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Antisemitism still alive and well across Europe

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Several countries including Germany and Austria see major increases in antisemitism over 2019; Ukraine sees decline in Jew-hatred

By ILANIT CHERNICK

Antisemitism across several European countries has seen a concerning rise, according to several annual reports released in the last week.

In Germany, antisemitic incidents escalated to its highest level since 2001, according to a report released by the country’s Interior Ministry.

The report stated that there there were 2,032 antisemitic attacks in 2019 and that antisemitism, in comparison to 2018, had increased by 13%.

The Interior Ministry’s report said that about 93% of the acts had been committed by members of the far-Right. Incidents include online antisemitism, propaganda such as Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories, flying banned Nazi flags, verbal incidents and in some cases physical violence. 

In October 2019, two people were killed in the central city of Halle after the attacker was unable to gain entry to the local synagogue. 

Responding to the report, the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster called on politicians to step up the fight against right-wing extremism and hatred of Jews. 

“Antisemitism has become commonplace for Jews in Germany,” he stressed. “The rejection of Jews on the streets and at schools is a massive problem.”

With many of the antisemitic crimes stemming from the extreme right, Schuster made it clear that “special attention must be paid to growing right-wing extremism.”

Meanwhile, Austria also saw a sharp rise in antisemitism with 550 incidents reported over 2019, according to the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG)

A report released by the IKG found that there was an increase of 47 cases since the last antisemitism report, which was commissioned in 2017.

Among the 550 incidents, there were six physical assaults, 18 instances of threats, 78 instances of damage and desecration of Jewish property, 209 instances of mass-produced antisemitic literature and 239 instances of abusive behaviour. 

Although the number of physical assaults and threats saw a decrease, the number of attacks on Jewish property increased by over 50%.

“Jewish life is an integral part of Austria and most of our fellow citizens know this”, said IKG President Oskar Deutsch. “Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of people in Austria who stir up antisemitism and who engage in antisemitic acts.

“Our society should strive to ensure that one day these security measures are not necessary. Unfortunately, we are very far away from this objective today,” Deutch emphasized.

Among Eastern European countries, there was positive news in the Ukraine, with incidents decreasing some 27%.

According to a report by the United Jewish Community of Ukraine (UJCU) 66 cases of antisemitism were recorded in 2019. In 2018, there were 90 antisemitic incidents reported.

In a statement the UJCU said it associated “the decrease in the level of antisemitism with the change” of government. 

“Therefore the intensity of the heroization of those who participated in the extermination of Jews and those involved in Jewish pogroms in Ukraine decreased,” the Jewish group said.

Despite the overall decrease in “domestic antisemitism,” the UJCU noted that the number of antisemitic vadalism acts has increased.
“There are more desecration of Jewish monuments and mass graves, and also there are more antisemitic inscriptions in public places,” it pointed out.

“Our society should strive to ensure that one day these security measures are not necessary. Unfortunately, we are very far away from this objective today.”

Hungary saw a slight increase in antisemitic incidents from 32 in 2018 to 35 in 2019, according to a report conducted by the Action and Protection Foundation.

Of the incidents reported, 27 were connected to hate speech either in person or online, while six were attributed to vandalism or property damage and one to a direct antisemitic threat.

The AFP made it clear that despite the slight increase, this is the second lowest number of incidents reported in the country since it started the audit in 2014.

In Romania, a poll that was commissioned by the Elie Wiesel Holocaust Rememberance Institute (EHRI) found that there are negative perceptions of Jews in Romanian Society, which can “at any time, experience an intensification.”

The results, which were recently released found that 32% of respondents agreed with the statement that Jews “would be better off going to live in their country,” meaning Israel. In addition, 11% claimed that Jews had more rights than the majority population, while 5% of the respondents believed that Jews should not come to Romania.

It also stated there has been a rise in online antisemitism during coronavirus, which includes antisemitic conspiracy theories and claims that the Jews or Israel are behind the pandemic.

Prior to this, the EHRI found that 70% of online antisemitism, which they analyzed, stated that “Jews lead the world or Romania”.

The EHRI made it clear that the virulent online antisemitism in Romania “should be a wake-up call for the authorities.

“The responsibility for finding effective solutions to identify and remove antisemitic content from the Internet lies with the authorities,” the EHRI stressed, “But to a large extent, responsible users of social networks can significantly reduce the visibility of these messages by using the reporting tools provided by the networks.”

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