Anti-semitic Incidents Way Up in Britain, an Israeli Report Finds

The number of violent anti-Semitic acts in Britain is rising sharply, part of an overall trend of rising anti-Jewish incidents in Europe, according to an Israeli government report. Violent attacks against Jews and Jewish property in Britain rose from 55 reported incidents in 2003 to 77 in 2004, according to figures released Sunday in a report by the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism, a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

In France, which was singled out in last year’s report for having the highest number of violent attacks against its Jewish population, there were 96 violent incidents in 2004, the same number as in 2003. The French government was commended in the report for taking stronger measures to tackle anti-Semitism.

The findings of the Israeli report overlap with some of the conclusions reached by a report on anti-Semitism by the U.S. State Department late last year.

The American report also found that anti-Semitism had increased significantly in the last several years in Europe. The report cautioned, however, against making direct comparisons between different countries and regions, noting that some countries have more comprehensive reporting systems than others.

In addition to physical assaults against Jews, including stabbings and beatings, both the American and Israeli reports found troubling anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish bias by some media outlets and intellectuals.

Both reports also commended some European governments, including those of France, Belgium and Germany, for taking effective measures to combat the threat of anti-Semitism and providing increased protection for their Jewish communities.

The Israeli report had harsh words for the governments of Ukraine and Russia, where reported anti-Semitic attacks rose dramatically. In Russia the number of violent incidents increased from 4 to 55 and in Ukraine from 15 to 44 in the past year.

The response in those countries was “woefully insufficient,” the report said.

The forum compiled its statistics from government agencies and Jewish organizations, noting that the findings were not authoritative.

“The figures indicate basic trends,” the report noted, but added that “discrepancies may exist.”

One of the trends noted in both the American and Israeli reports was the increasing role some Muslim elements have played in the attacks, notably in Western Europe.

The American report found that traditional far-right groups still accounted for a significant portion of anti-Jewish attacks but that “disadvantaged and disaffected Muslim youths increasingly were responsible for most of the other incidents. This trend appears likely to persist as the number of Muslims in Europe continues to grow while their level of education and economic prospects remain limited.”

In Eastern Europe, skinheads and others on the radical fringes of society were behind most anti-Semitic incidents, the American report said.

The Israeli report seemed to take aim at the claim that Israeli government policies have helped cause rising anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiment in the world. Instead, the Israeli report found, the political position other governments took toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affected the level of street violence against local Jews in their countries.

“A radical and violent Islam has become a pan-European problem and the position adopted by countries on Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict has an effect on anti-Semitism in that country,” the report said.

The report described conditions in Britain as “an alarming situation,” with statistics showing a steep increase in physical harassment, defacement of cemeteries, threats and propaganda against Jews. The forum blamed this in part on alleged anti-Israeli bias in the British media, whose hostility is “now spilling over into the streets,” the report found.

Some 265, 000 Jews live in Britain, one of the world’s largest Diaspora communities.

British Jewish groups expect that comprehensive figures due to be released next month by the Community Security trust, a body that monitors threats to U.K. Jewry, will show an even higher rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.

“We anticipate that there will be a substantial increase,” said a spokesman for the Board of Deputies, the representative body of British Jewry. “We have made the point over the last four years that heightened anti-Semitism is clearly related to events in the Middle East and the coverage Israel receives. The CST figures will reflect this climate accurately and in detail.”

The Israeli report’s release was timed to coincide with a week of events around Jan. 27, which is observed as Holocaust Remembrance Day in much of Europe. This year, Jan. 27 marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

(JTA Correspondent Daniella Peled in London contributed to this report.)

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