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The overall number of violent anti-Semitic events worldwide decreased significantly in 2005, according to the latest statistics released by Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism.
"The key figure concerning anti-Semitism in 2005 is its decrease compare to 2004," Institute director Professor Dina Porat told journalists at a press conference on Monday.
Nevertheless, as Porat noted, despite the decrease from 501 to 406 recorded cases of violent anti-Semitism in 2005, the level of anti-Semitic violence last year was still the second-highest in the past 15 years.
The decrease in violence last year, according to Porat, may be explained by continued public and political action against anti-Semitism on both a national and international level, as well as by the implementation of educational programs and better security and law enforcement measures. She also noted that the past year has been a period of relative calm in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may at times act as a trigger for anti-Semitic events.
As a result, Porat said, displays of violence towards Jews tended not to be organized attempts but rather individual and spontaneous acts, committed either by members of extreme right-wing groups or by second and third generation Muslim immigrants to European countries.
"It's difficult to say whether this decrease will continue," Porat said. "In France, for instance, 2005 saw a 48% decrease in displays of anti-Semitism, but this year there has already been a renewed increase. There is still cause for worry."
Indeed, according to Dr. David Shapira, who monitors anti-Semitism in Europe, 14% of the French population has recently expressed a willingness to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front in next year's elections, while 35% of the population defined the party as "enriching the country's political discourse."
According to Dr. Rafael Vago, anti-Semitism has been on the decline in Eastern European countries, such as Romania, because of their interest in being integrated into the European Union, and their awareness that this requires, among other things, an effort to battle anti-Semitism."
In the Middle East, meanwhile, Institute researcher Esther Webman has detected a recent "polarization and Islamization of anti-Semitic discourse," and "the increasing addition of Islamic motifs to themes identified with traditional European anti-Semitism."
In addition, she said, her surveys of public discourse and of the media in the Middle East indicate an increase in extreme anti-Semitic themes.
Porat noted that the major causes for worry on an international scale were recent verbal displays of anti-Semitism in the form of caricatures, academic boycott attempts, and extreme statements like those made lately by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Together with Russia, the Ukraine, and Venezuela, Iran was one of the four countries Porat and her colleague listed as the sources of the most extreme forms of verbal anti-Semitism over the past year.
The Ukraine, researchers at the Institute noted, was also witnessed a steady escalation in the number and severity of violent incidents against Jews, which they said may be viewed against the background of the intensified dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda in the country.
In Venezuela, according to Dr. Graciela Ben Dror, an expert on anti-Semitism in Latin America, President Hugo Chavez's close ties with the Iranian government have been worrying the country's Jewish community, while the Chavez government's anti-American and, by extension, anti-Israeli sentiments have led to a growing legitimization of anti-Semitic expressions even in the country's mainstream press.
"Anti-Semitism there is no longer a taboo," Ben Dror said.
The report compiled by the Institute was financed by the World Jewish Congress. Bobby Brown, Director of the WJC's Israeli branch, communicated to the Jerusalem Post that the WJC intended to present the report to world leaders and demand of them to take more clearly-defined steps towards fighting anti-Semitism in their countries.
"I await the day there will no longer be a need to prepare such a report," he said. "Nevertheless, the most recent report shows that the facts are still worrisome, and that anti-Semitism is not just a local problem in a limited number of countries."
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