Anti-Semitism in 2016: Fewer physical attacks, more online hate

The 2016 Anti-Semitism Worldwide report says there is a decrease in physical attacks with a sharp increase in verbal and visual anti-Semitism on social media and in public.

An annual survey of the state of anti-Semitism worldwide reveals a decrease in the number of physical incidents in 2016, especially violent ones, with a simultaneous widespread increase, sometimes dramatic, in verbal and visual anti-Semitism on social media and in public.

The General Analysis on Anti-Semitism Worldwide 2016 report published on Sunday jointly by Tel-Aviv University, Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the European Jewish Congress on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, found a 12 percent decrease in violent anti-Semitic incidents, but a dramatic increase in other anti-Semitic manifestations in Europe and the US.

“Anti-Semitic incidents and manifestations in 2016 reflect two parallel yet contradicting trends,” the report said.

In the year 2016 the number of anti-Semitic violent incidents dropped by 12 percent, from 410 incidents in 2015 to 361 in 2016. There were 107 attacks on Jewish individuals in 2016, compared to 157 in 2015 and 306 in 2014.

Security Lowers Attacks

The report attributes the drop in the number of attacks to the level of heightened security provided by security agencies following a wave of anti-Semitic attacks. France has deployed a total of 10,000 soldiers to patrol streets, mostly in Paris, and 800 Jewish institutions are under permanent protection.

In addition, more Jews avoid appearing in public with identifying items such as religious head coverings or a Star of David.

Possibly these measures have resulted in decreased use of weapons (10 cases in 2016, 24 in 2015), arson (1, and 10 in 2015) and fewer attacks on Jewish private and public property, while cemeteries and memorials, that do not enjoy such security, continue to be targeted. Close to 100 cemeteries and memorial sites were attacked, the same as in 2015, in comparison to 27 community centers and schools (34 in 2015).

Additionally, the wave of more than a million and a quarter mostly Muslim refugees in Europe in 2015 diverted the attention of the extreme-right away from Jewish communities, the report said.

The decrease in the number of violent incidents did not result in a feeling of security among Jewish communities. On the contrary, the presence of  police and soldiers and the strengthening of various means of protection contributes to the prevailing anxiety: if those measures are necessary then there is reason to worry.

Spike in Verbal and Visual Anti-Semitism

There is a widespread increase, sometimes dramatic, in verbal and visual anti-Semitism on social media and during demonstrations, including: insults, harassment and threats hurled at people that cannot be quantified.

“The internet constitutes originally a virtual reality, but has become today’s reality and the main platform for the distribution of bigotry and hate, in abusive unleashed language. Therefore, even if the number of violent cases decreased, the prevalent feeling among Jews –  individuals as well as communities – is an ominous one, and constitutes the most worrisome finding,” the report stated.

Internet discourse is more threatening, cruel and violent, escalating the on-the-ground situation and inflating it a hundred times in no time, the report underscored.

The World Jewish Congress found that an anti-Semitic message was posted every 83 seconds in the world at large in 2016, mostly on Twitter.

On US university campuses there was a 45 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents, mostly insults and harassment of Jewish students, the report said. These attacks were usually connected to increased anti-Israel activities by pro-Palestinian groups on campus.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News