To some of us, it is hardly a secret that anti-Semitic violence is on the rise in Europe, or that the chief perpetrators are Muslims. But many politicians and news media have been so indefatigable in their efforts to obscure this uncomfortable fact that one is always grateful for official -- or, at least, semi-official -- confirmation of what everyone already knows.
It is a pleasure, then, to report that a new study, Antisemitic Violence in Europe, 2005-2015 -- written by Johannes Due Enstad of the Oslo-based Center for Studies of the Holocaust and the University of Oslo, and jointly published by both institutions -- is refreshingly, even startlingly, honest about its subject. Enstad notes that while anti-Semitic violence has declined in the U.S. since 1994, it has been on the rise worldwide. That, of course, includes Europe -- most of it, anyway.
Examining statistics from France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Russia, Enstad points out that one of these seven countries "clearly stands out with a very low number" of anti-Semitic incidents despite its "relatively large Jewish population"; the country in question, he adds, "is also the only case in which there is little to indicate that Jews avoid displaying their identity in public." In addition, it is the only one of the six countries in which the majority of perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence are not Muslims. Which country is Enstad referring to? Russia.
That Russia is relatively free of anti-Semitic violence may sound surprising to anyone familiar with the words Cossack and refusenik, but it actually makes sense. Would-be Jew-bashers in Russia know that if they're arrested for committing acts of violence, the consequences won't be pretty. In western Europe, by contrast, the courts are lenient, the terms of confinement short, and the prisons extremely comfortable. And while Muslims know that they are a protected class in Western Europe, able to commit all kinds of transgressions with near-impunity, that is far from being the case in Putin's Russia.
If Muslims do not dominate the anti-Semitic crime statistics in Russia, who does? The answer: right-wing extremists. Although politicians and the media in Western Europe like to talk as if Jews (and others) in their countries are principally endangered by the far-right, Russia is, in fact, the only one of the seven countries in Enstad's study in which that group does play a significant role in anti-Semitic acts.
What about the other countries? Denmark has few Jews, and Norway even fewer, so these two countries play a relatively minor role in Enstad's study. That leaves Germany, Britain, France, and Sweden. Nearly 10% of French Jews say they have been physically attacked for being Jewish during the past five years; in Germany and Sweden the figure is about 7.5%, in Britain nearly 5%. Asked how often they "avoid visiting Jewish events or sites" for fear of danger, 7.9% of Jews in Sweden say they do so frequently, followed by their coreligionists in France, Germany, and Britain (where the number is only 1.2%). Asked if they "avoid wearing, carrying or displaying things" in public that would identify them as Jews, 60% of Swedish Jews say they do so "all the time" or "frequently," with, again, France, Germany, and Britain following in that order.
Almost 50% of French Jews have considered emigrating because they feel imperiled in their own country; for Germany the figure is 25%, and for Sweden and Britain it is just under 20%.
Enstad weighs official statistics from all of the countries under examination, but finds that while those from most of the countries essentially jibe with the results of independent studies, those published by both Germany and Sweden are fishy, in some cases betraying an apparent effort by officials to massage the numbers to avoid certain uncomfortable facts. While an independent survey, for example, concludes that right-wing extremists make up a small minority of perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence in Germany, German police statistics blame most such violence on just right-wingers. Enstad, in his polite way, suggests that this discrepancy is the result of "a categorisation problem." Could it be possible, Enstad wonders, that "German police considers antisemitism a right-wing type of ideology and thus categorises most anti-Semitic attacks as right-wing, regardless of the perpetrator's ethnic or religious background?" Another problem is that German officials categorize some incidents -- including the fire-bombing of a synagogue -- as anti-Israeli, not anti-Semitic.
Anti-Israel protestors in Athens, Greece burn an Israeli flag on July 17, 2014. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Of course, the exclusive attribution of anti-Semitism to the far-right is ridiculous, as is the distinction between "anti-Israeli" and "anti-Semitic." But this kind of wordplay on the part of German officialdom is not surprising. Such fiddling with semantics and statistics in order to avoid pointing the figure at Muslims is thoroughly consistent with the current practice by both the German government and media of downplaying the extent of Muslim sexual assaults and other crimes -- most notoriously, of course, in the wake of the New Year's Eve 2016 mass sexual assaults in Cologne, after which, as the commentator Ezra Levant put it, not only did Cologne's police chief lie about the extent of the atrocities, but "[t]he media lied. The Justice Minister lied too. The mayor lied." It is also consistent with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration's fierce determination to stamp out criticism of Muslims.
The Swedish government's numbers are also dubious. While attributing a "minority" of anti-Semitic incidents to "right-wing extremists," official Swedish reports prefer not to say who is responsible for the majority of them. The closest they come to doing so is to state that many "expressions of antisemitism" are "linked to... conflicts in the Middle East." It seems clear that this is a euphemistic way of indicating that the perpetrators in question are Muslims. In any event, anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that most of the people who commit anti-Semitic violence in Sweden are, indeed, Muslims. For example, Judith Popinski, a concentration-camp survivor living in Malmö, told the Sunday Telegraph back in 2010 that she had begun experiencing the same "hatred" in that city that had once been directed at her by the Nazis, only this time, she said, it "comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now."
There is more. Like the Germans, the Swedes appear to have a "categorization problem." Absurdly, whenever a perpetrator draws a swastika, the Swedish government automatically considers it a "right-wing" act.
Yet, after examining both official and independent figures, Enstad concludes that right-wingers, in all four of the major Western European countries in his study, "constitute a clear minority of perpetrators." Indeed, "in France, Sweden and the UK (but not in Germany) the perpetrator was perceived to be left-wing more often than right-wing."
If the Western media were interested in the facts, Enstad's report would receive wide circulation and explode a few myths. I would not hold my breath.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.