New Internationalist

Judeophobia - the facts

Issue 372

Europhobia*

Despite the legacy of the Shoah (Holocaust), prejudice against Jews in Europe persists.

• A 2004 survey conducted in 10 Western European countries found that an average of 21.8% of respondents held antisemitic views.2

• The highest levels of antisemitic attitudes were found in Germany (36%), Belgium (35%), France (25%), Spain (24%), and Britain (24%).2

• In 9 out of the 10 countries surveyed, a majority of the respondents agreed with the characterization that ‘Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country’.2

• 16.4% think that Jews are ‘more willing to use shady practices to get what they want’.2

• 49% feel that Jews ‘talk too much’ about what happened to them in the Shoah, with Germany (56%) and Austria (54%) ranking the highest.2

• A March 2004 European Union report on antisemitism finds that ‘almost two-thirds of Europeans (62%) believe that the recent outbreak of violence against Jews in Europe is a result of anti-Israel sentiment’.3

• 35% of Italians polled believe Jews secretly control finance and the media, and more than 11% feel the number of Jews killed in the Shoah was exaggerated.4

• 15% of Britains believe that the ‘scale of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews has been exaggerated’.5

• 80.4% of Europeans nonetheless felt that their governments should ‘take a role in combating antisemitism’.2

* Most of the information on these pages focuses on Europe, North America and Australia as they are where most of the world’s Jews live and where the most reliable data is available.

Population

There are approximately 14 million Jews worldwide.1 While the majority live in North America and Europe, there are significant Jewish communities in over 100 countries globally.1

The legacy of genocide

In 1939, just before World War Two, the global Jewish population was approximately 16 million, of which some 11 million are estimated to have lived in Europe.1 After the War, the European Jewish population was reduced to around 5 million.1

If 6 million Jews hadn’t been killed in the Shoah, and assuming an average population growth rate of 1.4% (the current world average), then in 2004 there would have been approximately 40 million Jews worldwide, or nearly 3 times the current population.

Antisemitic incidents

Hate crimes data gathered by a number of government agencies, police departments and non-governmental organizations indicates that antisemitic incidents (including violent attacks, desecration of synagogues and cemeteries, harassment and abuse) are on the rise.

Official hate crime figures tend to reflect only a small proportion of actual incidents, since it is believed many victims do not report them. There is particular reluctance on the part of members of the Orthodox Jewish community to report incidents despite the reality that it is often these individuals who are most targeted because of their high visibility.6 In Canada, one estimate suggests that only 10% of hate crimes ever get reported.7

• Antisemitic incidents in Germany have increased by 69% since 2000 with an alarming increase in the number of antisemitic violent crimes reported (up nearly 100%).3 Similarly, Austrian monitoring agencies report that from 2002 to 2003 there has been a 70% increase in antisemitic attacks and incidents.3

• Of the 313 racist incidents reported in 2002 in France, 193 were directed at the Jewish community, 6 times more than in 2001.3

• In Australia up to 2002, the annual average number of incidents reported was 279. In 2003 there were 481 reports of antisemitic incidents, including a notable increase in physical violence and property damage (up 60% from 2002).10

A question of language

Cabal
A cabal is a small group of persons united in some plot or design, usually to promote their private views and interests in church or state by intrigue. It derives from Kabbalah (which has numerous spelling variations), the mystical interpretation of the Hebrew scripture. As such it has antisemitic connotations and is frequently used to describe myths of Jewish power and conspiracies.

Ghetto
The word originates from Venice’s ‘Ghetto’ in the 14th century where all Jews were forced to live and were locked in at night. Before the designation of this part of the city for the Jews it was an iron foundry (getto), hence the name.

Jewellery
Contrary to popular myth, the word does not descend from Jews. It is derived from the word ‘jewel’, which was Anglicised from the Old French jouel with the same meaning around the 13th century. Further tracing leads back to the Latin jocale, meaning ‘plaything’.

Pogrom
The Russian word pogrom denotes a massive violent attack on people with simultaneous destroying of their environment (homes, businesses, religious centres). Historically the term has been used to denote attacks against Jews and other ethnic minorities living in Europe.

Shoah/Holocaust
Many Jews prefer to refer to the genocide of the Second World War as the ‘Shoah’, also spelled ‘Shoa’ and ‘Sho’ah’, which means ‘calamity’ in Hebrew (Hashoah). The word ‘Holocaust’ (Greek for ‘a completely (holos) burnt (kaustos) sacrificial offering’) is seen as problematic for some as it is theologically offensive to imply that the European Jews killed were a sacrifice to God. Nonetheless it is widely recognized that most people who use the word ‘Holocaust’ do not intend such a meaning.

Zionism
‘Zionism’ derives from the word ‘Zion’ (lit. 'height', Hebrew: Tziyyón), being one of the names of Jerusalem, associated with an historic settlement in the area as mentioned in the Bible. It was coined by an Austrian Jewish publicist named Nathan Birnbaum in his journal Self Emancipation in 1890.

Deicide in the US

• In the US, an April 2004 poll found that 34% of those below age 30 and 42% of African-Americans say they feel Jews were responsible for Christ’s death, up substantially from 1997 (10% and 21%, respectively).11

• Of those Americans between the age of 18-34 who have seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, 42% believe Jews were responsible for Christ’s death.11

• 8% of Americans think that ‘all Jews today’ bear responsibility for the death of Jesus, compared with 80% who reject that view.11

Church sign in Denver, Colorado, appearing around the same time as the release of Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of The Christ.

Sources:

  1. Obtaining reliable data on population figures for Jewish people is difficult due to discrepancies in national census data and criteria used to identify Jews. Our figures are based on a compilation of sources including: David Singer and Lawrence Grossman, American Jewish Yearbook 2003, The American Jewish Committee, New York 2003; data based on a study by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) as reported in the Jerusalem Post, 24 June 2004; World Jewish Congress: World Jewish Population, Lerner Publications Company, 1998; and the US Census Bureau International Database http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbprint.html
  2. Anti-Defamation League, Attitudes Toward Jews, Israel and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict in Ten European Countries, April 2004 http://www.adl.org/antisemitism/europeanattitudesapril2004.pdf
  3. Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003, European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, 31 March 2004. http://eumc.eu.int/eumc/as/PDF04/AS-Main-report-PDF04.pdf
  4. Italian Opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Mideast Question, Eurispes Research Institute, January 2004.
  5. ‘JC/ICM Poll Findings’ published in Jewish Chronicle, 23 January 2004.
  6. 2003 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada. http://www.bnaibrith.ca/publications/audit2003/audit2003-00.html
  7. See for example: Status Report, Hate Crime Team, Vancouver Police Department, January to June 1999; Julian Roberts, Disproportionate Harm: Hate Crimes in Canada, University of Ottawa, Department of Criminology, working paper, 1995.
  8. Antisemitic Incidents Report 2003, Community Security Trust.
  9. Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, 1983-2003, Anti-Defamation League, 24 March 2004. http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ASUS12/446412.htm
  10. ECAJ Statement On Antisemitism Resolution Scheduled For The House Of Representatives On 16 February 2004, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, 16 February 2004. http://www.ecaj.org.au/media/160204.htm
  11. Belief that Jews were Responsible for Christ’s Death Increases: Prevalent Among Young People, Minorities and ‘Passion of Christ’ Viewers, Pew Research Centre for People and the Press, 2 April 2004. http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=209

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