The number of anti-Semitic incidences in Europe through the first three months of this calendar year exceeds the total number of such occurrences from all of 2008, according to a report issued by the European Jewish Congress.
The findings were announced by EJC president Moshe Kantor during a special session of the European Parliament which was devoted to the subject of anti-Semitism on the continent.
The report cites the reaction to this past January's Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza as one of the key triggers of anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish communities in Europe. In addition, the current financial crisis is giving rise to age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes suggesting "Jewish control of the global financial system."
EJC members from all over Europe who gathered in Brussels for the special session reported a significant rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents. The head of official Jewry in Finland, Rony Smolar, said that the 25,000-strong Jewish community living in the Scandinavian countries is subject to repeated harassment due to its support for Israel.
"Public opinion links Israel with the local Jewish community, which turns us into enemies," Smolar said, adding that his country has seen "a dramatic rise" in the number and severity of anti-Semitic attacks.
Smolar said that Molotov cocktails have been thrown into synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Sweden and Norway have been vandalized. He also cited a shooting incident in which two Israelis were wounded by a gunman in Denmark during Operation Cast Lead.
"Cartoons likening the Star of David to the Nazi swastika have become commonplace in Scandinavia," Smolar said.
Richard Prasquier, the head of the umbrella organization representing the Jewish community in France (CRIF), also pointed to a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. "France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe and the largest Muslim community in Europe," Prasquier said, hinting that the sizable immigrant community from North Africa is most responsible for instigating the anti-Jewish violence. European politicians have shied away from blaming Muslim immigrants for attacks against Jews.
The EU's human rights arm, the FRA, told the gathering that increases in anti-Semitism have been reported in Holland, Belgium, France, and Britain. An organization representative said the reasons for the phenomenon must be studied and examined.
Peter Feldmeier, the head of the Jewish community in Hungary, said that anti-Semitism in his country still features historical overtones "as we knew them in the interwar years."
While noting that "there is barely a Muslim community in Hungary," Feldmeier brandished a copy of a widely circulated newspaper affiliated with a far-right party. The newspaper made waves after featuring on its cover a Hungarian politician bearing a fictitious yellow Star of David. The paper demanded that the politician admit to his Jewish roots.
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