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State Dept. notes anti-Semitism spike, Israel’s religious pluralism issues

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department’s religious freedoms report described “a continued global increase in anti-Semitism.”

“Of great concern were expressions of anti-Semitism by government officials, by religious leaders, and by the media, particularly in Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran,” the report released Monday said. “At times, such statements led to desecration and violence.”

It noted the continued “flourishing” of the Passover blood libel as well as Holocaust denial. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted the phenomenon in introducing Ira Forman, the new envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

“Ira has long been a champion of fair treatment for all, and he has worked extensively to combat intolerance,” Kerry said of Forman, who has been a longtime campaigner for the Democratic Party in the Jewish community.

In its Israel section, the report noted Orthodox Jewish hegemony in civil law as it applies to Jews, as well as restrictions on women’s prayer at the Western Wall.

It also noted how religious tensions at times erupt into violence, noting attacks on churches and mosques “in retaliation for government actions to restrict settlement activity in the West Bank and designed to exact a ‘price’ for actions settlers considered contrary to their interests” as well as Muslim attacks on haredi Orthodox Jews.

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