Study: European anti-Semitism up since war

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

prague | Israel’s recent war with Hezbollah resulted in a new wave of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe — almost all in Western Europe, a new report finds.

The European Jewish Congress’ 53-page report, presented Sunday, Nov. 12 at a World Jewish Congress meeting in Paris, revealed that the transference of anti-Israel sentiment onto Jews occurred almost exclusively in Western Europe, with the atmosphere remaining either neutral or pro-Israel in the former Eastern Bloc.

Denmark was an exception, as the EJC notes that media and politicians kept a balanced view of the conflict.

Though the conclusion that anti-Semitism rose worldwide during that war already is well documented, the EJC report points to specific trends that pose challenges in Europe, such as the collaboration of Muslim extremists with left-wing political parties; political and media comparisons of Israeli leaders to Nazis; and the first instances of Turkish Jews complaining of anti-Semitism since an Islamic-based political party took power in Turkey in 2002.

The Paris-based EJC hopes to use the report to convince EU officials to attack the problem through public education, and to provide security for Jewish communities.

“We are not trying to be alarmist,” report author Ilan Moss said. “But we do see that European political discourse can be slanted, with European politicians feeling comfortable publicly supporting Hezbollah and treating it as a liberation organization.”

In Austria, 83 anti-Semitic acts were recorded from April to August 2006, up from 50 during the same period in 2005. Anti-Semitic letters sent to the Jewish community of Vienna “drastically increased” during the war, with a number of writers comparing Austria’s Jewish leaders to Nazis.

This sentiment was popularized by Austria’s two extreme-right parties, both of which presently are in Parliament.

France also saw a rise in anti-Semitic events, with 61 incidents during the war, an increase of 79 percent over the same period last year.

At demonstrations in support of Lebanon across France, placards read “Death to the Jews — Death to Israel,” and Stars of David were emblazoned with swastikas.

Nonetheless, Shimon Samuels, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Paris office, said the “blowback” of anti-Semitism that occurred in France after the Palestinian intifada began in 2000 was not as strong during the conflict with Hezbollah.

“This is probably because the people who rioted a year ago and who would be likely to attack a synagogue were more focused on attacking the French system,” he said, referring to the October 2005 riots in Paris suburbs by Muslim youth protesting discrimination, poor housing conditions and unemployment.

In Great Britain, Jewish leaders announced in September that anti-Semitic acts doubled during the war, with a parliamentary commission echoing their findings.

Within the European Union, the German Jewish community may have experienced perhaps the most hostility during the war. That was despite the pro-Israel stance of Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to the report.

The Central Council for Jewish in Germany received more than 300 letters, attacking the organization and German Jews for “blindly supporting Israel.”