Despite a 20% decline in the number of violent incidents against Jews, last year saw a sharp rise in abusive language and behavior, threats, and harassment of Jewish people on an individual basis around the world, according to the annual report, (a PDF format article) "AntiSemitism Worldwide 2013" presented on April 27, 2014, by Tel Aviv University's (TAU's) Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the Moshe Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, says a new study by TAU's Kantor Center releases annual report on state of anti-Semitism, according to the May 5, 2014 news release, "Severe escalation' of anti-Jewish atmosphere in 2013."
At a press conference accompanying the release of the report, Professor Dina Porat, head of the Kantor Center, and Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, highlighted the "severe escalation in anti-Jewish atmosphere," borne out by daily attacks on individuals who reported feeling that their personal safety and communal well-being were jeopardized. "2013 was a difficult year not because of violent events — there was a decline of about 20% from 2012, which was a particularly murderous year because of [the terrorist attack on a Jewish day school in] Toulous," said Prof. Porat. "What made the year difficult was the escalation of harassment, insults, and visual caricatures of Jewish people, penetrating the center from the extreme left and right fringes of society."
77% of harassment and discrimination events go unreported to authorities
Prof. Porat cited the findings of the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), which conducted a survey of 6,000 Jews in eight European countries. The survey found that in 77 percent of cases, Jewish victims of harassment or discrimination did not report the fact to authorities, 90% had experienced anti-Semitic abusive language and behavior, and a third considered leaving Europe because of anti-Semitism. 40 percent of those surveyed did not wear identifying Jewish symbols outside the home and a quarter did not attend Jewish events for fear of being attacked.
"This year, there was no one event that could be pointed at to blame for the sentiment in the world," said Dr. Porat, according to the news release. "We cannot pinpoint a reason or a few reasons, no military event in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We are seeing a return to classic anti-Semitism. This is our conclusion." Dr. Porat emphasized that the report did not rely only on "Jewish perception or feeling," but also offered an analysis of 14,000 emails bearing anti-Semitic content sent over the last year to the Israeli embassy in Berlin.
Treatment of Jews seen as "barometer of societal health"
Dr. Kantor said, according to the news release, that a society's treatment of Jews can be seen as a barometer of societal health. "Everything bad starts with anti-Semitism but does not end with it," explained Dr. Kantor, according to the news release. "The Jewish people are an indicator, a barometer, of a society's wellbeing. What's bad for the Jews is eventually bad for society. Our idea is to protect Jews by protecting all people, because most of the world's Jews do not live in Israel, but in the Diaspora."
In the report, researchers registered and analyzed 554 violent anti-Semitic acts perpetrated with or without weapons, by arson, vandalism, or direct threats against Jewish individuals or institutions, including synagogues, community centers, schools, cemeteries, monuments, and homes. The highest number of violent cases took place in France. A decline in violent cases was noted in Italy, Poland, the United States, and Australia, with a rise registered in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Ukraine. According to the report, the decade 2004-2014 witnessed a rise in violent incidents over the preceding decade.
Dr. Kantor said that the Internet facilitated the flow of neo-Nazi ideology around the world
"The global informational flood through the Internet and other means of delivery make confronting the conventional challenges even more difficult," Dr. Kantor said, according to the news release. Modern neo-Nazism can trigger confrontations between countries and major parts of the population. "Anti-Semitism in 2013 became very politicized," Dr. Kantor continued. "People are fingerpointing — 'he's an anti-Semite, she's an anti-Semite.' This is a very bad sign, because anti-Semitism is the subject of security, not politics, which is precisely why our research is so important. We provide the numbers, the exact quality of anti-Semitism in the world. We fight against capabilities, not events." To learn more, read the 2013 Kantor report: (a PDF format article) "AntiSemitism Worldwide 2013."
Here's one non-Jewish woman's experience of being perceived visually as looking "exceedingly Yiddish" (the man on the train referred to the language, not the ethnic group):
"To the stranger on the train, was I dressed like Liz Taylor in 'Cleopatra' or like a Lubavitcher Hassid woman en route to Crown Heights? How he saw me and how I viewed myself made a critical difference when he decided to beat me up in a commuter train because of the way my face appeared to him. It has been said that you judge a society as being civilized based on how equally and generously human rights are guaranteed to every citizen. It’s also the litmus test of man’s humanity--how a society treats its women.
How does each society and individual act toward the strange woman perceived to be alone on the street, in a bus, or on a train? It’s enough we break at our weakest link. How do we strengthen the links? The answer is by standing up for one another. Unity must be guaranteed, regardless of the symmetry of one’s face.
What I wore was a simple white blouse, a modest-length black and white skirt, flats, and nylons. And I was 22 and pregnant with my first child. So why did he try to crush my head between his knee and the metal wall of the moving train before it approached Elizabeth New Jersey in August of 1964?
In August 1964, my husband and I returned from a two-day vacation in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I had taken him to stay at one of the many ethnic hotels in Bradley Beach, where singles customarily went to find marriage partners and newly weds spent weekends during the summer, before other towns in New Jersey became the matchmaker’s paradise or places for the newly wed, and Brooklyn housed most of the community.
It was one of the hottest August 1964 days as the train rushed back to New York. I was two-months pregnant. I had my medium dark ash brown hair dyed blue-back and curled into an Egyptian style. My eyes were made up to look like Liz Taylor in the 1964 hit of 'Cleopatra'
For some time now I was disguising myself as an Arab woman married to an Arab man in New York—if only to see what it feels like being an Arab in a multi-ethnic Brooklyn ghetto near Coney Island. Once in journalism class, a professor began to bark about how the Arabs wouldn’t let him teach in Lebanon because he was a Jew.
He was in shock when I told him my Arab husband’s name and later dropped out of the class. He put down the Lebanese and ranted in anger at Arabs for rejecting him as a Jew, giving back the treatment he had received as a university teacher in Lebanon.
Then when I interviewed for a publishing job, I was hired and then called back and told I would not be wanted at that company solely because my resume mentioned that I was the wife of a so-called self-proclaimed "Arab sheik." Later, I published my writing in a major New York-based magazine and won many awards in college for short stories.
It was part of what I wanted to experience as a serious viewer and reader of visual anthropology to pose as an Arab woman in a multi-ethnic neighborhood in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY. In 1964 with so few Arab immigrants in the US that were being noticed, I had more comments for looking Jewish than looking Arab from European and African Americans. Jews thought I was Jewish, and Arabs took me for Lebanese. But, hey, I'm Catholic, and my ancestors in the past were East Sicilian-American.
I still thought I looked like Liz Taylor’s character role in the movie, ‘Cleopatra.’ Whatever I looked like, the visual anthropology of it, I was singled out, beaten, or told I look like “a New York Jew” by Hispanics.
After a two-day vacation at a working-class boarding house hotel in Bradley Beach, the train headed toward Elizabeth, New Jersey on its way to Manhattan. In one train car I sat with my mother who had vacationed in her own room at our expense. My husband was in a good mood that month because he was working.
I had to get up to go to the john that required passing between train cars. As I tried to come back from the rest room and pass again between the cars to get back to the seat, a man suddenly blocked my way.
He had a face out of a Norman Rockwell print. American Gothic. Balding black hair, round blue eyes with thick glasses. A face like Hitler, but tall and thin. His wife stood inside the car a few feet from him, with the breeze hitting her. Pillbox hat and fishnet veil, blue cotton dress, dark brown hair and squinting brown eyes. The couple looked in their early fifties, maybe late forties. Was he coming back from that historical summer of 1964 Lincoln Rockwell neo-nazi-type meeting? Did he mistake my Sicilian face for that of someone from the Polish Diaspora?
"Wait ‘till the train stops," the well-dressed man in a gray suit commanded.
"But I’ve got to get back to my seat or my husband will worry that I became sick in the john," I whined. Here I was two or three months pregnant, twenty-two, morning sickness, and with black-and-blue arms from a recent blood test at the OB office a few days before.
The man shook his head "no." So I, not about to give a strange man that much power over me, rushed past him as if I refused to have space in my life for people like him. Big mistake. I'd didn't realize he had a mental explosive disorder.
For once, I thought, having read The Feminine Mystique, that I could get away with being treated in a crowded public train in the afternoon as a majority male. The Norman Rockwell painting type of clean-cut American Gothic-farmer-styled male in a business suit grabbed my face and wrestled me down so that my head was between his knees. He began to crush my skull sideways between his thighs in a vise-like grip.
Then he took his knee and squeezed my head between the metal of the inside train car and his leg. Like a rag doll, he twisted me, grabbing lifting my flailing body upwards and putting it down inside the car
I tried to run in place like a fool, but he was holding me steadfast while my legs circled as if pumping a bicycle.
"Let her go dear," squeaked a child-like tone from his wife. She only spoke openly when she saw my outstretched arm flailing and my wiggling fingers with that bright gold wedding band flashing in the woman’s eye.
Once the woman saw my wedding ring, all sorts of things could have flashed before her. Perhaps she realized that there may be a hunk of a husband lurking in the next car. Her voice whispered, "Let her go, dear," the wife repeated.
That middle-aged man let me go at last, but not before he gave me a swift kick at the base of the spine and threw me forward, bodily into the next car. With that, he yelled to me, "You dirty Jew!" and then a stream of epithets, followed by a swift kick at the base of my spine. Did he take me for a teenager instead of a pregnant woman in her twenties? Why was I beaten, and why didn't anyone on the train speak up or tell him to cut it out?
Not one of the other passengers rose to my aid. No one cared to get involved or even look up from their newspapers
When you look sixteen, men don’t spare the rod, I thought. If he knew I was twenty-two, married, and pregnant, would he have done it the same way? Probably, I wondered.
I trotted back to my seat in dead silence and never told my husband what happened. Never told mother, either. I didn't want to get my mom or husband involved in a fight with a man who looked as if he had some type of intermittent explosive disorder that went off because he didn't like my Mediterranean-looking face or my hairstyle or both.
What if I had said something? My husband would get into a fight. It wouldn’t be good for the baby to continue the tension. So for the rest of my life, I kept silent on this event. In New Jersey, 1964, if you were female and looked like Woody Allen in a black wig, you earned a kick in the butt and a bash in the head.
Except, once I even wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper in Elizabeth, where the man might have gotten off. He warned me to wait until the train stopped in Elizabeth before passing in front of him to return to my seat in the next car
Was all that commotion worth it to him--beating a 119-pound, five foot-four pregnant woman who only wanted to go back to her seat safely after a bout of morning sickness-pregnancy first trimester retching in the john? He hit me for disobeying his cold command. Did he have a phobia or the type of rage that is instantaneous, based on how a person's face or profile is observed in a few seconds, at a glance?
Why was he afraid of me enough to try to crush my skull—to cause me great pain? How’d he know whether or not I was really Jewish? I wondered, looking at my face in a compact mirror. I could have been anything with that particular facial shape, profile, and coloring.
It had to be my large, convex, downward-tipping Sicilian or possibly ancient Anatolian, Cretan, Greek Islander, or 'Hittite' nose. Or perhaps I look Assyrian, like the golden mask of king Sargon of ancient Babylon. Or Kurdish or Macedonian or anything else in his mind's eye.
He saw it as a stereotype, and the black 'Cleopatra' wig reinforced the imagery. Lots of people have big, convex noses like the medieval Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. Why did he immediately single it out as one ethnic group and start kicking me? It was the caricature of my skull and nose shape. So why did he associate my face with his hatred of anything Jewish rather than any other immigrant from New York's multi-ethnic community of 1964?
I went through naming all the countries from which I could pass as a native. I thought I looked as Florentine as their medieval poets, the ancient Romans and Greeks, the ancient Persians, Babylonians, and Kurdish peoples. I looked Georgian, Lebanese, Armenian, and practically any other ethnic group around the Mediterranean or Black Sea...Phrygian, Lydian, Lycian, and Thracian. So why would he explode with the epithet, "dirty Jew" at a stranger on a train? Was he really a neo-Nazi or what? Could this only happen in a multi-ethnic area such as New York or New Jersey? Did such events happen to my two best female friends from college who looked a lot like me, the Greek and the Armenian ladies?
Everybody from everywhere seemed to be living peacefully side by side in my Brooklyn neighborhood, also referred to sometimes as little Italy. So what did he have against pregnant women with that Middle-Eastern look, Sicilian women, Greek women, or women from the grain belts of the ancient world? Would he have exploded that way with rage if I looked East Asian or Indian, Caribbean, or any other ethnic group in New York? Did he act that way at home with his wife who seemed to talk so meekly and soft when she finally uttered the words, "let 'er go, dear," after I waved my wedding ring finger in front of her (to signal my husband was waiting for me in the next car).
That's New York in 1964, or rather New Jersey that the train was passing through, or was it a caricature of any large, urban city? Why the human disconnect of strange young women being pummeled in public places?
In the mid 1970s, a young man at an office in which I worked in San Diego had a conversation with a group of employees, including me, and suddenly says to my face, "You look like a New York Jew." Okay, it was my New York accent that uprooted him. But why use the word, 'Jew'? What's happening here? Why that word rather than Greek or Sicilian. Does he have a problem with people having a New York accent?
Why is the accent associated with a particular ethnic group? And how do you separate one New York accent from another to separate Italians from Brooklyn from any other ethnic group living near Coney Island, which today is known as "Little Odessa" and having lots of Russian restaurants and immigrants, of all different faiths.
Then in the 1980s, in San Diego, I get in a bus and a blonde young man asks me, where am I from, Israel? Why would a young male stranger in a public transit bus in San Diego give a floating palm frong where I came from? He wasn't from any other country. What's the hatred about the second these guys see someone with a certain type of facial feature. Aren't we all Americans?
The stereotype came out of his mouth before I said a word. Why jump to a conclusion and then explode volcanically with bigotry to a stranger in a bus with whom he wanted to make conversation? What's wrong with these males? I've never heard that type of immediate judgment of someone's facial dimensions from a woman trying to tell a person what the person knows, what ethnic group or faith he or she belongs to? Imagine how it feels to live in this type of fear, for what? What's the bigot going to get out of it? And what if I had a different color skin or eye shape?
Must women obey all men or die?
Why do some men explode in hostility at a stereotypical ‘Jewish’ (Hittite) (Assyroid) (Persian) face? Or a Middle Eastern appearance? Or even Mediterranean features? Why is it so important to comment loudly to an average person who is walking alone or window shopping in the daytime? As soon as I became separated from the crowd, I became singled out from the crowd. Why do men, passing in the street like robots on a conveyer belt, shout to me what I already know and what I’ve heard since age18, about the symmetry or lack of it of my average face?"
The abuse in streets or in trains first began when I was eighteen and a college student in New York, I walked down Park Avenue when from a store front doorway roared a loud young man’s voice. “Ooooh, what beautiful hair, but oh what an ugly face.” Forty years later, another young male voice echoed from another store front on the opposite coast. “Hey, old lady…” Why do men see a strange woman in the street and feel the need to tell her loudly what she already either knows or fears? What's the motive for such abuse and intimidation of a total stranger walking or riding in public places?"