18% spike in physical acts of antisemitism in 2019 - report

Coronavirus antisemitism phenomenon shows ‘revival of medieval blood libels’

Swastika on a wall (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Swastika on a wall (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Physical manifestations of antisemitism against people and property around the globe spiked 18% in 2019 compared with 2018, according to the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University.
There were 456 such incidents in 2019, including 169 assaults, 129 attacks against personal property, 77 against cemeteries and memorial sites, 53 against synagogues and 28 against community centers and schools, the center said in its annual report.
Seven Jews were killed in antisemitic incidents in 2019, and assaults against Jews rose 22%, the report said.
The Kantor Center collects its data independently, and its figures differ from data collected by country-specific organizations.
The Community Security Trust, which reports on antisemitism in the UK, recorded 158 incidents of antisemitic assaults in 2019.
The Kantor Center has a long-standing methodology for collating antisemitism data from various government ministries and bodies, using it every year to preserve consistency in its data, one of its researchers said.
There has been a spike in antisemitism during the coronavirus pandemic, Moshe Kantor – who established the center in 2010 and currently serves as president of the European Jewish Congress – said Monday during a virtual press conference conducted by the center.
Extremists on the Right and Left have used Internet and social-media platforms to blame Jews and Israel for the spread of COVID-19 or for benefiting from it, he said.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” Kantor said.
“The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the medieval ‘blood libels,’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies,” he said.
Kantor said he was concerned about the “the rise of populism and extremism that could result from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Alongside trying to control the spread of the virus and taking care to lessen the effects of the financial downturn, the international community should not ignore the societal and political crisis that is already starting to emerge,” he said.
Prof. Dina Porat, head of the Kantor Center and chief historian for Yad Vashem, said governments around the world are making efforts to combat the rise of antisemitism. But it is concerning that despite these efforts, incidents of antisemitism among extremists continue to rise, she said at the press conference.
Separately, the Simon Wiesenthal Center released its latest report on investigations and prosecutions of Nazi war criminals.
The center stated that three trials of Nazi war criminals commenced during the period from April 2018 to December 2019: two in Germany and one in the US.
Both German trials were of men who served as SS guards at the Stutthof concentration camp, near Gdansk, Poland – the first Nazi concentration camp established outside Nazi Germany where a gas chamber and crematorium were constructed and where an estimated  28,000 Jews were murdered.
The trial of Johannes Rehbogen, who served at the camp as an SS guard from June 1942 until September 1944, opened in the German city of Muenster on November 6, 2018 but was permanently closed due to illness on April 3, 2019.
The second defendant, Bruno Dey, served as an armed SS watchtower guard at Stutthof from August 1944 until April 1945. His trial has been temporarily postponed due to the coronavirus.
The third trial – which was conducted in Memphis, Tennessee – was of Friedrich Karl Berger, who served as an armed guard at Meppen, a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. It began on May 10, 2019.
He was tried by the Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section of the US Justice Department, and was ordered deported to Germany on February 28, 2020.