2003 Antisemitism report
The year 2003 witnessed the intensification of antisemitism including terrorist attacks against Jews, harassment of Jews as individuals and in groups, vandalism of Jewish sites, threats, propaganda, desecration of sites belonging to the Jewish community alongside the creation of a hostile atmosphere by closely associating the Jews with activities inside Israel and denying the right of the Jewish People to an independent state.
Two main axes characterized antisemitic activity throughout the year:
Acts of terrorism directed specifically against the Jewish community – marking the Jewish communities as preferred targets for terrorist action by the terrorist organizations operating in the framework of the World Jihad. This included terrorist acts in Istanbul and Morocco and numerous warnings of intentions to carry out terrorist attacks against the Jewish community.
Intensive activities by specifically anti-Jewish/anti-Israel elements who did everything they could to malign, defame and threaten Jews because of what was considered their affinity to Israel and as part of what was defined as “criticism of Israeli policies”. In our assessment this criticism had its roots in antisemitism and proves that these elements do not wish only to criticize Israeli policy but also to attack the Jews and mainly to deny the right of the Jewish People to their own independent state.
In 2003, there was a certain decline in the numbers of incidents in most of the parameters of those reported, and, as in previous years, most of the incidents occurred in Europe.
Trends in antisemitic activity
Islamic Terrorism, carried out in the name of the World Jihad which had declared its intentions to attack Jews as part of its war, was focused on a number of emphatically Jewish targets. This included the attack on Jewish community sites and sites with a clear connection to the Jews in Casablanca, Morocco (16th May), the murder of who Jews in Casablanca and Meknes (11th and 13th September), also against an antisemitic background, and the bombing of the two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey (15th November), in which six members of the Jewish community were murdered.
The continued, and even increasing, trend towards Islamization in various parts of the world, felt especially in Europe. In most countries of Europe there has been a pronounced increase in the Islamic communities, a process which exacerbates the sense of threat within the Jewish communities. The influences of this trend are clearly visible in the identities of perpetrators of these attacks. As was the case in 2002, most of the attacks against the Jews were carried out by Islamic elements.
A large number of the attacks against Jews or Jewish sites were carried out by radical right-wing elements and skinheads.
Radical right-wing elements have increased their expressions of empathy towards Palestinian and Islamic issues.
For the first time in years, intentions by a radical right-wing group to carry out a bomb attack on a Jewish site were discovered. This was in Germany in September 2003, and the intention was to carry out the attack during the corner-laying ceremony at a Jewish site on the anniversary of Crystal Night.
The demonizing of Israel and the Jews is continuing, and they are blamed for every despicable act in the world. This is also true of the spread of the Jewish/Israeli conspiracy theory by radical right-wing and Islamic elements.
In the Arab world, there has been an increase in classic antisemitism against Jews in general and against Israel in particular, with many of the regimes granting absolute legitimacy to written and spoken expressions of antisemitism, thus making antisemitism a normative phenomenon.
The trend towards discrimination if Jews in Academe simply because of their origin is continuing. Anti-Israel activities, often violent in nature, are continuing on university and college campuses.
The war in Iraq has brought large numbers of protesters out to the streets, many of them claiming that it was the Jews and Israel that pushed the United States to go out to war.
Alongside this, a number of important world leaders have recognized the severity of the problem of antisemitism and have joined the battle against it
In Europe, there has been an increase of antisemitism in all its aspects. Regarding the European Union Institutions, particularly striking this year was the fact that a study that had been commissioned by its leadership was shelved. The study showed that Islamic elements had been responsible for most of the expression of antisemitism. The report, as mentioned above, was shelved with all kinds of excuses being made for this move. The reason for its having been shelved apparently had to do with the fact that it did not fit the Europeans’ tendency not to come into direct confrontation with the Islamic minority on the Continent. In addition, a survey was published indicating that 59% of the people living in Europe are of the opinion that Israel presents the no.1 threat to world peace. In our assessment, the findings of this survey quite accurately reflect the results of the anti-Israel propaganda mixed with antisemitism on the part of influential elements in Europe.
France continues to “lead” in the number and severity of the incidents. These incidents include: burning down synagogues, violence against Jewish individuals and groups, desecration of cemeteries, an atmosphere of fear on the streets, and most of the incidents have indeed occurred on the streets, that prevents the Jews from leading normal lives. These phenomena have prompted the Chief Rabbi of France to advise the Jewish public to refrain from appearing in public wearing anything that would identify them as Jews. Alongside this, a draft law was proposed forbidding Jews and Muslims from appearing in State schools wearing any kind of clearly religious garb such as skullcaps and veils. Although the declared aim of the law was to counter phenomena of Islamisation, it will most likely influence the Jews as well.
In Belgium, there was a certain decline in the number of incidents that included attacks on Jews, but the atmosphere of hostility towards Jews and everything they represent is on the rise. In Switzerland there were elections in which the “sacred” balance between the political power factors was upset by the substantial increase in the strength of the radical right-wing party headed by Blocher who in the past had made remarks indicating his support for the denial of the Holocaust. This rise may possibly have its roots in the concern among the Swiss population about the demographic changes resulting from the serious rise in the number of Muslims in the country
In Britain, violent attacks on Jews on the streets and the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries have continued. Alongside this, because of Britain’s support of the United States in the war in Iraq, Britain has been marked by the World Jihad as a preferred target for attack, including, of course, attacks on Jewish sites.
The Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden, have been particularly conspicuous in the number of physical and psychological attacks on Jews, alongside one-sided support for the Palestinians and crass criticism of Israel for its overall policies concerning the Palestinians.
This year there have been comparatively fewer incidents of gross and violent antisemitism in Germany. The discovery of plans by right-wing elements belonging to the “brotherhood” of extreme right-wing groups, revealed evidence of an “upgrading” in the activities of this element. So far as is known, the intention was to infiltrate a powerful explosive device into the Munich Jewish community’s cornerstone-laying ceremony for a new Jewish facility there. In addition to senior members of the Jewish community, the President of Germany and members of the Israeli Embassy staff were also to participate in the ceremony. Of note is fact that ceremony was to have taken place on the 9th of November, the anniversary of the “Crystal Night” events.
In Hungary, although there was no reporting on unusual activities against the Jews on the part of the radical right-wing in that country, that element is very active, and there is evidence that deeply rooted antisemitism does exist among quite a few circles in Hungary. Of particular note is the incident in which a dummy explosives charge was placed near the Great Synagogue in Budapest in November.
In Turkey, where these has been no regular reporting on antisemitic activities, two car-bomb attacks were carried out simultaneously at two synagogues in Istanbul on Saturday, 15th November. The synagogues were full of worshippers when the blasts went off and only the fact that the cars were unable to park closer to each of the synagogues that there was not more damage or greater loss of life. The attacks were carried out by a local organization influenced by and under the aegis of the Al-Qaeda Organization.
In Greece, the high level of antisemitic activities continued unabated, including desecration of monuments and antisemitic graffiti. Antisemitic remarks by prominent members of cultural, religious and academic circles and publication of material in center-oriented press, lent legitimacy to antisemitism. Of particular note are the remarks by the popular and well-liked Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis that the Jewish People is responsible for everything evil in the world. The statement which was a criticism of Israel’s policies deteriorated into blanket accusations of the entire Jewish People. It was only after various expressions of criticism that the Greek Government issued its rather tepid reservations about the composer’s remarks. This is a reflection of the Greek Government’s inaction concerning antisemitism, although at the end of the year Israel proposed the setting up of a joint commission dealing with the struggle against antisemitism.
In the countries of the CIS, there is evidence of continued widespread antisemitic activities, especially among radical right-wing circles. These activities consisted mainly of harassment and bullying of Jews all over the region. There were no reports of an increase in the scope and severity of the incidents with the exception of an explosive device that went of in Kaliningrad, injuring a Jewish youth.
In North America, antisemitic activities were relatively minor in tone, and were mainly carried out by radical right-wing as well as leftists who came out against the Jews as an extension of their criticism of Israel. Some of the activities that were carried out included torching synagogues, the burning down of a Holocaust memorial museum in Indiana, and the publication of antisemitic material, mainly by the radical right. In addition, anti-Israel/antisemitic activities are continuing on the university campuses, which caused many Jewish students to fear that they might suffer if they were active on behalf of Israel.
In South America, Brazil was the “leader” in anti-Jewish activity (harassment of Jews, tearing mezuzahs off doorposts and a great deal of propaganda activity), but in general terms, these activities were relatively minor in nature. In Argentina, Islamic circles were active, mainly in protest activities that did not deteriorate into physical violence. In Argentina, radial right-wing elements are very active and shaping up as a serious political force. These elements carry on undisguised anti-Jewish and anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian activity. In Venezuela, where the situation with that country’s rule is unclear, there were a number of threats against the Jewish community on the part of elements supporting President Chavez. These threats were made apparently against the background of the perception of the Jews as opposing the regime. In any event, there were no exceptional incidents initiated by these elements. It is, however, of note that there was a considerable number of protest demonstrations against the war in Iraq – encouraged by Chavez regime – some of which were directed against Jewish sites, here again without any perceptible violence.
In Asia this year, there were a large number of threats of attacks against the Jewish communities scattered mainly throughout Southeast Asia. In addition to these threats of terrorism, of note was the remark by the Malaysian Prime Minister in which he said that the Jews control the world and that other Peoples do their battles for them, despite the fact that the Europeans murdered six million of the Jewish People. In other countries such as Japan and Thailand there was evidence of activity by Nazi groups, either in actions or in the use of Nazi symbols as a sales promotion gimmick.
In the Middle East, there were attacks against Jewish sites of those identified as belonging to Jews. One of them was definitely against an antisemitic background. The demonizing of Jews and Israel is continuing, with increased use of classic antisemitic motifs. Particularly prominent in this connection was the television series “The Diaspora”, which portrayed in a highly representational and coarse manner the murder of a Christian child for his blood in the baking of matzoth, as well as other antisemitic motifs. The series was produced in Syria, in our assessment under the aegis of the Syrian authorities and their support, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Culture and other official Syrian bodies. The series was screened during prime time in the course of the month of Ramadan (October-November 2003), over “Al-Manar” the official Hizballah television station. As had been the case in previous years, the Arab media made extensive use of Nazi motifs in relating that attitude of Israel towards the Palestinians, emphasizing the Jews’ control over the world.
The trends described above will continue in 2004 as well, and terrorist threats will continue as will the demonizing of Israel and of the Jews as its supporters in the world. In our assessment, the terrorism which struck the Jewish communities is the product of Islamic hatred of the Jews, and recently has become part of the war that the Al-Qaeda organization has declared against the United States and its allies. Islamic hatred of the Jews has its roots in its religious literature (the Koran and the Sunna) and rests on the frustration of the fundamentalist Islamic organizations because of the sorry and despairing condition of the “Islamic Nation”, against the backward status of Islamic society in general and the failure of the Arab and Muslim countries, most recently Iraq, to grapple with the West’s military, political and economic power. From this aspect, the Jews serve as the target for the arrows of Islam’s anger. While this anger has gained in momentum recently against the background of the Intifadah, it does not depend solely on the continuous struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. The various Arab regimes will continue to encourage and allow antisemitic publications for various reasons – prevention of normalization of relations with Israel (Egypt), intentions to create public opinion against Israel as part of the struggle against it (Syria) and preaching its annihilation (Iran and Hizballah). Therefore, attempts to harm Jews will continue in the Islamic countries as well as in the countries of the West, and Jews will continue to be identified as the enemies of Islam.
Those elements that create and contribute to the hostile attitude towards Israel because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to do so, but the scope of these activities will be influenced by the level of severity of that conflict.
These elements, in our assessment, will continue to try and harm Jews either through terrorist attacks or by making their day-to-day lives difficult
The demographic changes in Europe, especially the increase in the number of Muslims there (especially in Scandinavia, The Netherlands, Switzerland, but in other countries as well), will continue to influence the degree of the sense threat felt by the Jews living in those countries. This will be the result of the direct and violent confrontation with the Muslims as well as of the continued activities on the part of their Governments designed to avoid “unnecessary” confrontations with Muslim elements thus granting them a free hand in carrying out their incitement and violence.