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Intel Brief: The rise of Anti-Semitic violence in Europe

Updated: Jul 12, 2023


Date: 15/06/2023

Location: Europe (excluding countries that have not been surveyed by others or are featured

in this brief)

Parties involved: Europe, Jewish community, far-right groups.

Anti-Semitism in Europe Map

The definition of antisemitism used in this document is according to the (IHRA)

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward

Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish

or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions

and religious facilities.”

We have excluded general critique of Israeli politics as Anti-Semitism. We have though included holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli government as Anti-Semitism. The numbers and trends quoted in this brief are from publications by the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), the German and Austrian government, the European Union and other institutions.

The Events:

  • According to several surveys, published recently and made by governmental and non-governmental organizations, there is a rise in Anti-Semitic violence and harassment in Europe. The surveys cover the years 2021 and 2022 and detail different forms of Anti-Semitic violence and point at a trend of rising Anti-Semitism since 2015.

  • There is a trend of stabilization, and even decline, of Anti-Semitic beliefs in general. But there is an obvious increase of physical Anti-Semitic violence in Europe.

  • In Ukraine there is a large decline in Anti-Semitic beliefs since the election of a Jewish president. It seems that his outspoken stand against the Russian invasion of his country has given a boost in respect for Jews and Jewish culture.

  • In Austria, the total number of Anti-Semitic incidents in 2022 decreased by 25% in comparison to 2021. However, the total number of incidents in 2022 was increasingly higher than in 2019 and 2020. Especially the number of reports that concerned physical violence was higher than in the previous years. According to the Antisemitismus Meldstelle, there has been a flare-up of Anti-Semitic violence by children against other children in Austria.

  • Throughout the year 2022 there have been a number of incidents involving Holocaust Remembrance monuments being defiled or vandalized across Europe. In Milan, for instance, a mural depicting the popular cartoon show characters The Simpsons as victims of a Nazi death camp was vandalized by unknown actors who blacked out the yellow stars of David on their clothing. In Thessaloniki, a well known Holocaust monument was defiled with a swastika and a White Power symbol. Across Europe, there were at least a dozen of these forms of incidents in 2022. Holocaust museums and memorial places have been forced to take extra security measures, especially after Neo-Nazi graffiti was found at the Auschwitz death camp monument in 2021. This led to the instalment of CCTV systems across a great many monuments across Poland, Germany and other countries.

  • According to the ADL Index, Anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is relatively low. However, this still translates into a number of 1 million Dutch adults that harbor Anti-Semitic opinions. Anti-Semitism is also prevalent in Dutch high schools, where 42% of teachers have been confronted with Anti-Semitic statements and the denial or minimization of the Holocaust. Research institute Panteia concluded that the Anti-Semitic statements of high school students are often related to soccer, in which the Jewish community is insulted on a regular basis. In May 2023, the Dutch police arrested 154 supporters of the Dutch soccer club AZ after they sang Anti-Semitic songs in the subway in Amsterdam. The Dutch coordinator that is responsible for combating Anti-Semitism stated that Anti-Semitic statements in the context of soccer trickle down to other parts of society.

  • In 2022 there was a significant rise of European Jews making the so-called Aliyah, or repatriation, to Israel. About 70.000 Jews decided to leave their home country and start a new life in Israel. A large number of these people, called Olim, came from Russia and Ukraine as a result of the war, but there were also a considerable amount of Olim from countries like France and Great Britain. The rise in antisemitic behavior and violence being quoted as the main reason for Jews leaving their home country.

Analysis and implications:

  • In general, Anti-Semitic beliefs are held more firmly in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe, with Ukraine being an exception as of late. Countries like Poland and Hungary are in the top countries where Anti-Semitic beliefs are being held. The most common Anti-Semitic belief right now is that Jews are more loyal to the country of Israel than to their home country. This seems to be the trend across the entirety of Europe and is not localized to one region.

  • The physical violence against Jews comes mainly from the extreme-right, like Neo-Nazi groups and like-minded white supremacist organizations. Only a small percentage of Anti-Semitic violence comes from people and groups with a Muslim background and it is usually connected to politics in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It seems that countries with a predominantly conservative Christian population have more problems with Anti-Semitism. This can be seen as a continuation of old Anti-Semitic tropes that arose in the Middle Ages and have continued to be a part of Christian tradition. The political Left seems to conflate Israeli politics with the Jewish community as a whole and there have been incidents where, mainly Orthodox, Jews were insulted or attacked as an act of anti-Israeli politics.

  • A new group with Anti-Semitic beliefs is the so-called anti-vax community that originated during the height of the Covid pandemic and mainly deals in conspiracy theories that have their roots in Anti-Semitic tropes like the blood-libel and the presumed existence of a shadow world government. Most of these conspiracy theories can be traced back to the Middle Ages but a large part comes directly from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion'' which is an Anti-Semitic document written by the Russian Tsarist political police at the beginning of the twentieth century and speaks of a global Jewish conspiracy to take over the world through a set of premeditated events. The anti-vax protestors, also known as anti-authority protestors, are known for wearing the star of David on their clothing and have used images on posters and banners depicting Anti-Semitic tropes. Some acts of vandalism and threats to Jewish objects and the community have come from these groups or individuals connected to this movement.

  • The rise of physical violence against Jews, the Jewish community and places associated with Jewish culture is causing feelings of insecurity in the Jewish community. This has led to an increase in Jews making an Aliyah to Israel. It has also led to an increase of security measures taken by the Jewish community across Europe to protect Jewish sites and institutions. Jewish advocacy groups have complained that European governments and security institutions do not take the threat to the Jewish community seriously enough and therefore have taken matters into their own hands.

Concluding notes:

It is not likely that Anti-Semitic beliefs in Europe will decline in the coming years. There seems to be a stabilization in Anti-Semitic beliefs across the board. There are concerns in the Jewish community however that it will only get worse as new generations of Europeans are growing up with less knowledge and experience concerning the Holocaust.

The ever escalating situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories can also add to a rise in acts of vandalism and violence against the Jewish community from groups who act out of solidarity with the Palestinian community and who do not see the difference between the Jewish community and the Israeli government.

The decline in Anti-Semitic behavior in Ukraine shows that Anti-Semitic beliefs are not hardwired in the European culture and it shows that antisemitism can actually positively evolve into a more positive view on the Jewish community as a whole.

With more pressure coming from the Jewish community on governments and security institutions to make an upgrade in securing Jewish objects there is a chance that physical violence and vandalism will become less in the coming years. The installation of CCTV systems across Europe near Jewish objects will undoubtedly also contribute to a feeling of security in the Jewish community.

2023_15_06 The rise of antisemitic violence in Europe (1)
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