Anti-Semitism in Europe rising sharply, Israeli official says

Gideon Behar, Israel’s ambassador for combating anti-SemitismFile photo
Gideon Behar, Israel’s ambassador for combating anti-Semitism
File photo

Anti-Semitism in Europe have risen so sharply that it has become endemic and is not easily deterred, said Israel’s ambassador for combating anti-Semitism, who was in Washington last week to meet with State Department officials and congressional staff members.

“The change has been so substantial and big within one year, in a negative way,” said the ambassador, Gideon Behar.

He also called the recent United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization vote condemning Israel over claims it attempted to break the status quo at the Temple Mount “a negative development. It brings the situation between Israel and the Palestinians into the religious issue.”

The Temple Mount is a holy place for Jews, Muslims and Christians, he said. “We do not want the conflict to be a religious conflict.”

Issues concerning the site are part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are not related to anti-Semitism, he said.

Behar is most concerned with the rise of Islamist anti-Semitism. When he began his job five years ago, he said, anti-Semitism emanated mostly from ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi parties gaining power throughout Europe.

Now, he pointed out, Islamist radicals and jihadists intent on killing Jews are performing acts of terrorism in many countries and are the main threat.

Anti-Semitic acts are greatly increasing, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ report on anti-Semitism in the European Union between 2004 and 2014 that was released Oct. 15.

The number of acts and threats against Jewish people and institutions in France rose from 423 in 2013 to 851 in 2014. In Germany, the rate of incidents increased between 2013 and 2014 from 1,275 to 1,596, according to the FRA’s report.

After recording fewer than 20 anti-Semitic acts for three consecutive years, the Czech Republic tallied 45 incidents in 2014.

FRA is a decentralized European Union agency set up to provide expert advice to EU countries.

The report noted that these incidents “intensify in periods when conflict in the Middle East flares up, with the nature and tone of news coverage of the conflict a contributing factor.”

Behar said “it remains to be seen” if the influx in immigrants into Europe from Muslim countries will exacerbate the situation.

What he has witnessed so far is an uptick in the strength of neo-Nazi and fascist parties, such as Golden Dawn in Greece. They are gaining strength “because of the negative reactions” to the new immigrants, he said.

Behar also noted that the current Muslim refugees “are coming from countries that have been in conflict with Israel for many years.” They have been brought up with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel propaganda, he said.

While these incidents have been directed mostly at Jewish people, Behar said that governments and nongovernmental organizations around the world should work to squelch it.

“If we let it grow, if we do not stop it, it starts with the Jews, but it never stops there,” he explained. His message to the governmental officials he met last week in Washington and to their European counterparts is: “You better stop it with the Jews before it gets to you.”

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