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2019 Annual Assessment

  • Anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world. The two most notable and worrying developments that require urgent attention are the penetration of anti-Semitism in Britain’s Labour party, which may endanger the future thriving of the British Jewry, and the two deadly mass shootings by white supremacists in synagogues in the United States, which may inspire “copycat” attacks.
  • After a seven-decade grace period following the Shoah, anti-Semitism returns to becoming a “new normal” with which Jewish communities will have to learn to live.
  • In a world full of fear and uncertainty, in which significant segments of the population have experienced a social downgrading and are worried that their horizons are grim, conspiracy theories flourish and the “Jew” reemerges as a scapegoat that can bring together conspiratorialists from all political, religious, and social backgrounds. Taking advantage of digital means for free expression, simplistic theories accusing the Jews of malicious motivations are spread to millions, perhaps billions, of people across the internet.
  • In Europe, anti-Semitism – visible and invisible – impedes the participation of Jewish communities in the life of their general societies as well as demotivates Jews from participating in local Jewish communal life. Despite the fact that anti-Jewish attitudes are steadily decreasing in the population, a critical mass of anti-Semitic elements makes life troublesome for the Jews and in some places social exclusion is running rampant.
  • In continental Europe, and despite the existence of some groups of Muslim activists who courageously combat anti-Semitism, the single main discerning and predictive indicator of Jewish community sustainability appears to be the percentage of Muslims in the population.
  • In North America and Australia, anti-Semitism has almost no tangible impact on the social, academic, economic and political integration of the Jews in general society. Yet, in the last two years in the United States, anti-Semitic right-wingers have become emboldened in their willingness to express their anti-Jewish prejudices and to act upon them. Similarly, anti-Semitic views on the left have increased and Jews (particularly, on college campuses) feel more threatened by them, even though most of the abuse has been verbal and psychological, not physical.
  • Anti-Zionism has become a main-stream opinion in Europe and frequently features traditional anti-Semitic components. Jews are often held accountable for the actions and policies of the Israeli government. On American campuses, pro-Israel students are confronted with peer and institutional pressures to decrease their Zionist engagement. These pressures resemble what Jewish students started encountering 20 years ago in Europe.
  • As a positive development, we may mention that the world media interest in the Israeli-Palestinian is declining sharply. A large part of the leading international foreign media outlets have decided to close their Israel’s offices and bring back home their permanent correspondents. As the one-side coverage and over coverage of the conflict have been the major causes of the anti-Israel propaganda and have nurtured the anti-Jewish discourse, we may expect that this decreasing coverage will give back a lower profile to the Palestinian issue.
  • Despite the worsening situation, comparisons with the blackest periods of Jewish history are mistaken. All across the Western world discrimination is forbidden by law, occurrences of state anti-Semitism are very rare, there is adherence to the rule of law in countries where Jews live, and the existence of the State of Israel has influenced the status of the Jewish communities living in problematic environments for the better.

These elements and the figures in Tables (1) and (2) below, demonstrate that even in the US the previously inconceivable return of anti-Semitism becomes conceivable: two members of the US House of Representatives have publicly questioned the full allegiance of American Jews to the US; young and energetic anti-Zionist activists on the left may become a significant stream within the Democratic Party; the number of anti-Jewish incidents has doubled during the last year; harassing mail reaches public Jews on a regular basis; anti-Semitic tropes are increasingly detectable in the mainstream discourse and anti-Israel criticism is adopting anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The discomfort European Jews have complained about for the last 20 years has crept into the American landscape. While, as a legitimate precaution, more American synagogues have begun adopting security measures, they may advance an unconscious message to the general population that Jews are not just “regular citizens” but are “citizens at risk.”

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