'Anti-Semitism still a world problem'

Forum presents figures to cabinet; Jewish Agency decries international "apathy."

"Anti-Semitism is a world problem, not a Jewish problem, and the Government of Israel will fight against it," declared Minister of Tourism Avraham Hirschson (Kadima) during a press conference hosted by the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism (GFAA) Thursday. Speaking after a cabinet meeting during which the GFAA presented statistics highlighting an overall decrease in the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks worldwide, Hirschson emphasized that in certain specific cases, "the world had still not learned its lesson." He pointed to the fact that the burning of synagogues and the defacing of gravestones was still a problem in many countries, while in Russia and the Ukraine the number of overall incidents had actually increased dramatically. "Governments must take more responsibility for controlling anti-Semitism, while a change in the education system is required both for Jews and non-Jews," he added. Amos Hermon, chairman of the Education Department at the Jewish Agency, asserted that present day violent anti-Semitism originates from two separate sources: radical Islamists in the Middle East and Western Europe as well as the neo-Nazi youth element in Eastern Europe and Latin America. In presenting the report's specific findings, Hermon noted that though the number of overall anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Britain - which featured at the top of this inauspicious list - had decreased from 330 in 2004 to 300 in 2005, this still represented the highest numbers in that country for more than twenty years. Hermon also alluded to Britain's proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities and the London Mayor Ken Livingstone's negative attitude towards Israel as examples of left-wing anti-Semitic tendencies in the country. The report also showed that France, Russia and the Ukraine had all chalked up more than 160 incidents, while in Argentina, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium and Australia, there were less than 50 in each. Though the GFAA are still waiting for statistics from the US, Hermon noted that North America was by no means free of anti-Semitism, citing the recent capture of an Al-Qaeda cell by the FBI in Los Angeles just prior to a planned attack on local Jewish institutions. In American university campuses, he said, Jewish students were being discriminated against by both faculty and the students. Referring to the recent announcements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "to wipe Israel off the map," the report also shows that the media in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia are vehemently anti-Semitic. However, it also claimed that despite incitement being widespread in the media of the Palestinian terror organizations, there has been a noticeable decline in this area in the PA's official media since Mahmoud Abbas came to power. Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski told The Jerusalem Post that although it is "unlikely" that anti-Semitism will ever be completely eradicated, it is important to deal as best as possible with the cause rather than just the symptoms. Maintaining that there are tools available to combat the problem, he exhorted people "to stop being apathetic about this issue." In a related story, the Anti-Defamation League in New York said they were encouraged by the Ukrainian government's recent public condemnation of anti-Semitism, particularly in MAUP University, one of the country's leading institutions, described by ADL as a "hotbed of anti-Semitism." In a letter to Borys Tarasiuk, Ukraine's foreign minister, Barbara B. Balser, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, welcomed his "strong statement condemning the anti-Semitic actions of MAUP University as unlawful and wrongful and proclaiming that there is no place for any form of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in the Ukraine." Andrea de Felip, first secretary of the Head consular section in the Italian Embassy, also present at the conference, told the Post that this was a sensitive issue for the Italian people, who were "proud of the fact that there is no anti-Semitism in Italy." He also said that a group of Italian teachers would soon be making a trip to Yad Vashem in order to learn about how they could teach the Holocaust to children.