Anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions throughout Europe once again rose to "historic levels" in the past two years, according to a study released Wednesday at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Bucharest.
Combining data from governments, NGOs and media reports, the new survey, conducted by US-based Human Rights First, found that the number of hate crimes generally has increased dramatically since the 1990s while European governments have been "burying their heads in the sand for more than a decade," according to HRF president Michael Posner.
The HRF discovered particularly worrying figures in the UK. Anti-Semitic attacks against individual Jews (as opposed to Jewish property) rose by 37% in 2006.
At the same time, the report catalogued what its authors described as "a dramatic surge of racist and religiously-motivated violence [following] the July 7, 2005, [London] bombings" that targeted Muslims. Immediately following the bombings, London saw a 600% increase in religiously-motivated hate crimes, while a "historically high rate" of racist violence continued throughout 2006.
While government figures showed a 10% decline in hate crimes in France between 2005 and 2006, the period also witnessed a 6.6% rise in specifically anti-Semitic attacks, and the number of overall hate crimes remains high compared to the 1990s, the report found. While overall anti-Jewish attacks rose slightly, reports of attacks against Jewish persons, as opposed to Jewish property, in fact rose by a whopping 77% between 2005 and 2006, from 53 reports to 94.
Germany got particular mention in the report, with "early estimates for 2006 on the number of extremist crimes [suggesting] the highest level of such crimes since the current monitoring system was introduced in 2001."
The report notes as an example of "the severity of the problem" the "No-Go" guide produced in Germany ahead of the World Cup, telling foreigners what areas they should stay away from to avoid becoming victims of racist violence.
While Russia is given credit for beginning to take its hate crime situation seriously, many violent hate attacks in 2006 ended with lenient "hooliganism" charges, the report noted. With the number of racist murder rising from 31 in 2005 to 54 in 2006, and recorded hate crimes rising from 413 in 2005 to 540 in 2006, the authorities were not doing enough to combat the trend.
The report found that violent anti-Semitism in Ukraine was on the rise, accompanied by "increasingly lethal" racist violence toward "people of African origins and other minorities."
According to the study, which also investigated attacks motivated by Islamophobia and other prejudices, hate crimes tended to target communities associated by the attackers with international events or trends. Thus, Israeli policies are invoked in attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, "even while [the attackers are] employing the language and symbols of Nazi Germany."
In addition, attacks on shops, schools or homes of individual Muslims serve "as substitutes for those keen to lash back at Islamist terrorism," according to HRF.
Commenting on the cause for the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, the study's authors noted the "convergence and merging of ancient prejudices and political animosity that has been particularly widespread and acute with regard to Israel, and has become a persistent feature of anti-Semitic discourse."
As such, during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, Jews and Jewish institutions in the UK suffered 132 reported attacks in a single month reaching nearly one-third of the total attacks in the previous year - 455 in 2005.
In France, the 34 days of war saw a 79% increase in attacks over the same period in 2005. The study cites a confirming European Jewish Congress report that similarly reported an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents during this time, "especially in the form of hate mail and threats directed at Jewish organizations, as well as vandalism and graffiti."
The survey focused most closely on France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, countries where "official or nongovernmental monitoring systems allow for a more comprehensive analysis of trends."
"That the report's most conclusive quantitative findings come from France and the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent, Germany does not indicate a higher incidence of anti-Semitic attacks in these countries," notes HRF, "but rather that they are among a handful of countries in which hate crimes are now readily acknowledged and systematically monitored."