Poll shows rising tide of anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitic feeling has been revealed in a poll in Italy which shows more than 46 cent of Europeans consider Jews to have “a different mentality” from the rest of the population.

The survey, published on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, will fuel controversy prompted by a poll by the European Commission in October. That Eurobarometer survey suggested 59 per cent of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, 40 per cent said Jews had a “particular relationship to money” and 35 per cent agreed Jews “should stop playing the victim because of the Holocaust and persecution of 50 years ago”. The poll infuriated the Israeli government and appalled Jews around the world.

Some Jewish commentators claimed to detect the rise of a wave of anti-Semitism, and others said criticism of the policies of Ariel Sharon in the second intifada should not be denounced as anti-Semitic.

The latest findings confirm the existence of a link between hostile feelings about Jews and about the behaviour of Israel to the Palestinians. The two sentiments, anger about Israel and hostility towards Jewish compatriots, are growing, particularly in ill-educated older people, many of whom identify with the politics of the right. The poll, for Corriere della Sera daily, which questioned 3,353 people in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Holland, Spain and the UK, found anti-Semitic prejudice mostly entrenched in Italy, Germany, Austria and Spain, the old heartlands of fascism.

While 73.7 per cent conceded Israel’s right to exist (“but its government makes bad choices”), 16.1 per cent said it “would be better if the state of Israel did not exist and the Palestinians got their land back”, and 11.3 per cent agreed that “to give Palestinians their own land, it would be better if the Jews in Israel went elsewhere”. The people polled were asked four questions about the Middle East conflict. Nearly one-third proved clueless. Only 6.2 per cent gave correct answers.

* France dismissed Israeli charges of rising anti-Semitism yesterday, saying attacks on Jews and Jewish property had dropped by 36 per cent last year rather than doubled as Natan Sharansky, the Israeli minister for diaspora affairs claimed. He said 47 per cent of all anti-Semitic attacks in Europe last year were in France, a jump to 141 from 77 in 2002. The French interior ministry said: “The number of acts registered dropped from 195 to 125.”