A new report indicating an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe was dismissed on Tuesday as “too little, too late” by a key European Jewish organization.
Peaks in anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe have tracked worsening tensions in the Middle East, and the image of anti-Semites as “right-wing skinheads” has changed, an EU agency said in a working paper on Monday.
The Vienna-based Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which collected information from 19 EU members, said the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, ranging from vandalism to physical attacks, was a serious concern.
“Although we welcome the FRA study and the Director’s concern, the EJC has long been pointing out this disturbing trend,” European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said, commenting on the FRA report. “Our message has unfortunately fallen upon deaf ears in the EU and this report is too little, too late.”
In a FRA press release Tuesday, the linkage between anti-Semitism and the situation in the Middle-East was acknowledged, as was the current rise in reported incidents during the recent Israeli military campaign in Gaza. The report does not however make any conclusions as to the impact of political situations in the Middle East on different groups commonly identified as being anti-Semitic, citing “paucity of data.” It also states that the relationship between anti-Semitism in political and media discourses and incidents on the ground directed against Jews cannot be proven because of a lack of “systematic research.”
In France, which carefully records such cases, the number of crimes motivated by anti-Semitism rose sharply in 2002 and 2004 as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians worsened – and the trend is reflected Europe-wide.
“There does seem to be a relationship between the rise of anti-Semitism in the EU and the situation in the Middle East,” said Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, one of the paper’s authors.
The authors also noted a change in how anti-Semites are portrayed in the media and seen by the public.
“There has been a shift…from the ‘extreme right skinhead’ to the ‘disaffected young Muslim’, ‘person of North African origin’ or ‘immigrant’ and member of the ‘anti-globalization’ left,” they said.
In Austria, where far-right parties won nearly a third of the vote in a national election last year, the number of anti-Semitic offences doubled in 2007 compared to the two previous years, alongside a general rise in right-wing extremist and xenophobic crimes.
But the authors said there was no research to suggest a link between anti-Semitism in politics and the media, and actual crimes directed at Jews.
“The motivation of perpetrators and the relationship between their acts and anti-Semitic attitudes and ideology remains under-researched and unclear,” they said.
The authors say their work has been hindered by insufficient data, meaning that individual countries cannot be compared with each other, as methods used to record incidents vary from state to state.
“Most member states do not have official or even unofficial data and statistics on anti-Semitic incidents,” they wrote.
In France and the Czech Republic, interior ministries have set up departments to record the trends, whereas in Belgium police do not officially record anti-Semitic incidents and Denmark does not distinguish between the anti-Semitic attacks and the other ones.