6.4 PERCENT INCREASE IN 2020 ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS REPORTED

Anti-Semitism Reporting Office of the IKG Vienna presents Annual Report 2020.

In total, the IKG’s anti-Semitism reporting office received 585 reports in the previous year. This is “a negative record,” as IKG Secretary General Benjamin Nägele emphasizes in the report of the reporting office presented Monday evening, or as IKG President Oskar Deutsch puts it: “Too many by 585 anti-Semitic incidents.” The statistics make anti-Semitism and its dimensions partially visible, Deutsch emphasizes in the report. “What is decisive is what consequences our society draws from this. It is up to each and every individual not to accept an anti-Semitic joke on the Internet, a conspiracy lie at a demo or in a school class, but to stand up against it.”

What will be remembered longer from 2020: first the attack on the president of the IKG Graz, Elie Rosen, in the summer and then the attack in and around Seitenstettengasse, in which four people were killed and 23 others were injured, some seriously. Investigators have so far remained silent about the perpetrator’s motivation. According to the security authorities, it can be assumed that the Jewish community was also a target of the attacker; that he was not successful in this is due to the fact that the premises of the Jewish Community (synagogue, offices, bookstore) were already closed at the time of the attack, as well as the restaurant attached to the building complex was not open that evening due to a short-term cancellation of a reservation. Towards the end of the year, Vienna was also disturbed by an attack on a rabbi in the open street, to whom none of the bystanders rushed to help. What also made itself felt in 2020 was that anti-Semitism that came up in the train of the Corona pandemic in the form of conspiracy myths, but also inappropriate comparisons with the Nazi era.

As a basis for its work, the IKG’s Anti-Semitism Reporting Office uses the IHRA’s (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism. The categorization of incidents is based on the Research and Information Center on Anti-Semitism (RIAS) in Germany and the Community Security Trust (CST) in England. The use of internationally recognized standards is also intended to ensure international comparability. Incidents that are reported are recorded – the increase in reported incidents may therefore also be due to the increasing awareness of the hotline. The report also emphasizes that it is “not an overall depiction of anti-Semitism in Austria”. However, the number of physical attacks increased from six in 2019 to eleven in 2020; in this area, an increase is always a sign of alarm.

So which categories did the 585 reported incidents fall into? The eleven attacks accounted for two percent of the incidents. The bulk of the reports involved hurtful behavior (364 cases, 62 percent of the reports) – this included anti-Semitic insults, statements, comments and messages that occurred face-to-face, by telephone or in writing in e-mails, letters or in online media. In 53 cases (nine percent), there was damage to property, and in 135 cases (23 percent), there was mass writing (i.e., content addressed to at least two addressees or published online or in analog form in blogs, newspapers, etc.). Threat was present in 22 cases (four percent). By comparison, 1,668 incidents were reported in the UK in 2020, with 100 attacks (six percent). RIAS recorded 1,004 reports, with 17 attacks (two percent of reports).

One question that is often asked when anti-Semitism occurs is that of the background. If one looks at the 585 cases reported in Austria for 2020 according to ideological background, the following picture emerges: 229 could be assigned to the right-wing spectrum (specifically, according to the report, “the political or socio-political right, right-wing extremism and (neo)Nazism). In 87 cases, the incidents were classified as “left-wing” (all incidents “which could be attributed to the political and socio-political left and left-wing extremism in all its forms, for example the anti-Semitic BDS movement and anti-imperialist groups”). 74 incidents were classified as having a Muslim background (“incidents caused by persons or organizations that are ideologically or religiously associated with Islamism”). However, if one looks only at the physical attacks, for example, five had a Muslim background, two had a right-wing background, and in four cases the motivation could not be assigned. In the case of damage to property, on the other hand, the right-wing background dominated (31 cases), 14 acts were left-wing motivated, three Muslim.

 

“Regardless of whether it comes from the left or the right, whether it is autochthonous
or imported. The decisive factor is that everyone pulls together
and resolutely oppose all manifestations of this hatred.
resolutely against all manifestations of this hatred.” – Karoline Edtstadler

The compilers of the report also decided to introduce additional subcategories in order to better capture the essence of the anti-Semitism that came to light in 2020. According to the report, 42 of the cases had a Corona reference. Here, for example, inappropriate comparisons stood out. For example, a meme made the rounds on social media in which the well-known inscription on the gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp was rephrased as “Vaccination makes you free”. Another example here was the wearing or posting of the Nazi “Jewish star” in which “not vaccinated” was written. In 15 cases, anti-Semitic conspiracy myths were propagated. 51 times the Shoa was denied or relativized. Israel-related anti-Semitism was present in 125 cases.

The report notes positively in several places the National Strategy against Anti-Semitism now adopted by the Austrian government. The report quotes Karoline Edtstadler, the minister responsible for the constitution, as saying that it is crucial that everyone pulls together. In order to be able to fight anti-Semitism, it is necessary to record and make visible anti-Semitic incidents. “The reporting office of the IKG Vienna thus has a crucial role to play. It is an essential tool in the fight against this so resistant form of discrimination.”

Katharina von Schnurbein, who is responsible for combating anti-Semitism and promoting Jewish life on behalf of the EU Commission, calls anti-Semitism an “attack on human rights” in the report. In it, she also states that according to a survey by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, 71 percent of anti-Semitic incidents in Austria go unreported. The reasons given for this were: that nothing would change anyway, that the incident had not been bad enough, that it would be too troublesome to file a complaint. She therefore appeals to those affected:

“No incident is too unimportant not to be reported. Incidentally, that also applies to incidents that occur online.”

IKG President Deutsch also emphasizes in the report that the fight against anti-Judaism is not a primary task of the IKG. “But we are usually the first ones affected, the ones who experience anti-Semitism firsthand.” That is why it is also an important task of the hotline to care for those people who have experienced anti-Semitism. This is also emphasized by IKG Secretary General Nägele: “In addition to simply recording incidents, the hotline serves an even more important and overriding task: to offer those affected by anti-Semitic incidents trustworthy, individual and the best possible support.”