Violent attacks against Jews worldwide dropped in 2013, but anti-Semitism is becoming more widespread in Europe amid a rise in popularity of extremist parties, according to a report released Sunday.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University recorded 554 violent anti-Semitic acts in 2013, including attacks on people and vandalism against synagogues, cemeteries and other Jewish institutions.
The figures showed a 19 percent drop compared to 2012, when a deadly shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, sparked a series of copycat attacks.
Despite the decline, the number of attacks was similar to that recorded in 2011 and over the last 10 years – a much higher average than the 150-200 cases that occurred between 1994 and 2004.
Like last year, France had the highest number of incidents, 116. More than one third of attacks globally were directed at people.
The report is released yearly ahead of Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, which begins Sunday evening.
The report warns that racist and anti-Semitic attitudes are becoming more acceptable, particularly among European youths.
One example the report raised is the quenelle, an inverted Nazi salute popularized by a controversial French comedian. It has been made in front of sensitive sites, such as Anne Frank’s home or Nazi concentration camps.
“This infection of public anti-Semitism is going on and spreading all over,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across the continent. “Ten years ago, who would have imagined someone doing the quenelle in front of the gates of Auschwitz?”
Kantor also expressed concern over the increasing popularity of far-right parties, especially in France, Hungary and Greece, where they are expected to make big gains in European Parliament elections next month.
He said his organization was urging European governments to enact more legislation and educational programs to combat racism.
Kantor also mentioned the situation in Ukraine, where Jews are caught in the middle of the conflict between nationalists and Russian separatists, with both sides using anti-Jewish rhetoric while accusing each other of harboring anti-Semitic supporters.