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Islamic extremism continued to fuel anti-Semitic incidents in 2006 both in sheer numbers and in severity, according to a report released Sunday by the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism to mark International Holocaust Day.
In France, Russia, Austria, Germany and Scandinavia there were sharp rises in anti Semitic incidents while in Britain the number of incidents remained steady at 312.
Chairman of the Jewish Agency Task Force Against Anti-Semitism, Amos Hermon, told reporters at a press conference in Jerusalem that the data was preliminary and not exhaustive, since many incidents were still being investigated to determine whether they were motivated by anti-Semitism.
France, which has Europe's largest Muslim community at about six million, led the world with the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents. There were 360 incidents of violence, property damage, desecration of sites, invective inscriptions or propaganda leveled against France's Jews in 2006, a 20 percent rise compared to 2005.
Bagneux, Paris was the scene of one of two anti-Semitic murders recorded by the forum. In January 2006 Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured for three weeks and left to die by a group of African Muslims calling themselves the Barbarians. According to reports in the media, including The New York Times, residents of the predominantly Muslim Parisian neighborhood knew of the kidnapping and torture, but did not notify the police. Halimi will be reinterred in Israel on February 9.
The other anti-Semitic murder reported by the forum was the July 2006 shooting of Pamela Waechter in Seattle's Jewish Federation Building.
The Forum, which represents the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization and the Foreign Ministry, pointed out that the second war in Lebanon sparked anti-Semitic outbursts, especially in countries with large Muslim and Arab populations.
"The Kafr Kana incident marked a peak in anti-Semitic outbursts," said Hermon, referring to the IDF bombing of a residential building which housed missile launchers aimed at Israeli civilian populations. These launchers were purposely positioned by Hizbullah among Lebanese civilians to maximize collateral damage.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Ze'ev Bielski, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Task Force Against Anti-Semitism Amos Hermon, and Shlomo Molla who holds the anti-Semitism portfolio in the World Zionist Organization presented the findings at a press conference at the Jewish Agency Sunday.
2006 was also a year of the proliferation of Holocaust denial. Iran hosted an anti-Semitic caricature competition in August, as well as a conference devoted to examining the veracity of the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, in December Egypt hosted a Holocaust denial convention.
The forum said that anti-Semitic propaganda was used vigorously by Iran, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon to incite against Jews. The Palestinian Authority was also guilty of fostering hatred of Jews through its media, educational system and sermons in area mosques.
"Muslim populations are growing in Europe and so is anti-Semitism," said Bielski, who refrained from vocalizing a negative forecast for the future of European Jewry.
Livni said that the State of Israel had an obligation to protect Jewish communities throughout the world.
"State leaders must reach the realization that expressions of anti-Semitism may be directed at small groups, but the phenomenon endangers the very foundations of European society," said Livni.
However, anti-Semitism was not a strictly Muslim phenomenon, according to the forum, but was also a feature of the extreme Left. Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president since 1998, "creates an anti-Semitic environment" by speaking out severely against Israel.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, Britain's largest lecturers' union have both accused Israel of adopting policies of apartheid against Palestinians.
On the extreme Right, anti-Semitism is on the rise due in part to the xenophobic backlash against the growing Muslim communities in Europe, said the forum.
In the Russian and Ukraine cities of Rostov, Kiev, and Krach there were outbursts of violence and attempted murders. Additional data includes a 20% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Russia to 300 incidents, a 66% rise in Austria to 83 and a 50% rise in Scandinavia to 53.
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The Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism 2006