Global Antisemitism Report: Number of Incidents, Attacks on Jews Rose Sharply in 2021

The authors say the Israeli-Gaza war last May and conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus pandemic were likely reasons for the steep increase in countries with sizable Jewish communities

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A protest against antisemitism in Washington last July.
A protest against antisemitism in Washington last July. Credit: Susan Walsh/AP
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Antisemitic incidents rose dramatically in almost all countries with large Jewish communities last year, Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry reported Wednesday.

The authors provided a number of reasons for the sharp rise in antisemitic incidents, including the response around the world to the 11-day flare-up between Israel and militant groups in the Gaza Strip last May. In addition, the report cited a rise in both far-right and far-left activities – including on social media – as well as the spread of conspiracy theories connecting Jews to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report focused on countries with the largest Jewish populations, so the likes of Poland and Hungary were not included.

It noted that there were 28 violent attacks recorded against Jews in the United States, whose Jewish community numbers some 6 million. This was a 133 percent increase on 2020, when there were 12 such attacks.

In New York, 214 hate crime incidents against Jews were reported last year, compared to 126 in 2020. The number of antisemitic incidents in Los Angeles, meanwhile, nearly doubled: from 40 in 2020 to 79 last year.

In France, which has a Jewish population of 445,000, 589 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021. This was a 74 percent increase from the previous year – but a drop of 15 percent compared to 2019. Like most Western countries, France endured several lockdowns in 2020 where few people were allowed on the streets for long periods of time.

In Britain, where 292,000 Jews live, 2,255 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021 – a 34 percent rise compared to 2020. A 78 percent increase in physical attacks on Jews was also recorded there.

In Germany, which is home to 118,000 Jews, 3,030 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021 – a 30 percent increase over 2020. Australia also showed an increase in such incidents.

An antisemitism protest in Paris in March. Credit: BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

Only one violent antisemitic incident was reported in Russia for all of 2021, but the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry stressed that such reporting in Russia is lacking and the true picture is unclear.

The head of the center, Prof. Uriya Shavit, said the number of antisemitic incidents, including serious ones, has been climbing worldwide in recent years. “Something isn’t working,” he said, noting that the rise comes despite enormous resources being spent in recent years to fight antisemitism, including important new programs.

“The easy thing is to say we need more laws and more money,” Shavit said. “But what is really needed is a brave and comprehensive examination of the effectiveness of the existing operational strategy.”

It is difficult to receive reliable data on antisemitic incidents in other countries as well as Russia, but Shavit said he hoped the center would be able to obtain such data for its next report.

This year’s report was the 28th antisemism study to be published by the center, which until recently bore the name of its founder and main financial backer – Russian oligarch Moshe Kantor, the former president of the European Jewish Congress.

Kantor’s name was also removed from all the center’s activities, including the latest antisemitism report, after he was placed on the blacklist of oligarchs and had sanctions imposed upon him – because his businesses allegedly aided Russia’s war efforts.

The center has released a statement opposing Russia’s war against Ukraine and even called President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal,” but has not released any statement about Kantor himself.

“Kantor announced his wish to remove his name and support from the center a month ago, and this ended his financial support for it,” Shavit said. “The center operated and will continue to operate with full academic freedom, and is obligated only to scientific excellence, and liberal and humanistic values.”

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