Members of the far-right in Hungary
Members of the far-right in Hungary

Conflicts in the Middle East and a climate of austerity have helped fuel anti-Semitism across Europe over the past decade.

At a time when Jewish communities are at risk of completely disappearing in some eastern European countries, "trigger events" regularly spark anti-Semitic attacks, a representative of the Community Security Trust (CST) told International Business Times UK.

Manchester Tops London for Anti-Semitic Crime

Statistics recently compiled by the CST revealed that more anti-Semitic incidents took place in Manchester than in London in 2011, despite there being almost seven times as many Jews in the capital.

There were 586 attacks against members of the Jewish community in the UK last year, 244 of which occurred in Manchester. These included assaults, along with acts of vandalism and descecration.

Among these, there was one incident of "extreme violence", in which a Jewish family was attacked at a petrol station.

As a female member of the family went inside to pay, she was intentionally run over by a car containing two white women, who then got out of the vehicle, shouted "dirty Jew" and spat on the injured woman before driving away.

Mark Gardner, a spokesman for the CST, said the high number of incidents reflected a strong Jewish community with the confidence to report attacks.

"It's not simply the case that Manchester is a much more anti-Semitic than London," he said. "What you have here is a highly visible Orthodox Jewish population within an area that is not good for crime," he said.

He claimed that an analysis of the statistics showed that they rose when "trigger events" took place either within, or involving, the Middle East. These included the September 11 attacks in New York, the invasion of Afghanistan and the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

"The significant increase in anti-Semitic instances really occurred after the year 2000 and it seems to be a post-millennium phenomenon not seen on the same level in the 10 or 20 years before," he said.

"It's very difficult to quantify something like this, as I am sure that the reporting rates have improved greatly over the years. However, Jewish communities across the world, with perhaps the exception of some in eastern Europe, reported the same findings outside of 2000.

"What we've seen is that Middle Eastern conflicts drive up the level of anti-Semitism and they have occurred so regularly as to not allow it to drop back to the lower levels of the 1990s.

"It's these trigger events that set off an increase in attacks, often due to some form of directionless anger. Something happens in the news and, before you know it, the nutters come out of the woodwork."

Latent Hostility Towards Jews in Germany

Recent reports have raised concern over the enduring legacy of anti-Semitism in German. A survey carried out by Stern news magazine found that 10 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds were unaware that Auschwitz was a concentration camp, while a survey carried out by the German parliament in 2009 found evidence of latent hostility toward Jews.

Around 20 percent of German citizens were found to have anti-Jewish attitudes. Anti-Semitic insults were common on sporting terraces and the word "Jew" was often used as a slur.

"Anti-Semitism in our society is based on widespread prejudices, deeply rooted cliches and sheer ignorance about Jews and Judaism," said Peter Longerich, one of the Stern report's authors.

Elan Steinberg, of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, told the Jewish Chronicle that the findings left him "deeply shaken".

Gardner, nevertheless, believes that anti-Semitism in western Europe is gradually being eroded by the larger belief that "racism is simply unacceptable".

"We have an atmosphere of austerity that leads to crime for economic reasons, which can often then lead to secondary offences brought about by racism and anger," he said. "This can also lead to an increase in far-right attitudes."

Far-right Parties Flex Their Muscles

Anti-Semitism in eastern Europe is more entrenched, Gardner said, pointing to recent outbursts by a spokesman for the Hungarian ultra-nationalist party Jobbik.

Marton Gyongyosi told the Jewish Chronicle that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians amounted to a "Nazi system" and questioned whether Jews have "the right to talk about what happened during the Second World War".

"We are seeing a division in the manner of anti-Semitism in western and eastern Europe, where western Europe sees a direct connection to the Arab-Israeli community," Gardner said.

"Yet in eastern Europe we are seeing that they haven't worked out their Second World War narratives or attitudes to democracy, nationalism and racism and that is very concerning."

"Some of the eastern European Jewish communities are getting older and seeing dwindling numbers. If they don't find a voice, they are in danger of disappearing completely."

As far as combating anti-Semitism in future, Gardner suggested that a mixture of both government mechanisms and education are key, while Jewish communities need to maintain their commitment to reporting attacks.

"How things will change and whether this is something that will change, I don't know," he said. "To look at it on the most brutal level, if the Holocaust didn't stop it, what will?"