Study: Anti-Semitic incidents more numerous, violent in 2006

By Amiram Barkat

Haaretz

Shvat 10, 5767

Last year saw a substantial rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, Austria and the Scandinavian countries, according to the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism.

In an annual press conference, the forum explained that 2006 was characterized by escalation in the number and violent nature of attacks on Jews, proliferation of Holocaust denial and increased comparison of Israel to the Nazi regime.

The Global Forum - a joint effort of the Jewish Agency, the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office - counted 360 anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2006, compared to 300 in 2005. In the United Kingdom, the report listed a yearly decrease from 321 incidents in 2005 to 312 incidents in 2006. Russia recorded 300 incidents in 2006 compared to 250 the preceding year, and Austria saw a jump from 50 incidents to 83 last year. The Scandinavian countries saw 53 incidents in 2006, substantially more than the previous year's 35. The report cited a 60-percent rise in incidents in the Berlin area, although it did not include figures for all of Germany.

Spokesmen for the forum emphasized yesterday the many difficulties in classifying and reporting anti-Semitic incidents that affect the accuracy of the figures, which are primarily valuable as indicators of trends in the countries examined.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said yesterday that national leaders abroad must understand that anti-Semitism is first and foremost their own problem.

Jewish Agency chair Zeev Bielski commented that, "Anti-Semitic phenomena in Europe are very grave and countries like France and England are struggling to handle them."

January 2006 brought the shocking murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi. Bielski said Halimi's mother has recently decided to bring her son's remains to Israel for interment on the first anniversary of his death, next Friday in Jerusalem.

"There is no doubt the recent Lebanon war and the Qana incident led to the most severe incidents in the past decade," said Jewish Agency official Amos Hermon.

The gravest incident related to the war was the shooting at the Jewish Federation Building in Seattle, Washington last July, when staffer Pamela Waechter was killed and three other people were critically wounded.

The war engendered a wave of criticism in which Israel's deeds were compared to those of Nazi Germany. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed last August that Israeli aggression in Lebanon was "reminiscent of Hitler's fascist manner."

Montreal Mayor Stefane Gendron said in August that "Israelis are modern-day Nazis."

An editorial cartoon in a Norwegian newspaper showed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as the sadistic SS officer depicted in the movie "Schindler's List." Hermon noted that Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder included elements of historical Christian anti-Semitism in his book "God's Chosen People," including statements such as, "Don't worry, Israel will go to exile again," and, "We laugh at the idea that God chose one people ... gave them stupid stone tablets and a license to kill."

Other serious incidents in 2006 included the stabbing of synagogue-goers at the Chabad Center in Moscow in January. In a September shooting attack on an Oslo synagogue, no one was injured. The attackers were Islamic extremists who were aided by the extreme right; they had also planned to kidnap the Israeli ambassador, Miriam Shomrat.

Various reports were published in European nations during the year revealing the scope and severity of anti-Semitism. A British parliamentary commission determined that Islamists and the radical left were responsible for increased anti-Semitism in the country. Research published in Germany indicated widespread use of anti-Semitic expressions in schools, primarily by Muslim students. Research in the Ukraine found that about a third of the country's citizens had negative opinions of Jews.