A new report by the US State Department on the human rights situation world-wide found rising anti-Semitism in a number of countries, including Greece, Hungary, Ukraine and Venezuela. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices were transmitted last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Congress. They deal with issues such as prison conditions, treatment of minorities, sexual equality and freedom on the internet and also include a section on anti-Semitism in each country covered.
In Venezuela, “Jewish community leaders publicly expressed concern about numerous anti-Semitic statements linked to the government,” the report notes, adding that the “state-owned media also regularly contained anti-Semitic statements” such as an article stating that “the enemy is Zionism.”
In Ukraine, the Jewish community expressed concern over both government and opposition candidates in recent elections trying to “use elements of anti-Semitism both in their public rhetoric to mobilize supporters and also as part of propaganda aimed at discrediting their political opponents.” However, the report acknowledges that in Ukraine “senior government officials and politicians from various political parties continued efforts to combat anti-Semitism by speaking out against extremism and social intolerance and criticizing anti-Semitic acts.” Members of the local community have been worried over their security after the far-right Svoboda party won more than ten percent of the vote in last year’s parliamentary election. Despite the electoral success of Svoboda, the US report stated that according to the local Jewish community, long-term data indicates “‘a trend of improvement’ in the level of anti-Semitism.”
The document quoted communal sources as asserting that “over the last four to five years, there has been a continuous decline in the number of anti- Semitic publications in the press; in the number of acts of vandalism of cemeteries, memorials and synagogues; and the number of assaults on the street of Jewish people.” This has been complemented, the report states, by “declining negative attitudes toward Jewish persons in public opinion polls.”
Anti-Semitism in Hungary in the spotlight
In Hungary, more than 149 incidents of vandalism of Jewish and Christian properties were reported during the first ten months of 2012, and “through July, a spate of anti-Semitic incidents occurred that included vandalism of Jewish memorials and cemeteries and the accosting of Jewish public figures on the streets. “Anti-Semitic remarks in public discourse also increased in stridency and included both a repetition of ‘blood libel’ accusations and a call for the creation of a list of Jewish government officials and members of parliament on the floor of parliament.”
The situation in Hungary merited more attention than other countries in the report, with particular attention paid to members of the extreme-right Jobbik party. The document also discussed efforts by Hungarian politicians “to rehabilitate the reputations of several World War II era figures associated with anti-Semitism. A number of localities erected statues or memorial plaques to former regent Miklós Horthy, leader of the country between 1920 and 1944, who presided over an alliance with Nazi Germany and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens to concentration camps.”
According to a recently released report by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, 2012 saw a “considerable escalation in anti-Semitic manifestations, particularly violent acts against Jews” worldwide, constituting a 30-percent increase over 2011. There were 686 acts of violence and vandalism last year, including “273 attacks on persons of all ages; in addition, 190 synagogues, cemeteries and monuments were desecrated, and over 200 private and public properties damaged, the Kantor Center report said.