Almost 75 years after Hitler’s downfall, antisemitism in various parts of the world – from the US and Western Europe to South America and the Muslim world – is flourishing.
On Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Holocaust Memorial Day), Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the European Jewish Congress issued a report on worldwide antisemitism.
Antisemitism is “mainstreaming, even normalized as a constant presence in the public and the private sphere, said the report, which found a 13-percent rise in the number of major violent antisemitic incidents in 2018 compared to the previous year. Last year, 13 Jews were murdered by attackers who were motivated by hatred of Jews.
The most disturbing finding identified in 2018 is the sense of insecurity prevalent among Jews in the Diaspora; according to surveys, they do not feel an integral part of society anymore. Sometimes, they even sense a state of emergency, the researchers said.
The year 2018 and the beginning of 2019 witnessed an increase in almost all forms of antisemitic manifestations – in the public space as well as in the private one.
The attack of Jews in the Chabad synagogue near San Diego, California last week was only the latest – but not the last – incident. A sense of facing a state of emergency situation is increasing among Jews in some countries; physical insecurity and questioning their place in society and in the parties that were their political home are more prevalent.
The calls “Jews to the gas chambers” and “Death to the Zionists” are openly, unashamedly and publicly voiced. The 13 Jews were murdered in hate crimes during 2018 was the largest number compared to previous years.
The number of the major violent cases monitored by the Kantor Center team has increased by 13%, from 342 to 387. The countries with the highest number of cases are the US (over 100 cases); the UK (68); France and Germany (35 each); Canada (20); Belgium (19) the Netherlands (15); and Argentina (11). It should be noted that the numbers of reported cases in Eastern Europe have been much lower in comparison to Western Europe, going down from 12 cases in the Ukraine in 2018 to a few in each of the other countries.
The main modus operandi continues to be vandalism (216, 56%); threats (89, 23%); and weaponless means (55, 14%). These numbers show that while the use of weapon and arson is less common, most of the attacks are against people. Indeed, at least 138 people were attacked (36%) and private property was damaged (104 cases, 27%). The reason is that persons and their property are less protected than synagogues (47 cases, 12%) and community centers (22, 6%). Cemeteries and monuments, however, are still a traditional target (76 cases, 19%).
Antisemitism is no longer only a part of the activities of the triangle, made of the far right, the extreme left and radical Islam. It has mainstreamed, and became a constant presence of reality, said the TAU study.
A separate report by the French Ministry of the Interior and the Jewish community depicts antisemitism in France during 2018 as a daily occurrence. The anti-Zionist discourse has mainstreamed as well, and the use of antisemitic motifs has increased, with no specific trigger, and despite the fact that no formal military confrontation has taken place between Israel and its neighbors since 2014.
A host of wide-scope surveys confirm the Jews’ perceptions and fears regarding antisemitism: The FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency) interviewed 16,500 Jews in 12 countries; CNN conducted 7,000 interviews among the general population; and the Eurobarometer interviewed 23,640 people in 28 countries. All reached the same conclusion – 85% of the FRA interviewees regard antisemitism as the most severe problem, yet they do not file complaints with the police on 75% to 80% of the cases they encountered. CNN found that 40% see Jews as threatened by racist violence, and 89% of those interviewed by the Eurobarometer believe antisemitism has recently increased. A 16% rise in private space incidents was registered in the US.
Still, a number of encouraging achievements have been reached during 2018. Antisemitism has been recognized by governments, multi-national organizations and leaders as a serious problem, to be seriously taken care of: conferences and seminars to discuss the problem had been held and publicized.
Publications and educational material have been prepared for further education and discussion. The Working Definition of Antisemitism has become a yard-stick, a test of values and norms, and is increasingly adopted by more states. A catalog of means to combat antisemitism was presented to the European Union, that declared its commitment to develop holistic strategies to struggle against the rising phenomenon and to secure the safety of the Jewish communities. Special envoys for antisemitism were nominated in the U.S., Germany and Bulgaria.
Asking why antisemitism recently is so strongly felt and perceived by the Jewish communities, the researchers suggested a number of reasons that exist side-by-side and feed on each other: There is a growing ignorance among younger generations about the most basic issues that makes them an easy prey to prejudices and misinformation. The more time passes since World War II, the more previous commitments and taboos fade away.
The presence of classical antisemitism has been strengthened, because of religion-based conflicts, and of strong religious self-identification among various groups, such as Muslims as well as Christians, the researchers said.
The post-Holocaust image of the Jew remains one of greediness, thirst for political and economic power, egocentric behavior, pulling all strings in its favor. The image of the post-Holocaust Diaspora Jew and of the Israeli is no longer a martyr, but rather a “cruel anti-Christ, comparable to the Nazis and to ISIS” according to radical Muslims and leftist activists. The word “Jew” is again a pejorative nickname in number of languages.
The crisis of democracies, mainly in Western Europe, has led to an increase of an antisemitic discourse among activists from the two extremes, left and right, blaming the Jews and Israel for the situation.
National and nationalist post-Communist narratives in Eastern Europe depict a distorted historical picture in which the local population was the victim who extended a helping hand to Jews, whereas the Jewish communities are blamed for serving as a constant reminder of their neighbors’ role in the Holocaust.
The rise of right-wing parties and extreme-right movements, upholding antisemitic views and gaining political power due to the refugee crisis, has been noted in Europe, as well as a surge in the white supremacists’ activity in the US. Finally, worldwide polarization and radicalization of the public discourse that help break taboos and moral boundaries.
The authors concluded that “despite all the aforementioned, we must exercise a sense of proportion – the situation should not be underestimated, but not over-inflated either. The number of hate crimes against a vast variety of “others” has also increased and exceeded those against Jews. Christians were also attacked worldwide last year; hundreds of churches were desecrated in France; and in Nigeria thousands have been killed and churches were burnt down. Let us work together with other discriminated groups and ethnic minorities to help eliminate such phenomena.”