Anti-Semitic incidents in Italy nearly tripled this summer during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, as compared to the summer of 2013, according to Italy’s Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation.
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This independent cultural and historical institution, which promotes the study of Italian Jewry, published its “Report on safety and insecurity in Italy and Europe in 2014” this month, under the aegis of Italy’s Union of Jewish Communities.
The annual report cites 21 incidents of anti-Semitism during the months of July and August in Italy, which has a relatively small Jewish community of some 23,000 members. This is a dramatic increase from 8 incidents in the summer 2013.
The vast majority of this summer's anti-Semitic incidents in Italy – 17 total – were triggered by Israel’s fighting in Gaza, according to the report.
Among the incidents cited were the dissemination of anti-Israel fliers in Rome, calling for the boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. The posters, signed by the extreme-right group Vita Est Militia, listed more than 40 stores, restaurants, bars and hotels suspected of being owned by Jews. In Turin, anti-Israel fliers were posted on Jewish-owned shops, calling for a boycott of the “Israel lobby.”
Incidents such as these prompted the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, an umbrella group of over 20 Jewish associations in the country, to set up an anti-Semitism hotline in September.
The 2014 report also highlighted the mounting wave of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe during Israel’s conflict in Gaza.
“Never at any time since the end of World War II has anti-Semitism so manifested itself on the continent of Europe,” European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor told Haaretz, commenting on the report. “This today is the biggest threat to Jewish communities but not just to Jewish communities. Rather to all European citizens,” he added.
The greatest increase in anti-Semitic incidents this past summer, according to the report – 400 percent – was in the United Kingdom, followed by Italy.
The U.K. witnessed a reported 452 anti-Semitic incidents between July and August. The majority of those were in July, which saw 302 such incidents – the highest ever registered in a month in the U.K., and up from 59 in July of the previous year. Of those, 155 were reported to be connected to the Gaza war.
In France, the total number of anti-Semitic incidents doubled this past summer, to 527. The Italian report determined that Paris was the most violent anti-Semitic European city during the summer. The City of Light routinely made headlines due to anti-Semitic incidents, including that involving Molotov cocktails thrown at a synagogue during Sabbath eve services in July.
Referring to a Pew Research Institute survey published in May 2014, the report noted that intolerance against minorities in Europe has been exacerbated by the economic crisis that plagues the Continent. In Italy and France, for example, 7 out of 10 people are reportedly extremely worried about the economy, rising taxes, the high cost of living and the unemployment rate.
Also of great concern, according to the report, is the soaring number of European extremist right-wing parties, which have encouraged anti-Semitic incidents. Among the groups cited are the National Front in France and the 5-Star Movement in Italy.