The State Department’s annual report on religious freedom for 2014, released this week, states that anti-Semitism “continues to be a problem around the globe.” While dealing with data from before the deadly attacks in Paris and Copenhagen last winter, the study shows a steady upswing of anti-Jewish sentiment, particularly in several European countries.
The report’s release largely focused on the mass violence and repression under groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. However, events such as the shooting that took place at the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the violent protests that swept Western Europe during the 2014 Gaza war were acknowledged as a new and dangerous trend.
“Countries such as France and Germany,” the State Department wrote, “witnessed a wave of anti-Israel sentiments that crossed the line into anti-Semitism,” which “left many pondering the viability of Jewish communities in some countries.”
The study noted that while this phenomenon was largely expressed through anti-Semitic rhetoric, both written and verbally expressed at demonstrations against Israel’s actions in Gaza, these sentiments did result in violence against people and Jewish institutions on several occasions.
The fact that Mehdi Nemmouche, the French Muslim who murdered four people at the Brussels museum, had been radicalized while in prison and trained during his 11 months with ISIS forces in Syria, also showed a new threat to Jews in particular and Europeans in general. Anti-Semitic incidents in France were said to have increased by 101 percent from 2013.
Among positive actions noted in the document were efforts by several government leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to declare “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism. It also made mention of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls who, in the midst of the crisis in the summer of 2014, denounced what he called “a new form of anti-Semitism” which hides “hatred of the Jews behind the facade of anti-Zionism and behind hatred of the Israeli State.”
The report also made note of ongoing desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe,.
A massive yearly study results in a report on the state of religious freedom in every nation in the world, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The report also gives an accounting of U.S. policy vis-à-vis the situations identified in each country. It is presented to Congress yearly and serves as a key resource for foreign policy and legislative research.
“Religious freedom extends way beyond mere tolerance,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at a news conference. The concept, he said, “demands that the practitioners of one faith understand that they have no right to coerce others into submission, conversion or silence, or to literally take their lives because of their beliefs.”