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1st Mar 2024

EU sees upswing in antisemitic attacks, report says

  • An orthodox Jewish group in Antwerp (Photo: Charles Fred)

The number of antisemitic incidents mushroomed in many western EU countries in 2009 due to an organised anti-Gaza war campaign, a new study says.

Incidents in the UK jumped 69 percent to 924, while the number of violent attacks tripled. Incidents went up by 75 percent to 832 in France. Sharp upward trends also took hold of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries and Spain.

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The figures, published at the weekend, were compiled by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism at the Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Looking at the number of violent incidents in absolute terms, the UK and France lead the EU league table, followed by Germany, Belgium and Austria. Relatively high numbers are also seen in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden.

The vast majority of incidents concern vandalism of Jewish sites or chanting antisemitic slogans at rallies. But some are more disturbing.

In January in Odense, Denmark, a young Danish-Palestinian man shot and wounded two Israelis manning a Dead Sea products stall.

In March in Brussels, a man of North African origin attacked three orthodox Jews in the street with a steel bar while shouting "Allah Akbar" (meaning "God is great").

The Stephen Roth Institute linked the upswing to Israel's assault on Gaza in early 2009, which saw Israeli soldiers kill 1,400 Palestinians in actions later dubbed war crimes by a UN report.

The institute said the rise was due to an organised campaign by far-left parties and Muslim communities, funded by "oil money" rather than due to a spontaneous reaction, although the report does not provide evidence for this accusation.

"The intensity and nature of the wave that began in January 2009 testified to pre-planned mobilisation among radicals from the left and among Muslim immigrant communities," it said.

It cited one Jewish victim in the Netherlands as saying: "When an Israeli military operation dominates the headlines, I am the first to notice it on the streets ...the verbal abuse hurled at me."

The study also accused politicians and officials from some European countries of contributing to the negative atmosphere by adopting a "leitmotif" in 2009 that Israeli crimes against Palestinians are comparable to Nazi crimes against Jews in World War II.

In one case, Trine Lilleng, a diplomat at Norway's embassy in Saudi Arabia, circulated an mail entitled "Holocaust survivors" about the victims of Israel's assault on Gaza.

The institute said that antisemitic incidents are less common in former Communist and Soviet EU countries because they tend to have small Muslim communities, less popular sympathy toward Arab causes and different historical sensibilities:

"Historical issues relating to memory of the war and the Holocaust, along with revisionism, are central to the public discourse and have a considerable impact on antisemitism."

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