'Anti-Semitism highest since WWII'

As JA presents alarming report, chairman Sharansky asks to increase number of overseas emissaries.

anti-Semitism 298 (photo credit: AP)
anti-Semitism 298
(photo credit: AP)

Anti-Semitic incidents in western Europe peaked to a level not seen sincethe close of World War II, according to numbers released by the Jewish Agencyon Sunday, three days before the commemoration of International HolocaustRemembrance Day.

The data showed aspike in anti-Semitic violence during and after the IDF's Operation Cast Leadin the Gaza Strip last winter.

During the first three months of 2009 - part of which included the IDFoperation in - more anti-Semitic incidents (including anything from verbal threats toviolent attacks) took place in western Europe than during all of 2008.

In ,631 incidents occurred in the first half of 2009, compared with 431 in 2008. In,some 600 anti-Semitic incidents took place during 2009.

In the , someone hundred incidents were noted following the incursion, the same number as thecountry had witnessed the entire previous year.

Additionally, the agency data noted that election campaigns in and gave way to public displaysof anti-Semitism, which surfaced as tools for the competing political parties.In , a story surfacedduring that country's election campaign that had brought 25,000 Ukrainianchildren to the Jewish state for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs.

Such stories also spurred the agency to warn of what they called theappearance of the "modern blood libel" - a concept that at its rootbegan in European countries during the Middle Ages and ran the gamut fromaccusing Jews of using Christian children's blood for Pessah matzos, to outrightcharges of human sacrifice or cold-blooded murder.

The data, which was released as part of an annual report on globalanti-Semitism, was presented during a press conference at the Jewish Agency'smain offices in ,and included comments from Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, JewishAgency Chairman Natan Sharansky, the head of the agency's Task Force onanti-Semitism Amos Hermon, and agency spokesman Gil Litman.

"Classical anti-Semitism is changing, and it's been replaced with a newanti-Semitism, which takes its shape in the form of unbridled attacks againstthe idea of a Jewish state," Sharansky said at the start of theconference.

After describing initial disagreement over that assessment from those whoaccused the agency of "blurring the lines between legitimate criticism of and anti-Semitism," Sharanskyclarified the statement with a list of criteria that he said constitutedillegitimate criticism of .

"We've identified [such criteria] through a '3-D principle'," he said,"demonization,delegitimization and a double standard. And if you look at anti-Semitismthroughout the ages, we see these principles at play as well - the demonizationof Jews, the delegitimization of the Jews as a nation, and a double standard towardsJews as a people and a religion."

All three of those criteria, Sharansky added, were alive and well the worldover, specifically in .

Sharansky warned that beginning with the appearance of an article in theSwedish daily tabloid Aftonbladet in August, which accused IDF soldiersof harvesting organs from Palestinians during military operations, the"modern blood libel" was now returning, and recreating the same imageof its original, medieval predecessor.

Sharansky also pointed to the Ukrainian story as evidence of the bloodlibel's return, along with an incident last week, in which an American manposted a video on Youtube accusing the IDF of harvesting organs from Haitiansurvivors of that country's catastrophic earthquake. The IDF has been in since thequake struck nearly two weeks ago, providing much-needed medical assistance tosurvivors.

The report went on to list Iran and Venezuela as the world's mostanti-Semitic countries, and warned of the strengthening ties between extremeleft-wing activists and Islamists, as well as more tolerance shown to Muslimacts of hate against Jews.

Although much of the press conference focused on the worrying data,Sharansky and his counterparts added that they were using the new informationas an opportunity to step up vigilance in combating anti-Semitism.

While the bulk of the initiatives they announced included drawing onexisting groups and individuals to make progress in the fight againstanti-Semitism, Sharansky also presented a plan to augment the number ofemissaries engaged in public diplomacy in large universities overseas. Whilethere are currently 19 such emissaries, Sharansky said that he wanted thatnumber to exceed 100.

Additionally, Sharansky said that creating new avenues for fighting anti-Semitismmight not be the best method, while existing efforts could still beconsolidated and better-integrated with one another.

"Anti-Semitism is a very old phenomenon," he said. "And so isthe fight against it. We're not trying to create anything new here, but revampthe efforts we've already extended."

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.