The worldwide increase in anti-Semitic attacks following Israel's 2009 incursion into Gaza hit the U.K. and France the hardest compared to all other European countries, according to Tel Aviv University's watchdog on anti-Semitism.
In 2009, the U.K. saw 374 manifestations of violence against Jews compared to 112 in 2008, according to the Stephen Roth Institute for the study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. France was a distant second, with 195 violent attacks compared to 50.
The total number of anti-Semitic incidents - as they are defined by the institute - was a record number of 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008. The institute recorded 566 incidents of vandalism targeting Jewish property worldwide in 2009, constituting 49 percent of all incidents.
Four percent of incidents - or 41 instances - were armed assaults against Jews because of their religion, and 15 percent were weaponless assaults. Arson accounted for three percent, or 34 instances. Threats of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions accounted for 29 percent.
The fact that the U.K. and France led the chart is partly because these countries are home both to Europe's largest Jewish communities (approximately 250,000 and 500,000 respectively,) and its Muslim communities, according to Roni Stauber, a researcher of the institute.
Dina Porat, who heads the institution, told reporters at a press conference on Sunday that Anti-Semitism is directly linked to anti-Zionism. Western European Jews in general may have more faith in the authorities than in East Europe, leading to better monitoring and reporting of attacks, she added.
Dr. Haim Fireberg, another of the institute's academics, noted that Britain had a relatively high level of xenophobic attacks in general, not only anti-Semitic ones.
Race-linked offences in England and Wales jumped from 31,000 in 2003 to more than 38,000 five years on, according to a report released last month by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, based on British government figures.
"If we are going to be honest, there is not a lot that the Jewish communities can do to end anti-Semitism," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, which cooperated with the university in compiling the report on 2009. "It is important to delineate and monitor so governments and institutions would be prompted to act."
The institute recorded 138 violent attacks against Jews in 2009 in Canada, and 116 in the U.S, compared to 33 in Germany, 22 in Austria and 28 in Belgium.
The Stephen Roth institute began monitoring anti-Semitism in 1989, when it found 78 anti-Semitic incidents worldwide. "Anti-Semitism has peaks, mostly following Israel's actions. The number of attacks usually drops after the peak, but we have seen a steady increase because the level of anti-Semitism rarely drops back to what it had been prior to the peak."
Asked about the methodology of the report - which the institution releases annually ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day ? Fireberg said: "We gather data from official reports by the countries surveyed, and from the Jewish communities there."
He added that the institutions requests the communities describe each incident which they understand as anti-Semitic, "and then we decide if it meets out strict criteria." Fireberg said that "had we published the communities' numbers, we would have 5,000 or 6,000 incidents worldwide."
British Jewish institutions reported "hundreds of incidents" which may or may not have been anti-Semitic attacks, which the institute did not include in its report, Dr. Stauber said.
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