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Report: Major violent cases of anti-semitism spike 18 percent in 2019

Report: Major violent cases of anti-semitism spike 18 percent in 2019
A man holds a candle and an Israeli flag during a vigil outside a synagogue in Halle an der Saale, Germany, on October 11, 2019. The Kantor Center said Monday that the Halle synagogue shooting was part of a spike in antisemitic incidents worldwide in 2019 compared to 2018. File Photo by Filip Singer/EPA-EFE

April 20 (UPI) -- Major violent cases of antisemitism spiked 18 percent worldwide in 2019 over 2018, according to an annual report the Tel Aviv University Kantor Center released Monday.

The Kantor Center held a press conference Monday through the Zoom app on its main findings, which also revealed a rise in antisemitism during the coronavirus pandemic.

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"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it," Moshe Kantor, who founded the center in 2010, said in the press conference. "The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the medieval 'blood libels' when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies."

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The hatred "mainly originates from extreme right activists, who also call to spread the virus among Jews, and from Muslim circles," the report said.

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The center found 456 major violent cases in 2019 compared to 387 cases in 2018, including seven Jews being killed.

"This is a sharp rise, especially in view of the considerable decline in such cases during the years 2015-2017," the report noted. "At least 169 persons, 37 percent of the major violent cases, were physically attacked, mostly in the public space -- on streets, at schools, near Jewish sites, and some close to or even in their homes -- a relatively new phenomenon, already noted in 2018 in France."

There were attacks on at least 53 synagogues in 2019, a 12 percent jump from the previous year and attacks on 28 community centers and schools, up 6 percent from 2018. Life-threatening attacks in general increased 47 percent and attacks on private properties rose 24 percent.

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The report noted significant changes in the United States and Germany in particular.

In Germany, the report pointed out the Halle synagogue shooting in October that killed two people and injured two others.

Alternative for Germany, a right-wing extremist party established in April 2013, made gains in the electoral vote in 2019 and "changed the political landscape," according to the report.

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"A preliminary police report registered 1,839 antisemitic incidents nationwide -- five cases a day! -- the highest since 2001, mostly perpetrated by neo-Nazis and extreme right wingers," the report said with the caveat that the police report has been criticized.

The main criticism of the police report was that "it did not emphasize the role of radical Muslim in everyday harassments," the Kantor Center said.

"Surveys have shown that the knowledge about the Holocaust is diminishing in Germany," the report also said.

Forty percent of Germans, ages 18-40, "know little or have even never heard about it," and at least a quarter of Germans held antisemitic beliefs and stereotypes surveys show.

"I wish I could say that Germans have learnt from history, but I can't say that when hatred and agitation are spreading, I can't say that when Jewish children are spat on in the schoolyard," German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at the fifth World Holocaust Forum on Jan. 23.

In the United States, the report pointed out the attack against the Poway synagogue in California on April 27, 2019, killing one person and injuring three others.

It also said that the Anti-Defamation League reported 780 anti-Semitic cases in the first half of 2019, equal to the total number of cases the entire previous year.

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Jewish communities "are adjusting to a situation they have never known before: increasing antisemitic manifestations, violence, shooting sprees and numerous casualties," the report said.

The report comes out about a week before Holocaust Remembrance Week begins on Sunday and amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It concluded with the question: "Will the coronavirus crisis result in more accusations of the lowest kind against the Jewish people and its state, or will the understanding prevail that the fate of all mankind is intertwined, and that there is no way out of it but in cooperation and mutual support?"

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