“It feels like almost every taboo relating to Jews, Judaism and Jewish life has been broken.”
So said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, on Wednesday.
Kantor was speaking at the release of a report published by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center in conjunction with the European Jewish Congress.
According to the report, 2018 saw a 13 percent increase in “major violent” anti-Semitic incidents — 387, compared to 342 in 2017.
The result, the report concludes, is that Jewish people begin to doubt their association with places they have lived for decades. “This sense of turning gradually [into] an outsider is coupled with an ominous feeling of insecurity that reached its peak in October, after the murder of 11 elderly Jews in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life — Or LeSimcha Synagogue,” the report says, referring to the shooting at a synagogue in Pennsylvania by a white supremacist mad at Jewish people for helping refugees.
The most serious anti-Semitic incidents recorded were in the United States, which saw over 100 in 2018 (with 5.7 million Jews, the United States has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel). Next came the United Kingdom (68 reported incidents), France and Germany (35 reported incidents each) and Canada (20 incidents). To register as a “major violent” incident in the report, the incident needed to have anti-Semitism as the proven motivation. The report divides the “modus operandi” of major violent incidents as being physical violence with a weapon, without a weapon, threats, vandalism, and arson. Additionally, cases where multiple people were attacked were counted as one case.
There were considerably fewer anti-Semitic incidents reported in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe, though it should also be noted that there are fewer Jewish people living in Eastern Europe. In Hungary, for example — where there are 47,400 Jewish residents, as compared to 453,000 in France — there were three major violent incidents recorded.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s international spokesperson has blogged about anti-Semitism in that country as falling, but Orban himself has incited anti-Semitic sentiment, often casting Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros as a boogeyman. As the report notes: “The nationalist perception of the need to preserve a nation’s culture against immigration combines with the definition of who is part of the nation and who is an enemy. The Jew has traditionally been conceived as an eternal stranger and an unassimilable alien of society by antisemites.”
And while there were just nine major violent incidents recorded last year in Poland, nationalist extremists protested outside the presidential palace, chanting things like “Enough of Jewish lies!"
The report notes that the catalyst for anti-Semitic incidents varies from country to country, and that, while opposition to Israel and Israeli government policies can lead people to make comments or take action against Jews: “Antisemitism is on the rise, even without an Israeli-Palestinian-Gaza confrontations. We suggest to reconsider the traditional pinpointing at such confrontations as an immediate trigger for the rise of antisemitism. Antisemitic manifestations increase, obviously, for other reasons, as we have tried to explain.”
“Let us exercise a sense of proportion, certainly not underestimating the situation, yet [not] over inflating it either. Let us look around and cooperate with other discriminated groups and minorities,” the report’s introduction states. “Extremist groups cultivate hatred against whoever does not follow their views, not just Jews; the number of hate crimes against the ‘others’ far exceeds the number targeted against Jews.”