United States embassies have reported an upsurge in anti-Semitism over the last decade, according to a recent government report.

According to the Report on Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism delivered to Congress March 13, there were 593 cases of major anti-Semitic incidents registered worldwide in 2006, compared to 406 in 2005 and the most since 2000.

The sharp rise included major attacks with a weapon with intent to kill–19, compared to 15 in 2005–and serious incidents of violence and vandalism aimed at Jewish persons, property and institutions (574, compared to 391 in 2005).

The year 2006 saw a sharp increase in the number of reported physical attacks on Jews–277, up from 133 in 2005. Reports of desecration of Jewish cemeteries and memorials remained about the same, but 50 percent more schools and community centers were attacked. A total of 105 synagogues were reported damaged, compared to 64 in 2005.

Though still found around the globe, traditional forms of anti-Semitism like Holocaust denial are considered unacceptable by mainstream democratic nations of Western Europe and North America, the report said.

Meanwhile new, more subtle forms of anti-Semitism have evolved–couched in terms of criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that–intentionally or not–has the effect of promoting prejudice against Jews by demonizing Israel and attributing the nation’s faults to its Jewish character.

The “new anti-Semitism,” the report said, is common in the Middle East and in Muslim communities in Europe but is not limited to those bodies. Comparing contemporary Israeli policy to the Nazis is increasingly common.

Some governments, like Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, intentionally inflame hatred against Jews. Others officially condemn anti-Semitism, but it continues to thrive in media, violent attacks and on the Internet.

Anti-Semitic discourse persists in conspiracy theories, such as the false belief that Israel and Jews were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in a more general opposition to “Zionism,” which has many different meanings and often is used in a pejorative way as a synonym for the Jewish people.

The report said anti-Zionist and anti-Israel criticism becomes anti-Semitic when it denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination, applies double standards to Israel, uses symbols associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis, draws comparisons between contemporary Israel to policies of the Nazis or holds Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

Perhaps the oldest-surviving conspiracy theory–blood libel–the allegation that Jews perform murders to gather blood for religious purposes–is fairly uncommon in Europe, but still occurs. The blood-libel myth is alive and well in the Middle East, however, where it is spread via newspapers, television, radio, Web sites and books.

Extremist fringe groups in the West are exploiting new technology–notably the Internet–to spread messages, build networks and recruit. Anti-Semitic video games patterned after popular mainstream video games can be downloaded from the Internet, reaching a computer-savvy young audience with a message of violence-as-entertainment.

While a small number of governments have been inciting anti-Semitism and others fail to act against it, the report said, many governmental efforts to combat anti-Semitism are underway. Methods used by governments to combat anti-Semitism include:

–Publicly condemning all forms of anti-Semitism and intolerance whenever they occur.
–Meeting with victims of anti-Semitic crime.
–Monitoring anti-Semitic actions and maintaining public statistics.
–Promoting tolerance in primary and secondary schools and in society at large.
–Devoting significant resources to investigating incidents and prosecuting perpetrators of anti-Semitic crimes.
–Combating hate crimes.
–Promoting Holocaust awareness and education.
–Supporting interfaith understanding and dialogue.
–Providing security protection to threatened synagogues and other Jewish institutions.
–Collaborating with affected communities, NGOs and international bodies to counter anti-Semitism.

The report by the Office of the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism is a follow-up to a State Department report in January 2005. According to a press release, it “reflects the United States’ deep commitment to take a strong stand against growing anti-Semitism around the world.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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