Jews Are Still Preferred Targets of Religious Hate Crimes

The past several years brought a marked rise in religious hatred and violence against Jews in Europe. Violence against Jews has been on the rise in Europe with 2014 having mirrored some the horrific events that took place in 1938, dubbed by a German documentary film, “The Fateful Year.”

The Bergische synagogue in Wuppertal was again firebombed and crowds held banners reading: “Death to Jews,” “Slit Jews’ Throats,” and “Death to Israelis.” 2015 also began with Islamic extremists targeted Jews in France and more against institutions across Europe, Latin America, and Australia. Similar violence was recorded throughout 2016 with a particularly egregious story emerging from Argentina where German school children violently attacked Jewish pupils in a town where Nazi Germany’s war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele (Auschwitz’s so-called “Angel of Death”) once resided.

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Global 100 – Index of Anti-Semitism for 2015, revealed some 220,000,000 million people worldwide harboring anti-Semitic attitude (19 countries were included in the survey. Argentina ranked the highest, with the European Union’s (EU) bastion of liberalism and democracy scoring second place with an estimated 1,800,000 or 20% of the Belgian population “hating” Jews. Western European countries ranked higher overall than Europe’s historically xenophobic populations.

Interestingly, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US), were among the lowest in the Index. A cursory observation might suggest that pluralistic societies do not guarantee religious equality and acceptance. Another could lead to the assumption that states with strong Muslim communities rank higher, suggesting that in principle Muslims either bring their anti-Semitism with them to Europe or nurture it there as longer-standing Europeans.

Many anti-Jewish stereotypes are linked to perceptions of Israeli loyalty, a connection with the “Apartheid-like” policies of the Israeli state and the occupation/cleaning of Palestinian lands. Another is the more archaic inclination that Jews control the business world. The third most popular stereotype is related Jewish memory of the Holocaust. Germany, France, and Belgium stood-out as the top three countries were violence against Jews has increased with the majority of all three populations asserting that, “[v]iolence against Jews here is a symptom of deep anti-Jewish feelings among some people,” writes ADL.

The several years in Europe smack distinctly as a mini-“crackdown” on Jews like we say during Nazi Germany’s year of heightened expansionism, and the hastening of preparations for war. If one were to judge why calls of “anti-Semitism” are still heard today, it is because Jewish hatred persists, and is indeed on the rise. It is not so troubling that “anti-Semitism” is still cited by Israelis and Jews; rather, it is a question of why they would feel compelled to do so and what feeds their consciousness. While hate crimes motivated by religious bias continue to affect the entire religious spectrum, 59% of those crimes are anti-Jewish.

2015 was a particularly challenging year for Jews in the UK, where the National Anti-Semitic Crime Audit by Crime Against Anti-Semitism (CAAS) stated that approximately 1,000 acts were reported in 2015. Based on these numbers, the UK experienced a rise in anti-Semitic crime from 2014 to 2015 by over 25%. It stands as the worst year on record. Violent crime incidents rose, which accounted for over 20% of the crime perpetrated against Jews. Despite the rise in crime, the number of charges in relation to such acts has fallen. In 2015, just 128 charges were made.

With the waves of violence, there is a growing feeling among some Jewish communities that one appealing option in dealing with the violence is emigration. Seeing this as an option stands as a strong indication that law enforcement are failing the security of Jews as citizens in particular, and all citizens more broadly, not only in the UK, but in other European countries and further abroad.

It is clear that anti-Semitic crime is on the rise in states that one would tend not to worry about the rise of anti-Semitism. More than a handful of countries are grappling with the problem of bringing communities together, demonstrating that diverse and pluralistic communities are able to outstretch the boundaries of states and even exist within them.

But this is turning into a steep challenge for governments, particularly those of Europe where the rise of radical right groups corresponds with increasing anti-Semitism. Jewish hatred is serving as a principle component of violent ideologies of radical right groups and militant Islamic extremists. An additional, if even further disconcerting problem, is that authorities in both Western and non-Western countries alike should expect to see further increases in Jewish hatred and violent crimes perpetrated as neo-Nazi groups and violent Islamic ideologies continue to gain enthusiasts.

About the Author
Dr. Scott N. Romaniuk completed his PhD at the School of International Studies, University of Trento. He holds an MRes in Political Research, an MA in Terrorism, Crime and Global Security, and an MA in Military Studies (Joint Warfare). His teaching and research specializations include International Relations, Military and Strategic Studies, Security Studies, Terrorism and Political Violence, and Research Methods. He is a Senior Research Affiliate with the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS) and a member of the Conflict, Terrorism and Development (CTD) Collaboratory at Michigan State University.
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