Only a handful of governments in the OSCE have instituted effective systems of detailed monitoring and reporting on antisemitic violence and other hate crimes. These official monitoring systems and the data they provide are supplemented by information collected by community-based monitors, nongovernmental organizations, and the media. Among the countries discussed below, systematic governmental and/or nongovernmental monitoring has been established in Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States, and provides important insights into antisemitic violence there and elsewhere in the region. This section of the report describes the situation in those countries and the important measures to combat antisemitism undertaken by governments and civil societies there.
In other countries, local nongovernmental organizations and community leaders provide fundamental insights into changing situations, while a collation of press reports can provide a general view of more serious incidents. The situation of antisemitism in the Russian Federation is of particular concern, even while largely overlooked in lieu of the enormous scale of racist assaults and murders of members of other minorities and Russia’s immigrant populations. Human Rights First is also concerned about rising antisemitic violence in Ukraine. In these and other situations where government statistics are nonexistent, we have used the available information on individual cases of antisemitic violence and reviewed the analysis of NGO and Jewish community partners with a view to identifying new developments and trends.
What follows below is an analysis of the statistics and trends in those countries where monitoring and reporting systems are sufficiently comprehensive to allow such a review. There are undoubtedly a number of other European countries where antisemitic violence is also problematic, but where information on attacks—either from official or unofficial sources—is much less readily available.
Jewish-community based monitors in Belgium have tracked a modest but persistent rise in antisemitic incidents since 2003, growing from 60 in 2005, to 66 in 2006, and 69 in 2007. Only a small percentage of these incidents involved acts of violence. In 2007 those defined as “violent” dropped by 75 percent. Monitors registered one case of personal assault in 2007: an attack on a young Jewish man in Brussels.
The 2007 annual report from antisemitisme.be, the principle monitoring group supported by Jewish community organizations, identified as a particular problem the rising level of incidents involving the Orthodox Jewish community in Antwerp and a tendency of members of this community not to submit complaints about abuses. This community “stands out and is easily recognizable as Jewish because they wear distinctive clothing, is a priority target.” Notwithstanding efforts by both the Jewish community and Antwerp police to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward, these abuses tend to be underreported. In one series of incidents in Niel, vandals damaged some forty vehicles and a dozen stores, scratching swastikas into cars and storefronts. Police sought witnesses and encouraged victims to make formal complaints.
The annual audit of antisemitism by B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights for 2007 found an overall rise of 11.4 percent in the number of antisemitic incidents, with levels of violent incidents remaining much the same. A high incidence of antisemitic crimes was reported in both rural and urban areas, but the survey found that the highest rises affected “the small centers of Jewish presence” outside the major urban centers of Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. Antisemitic incidents were also reported in new situations: in “union settings, medical facilities, retail outlets and other usually benign places where one would not normally expect antisemitism to manifest.”
Canadian cases are categorized as vandalism, harassment, and violence. The levels of violence remain largely unchanged from 2006, with 2.7 percent of the overall reported antisemitic incidents (there were 28 cases in 2007 compared to 30 in 2006). The report expressed concern at “a growing public acceptance of a certain level of hate activity as ‘tolerable’ to society.”
The total number of incidents rose to 1,042, nearly double the 584 mark of 2003, and continuing an almost uninterrupted upward trend since 1998, when 240 cases were reported. Levels of vandalism, representing 32 percent of the total incidents, dropped slightly, from 317 in 2006 to 315 cases in 2007. These included 22 incidents involving synagogues, down from 42 in 2006, and 6 involving Jewish community centers. There were 9 cases of cemetery desecration, compared with 1 in 2006 and 2 in 2005. An Ottawa cemetery was vandalized three times over three months, with 66 graves damaged or defaced. Vandals attacked Canadian Jewish homes in 132 cases, up from 118 in 2006.
While B’nai Brith’s annual audit remains the most comprehensive tracking of antisemitic incidents nationwide, and the only source that allows for an analysis of trends over time, official data has also become a useful source of information. On June 9, 2008, the government released national hate crime statistics for the first time. This report consists of data reflecting 892 hate-motivated cases from the year 2006. Police-reported data found that approximately 137 incidents (15 percent) represent anti-Jewish hate crimes. Of those, 32 incidents (23 percent) involved violence. Within the category of religious-motivated offenses (220 total), anti-Jewish hate crimes constitute 62 percent. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics—the body responsible for producing these hate crime statistics—anticipates publishing hate crime statistics on an annual basis with 2007 hate crime statistics to be published in spring 2009. This should provide a new source of valuable information on incidents and trends going forward.
In France, 2007 data on antisemitic offences from the Interior Ministry and the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) show a 32.5 percent decline since 2006, a finding with which Jewish community monitors largely concur. The Representative Council of French Jewish Communities (CRIF), documented a 30 percent drop in total incidents in 2007, even while reporting a steady level of violent physical attacks as a percentage of overall incidents.
CRIF reported 146 acts of antisemitic violence in 2007, a decline of about 32 percent from the 213 in 2006, while registering 115 threats (contrasted to 158 in 2006), a decline of 27.5 percent. CRIF found an overall decline in the figures for most categories of incidents, such as harassment, although the proportion involving violence held steady at high levels. Of the 261 incidents in 2007, 56 percent were acts of violence, compared to the 371 cases in 2006, of which 213, or 57 percent, were of a violent nature.
Official figures on antisemitic, racist, and xenophobic violence in France for 2007 reflect a similar trend in anti-Jewish violence. This data, drawn primarily from the Interior Ministry, is compiled in the annual report on racism and xenophobia of the CNCDH. The CNCDH report, which used the statistics compiled by CRIF and its overall findings, highlights a continuing trend toward increased personal violence, even as overall numbers of incidents decline.
The CNCDH study reported 707 racist, antisemitic, and xenophobic acts in 2007 (down 23.5 percent from 923 in 2006). Antisemitic acts, which CNCDH reports on separately, declined by 32.5 percent (386 in 2007, down from 571 in 2006) from 2006 levels (after rising 6 percent in 2006). The report concluded, however, that the levels of racist and antisemitic violence, taken together, continued to be significantly higher than those recorded during the previous decade; in 2000, for example, fewer than 250 antisemitic and racist incidents were reported.
The CNCDH study notes that while cases of antisemitic violence declined in 2007 by 22 percent over the previous year, cases of threats declined by 35 percent. The report states that “acts of antisemitism have retained a violent character, which elicits the concern of the CNCDH.” CNCDH reported 64 personal assaults on French Jews registered in 2007. Six victims were minors. Assaults represented more than 60 percent of the 106 incidents registered as “antisemitic acts” (in contrast to threats). The trend of high levels of personal violence continued, though not matching the extraordinary 45 percent rise in acts of violence in 2006 (with 97 incidents in contrast to 54 in 2005). Five synagogues were reported desecrated, and two were the objects of arson attacks. Six cemeteries or monuments were defiled. Twenty homes and private vehicles were vandalized. One school was attacked by arsonists, and another vandalized. The report stresses, moreover, that its coverage is far from comprehensive.
Adding to concerns about the level of violence is the 2007 report of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism which cited 8 incidents of “major antisemitic attacks” in France, up from just 2 such attacks, using the same methodology, in 2006.
In Germany, the official Committee for the Defense of the Constitution figures showed a 25 percent rise in the number of victims of far-right violence in Germany in the first nine months of 2007 and a similar rise in violent antisemitic crime. The Federal Interior Ministry said there had been more than 700 anti-Jewish crimes as of October, including 125 in Berlin. Subsequent statistics for the whole of 2007, which may be subject to further updating, indicated a rise in antisemitic crimes of violence, but an overall decline of 5.8 percent in “right-wing politically motivated offences with an extremist and antisemitic background,” from 1,636 in 2006 to 1,541.
Official year-end statistics reported a 37 percent rise in “right-extremist antisemitic crimes of violence,” from 43 in 2006 to 59 in 2007. This contrasted with a 6 percent decline in right-wing extremist crimes of violence overall, from 1,047 in 2006 to 980 in 2007. Similarly, violent xenophobic or “anti-foreigner” crime dropped from 484 in 2006 to 414 in 2007. Antisemitic offences defined as major crimes of violence represented a relatively small proportion when compared to the overall toll of violent crimes attributed to the extreme right in Germany; just 6 percent of the 980 reported incidents. At the same time, these figures show only the most serious crimes of violence, excluding vandalism and the combination of desecration and often violent property damage of attacks on Jewish cemeteries and memorials to victims of the Holocaust.
In the annual report on antisemitism in the Netherlands for 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, the monitoring group Center for Information and Documentation on Israel demonstrated a significant decline in incidents of violence, with just 8 acts defined as “physical violence” and “physical threats,” down from 23 in 2005 and the lowest reported since 2001. Data from the period January 1 to May 5, 2007, covered in the same report, showed a similar rate of violence.
CIDI contrasted the decline in violent crimes with a 64 percent rise in the number of cases of overall antisemitic incidents, from 159 in 2005 to 261 in 2006. Registered cases included threatening and abusive statements made on the Internet and in electronic correspondence and specific mailings of antisemitic pamphlets that came to the organization’s attention. It cited just 8 cases of violent attacks and 7 instances of “violent behavior.” CIDI’s director, Ronny Naftaniel, noted that the highest number of incidents was reported in Amsterdam, with some cases involving “shouting and insults at people wearing a skull-cap,” while others included e-mail threats and harassment.
The annual report of the Monitoring Racism and Extreme Right Violence project for 2006 drew similar conclusions on antisemitic violence within the broader spectrum of extremism. The report, produced under the auspices of the Anne Frank House and the University of Leiden, notes that “racially-motivated” violence, including antisemitic incidents, decreased in 2006, with the total number of violent incidents reduced by about 10 percent over 2005.
In a separate report in December 2007, the Racism and Extremism Monitor assessed the record of investigations and prosecutions of racist violence. In 2004, the Monitor had concluded that police response to racist violence was “increasingly inadequate.” In contrast, the 2007 report’s headline stressed “the priority now being given to discrimination by the Dutch police and the Public Prosecution Service has been shown to be of help. Never before have so many cases been dealt with.”
In Norway, Oslo’s Jewish Museum was repeatedly vandalized, even as overall levels of antisemitic violence remained low. On the night of August 2, 2007, vandals smashed a dozen of the museum’s windows; another was broken on August 5. On August 7, a stone broke a window and narrowly missed a museum employee. Norway’s Department of Justice and Police announced in March 2007 a determination to require police to record all incidents of hate crime. Norway’s Equality and Antidiscrimination Ombudsman told Human Rights First in October, 2007, that his office was working with police to implement the decision, that registration procedures had been developed, and that “police will begin recording bias motivations based on ethnic origin, sexual orientation, and religion.”
The Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis reported a significant increase in incidents in which Jews were targeted for violent assaults in the Russian Federation. These attacks occur in the context of extraordinary levels of violence targeting visible minorities, in particular those of immigrant origin. While the SOVA Center had said in the past that Jews were rarely targeted by racist violence because “in most cases they are not easily identifiable in the crowd,” a new pattern appeared to be emerging. Three Jews were attacked in 2004, and four in 2005. In 2006, nine worshippers were injured in an attack on a Moscow synagogue, while four others suffered from personal assaults. In 2007, violent incidents targeting Jews “increased dramatically,” as nine crimes affecting at least thirteen individuals were reported.
In some cases, attacks on Jews appeared to have been tied to the larger pattern of violence in which individuals were targeted because they did not appear to be ethnic Russians. On December 5, 2007, in Saint Petersburg, a Jewish man was hospitalized after being repeatedly stabbed; an Uzbek and a Moldovan were also attacked in the same area on that day.
In October 2007, a drunken Russian passenger on a flight from Moscow to Munich attacked another traveler and insulted passengers he believed to be Jewish. The perpetrator, who claimed to be a “Cossack of the Don,” was subdued on the plane and arrested by German authorities.
Ukraine has experienced a rise in reported incidents of antisemitic violence, including both violent personal assaults and attacks on synagogues, memorials, and Jewish institutions. Among the reported cases of violence against individuals include the following:
- On January 24, 2008, a rabbi was severely beaten on a main street in Dnipropetrovsk. Rabbi Dov-Ber Baitman, a teacher at the Jewish educational center Shaarei Torah, was assaulted by four men who shouted antisemitic epithets.
- On September 29, 2007, a group of men attacked a rabbi and two yeshiva students in Cherkasy. Rabbi Yosef Rafaelov came with the students from Israel to join the local community in celebrating a holiday. On Saturday evening, they were attacked near the synagogue by a group of men who beat them and kicked them repeatedly.
- On September 27, 2007, four youths attacked an Israeli citizen near a synagogue in Zhytomyr. A few months earlier, in July, Rabbi Shlomo Vilgen was accosted by a mob of around twenty people shouting antisemitic slogans near the synagogue. On August 6, 2007, two young skinheads attacked Nochum Tamarin, director of the local branch of the Federation of Jewish Communities, and his wife Brocha. The youths hit the victims several times in the face.
- In August, one of Ukraine’s chief rabbis, Rabbi Ariel Chaikin, issued an open letter to Ukrainian officials decrying the fact that Jews “feel that they are in danger” in Zhytomyr. “They are constantly threatened, they are insulted on the street, and people throw things at them,” he wrote, further charging that “officials in Zhytomyr either don’t have the desire to or are incapable of preserving security and inter-ethnic and inter-religious peace in the city.” He said the police who now patrol the area near the synagogue “are unable to seriously resist antisemitic gangs” and that the state security agency refuses to investigate the incidents or the antisemitic and xenophobic gangs in Zhytomyr.
Despite the rise in anti-Jewish violence in Ukraine, little attention was given to particular incidents by mainstream media in the country, and public officials tended to downplay the severity of the problem. In the few cases in which antisemitic incidents led to arrests and prosecutions, monitors observed the tendency to charge the defendants with “hooliganism.”
President Viktor Yushchenko on April 12, 2007 called upon top security officials to stop vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and other memorial sites, acknowledging for the first time a rise in such attacks, as well as the growth of extremist groups. In a speech made during a visit to Israel, on November 15, 2007, however, Yushchenko said these incidents were few in number and that “we are dealing with them,” while declaring that “we must treat this unemotionally and remember that they are marginal.”
The number of violent attacks on individuals rose, even as antisemitic incidents dropped. There were 114 personal assaults in 2007, a reported all time high, rising from 13 percent of the total incidents to 21 percent.
The annual survey of antisemitism, produced by the Community Security Trust (CST), found 2007 to have been the worst year on record for violent assaults since monitoring began in 1984, with a 2 percent rise over the previous record high level reported in 2006. It was the second worst year, after 2006, for incidents overall, with 547 registered, 47 fewer than the previous year. The chair of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, John Mann MP, commented on the overall decline, while declaring that “the base level of antisemitism in the UK is too high.” The CST’s annual survey reported a total of 114 assault cases, the highest on record, while noting that in a survey twenty years before it had recorded just 17. It reported on one incident from 2007 that was clearly life-threatening:
an elderly rabbi in Northeast England was walking along a pavement when a car mounted the kerb, knocked him over, then reversed and tried to run him over again. The rabbi required hospital treatment for injuries to his head, arms and legs. The driver has never been identified.
In at least six other incidents of assault, victims required hospital treatment. Fourteen of the recorded attacks targeted schoolchildren. In May 2008, the United Kingdom published a progress report on the implementation of the thirty-five recommendations of the 2006 All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Antisemitism. The progress report included an Action Plan to address the low number of prosecutions for antisemitic crimes; a commitment to ensure police data collection on all hate crimes, including antisemitism; and new funding provisions to ensure security for schools confronting hate crimes.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a longstanding monitor of antisemitism in the United States and a leader of efforts to combat all forms of hate crime, reported a decline for the third consecutive year in antisemitic incidents in the annual report for 2007. The ADL registered 1,460 incidents, a 6 percent decline from 1,554 in 2006, and down from a peak of 1,821 in 2004. There were 699 incidents of vandalism (including cemetery desecration, graffiti, and other forms of property damage), and 761 of harassment (which in the ADL typology includes “physical or verbal assaults directed at individuals or institutions”).
Official Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics showed a somewhat different trend. While hate crime statistics for 2007 were not available as of the end of August 2008, the FBI hate crime report shows a rise in anti-Jewish offenses, from 900 in 2005 to 1,027 in 2006. Anti-Jewish hate crimes in both years represent a large majority of hate crimes falling in the category of “religious bias”.