Report: Anti-Semitism rises, but violence against Jews falls
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Violent attacks on Jews dropped for a second straight year in 2016, but other forms of anti-Semitism are on the rise worldwide, particularly on U.S. university campuses, according to a report released Sunday.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University said assaults specifically targeting Jews, vandalism and other violent incidents fell 12 percent last year. They recorded 361 cases compared to 410 in 2015, which had already been the lowest number in a decade. The figure reported Sunday is the lowest since 2003, when 360 incidents were recorded.
The report attributed much of the drop to increased security measures in European countries including France, where there were 15 attacks compared to 72 in the previous year, and the United Kingdom, where the number of incidents fell from 62 to 43.
Another reason for the decreased violence may be that far-right groups in Europe appear to be focusing their attacks on migrants who have reached the continent in large numbers over the last years, said Dina Porat, a historian who leads the team of researchers behind the report.
“Fears that the influx of Muslim refugees from the Middle East would lead to an increase in anti-Semitism appear so far to have been unjustified,” Porat said.
While Islamic extremists are often involved in attacks on Jews, the perpetrators are usually second or third generation immigrants who have been radicalized at home in Europe or during trips to territories held by the Islamic State group, she said.
Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry releases the report every year on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, which begins Sunday at sundown.
According to the report, the reduced violence was not mirrored by a drop in cases of general anti-Semitism, which increased in countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.
“There is a dramatic rise in all forms of verbal and visual anti-Semitism, harassment and insults, mainly on the internet, but also offline,” Porat said.
On U.S. university campuses there was a 45 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents, mostly insults and harassment of Jewish students, the report said. Porat said these were usually connected to increased anti-Israel activities by pro-Palestinian groups on campus.
The number of violent anti-Semitic incidents in the United States was largely stable compared to 2015, rising slightly from 88 to 91. While the report dealt only with cases until the end of 2016, Porat said there were no indications so far of a major increase connected to the tense U.S. election or Donald Trump’s new presidency.
Jewish leaders who commented on the report praised the increased security measures credited with reducing violence, but said this may be masking a trend of anti-Semitism becoming more mainstream and acceptable, especially on the far left and right of European politics.
“We see a dramatic growth in the number of parliamentarians who allow themselves to express anti-Semitic views,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across the continent.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Kantor cited the controversy over anti-Jewish remarks made by some members of Britain’s Labour Party, the close defeat of the far-right candidate in last year’s Austrian presidential election and the strong polling of National Front leader Marine Le Pen ahead of Sunday’s vote in France.
“We are very, very close today to a situation in which anti-Semites will come to executive power,” he said.