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Antisemitism lower around world, but still startlingly high

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Antisemitic incidents around the world are lower for the first time in a decade, but the sheer number is still startlingly high, according to the latest World Zionist Organization (WZO) annual antisemitism report.

“The constant increase in antisemitic trends in the past decade is a matter of concern, while the significant reduction in the number of incidents this year isn’t a sigh of relief either,” said Raheli Baratz Rix, the head of WZO’s department for combatting antisemitism following the release of her report on 24 January.

Though the WZO called on many countries around the world for information for this report, it left out South African Jewry.

David Saks, the deputy director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), confirmed this. “The SAJBD as a matter of course provides information on antisemitism in South Africa to various international bodies [such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Kantor Centre, Tel Aviv University] whose purpose is to monitor and combat antisemitism,” he said. “The WZO isn’t one of these bodies. However, we would have been quite happy to share our information with the WZO had we been approached to do so.”

Baratz Rix, who released the report in the lead-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January, said, “Antisemitism is everywhere, at any point in time and space, and we must not be silent and indifferent about this phenomenon. I call for a joint integration of efforts to deal with areas of awareness and information in order to provide a broad response to this disturbing trend.”

The most prominent form of antisemitism is propaganda, according to the report. These cases represent 39% of all reported incidents, showing a 15% increase from 2021. Other expressions of antisemitism are “vandalism (28%); physical violence (14%); verbal (11%); and delegitimacy (7%),” with demonstrations accounting for 1% of events.

The report showed that, in 2022, a majority of reported antisemitic incidents took place in Europe and the United States, occupying 46% and 39% of cases respectively.

The US has experienced an “alarming increase” in antisemitism from both white supremacist organisations and from the progressive left. In recent years, “there has been a jump [of] 61% in the number of cases of violence or planning of violence against Jewish institutions” and “a 125% increase in the number of hate crimes against Jews in New York state” as well as an increase of approximately 20% in major cities such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles in the first half of 2022.

Latin America, on the other hand, experienced some positive change in 2022 “in light of positive legislation in the countries of the region”, however, there’s still concern that economic decline may be “fertile ground for antisemitism in the future”.

Furthermore, the report stated, “the strengthening of Iranian ties with anti-American elements in Latin America” have strengthened Iran’s nuclear capabilities, posing a threat to the South American Jewish community “in terms of terrorism in the classical sense rather than a risk of antisemitism”.

Great Britain experienced a 43% decrease in antisemitic incidents in the beginning of 2022 from 2021 (at which point the number of cases in the first half of the year was at “an all-time record high” of 1 371). However, there appears to be an increase in antisemitism in the British education system, namely a “173% increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in schools” over the past five years.

Likewise, Italy reported a notable presence of antisemitism within its schools as well as its government, particularly its most recent election campaign. The country also experienced an increase in antisemitic incidents overall.

Although German police reported an average of five cases of antisemitism per day in 2022, these numbers were significantly lower than those of the past two years, during which the outbreak of the pandemic, as well as operation “Guardian of the Walls” both seemed to have caused an increase in antisemitism.

Statistics in France show a decrease from 2021, however they also reveal “a grim picture that about 74% of French Jews were victims of antisemitic acts during their life”, prompting many of them to avoid displaying religious symbols or clothing. And, while “the election of President Emmanuel Macron for a second term is a vote to maintain the moderate character of the country”, the election system “caused a storm in the form of the rise of extreme factions that encourage antisemitism”.

In Russia, there has been a decrease in antisemitic incidents in the past decade, although studies show that “antisemitism is still rooted in the country”. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has incited “antisemitic statements towards the Jewish communities in both countries, alongside conspiracies regarding Israel’s involvement in the war”. These antisemitic conspiracy theories of Jews aiming to take over the world and profit from the war have also spread to nearby countries such as Poland.

Additionally, while Ukraine’s number of reports has decreased since the outbreak of the war, it’s assumed that these numbers are inaccurate. It’s evident that “the Jewish community of Ukraine continues to publish reports on antisemitic incidents, but under the sounds of war, it’s not possible to see the full picture of the state of antisemitism in the country”.

Though Australia has been “characterised as an inclusive and pluralistic country, active in the war against antisemitism”, there has been an increase in antisemitism in the country in recent years, including spreading of false information about the Holocaust as well as vandalism and physical and verbal attacks.

Moving forward, one of the most problematic areas seems to be antisemitic attacks online. “Antisemitism on social media is increasing at an alarming rate and unfortunately, as history has taught us, it will also lead to physical acts,” said Ya’akov Hagoel, the chairperson of the WZO. Hagoel submitted a proposal to former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “to recognise victims of antisemitism in the world as victims of hostilities”. The World Zionist Organization “raise[s] a clear black flag in view of the increase in incitement on the networks, and call[s] on heads of state to raise the fight against antisemitism to the top of the list of priorities”.

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