Attacks on Jews decline across Europe

Anti-Semitism: Survey shows fall of 25 per cent in Britain but warns that racism and attacks on other minorities are rising worsening
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The Independent Online
Anti-Semitism has peaked in Europe and appears to be declining, especially fast in England, according to a survey of 61 countries. It has also become dissociated from general racism, which appears to be on the rise.

Anti-semitic incidents reported to the Board of Deputies of British Jews declined by 25 per cent last year to 246. And the authors of the Anti- Semitism World Report, published by Institute for Jewish Policy, conclude that in Eastern Europe and Germany the upsurge in anti-Semitism that followed the fall of communism appears to have peaked. "The threat of anti-Semitism entering and dominating the political mainstream has receded there," said Anthony Lerman, director of the institute.

Only in Sweden is this trend upset. The report says: "Sweden's reputation for tolerance is being increasingly marred by the country's neo-Nazi movement, which has never since the war been as confident as it is now. The level and quantity of of neo-Nazi propaganda, relative to the total population, is also unique."

Elsewhere, however, the report argues that there has been a separation between xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The racist climate in many countries was worsening.

"Despite a growing awareness of its dangers on the part of governments an international bodies, insufficient action is being taken to combat racism, and what is being done is clearly not having the desired effect.

"It is commonly assumed that heightened racism leads to an increase in anti-Semitism. But the evidence from 1995 does not appear to support this assertion," it says.

"Jews are not the primary targets of groups and movements which perpetrate racial violence, harassment, intimidation, and public expressions of hatred ... anti-Semitic violence and harassment of Jews is only a tiny fraction of racist violence.

"Ideologically, anti-Semitism arguably remains the most deep-rooted and potent form of racism ... But there is no sign that racist violence against Turks in German, or racial harassment of Asians in the UK is displacement activity for such actions against Jews."

The European far-right parties appear to have prospered only when they have sought respectability by rejecting overt anti-Semitism, says the report, citing the examples of the National Front in France, under Jean- Marie Le Pen, and Juerg Haider's Freedom movement in Austria. These groups damage Jewish interests only incidentally, the report argues.

The Reformed Jewish Synagogues, which represent a minority of Jews in Britain, were delighted by the fall in anti-Semitic activity. A spokesman said: "It is gratifying that the phenomenon is on the decline, even if this is no more than we would expect in a civilised society such as Great Britain."

The spread of Fascist and racist material in cyberspace is being monitored by the IJPR. A seminar earlier this year concluded that, though the Internet provided a way for fascist groups to co-ordinate their activities and propaganda internationally, it did not provide them with a uniquely privileged platform.

The report says: "There is no evidence to support the idea that cyberspace is uniquely able to mobilise racists and anti-Semites where other current forms of dissemination of propaganda continue to fail."