Anti-Semitic violence worldwide declines but pockets of hate still thrive, study says

JERUSALEM — The overall level of anti-Semitic violence worldwide dropped again last year. But the publication of anti-Semitic propaganda, particularly via the Internet, increased significantly, according to "Anti-Semitism Worldwide, 1997/8," an abstract of which was released last week.

Prepared jointly by Tel Aviv University's Project for the Study of Anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress, the study shows that Jews around the world may be facing fewer physical attacks, but they still regularly encounter Holocaust deniers and other forms of anti-Semitism.

The drop in violent incidents also means that Jews must learn to "live without the physical threat of anti-Semitism," said Avi Beker, executive manager of the WJC's office in Israel. The current situation, he explained, "is good for the Jews, but bad for Judaism…Today the challenge is really how to maintain Judaism in a positive sense, and not really to assimilate and disappear without this physical threat of anti-Semitism."

While there was an increase in the number of serious attacks against Jews, such as arson, shootings, knifings and explosions from 32 worldwide in 1996 to 38 last year, the figure was still far below that of 1994, which was 72. Moreover, there was a significant drop in attacks that didn't involve a weapon or damage to property, from 165 in 1996 to 113 last year.

Despite the increase in more serious violence last year, "we don't foresee it coming back to the high level that existed in 1993 and 1994, when violence was really at its peak," said Dina Porat, head of the project; she is slated to head the university's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, which is expected to be founded next week.

The single striking exception worldwide was Germany, where anti-Semitic activities were up by 15 to 20 percent. In eastern German cities such as Dresden, "nationally liberated zones" shut to foreigners, leftists and homosexuals, have been created, Porat said

Porat said German officials were doing less than they were a year ago to limit such activity. The disappointment of those in the east with the pace of their integration into the rest of Germany, has also contributed to the growing hatred.

The strength of right-wing groups throughout Europe, particularly in France and Austria, indicates there is still a potential for another wave of anti-Semitism in western Europe, the center's Roni Stauber said.

Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States declined for the third year in a row to 1,571 incidents, down 8.8 percent. But that figure included items like the placing of an incendiary device under a window at a Philadelphia day school and fires set at two Los Angeles synagogues.

However, the major threats lie elsewhere, chiefly in material available on the Internet, where the number of sites offering anti-Semitic material doubled last year.

Rabbi David Rosen, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Israel office, said the Internet was being increasingly used "as a vehicle for spewing almost unlimited hatred and especially Holocaust denial. This has become a major concern in terms of hate dissemination and crimes perpetrated as a result of that dissemination."

The Ku Klux Klan expanded its use of the Internet to gain new members this year, along with veteran Holocaust denier Bradley Smith.

Rosen also said it requires only a small number of people to spread such information on the Internet, including such chilling data as outlines for making explosives. He said attempts were being made to find allies in the computer industry to respond to such material.

Anti-Semitism has grown on U.S. college campuses, Rosen said, particularly at black universities.

Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan's speeches in 1997 "were less overtly anti-Semitic," the report said, as he tried to gain mainstream political support. "Nevertheless, his anti-Semitism was apparent on a number of occasions, when he remained unrepentant and unapologetic."

Rosen, who has extensive contacts with the Vatican, said its recent document on the Holocaust may have fallen short of some Jews' expectations, but "it is the first document that formally deals with the whole question of the Holocaust…and what was not done," making it a significant tool for combating Holocaust deniers.

While the study found that anti-Semitic expressions continued to be widespread in the Arab press last year, they were down somewhat, in an apparent reaction to American and other pressures.

While a Jordanian shop owner may have displayed a sign saying; `No dogs, no Jews,' Esty Wegman of the center noted "a new, emerging trend" led by Arab intellectuals to acknowledge Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, in order to gain greater sympathy for their own plight and promote coexistence.