The results of a new Pew Research Center study finding that global harassment of Jews has reached a seven-year high didn’t come as much of a surprise. With attacks against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen fresh in our minds, the conclusion seems self-evident. What was somewhat surprising, however, is that the years analyzed end in 2013, the last year for which data is available. One can only imagine how upsetting the results for 2014 and 2015 will be.
Pew found that in 2012, Jews reported being harassed in 71 out of 198 countries and territories.The number in 2013 was 77 countries. Europe was a dark spot on this world map, with Jews harassed in 34 of 45 European countries, or 76 percent. That compares with just 25 percent of countries in the rest of the world. However, because there aren’t large concentrations of Jews in more than a handful of countries, the fact that Jews are harassed in places where they are not well known only points to how common, and serious, the problem is.
This particular Pew study looked at worldwide religious discrimination, not just against Jews. But it is the discrimination and harassment of Jews that is getting the headlines. Of large countries in the report, the United States makes out well, with only “moderate” levels of “social hostilities” and “government restrictions” of religions; Japan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa fare better.
Interestingly, Israel is among the countries with a “very high” level of social hostilities involving religion (as are the Palestinian territories). Israel also has a “high” level of government restrictions on religion, a rating it shares with Germany. In reviewing these statistics, one can’t help but wonder whether the former reflects the unsettled relations between Jews and Palestinians and between Israel’s haredim and the rest of its Jews. And perhaps the latter is a sign of the lack of religious pluralism in the public sphere and the control of personal-status issues by the Chief Rabbinate.
Granted, we don’t need a study to know these things. But the report can be used to shine a light on the need to increase focus on the fight against anti-Semitism in Europe and on the need for religious pluralism and social equality in Israel.