The U.S. State Department’s first report on global anti-Semitism finds increased governmental action in Europe to combat bias against Jews, but an uneven track record among law enforcement agencies responding to anti-Semitic incidents. The report, slated for release Wednesday and obtained in advance by JTA, comes after Jewish lawmakers and community officials pushed Congress last year to pass a law requiring the State Department to step up monitoring of anti-Semitic incidents around the world. The report is expected to be released annually.
The law, and the report, are part of an effort to pressure European governments to do more to stop a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across the continent since the Palestinian intifada began more than four years ago. Jewish organizations have been strong advocates for forums on anti-Semitism held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and others.
While little new information can be gleaned from the State Department report, Jewish officials said its publication would draw attention to the issue of global anti-Semitism, and pressure foreign countries to work harder to prevent bigotry against Jews.
“The idea of this publication being public can serve as a really good guidepost for other countries,” said Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International. “They should be aspiring to this level of detail.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said a detailed listing of anti-Semitic incidents that comes from the United States government, rather than American Jewish organizations, would have added impact around the world.
The report says recent anti-Semitism has come from traditional anti-Jewish prejudice in Europe, along with anti-Israel sentiment “that crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.”
It also cites anti-Jewish sentiment among Muslims in Europe, and spillover criticism of the United States and globalization that is redirected against Jews.
As part of the report, the State Department announced new responsibilities for overseas embassies, seeking additional monitoring of acts of violence against Jews and Jewish properties and actions taken by governments to prevent anti-Semitism.
It also said efforts have been accelerated to combat anti-Semitism through education, law enforcement and legislation.
“Anti-Semitism is an issue that cannot be ignored by other governments anymore,” said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia.
The report defines anti-Semitism as hatred toward Jews because of their religion or ethnicity.
“An important issue is the distinction between legitimate criticism of policies and practices of the State of Israel, and commentary that assumes an anti-Semitic character,” the report says. “The demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them, indicates an anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of policy concerning a controversial issue.”
The report praises European governments for taking the issue seriously. But it says European law enforcement agencies aren’t trained to handle hate crimes, and anti-Semitic acts are often dismissed as petty crimes.
“I concur with the conclusions: The governments, both individually and collectively in Europe, have stopped the denial,” Foxman said. “They have accepted the fact that there is anti-Semitism and moved to the area of combating it.”
Twelve European countries had serious incidents of anti-Semitism during the reporting period, which ran from July 1 to Dec. 15, 2004. There was verbal harassment of Jews in 28 countries and desecration of cemeteries and synagogues in 30 countries.
The report also notes a rise of anti-Semitism in Pakistan and Argentina, as well as a significant drop in the number of incidents in Australia.
The report chastises Syria for condoning and supporting media programs that export anti-Semitism. A section on the media notes that anti-Semitic cartoons often are used to attack Israeli policies, as well as U.S. foreign policy.
Foxman said some of the report’s documentation was “meager,” specifically regarding anti-Semitic media reports in Egypt.
The report is mandated by the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness/Review Act, which passed Congress in October. The act called for the establishment of an office devoted to monitoring global anti-Semitism, and President Bush told Jewish leaders last month that he would soon name someone to fill the post.
The State Department originally had opposed the idea of a separate report on anti-Semitism, suggesting the topic is addressed in other State Department reports. In a memo to Congress, Secretary of State Colin Powell said a separate report on anti-Semitism “could erode our credibility by being interpreted as favoritism in human rights reporting.”
The memo also said the legislation establishes an “unworkable precedent.”