State Department Report Highlights Growing Anti-Semitism in Europe

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 manifested 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.

“I was glad to see that they started talking about non-state actors. In the past, the report focused solely on the actions of governments,” Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Hamodia. He added that conclusions drawn about many hot-spots of anti-Semitism in Europe proved prescient and served to highlight the lack of action taken by the countries on the continent in advance of last winter’s attacks.

Mr. Weitzman commented that issues of rising anti-Semitism in Turkey as well as in several South American nations had been largely ignored by the study. Nevertheless, he was generally pleased with the report and stressed the importance it has as a reference point for policy and legislation.

“The very fact that the government has its diplomats in embassies around the world collecting this data makes a statement,” he said. “It makes them talk to these communities and pushes them to get involved in the issues.”