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February 3, 2020

Rise of far Right not the main source of antisemitism in Europe – study

The rise of the far Right in Western Europe is not the primary source of antisemitism in the region in recent years, a study from the World Zionist Organization’s Institute for Zionist Strategies found.

“The rise of the extreme right and antisemitism: Three European case studies” focuses on France, England and Germany, which have the largest Jewish populations on the continent, examining whether there is a correlation between the deterioration in those communities’ security and the rise of far-right parties.

The Institute for Zionist Strategies is a nonpartisan research institution dedicated to preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

Researcher Nicolas Nisim Touboul studied two variables in each country: the electoral growth of right-wing parties, and the trends in levels of antisemitism.

There were several notable attacks in France in the past decade, including the murder of a teacher and three pupils at the Otzar HaTorah school in Toulouse in 2012 and the murder of four in the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris in 2015. However, there was no clear trend of rising antisemitism in that time, with spikes in some years and a decrease in others. In 2003-2010, there were an average of 560 antisemitic incidents per year, and in 2011-2019 there were 444, according to official French records.

In 2011, Marine Le Pen won the leadership of the far-right National Front and it subsequently grew in electoral power. Touboul noted that the party rejected antisemitism, which “can be suspected to be a strategic decision to normalize the party,” but was serious enough that Le Pen expelled officials who made antisemitic statements, including her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Spikes in antisemitism in France mostly coincided with Israeli military operations. For example, 29% of violent antisemitic incidents in 2009 happened in January, during Operation Cast Lead, and 24% of them in 2014 were in July, during Operation Protective Edge.

Overall, the report found that increases in antisemitic violence were more likely to be motivated by anti-Israel sentiment or radical Islam than far-right views in France over the last decade.

In the UK, the level of antisemitism remained steady at 550-650 incidents a year through most of 2006-2013, but spiked to 1,182 in 2014 and rose to 1,600 by 2018, according to the Community Security Trust, a Jewish community organization. The rise is mostly in hate speech and harassment, while the amount of vandalism or physical attacks did not increase significantly. Antisemitism increased in a period in which the number of hate crimes of all kinds rose by 254%.

Like in France, there were increases in antisemitic incidents at the time of Israeli military operations.

Touboul looked at the UK Independence Party, which received 3% of the votes in the 2010 general election. In 2014, it won more seats than any other UK party in the European Parliament, and in 2015 it won 12.6% of the vote in a general election. The party’s decline began in 2017, the year after the Brexit referendum, when it won only 1.7% of the vote.

The report argues that there was a wave of antisemitism around the Brexit referendum at a level similar to the summer of Operation Protective Edge, with over 100 antisemitic incidents per month beginning in April 2016 until October 2017.

Touboul concluded that “stormy debates about the UK leaving the EU that deepened divisions in society” were the root of the antisemitic incidents in the time period he studied, and found an increase in antisemitic rhetoric on both sides of the political map.

“In Germany, due to the not-distant history of the country, sensitivity to antisemitism and extreme nationalism is especially high,” Touboul explained. “Therefore, it is not surprising that most of the government attention on the topic was on nationalist aspects.”

From 2012-2016, German Jews experienced 600-900 antisemitic incidents per year, but the number jumped to 1504 in 2017 and 1646 in 2018, according to the German Interior Ministry. Like in the UK, this coincided with a general increase in hate crimes throughout Germany.

However, the Jewish community in Germany was unsatisfied with the way the police record antisemitic incidents and started its own Antisemitism Research and Information organization (RIAS Berlin). Their research depicts a similar trend to that of the German Interior Ministry, but in greater numbers; in 2015 they found 405 incidents to have taken place in Berlin alone, and 1,083 in 2018.

Official German records published in 2018 attributed 87.5% of antisemitic incidents to the Right, drawing criticism from other groups studying antisemitism. By contrast, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that year that 41% of people who experienced antisemitism in Germany said the attacker was a radical Islamist – more than in any other EU country. Still, 25% reported the source of antisemitism was right-wing or radical Christian, significantly more than in France or England.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was founded in 2013. Touboul points out that migrants from the Middle East began pouring into Germany in 2015, which not only brought people into Germany from countries that are hostile to Israel and where antisemitic views are common, but also made xenophobic views on the far Right – against the migrants and against Jews – more popular.

The 2017-2018 spike in antisemitism took place in years in which the AfD was on the rise. Touboul does say that the summer of 2017, ahead of the election in which AfD ran, were the quietest months of that year, but he admits that the party’s political activities and rhetoric opposing “global elites” could have contributed to a rise in antisemitism.

The report warns that “many times, there is a crossover between different kinds of antisemitism in one incident” making them hard to categorize. The far Left, the far Right and radical Islamists entertain views “opposing the liberal-capitalist world order in which Israel has grown and developed.”

Touboul concluded that “the far Right is not the main motivation for antisemitism in Western Europe today and the changes in the amount of antisemitism, if they exist, do not necessarily depend on [the far Right’s] political consolidation.”

World Zionist Organization vice chairman Yaakov Hagoel, who initiated the research, said its results “must echo and be a warning sign in the countries reviewed. We are close to a dangerous situation in which there are fewer and fewer Jewish symbols in the streets, on people or on shops.”

Hagoel argued that the rise of the far right in Europe could lead to Jews leaving.

Source: Jpost