Highest anti-Semitism rates in 2 decades

Notable spike in anti-Semitic incidents, Israel-Nazi comparisons coincides with IDF Gaza op.

anti gaza op protest london 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
anti gaza op protest london 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The number of anti-Semitic attacks around the world during Israel's three-week military operation against Hamas in Gaza was up more than 300 percent compared to the same period last year, reaching a two-decade high, according to figures released Sunday by the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism. The Israeli forum's annual report, released ahead of Tuesday's International Holocaust Remembrance Day, also cited the "conspicuous" comparisons being made between Israel's actions against Hamas in Gaza and those of Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. More than 250 anti-Semitic incidents were reported around the world during the 22-day assault on the Islamic regime in Gaza, which began on December 27, compared to 80 during the same period last year, according to the report. The bulk of the incidents were carried out in Western Europe and were led by local Muslims, including 100 each in France and Britain, the report found. The violent assaults included attacks against both synagogues and Jewish communities, as well as vandalism of privately owned Jewish property, the report said. The number and intensity of anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza assault were "unprecedented" in the last two decades, said Jewish Agency official Amos Hermon at a press conference at Jerusalem's Jewish Agency headquarters, where the report was released. Ironically, the dramatic spike in anti-Semitism followed a year in which anti-Semitic incidents dropped by 15%-20% from the previous year, according to the report. At the event, Jewish Agency Treasurer Hagai Meirom predicted a fresh wave of global anti-Semitism in the wake of Operation Cast Lead - even though the report noted a drop in incidents since the end of the operation - and stressed that the government needed to provide additional resources to effectively respond to such attacks worldwide. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Sunday blasted the wave of anti-Semitic incidents, some of which, she said, were being expressed by government officials. "During days of international challenges - such as Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War - we see that Israel's very existence as a Jewish state is exploited with anti-Semitic activity in the guise of criticism against Israel's military actions," Livni said. She added that such incidents were rife in countries with a large radical Islamic presence. "The battle against anti-Semitism is not detached from the battle over our existence, and in the global struggle between moderates and extremists," she said. Over the last two weeks, a Vatican official, a Norwegian foreign ministry official and a British MP have all compared Israel's actions to those of the Nazis. The upswing in virulently anti-Israel Holocaust parallels comes at a time of increasingly global Holocaust education and resources, Holocaust educators say. "Paradoxically, as interest in the Holocaust continues to grow around the world, we are also witnessing a rise in the provocative and cynical use of the Holocaust in attacking Israel and Jews," Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said. "Our hope is that by making comprehensive, credible information about the Holocaust available in a number of languages, that we build a cadre of people who know what the Holocaust really was, who understand the realities and can serve as a buffer against those who would deny the Holocaust or make such manipulative comparisons that are so divorced from any semblance of reality," he added. In a related development, Yad Vashem announced Sunday that it would launch its Web site, as well as a YouTube channel, in Spanish this week. The new Web site will be launched officially in Spain on Tuesday, marking the fourth annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day, with the participation of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos. "The Holocaust has become the brand name of man's inhumanity against mankind," said Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. "For some people it is the best way to get back at Israel and hit us where it hurts." He added, "Our major challenge now and in the future is to protect and inoculate mainstream society from the fallacious distortions and inversions of the extremists who seek to manipulate the Holocaust for their own purposes." Separately, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League urged the leaders of several European countries on Sunday to publicly condemn "the explosion of anti-Semitic rhetoric" and Holocaust comparisons at anti-Israel rallies against the Gaza operation. "Blatantly anti-Semitic displays have contributed to an unacceptable wave of anti-Semitic threats of violence, intimidation and attacks against Jewish communal institutions and individuals in many countries," wrote ADL national chairman Glen S. Lewy and national director Abraham H. Foxman. "While it is important to take immediate steps to increase security measures for the Jewish community for the protection of property and the personal safety of individuals, there is also an urgent need for your government to publicly and forcefully speak out against such anti-Semitic attacks to make it clear that anti-Semitism, hatred and bigotry of any kind has no place in your country." The ADL leaders wrote to the heads of eight countries - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland - where "anti-Semitic displays have been present and condemnations from the highest level of government have been absent," the organization said in a press release. The American Jewish group reminded the European leaders of the obligations their countries had undertaken to combat anti-Semitism in the 2004 Berlin Declaration of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe. The document declared unambiguously that international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, a renewed blast of anti-Semitic vitriol is expected to be aired at the Durban II United Nations World Conference, to be held in Geneva in April. The very date of the opening, April 20, demonstrates insensitivity to Jewish feelings, a Jewish Agency spokesman noted. April 20, 2009 will mark the 120th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.