Report Shows Antisemitism in Europe on Rise; Calls on Governments to Act
Feature Story by Civilrights.org staff - 8/28/2002European governments do not accurately report or effectively combat antisemitic violence, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR) says in a new report on the rise of antisemitism in Europe. The report, "Fire and Broken Glass" concludes that the climate created by this inaction has contributed to the rise of acts of anti-Jewish speech and violence.
"European governments are inadequately reporting antisemitic violence, with some providing little public information on even the most serious hate crimes," said Michael Posner, LCHR Executive Director. "Yet timely, accurate, and public information on crimes of racist violence are essential for effective action to suppress such violence."
In the report, the Lawyers Committee defines antisemitism as racism and says that antisemitic acts need to be confronted more forcefully and treated as serious violations of international human rights.
Unfortunately, according to the report, the official response is often silence or characterization of the attacks as political protest. For much of early 2002, the French government made few public statements about the rising tide of anti-Jewish violence; the government has now firmly condemned the violence, but has yet to release official statistics on such incidents in 2002.
The governments of Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Russia, where a majority of the other attacks have been concentrated, have made public statements condemning the surge in violence. But the governments have released little documentation of anti-Jewish violence, and have, according to nongovernmental observers, done little to abate the rising tide.
Some specific examples from the report include:
- U.K.: In July 2002, in Swansea, Wales, a group of youth broke into a synagogue, destroyed a Torah, drew a swastika, and tried to burn down the building. The break-in was the second such vandalism of a British synagogue in three months and occurred within a broader pattern of anti-Jewish attacks in Britain. In April 2002 alone, the Jewish community in Britain reported 51 incidents nationwide.
- Belgium: In February 2002, a rash of graffiti declaring "Death to the Jews" appeared on Jewish-owned shops in Brussels. In March, two firebombs were thrown into a Brussels synagogue, damaging the interior. On April 22, up to 18 gunshots were fired at a synagogue in Charleroi.
- France: On March 31 alone: a pregnant Jewish woman and her husband were attacked in a Lyon suburb, requiring her hospitalization; a Jewish school in a Paris suburb was badly damaged by vandals; shots were fired into a kosher butcher shop in Toulouse; a synagogue in Nice was attacked with a firebomb; and in Marseille attackers set alight and burned to the ground the Or Aviv synagogue. A week after the synagogue attack, the Gan-Pardess school was set on fire, its windows broken with stones, and its walls daubed with anti-Jewish graffiti.
The release of the report coincides with the one-year anniversary of the UN World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa. That conference was intended to highlight particularly serious patterns of racism and racial discrimination around the world and to shape appropriate global responses. The conference process was seriously undermined when the meeting itself became the setting for a series of antisemitic attacks.