Report: Anti-Semitism Has Led to a ‘Corrosion of Jewish Life’ in the Diaspora

The annual survey of Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center notes that the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks had declined by 9% in 2017

A London protest against anti-Semitism
Harry Nicholls/Reuters

Violent anti-Semitic attacks worldwide decreased by about 9 percent in 2017 compared with the year before, according to “Anti-Semitism Worldwide in 2017,” a report published by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University.

In 2016, 361 incidents of anti-Semitic violence were recorded. That declined to 327 cases in 2017, says the report, which was released Wednesday on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is marked in Israel on Wednesday evening and Thursday. The figure for 2017 does not include violent cases in France, which are still being studied, the report says.

Anti-Semitic incidents spiked after U.S. President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital in December 2017, and spanned the political spectrum, involving not only Muslim and Arab organizations that are hostile to Israel.

It should be noted that expressing political disagreement with Israel is not in and of itself deemed anti-Semitic by the report, which noted: “Criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

Similarly, researchers of anti-Semitism in general would not include violence or harassment against Jews in a tally of anti-Semitic incidents in the absence of some evidence that the victims were targeted because they are Jewish.

When it comes to anti-Semitic incidents of all kinds, in the United States, the largest Diaspora Jewish community, the report, citing the Anti-Defamation League reported that the number of anti-Semitic incidents, increased dramatically in 2017, increasing by 43% compared with the year before. (The figure is 57% if the threats against Jewish community centers by a Jewish teenager in Israel are included). There were 1,986 incidents of all kinds, including harassment, vandalism and physical assault, last year in the United States compared with 1,267 in 2016 – but the number of violent anti-Semitic cases in the United States fell from 36 to 19.

Despite the overall decrease in worldwide anti-Semitic incidents, the Kantor Center report said: “It should be emphasized that some of the recent violent cases have been perpetrated more brutally, causing more harm.”

Last month, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor, was murdered in her Paris apartment. Prosecutors have said they believe was committed out of anti-Semitic motives.

Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, said that neither the public space nor even the private one are perceived as safe for Jews, as Knoll's murder shows. She survived the Holocaust only to be murdered in her home, he said.

Manifestations of anti-Semitism around the world include harassment in schools and in social media, notes the report by the Kantor Center, which is headed by historian and Holocaust researcher Prof. Dina Porat. They include “verbal and visual expressions, some on the verge of violence, such as direct threats, harassments, hateful expressions and insults,” the report states.

French soldiers patrol on January 21, 2015 in front of a synagogue in Neuilly-sur-Seine, outside Paris, as part of France's national security alert system Vigipirate. The anti-terrorism Vigipirate plan which has been reinforced in the wake of recent attacks will be maintained in France "as long" as "risk prevails", French Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on January 16.
AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD

“A certain corrosion of Jewish communal life has been noticed, and Jews suspect that anti-Semitism has entered a new phase: expressions of classic traditional anti-Semitism are back, and for example, the term ‘Jew’ has become a swear word,” the report says, adding, “The main damage that anti-Semitism has recently caused is a certain corrosion of Jewish life: once there are Jews who do not participate in Jewish traditional gatherings, or do not appear in the public sphere identified as Jews - the ability to live a full Jewish communal and individual life is jeopardized, and so is Jewish identity.”

This trend is evident in Jewish schools closing down or constraints on their activity – and Jewish children moving to Catholic schools, including because of fear of attacks by Muslim students. Few Jewish children remain in public schools in Paris, the report claims, because attacks and insults against Jews have become routine. A similar trend was observed in Belgium, the report asserts. Dutch teachers report difficulty teaching about the Holocaust in some schools and that they encounter comparisons with the Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

From 2006 to 2015, there were between 600 to 700 cases of what were deemed “major violent anti-Semitic incidents” a year, after which the pace fell to 300 to 400 in recent years. The most prevalent kind of major anti-Semitic violence in 2017 was property damage. There were 214 such incidents, comprising 65% of the total number of cases of violence. Second most prevalent was threats (64), followed by arson. Two incidents involved weapons, the report states.

In Australia the number of anti-Semitic incidents increased by 9.5% in 2017, the report said, and in Britain, by 3%, to 1,382 incidents.

The number of total anti-Semitic incidents in France decreased by 7.2% to 311 but the number of violent incidents rose from 777 in 2016 to 97 in 2017. In Germany anti-Semitic incidents increased in 2017, to a total of 707, compared with 644 in 2016. In 2017, 24 of the cases involved violence, compared with 15 the year before.

Thousands march in Paris in memory of slain Holocaust survivor Mirielle Knoll on March 28, 2018.
Shirli Sitbon

The number of verbal anti-Semitic incidents in Russia increased in 2017, but there were only two incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism: one targeting a synagogue and the other a Jewish community center. In Poland, where only a few thousand Jews still live, six incidents of anti-Semitic violence were recorded, but there was an increase in racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic incidents – and in the number of legal proceedings related to these incidents, to 947.

France has the biggest Jewish community in Europe, numbering 450,000. “According to Jewish community estimates, several tens of thousands, have changed their location inside France - an ‘internal Exodus,’” says the report, referring to people who have moved their residence.

In various countries, the return of classic anti-Semitic expressions, including “Jew” (or Juif, Feuj, Jude or Yahudi, for instance) as a swear word, is evident in both Christian and radical Islamic circles in various countries, and Muslim radicals have been adopting traditional Christian anti-Jewish elements, the report says.

The report dwells on the rise of the extreme right in Europe. The populist anti-immigration Alternative for Germany has become the third largest party in the German parliament, the report notes, and Austria has seen the rise of the Freedom Party, which has Nazi roots. In the United States in 2017, there was extreme right-wing violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In Europe the far-right parties are seeking to highlight their positive attitude towards Israel and a commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. But they seem to be providing mainly lip service and anti-Semitic remains a key element for their voters, the report states.

Anti-Semitism has not been confined, however, to the far right. There was also a rise in left-wing anti-Semitism: “The electoral and political achievements of the extreme right should not distract attention from the fact that they are coupled with the rise in leftist anti-Semitism, that supports radical Muslim anti-Israeli attitudes expressed in anti-Semitic terms such as in the BDS and Antifa movements, and certainly in the U.K. Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbin [sic],” says the report. “The more time passes by, and World War Two and the Holocaust turn to be a distant past, the more the commitment towards Israel and Jewish security weakens, especially among the post-war generations,” the report concludes.