Anti-Semitism Surges In Western Europe

Published: January 28th 2010

Bernie Farber, CEO of CJC
Pic: Bernie Farber


The year 2009 will be remembered for an historic increase in anti-Semitic incidents, particularly in Western Europe, where a pattern of violent attacks is particularly worrying, says a new report.


Released by the Jewish Agency and coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the report found that in Western Europe, the amount of anti-Semitic incidences recorded during the first three months of 2009 outnumbered the total for all of the previous year. The sudden jump in figures is attributed to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.


The report highlighted an alarming number of violent anti-Semitic attacks tacking place in Western Europe in recent years, with hundreds of such events considered extremely violent and eight resulting in deaths.


“I think what we’re seeing in Europe is disquieting. We have to be able as a world community to look at ways of dealing with the problem,” said Bernie Farber, CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress.


He noted that a modest upswing in Canadian anti-Semitic occurrences in 2009, also at the time of Israel’s Gaza invasion, is not a reason for the community in Canada to fear that trends seen in Western Europe will find their way here.


Canadian Jews live in a country with a much different mindset and history than Western Europe. There has always been a strain of anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe that has never fully disappeared.


“In Europe, we’ve had generations upon generations of vile anti-Semitism, from pogroms to anti-Semitic attacks to the Holocaust. All of this originated from Europe. Given world events, it’s sad but not terribly surprising to note that there has been a significant increase,” he said.


Farber said that for Jews in Canada, the main impact of the increase in European anti-Semitism may well be its emotional toll, as the Jewish community in Canada worries about family and friends in Western Europe living with increased uncertainty. Still, he added, the shocking numbers – rates of anti-Semitism have now climbed to levels not seen in the post-war era – may even give pause to Jews travelling to Europe.


In France, 631 incidents took place in the first six months of 2009, an increase of 200 from the previous year. In the U.K., there were 600 incidents in 2009. Holland experienced one of the largest increases concurrent to the Gaza war, with 100 incidents taking place, matching the total for all of 2008.


The report quoted a German poll conducted by the University of Bielefeld that found 42 per cent of those surveyed thought that “Jews exploit the past to extort money.” Spanish and Polish respondents agreed most with the statement.


A story making the rounds during Ukrainian elections claiming that Israel brought 25,000 Ukrainian children to Israel to harvest their organs is part of a phenomenon the report referred to as the “modern blood libel.”


Farber called Canada the most tolerant country on earth, adding that Canadians are largely wise enough not to fall for anti-Semitic propaganda.


“I think Canadians recognize Jew-hatred for what it is. That’s why we don’t see it spilling over like we do elsewhere,” he said.


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