcome of such an increase in anti-Semitism," Herzog told the Post on Sunday. "We hope to deal with it in an organized manner and in various international forums."
"Ahmadinejad's efforts to deny the Holocaust," said Porat, "come out of his view that the Holocaust is the justification for [the existence of] Israel" and, presumably, his belief that the removal of that justification would enable Israel's collapse.
The breakdown of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide is heavily tilted toward Western Europe, which witnessed 54% of them, followed by North America - whose Jewish population is over five times the size of Western Europe's - with just 17% and the former Soviet Union with 13%.
Britain, with 136 "major violent incidents," saw a 20-year high in 2006. France, with 97 such incidents, witnessed a 45% increase and the French-speaking regions of Canada saw a doubling of violent attacks over a year earlier.
Asked if the high numbers of attacks in France, Britain and the FSU weren't simply due to the relatively large Jewish communities there, Stauber said the attacks had increased over the years in each country, and that attacks now tended to target people rather than Jewish buildings or graves.
According to the report, desecration of graves accounted for 53% of the incidents in 1999 (60 recorded attacks). Even though such attacks rose by 50% by 2006, their share of total attacks shrank to 16% of the total in 2006, while attacks on people - usually in the street - grew to 47% of the total.
The report also notes the increase of anti-Semitism in Western Europe taking place among those countries' Muslim minorities. The poorly integrated, poverty-stricken Muslim youth of Europe are "a generation that has adopted anti-Semitic stereotypes," Stauber said.
He cited the example of a recent riot in a Jewish neighborhood in Paris whose participants included African immigrants who have publicly blamed Jews for the slave trade.
"This leaves the Jewish community trapped between traditional extreme-right anti-Semites on the one hand and the Muslims on the other," he said.
The report's editors also noted the increase in anti-Zionism around the world, which is often couched in and advances anti-Semitic themes.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.