June 14, 2007
New reports expose rampant anti-Semitic attacks in Western Europe
And CNN finds a little here in the USA
Here in the US, CNN's Paula Zahn reports, some blame Jews for 9/11 A young French Jew is kidnapped, tortured and left to die by a band of Muslims. Arson badly damages Geneva's largest synagogue. A 13-year-old girl on a London bus is robbed and kicked unconscious after her attackers ask if she is "Jewish or English."
Anti-Semitism in Western Europe apparently is out of control.
That is the consensus of a dizzying array of recent reports, the latest of which was released this week at a conference combating discrimination under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Representatives of dozens of European governments were expected at the June 7-9 meeting in Bucharest, Romania, a follow-up to a 2005 conference of the OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in Spain.
The 2007 Hate Crimes Survey by the U.S.-based organization Human Rights First goes beyond the data included in many of the studies to suggest that most European governments are woefully inept at measuring and thus prosecuting hate crimes.
Human Rights First says the survey is the first by a U.S. non-governmental organization to examine racist, xenophobic, homophobic and anti-religious crimes in Europe. While the report includes analysis of Russia, Ukraine and even North America, the focus is on Western Europe.
It is also the only one of the recent reports to raise the specter of a Europe teetering on the verge of a Hitler-era epidemic of racist hatred.
"Today the parallels with the 1930s include the seeming indifference of many governments and broad sectors of public opinion to the rising violence and fear that once again threatens European Jews, and with them members of other minorities," says a separate, companion report that focuses exclusively on anti-Semitism.
In most European countries, "anti-Semitic violence and other hate crimes still are largely unacknowledged in public policy and action," according to the survey by Human Rights First, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
Paul LeGendre, who directs the anti-discrimination program for Human Rights First, told reporters from the group's New York office, "One of our findings is that governments are not doing enough to report on hate crimes. We have a sizable data deficit."
The companion survey says that the collected data "reveals both a general trend toward a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and a trend toward violent crimes against Jewish people in a growing proportion of such incidents."
The analysis comes just weeks after a May 24 fire that badly damaged the largest synagogue in Geneva. The fire was labeled as arson several days later, sending shock waves through Swiss Jewry.
Many Jews are also protesting anti-Semitism they say is disguised as criticism of Israel throughout Western Europe. The latest examples come from Britain: the proposed boycott of Israeli academics, which the largest British teachers union voted last month to disseminate to its membership for a final decision, and the country's largest trade union, with more than 1 million members, deciding to consider a boycott motion on Israel at its upcoming conference.
Reports issued since Israel's war in Lebanon last summer and widely covered in the international media showed a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents, rhetoric and attitudes in the 27-member European Union.
The picture, however, may be more complicated, as anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment have spilled over into what some hope are only cyclical rises in hostility based on world events and not on actual antipathy to Jews. Similar spikes occurred during the first and second Palestinian uprisings.
But others argue that anti-Israel and anti-Jewish behavior have become indistinguishable.
In an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey on European attitudes toward Jews released in early May, 51 percent of respondents in five countries said Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their home country, and 52 percent said Israel's actions have lowered their views of Jews.
European leaders are now discussing, with Israel's participation, how to improve the country's image.
A European Jewish Congress (EJC) report issued last November revealed a dramatic rise in anti-Israel discourse during the Lebanon War both among leftist politicians and media in Europe, as well as on the extreme right. The discourse, the report said, often morphed into anti-Jewish sentiment.
For Ilan Moss, author of the report, this trend was illustrated best when someone anonymously laminated a Guardian newspaper photo of victims from the Israeli air strike in Qana that killed 28, including 16 children, and taped it to the front of a London synagogue.
"The message was clear: You Jews are responsible for this massacre," Moss said.
Other reports by specific Jewish communities recounting violent anti-Semitic incidents in 2006 revealed an upsurge in attacks and the desecration of Jewish sites not seen in decades.
Putting all of the country reports together in April, Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism reported that of the 590 cases of anti-Semitic violence reported worldwide in 2006, 324 were recorded in Western Europe.
The report attributed the high numbers to the war in Lebanon, calling it "probably the main trigger for the intensification of anti-Semitic manifestations in most countries of Western Europe."
But the war was not the only catalyst, Gardner said.
"It's also 9/11 and Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. There is a larger anti-Semitic mythology at play here," he said.
"When you preach hatred about Zionists and Israel, that hatred has an impact on those who are visually Jewish, or cemeteries or synagogues," Gardner said, referring to the increasing number of leftist and Muslim extremists.
In evaluating the number of incidents, consider that there is no consistent system of monitoring anti-Semitic events across Europe. Each community brings a different approach, and the culture affects how and why people report events.
"There is a dire need for serious monitoring, Europe-wide, for all forms of hate crimes," said Gidon Van Emden, policy officer for CEJI - A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, a Brussels-based coexistence group founded in 1991. "In some countries it's good, in some it's bad, and in some there is nothing in place."