by Hana Levi Julian
Anti-Semitic violence is skyrocketing in Western European countries, particularly in Britain and France, according to national Jewish organizations.
The London-based Community Security Trust reported Friday that after Israel's counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the incidence rose to more than six times the number of attacks that were carried out in the same period just a year earlier.
The organization, which tracks anti-Semitic incidents and tries to maintain security for the Jewish community in Britain, released the report in advance of an international conference focusing on how to deal with anti-Semitism, slated to be held Monday in London.
According to the report, in the four weeks following the start of the operation on December 27 there were 250 attacks, as opposed to 40 recorded for the same period in 2007-2008.
Among the incidents were physical assaults, verbal attacks, Jewish property damaged, threats, hate mail and anti-Semitic graffiti.
London police confirmed a rise in anti-Semitism, and said that in the period from December 27 to February 3, they recorded three times as many incidents as were reported a year earlier. Some of the increase, they said, came due to a change in record-keeping methods; however, they note that the data speaks for itself.
French Jews Afraid to Walk the Streets
Friday also marked the three-year anniversary since the murder of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi, a Parisian Jew who died in France after being kidnapped and brutally tortured by an anti-Semitic gang.
Since Halimi's death, things have only gotten worse, according to Serge Benhaim, president of a Jewish community in the French capital.
"Almost every day we witness severe racially motivated incidents, and tension has only intensified after the operation in Gaza," Benhaim told journalists. "We don't take the train after 7:00 p.m., we wear a skullcap only under a hat and our youths don't wander the streets late at night anymore," he added.
The suspects in Halimi's murder are expected to go on trial next month, and the Jewish community has already been warned to keep a low profile, according to Benhaim, who said Jews in Paris are "preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, Halimi's murder probably won't be the last," he said.
More than 100 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in France during the period between December 27, when Operation Cast Lead began, and the end of January 2009, according to the country's Representative Council of Jewish Institutions. That was compared to a total of 250 anti-Semitic incidents recorded during the entire 12-month period from January to December 2007.
Organization president Richard Prasquier told journalists last month that he and several other Jewish community leaders met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to ask for his intervention. "He told us that he would do more to find a solution to this problem," Prasquier said.
Meanwhile, six weeks ago Michael Benhamou became the next victim of French anti-Semitic brutality when he was attacked by three "Arab-looking men" on the Parisian metro while on his way home. The attackers cursed him, threatened to kill him and then beat him up. Benhamou was hospitalized for four days with multiple facial fractures, including a broken nose.
His attackers disappeared, and no arrests have been made. "We can't count on the police," said the young victim. "Nothing has changed here since Ilan's murder. There is no place for Jews in France; we can't keep living here with these acts of barbarism. I already told my girlfriend that we are going to make aliyah. There's nothing left for us here; I want my child to be a sabra."
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