JERUSALEM (JTA) — Anti-Semitic incidents increased dramatically around the world, particularly in Western Europe, during 2009, according to an annual report.
In response to the report by the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism that was unveiled Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet decided at its regular Sunday meeting to establish a team to recommend ways to step up the struggle against anti-Semitism.
The report, conducted by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, found that more anti-Semitic incidents were recorded during the first three months of 2009 than during the entire previous year. Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip was cited as the cause for the dramatic rise.
France recorded the largest increase, with 631 anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2009 compared with 474 in all of 2008. Britain was next with more than 600 incidents in 2009. The Community Security Trust, which handles security for the British Jewish community, had recorded 541 incidents in 2008.
The incidents were notable as well for being more serious, according to the report, with hundreds being considered extremely violent. Eight murders were attributed to anti-Semitism.
The report cited the findings of a poll by the University of Bielefeld in Germany showing that 42 percent of respondents agreed that "Jews exploit the past to extort money." Poland and Spain were the countries with the highest percentage of respondents who agreed with the statement.
The Israeli panel to be established by the Cabinet will aim to strengthen coordination between government bodies, research institutes and organizations that deal with anti-Semitism. The team will present its recommendations to the Cabinet within 120 days.
The report was released ahead of the International Day against Fascism and Anti-Semitism and the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, observed on Jan. 27. It was unveiled by Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.