EU anti-Semitism rises on Mideast tensions

Peaks in anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe have tracked worsening tensions in the Middle East and the image of anti-Semites as ”right-wing skinheads” has changed, an EU agency said in a working paper on Monday.

The Vienna-based Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which collected information from 19 EU members, said rises in anti-Semitism, ranging from vandalism to physical attacks, were a serious concern.

In France, which carefully records such cases, anti-Semitic crime rose sharply in 2002 and 2004 as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Territories worsened — and the trend is reflected Europe-wide.

”There does seem to be a relationship between the rise of anti-Semitism in the EU and the situation in the Middle East,” said Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, one of the paper’s authors.

The authors also noted a change in how anti-Semitic people are portrayed in the media and seen by the public.

”There has been a shift … from the ‘extreme right skinhead’ to the ‘disaffected young Muslim’, ‘person of North African origin’ or ‘immigrant’ and member of the ‘anti-globalisation’ left,” they said.

In Austria, where far-right parties won nearly a third of the vote in a national election last year, the number of anti-Semitic offences doubled in 2007 compared to the two previous years, alongside a general rise in right-wing extremist and xenophobic crimes.

But the authors said there was no research to suggest a link between anti-Semitism in politics and the media and actual crimes directed at Jews.

”The motivation of perpetrators and the relationship between their acts and anti-Semitic attitudes and ideology remains under-researched and unclear,” they said.

The authors say their work has been hindered by insufficient data meaning that individual countries cannot be compared with each other, as methods used to record incidents vary from state to state.

”Most member states do not have official or even unofficial data and statistics on anti-Semitic incidents,” they wrote.

In France and the Czech Republic, interior ministries have set up departments to record the trends whereas in Belgium police do not officially record cases and Denmark does not distinguish between anti-Semitic and other incidents. – Reuters

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