Cyberspace, with its websites, social networks, forums and blogs, has become the major conveyer of bigotry and racism in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, a new poll on global anti-Semitism reported Wednesday. On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Tel Aviv University annual survey of global anti-Semitic incidents reported that anti-Semitic incitement and hatred toward Jews, Zionism and Israel had in many cases become interrelated issues.
As in the past, in 2011, too, one of the most conspicuous motifs was the allegation of global Jewish power, which was allegedly behind every world event and unconditionally at the service of Israel. Another motif was allegations of conspiracies between Israel and the Jewish world. An additional motif, noticeable in 2011 particularly among Eastern European anti-Semites but also in other parts of the globe, was the Jews' control of the world economy, and their alleged responsibility for the global economic crisis. Such messages were common to various and even conflicting ideological trends: the extreme Right, Islamist groups and the anti-Zionist radical Left. At the same time they were sometimes integrated indirectly and subtly into speeches and publications of those associated with the mainstream, the report stated.
European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor warned European leaders to act immediately to prevent a “tsunami of hate” if there was any escalation in the Middle East.
Kantor was speaking at a press conference held by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the Moshe Kantor program for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress. The Kantor Center releases an annual survey of global anti-Semitic incidents. This year’s results show a slight decrease in overall incidents, but a rise in violent attacks on Jews.
According to the report, 2011 marked a worldwide continuation and even escalation of acts of harassment and incitement, including verbal threats, insults and abusive language and behavior. Such acts have increased dramatically in recent years in various parts of the world, yet the most troubling phenomenon was blatant harassment, a daily occurrence, especially in Western Europe, as well as in Australia and Canada, mainly against visible Jews in the street, in public places and around Jewish sites, and against children and youth in schools. These acts are not fully reported due to the lack of proper monitoring in some countries, and cannot be counted.
The level of major violent incidents (with or without the use of weapons, vandalism and direct threats) decreased in 2011 by 27 percent compared to 2010 (446 and 614, respectively – the U.S. is only partly included). The decline in the U.K. (105 cases), France (114) and Canada (68), where 63% of all major violent incidents worldwide were registered, and where large Jewish communities reside, had an impact on the overall statistics. In other countries, such as Australia, Belgium, Ukraine the numbers of these incidents remained almost the same, and in others such as Lithuania and Belarus it even increased. Still, statistical data shows that physical violence remained on a high level compared to former years, and that attacks turned more brutal and harmful.
The reasons for the decline in the number of major violent incidents are not clear cut: They may include the absence of a major confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, such as Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 and the Marmara flotilla in 2010, which had sparked violent action against Jews; the fact that much of the far-Right violent activity was directed in 2011 against Muslim, Roma and other immigrant minorities; the "Arab Spring" which perhaps attracted much attention among Muslim youth in Europe; the growing number of complaints and litigations successfully filed by Jewish individuals and organizations against perpetrators and inciters, and the intensified efforts of governmental agencies and NGOs to promote legislative and public tools against racism, anti-Semitism included.
Reasons for the continuing high level of harassment and incitement may include: radicalization among young Muslims mostly from immigrant families and growing acceptance of anti-Semitic allegations; escalated animosity among militant extreme rightists whose activity intensified probably because of the economic crisis and the problems posed by multiculturalism; the growing use of cyberspace, with its websites, blogs and social networks, which readily disseminates anti-Semitic messages, and anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli incitement often expressed in anti-Semitic terms.
The demonization of Israel in extreme anti-Israel propaganda, delegitimization of Israel’s right to exist as a state for the Jewish people, its labeling as a racist entity, and attempts to boycott Israeli institutions and organizations, are all characterized by Jewish organizations and communities as anti-Semitic manifestations, and are defined as such in the EU working definition of anti-Semitism adopted in 2005. Consequently, there has been a rise in confrontations between those who see extreme anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and radical leftists, including Jewish leftists, who reject any such link. The focal points of radicalization in this regard are the university or college campus, principally in North America and Western Europe, as well as in mosques, and are carried by the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions campaigners; and the atmosphere created by the radical Left's rhetoric and by expressions and accusations used and leveled in the mainstream discourse.
The main allegations against Jewish communities and Israel continue to be the holding of global power, including control over the world economy, and constant conspiring on behalf of Israel's interests, causing economic and political crises, including incitement for and against the revolutions in the Arab world. These allegations are coupled with the labeling of Israel as a racist, Nazi-like illegitimate state, and its supporters as accomplices to an evil entity.
“The Middle East conflict has been imported into Europe and serves as an excuse for anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish citizens of Europe,” Kantor said. “This is absolutely unacceptable and should be removed at all levels, from the enforcement authorities to government officials. There should be zero tolerance for the idea that it is natural that what happens in the Middle East will affect the Jews of Europe or elsewhere.”
“This issue needs to be dealt with immediately or there could be a tsunami of hate if there is an escalation in the Middle East or an attack on the illegal Iranian nuclear weapons program,” he said. “The barbaric murders in Toulouse should serve as a wake-up call for action. We know the problems and the solution, now we require the implementation.”
Kantor outlined some of the steps that he will present to European leaders and officials, whom the European Jewish Congress will meet during the year, as part of a pan-European program to implement measures to prevent future anti-Semitic attacks.
“Concentrated attention should be given to legislative efforts that will define and protect our community from violent crimes and will ban any form of incitement, which we all know is flourishing in the mosques of Europe,” Kantor said. “Security measures should be implemented and enforced to protect Jewish communities across Europe. Creating public awareness of this threat, as well as a concerted education program can also become a useful preventive tool. Intelligence sharing and intelligence cooperation between the various enforcement authorities across Europe is vital for prevention.”
He praised the French government for its handling of the events in Toulouse and held this up as an example for others in Europe.
Kantor also commented on the controversial poem by German writer Gunter Grass.
“Incitement can be a major contributor to the deterioration of the situation. It is a slippery slope when someone like Gunter Grass expresses such twisted and delusional ideas,” Kantor said. “Grass is laying the seeds for blaming the Jews for many of the ills of the world and from here the road to anti-Semitic expressions and action is short. While freedom of speech is vital, people like Grass must realize that their comments are not made in a vacuum and were made on the back of findings by the German Bundestag, in a recently released report, that 20% of Germans hold anti-Semitic views. These types of comments contribute to the hate against the Jews of Europe by singling out the Jewish state, therefore giving people an excuse to carry out anti-Semitic violence.”