This integrated index aims to measure the discomfort of European Jewry and the threat levels against it. It is meant to be a tool for policy-makers that relates to three complementary dimensions of anti-Semitism affecting individual Jews and communal Jewish life. JPPI’s index integrates data from the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Global 100 survey of attitudes toward Jews, compiled in cooperation with various research institutes, anti-Semitic harassment figures collected by local Jewish organizations entrusted with security (such as CST in the UK and SPCJ in France), and research findings regarding perceptions of anti-Semitism among Jews.
As summarized in the Kantor Centre’s Annual Report on Anti-Semitism in the world, Anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 reflect two parallel yet contradictory trends. On one hand is the continuing decrease in the number of incidents, especially violent ones, in most European countries with large Jewish populations. On the other is a continuing widespread increase, sometimes dramatic, in verbal and visual expressions of anti-Semitism on social media and during demonstrations. Beyond precise quantification, the internet has become the main platform for the trafficking of bigotry and hate, a not-so-virtual reality where anti-Semitism is unleashed in abusive, unhinged language.
On March 30, 2017, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) published its annual report on racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in France, which showed a 58 percent drop in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016. According to the CNCDH the total number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 was 335 compared to 808 the previous year — the sharpest year-to-year drop recorded since 2001. At the same time, they report, “Anti-Semitic biases persist, linking Jews to money and power and condemning them for their attachment to their community and to Israel.”
The decrease in attacks on Jews “is primarily due to security measures applied by the authorities as part of the Vigipirate plan, to protect Jewish institutions and neighborhoods in France” [initiated in 2015, following the murder of four Jews at the Hyper-Cacher kosher supermarket near Paris by an Islamist]. It should be noted that 800 Jewish buildings — from synagogues to schools and other institutions — have been under constant army protection since the January 2015 attacks. As of July 2017, a total of 10,000 soldiers have served in enforcing the state of emergency. Jews emerged in the CNCDH report as the most accepted minority in France (with 81 percent acceptance), compared to Muslims and Roma.
We can mention two main reasons for the decreased anxiety of French Jews, which is vividly expressed in the sharp decrease in French Aliyah in 2016 and the first half of 2017:
- In France, anti-Jewish assaults have traditionally been almost exclusively perpetrated by resentful youth of Maghrebian descent. The government’s visible commitment to protect Jews and severely punish their attackers has proved, thus far, to be an effective deterrent.
- In 2016, although there was no terror attack motivated by anti-Semitism per se, Jews were killed alongside non-Jews in the Bataclan theater massacre in Paris and the weaponized truck that plowed into a group of pedestrians in Nice. One can conjecture that these incidents contributed to making French Jews feel less singled out and relatively less anxious.
British Jewry recorded 1,309 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, a 36 percent increase from the 960 incidents recorded in 2015 and the highest annual total the Community Security Trust (CST), the communal organization charged with protecting British Jews from anti-Semitism and terrorism, has ever recorded. Despite this significant increase, the CST also noted a 13 percent decrease of violent incidents and an 11 percent decrease in acts of vandalism. In Britain as many other countries, we have observed this year less violent incidents and more rejection feelings.
In previous years, record highs stemmed from sudden, specific ‘trigger events,’ particularly between israel and its neighbors. The 2016 high comprised consistently high monthly figures and reflected no obvious connection to the Middle East. Instead, domestic events appear to have fomented an atmosphere ripe for anti-Semitic incidents, which were also more likely to be reported. These included high-profile allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party; a perceived increase in racism and xenophobia that resulted in and followed the Brexit referendum, including an increase in recorded racial and religious hate crimes; and regular, high-profile discussion of anti-Semitism, racism, and hate crimes in the mainstream media, the political discourse, and on social media. The CST stressed that the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose and remained at a high level in 2016 despite the fact that there was no military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In Britain, attacks on Jews are mostly committed by white ethnic Europeans motivated by a radical right-wing racist ideology. Despite the excellent working relationships between CST and various government agencies, an appropriate response to deter anti-Semitic crime has yet to be found.
In Germany, official sources pointed to a decrease from 740 cases in 2015 to 644 in 2016, yet a non-governmental monitoring agency reported higher numbers, especially in Berlin where a 16 percent rise was detected.
According to the European Union, more than 2.5 million refugees entered Europe during the last two years, 1.7 million of whom landed in Germany, and fear of the newcomers is still lingering. So far, it seems that the new immigrants have not effected an increase of anti-Semitism acts, even though they came from countries with deep anti-Semitic views. These new immigrants are busy surviving, finding ways to make a living, acquiring language skills, and acclimating to a new environment and culture.
The perpetrators continue to be from the radical circles of previous waves of Muslim immigration or from the extreme right. The 16 percent increase of anti-Semitic activity in Berlin, for instance, was not attributed to the newcomers despite the fact that most physical attacks on Jews were perpetrated by Muslims. Acts of desecration against Jewish cemeteries and monuments were mostly attributed to far right vandals. Violence perpetrated by the extreme left remained low.
However, the presence of the immigrants has had a notable albeit indirect influence: the strengthening of the extreme right does not seem to have been accompanied by stronger or more frequent public anti-Semitic statements. Still, the growing atmosphere of xenophobia and populism has a constant potential of becoming anti-Semitic. The concern expressed in liberal circles is that such an atmosphere is endangering Europe’s democratic values. As the refugee crisis continues, the discourse around it becomes increasingly virulent and violence against them, and minority groups in general, grows.
The Reaction of the Jewish Communities
The decrease in the number of violent incidents against Jews has not resulted in a feeling of security within the Jewish communities. On the contrary: the conspicuous police and military presence along with other stepped up security measures, welcome and necessary as they may be in the fight against terror, also contribute to the prevailing anxiety — if those measures are necessary, there is good reason for alarm.
Even though the wave of immigrants, most of whom come from countries with embedded anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli ideologies is not the source (at least for now) of an increase in anti-Semitism, it has brought some Jews, both individuals and communities, to see a storm gathering over Europe and rethink the viability of Jewish existence on the continent. In addition, the decrease in the number of violent incidents does not compensate for the ongoing increase in verbal and visual expressions of anti-Semitism and the hostile atmosphere they engender. In parallel, as a people that knows what it means to be a refugee, the Jewish communities feel an obligation to reach out to the newcomers. Therefore, some Jews find themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place.9