Israeli researchers warned Sunday of a sudden upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks, topped by a deadly school shooting in France, noting a link to the rise of extremist parties in Europe.
The warnings emerge from an annual report on anti-Semitism in the world, released on the eve of Israel's memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by German Nazis and their collaborators in World War II.
The report noted a 30 percent jump in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism last year, after a two-year decline. It was issued at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across Europe.
The report recorded 686 attacks in 34 countries, ranging from physical violence to vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries, compared to 526 in 2011. It said 273 of the attacks last year, or 40 percent, involved violence against people.
The report linked the March, 2012 shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, where an extremist Muslim gunman killed four people, to a series of attacks that followed — particularly in France, where physical assaults on Jews almost doubled.
The report by the university's Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry found little correlation between the increase of anti-Semitic attacks and Israel's military operation in Gaza in November. While there was a spike in incidents at the time, it was much smaller in number and intensity than the one that followed the Toulouse school attack, said Roni Stauber, the chief researcher on the project.
"This shows that the desire to harm Jews is deeply rooted among extremist Muslims and right-wingers, regardless of events in the Middle East," he said. An Israeli offensive in Gaza four years earlier led to a significant spike in attacks against Jews in Europe.
This year, researchers pointed to a correlation between the strengthening of extreme right-wing parties in some European countries and high levels of anti-Semitic incidents, as well as attacks on other minorities and immigrants.
They said Europe's economic crisis was fueling the rise of extremist parties like Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece and Svoboda in Ukraine.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, called for strong action by the European Union, charging that governments — particularly in Hungary — were not doing enough to curb these parties' activities and protect minorities.
"Neo-Nazis have been once again legalized in Europe. They are openly sitting in parliaments," Kantor complained.
Kantor, a Russian-Swiss businessman, said the EU should even consider expelling Hungary and Greece. "If they do not protect their own population against neo-Nazism, with all the lessons Europe had already, maybe there is no place for them in the European Union," he told The Associated Press after the presentation of the report.
First, he said, his group has asked the European Parliament to hold a special hearing on Hungary. The parliament is planning the hearings, said parliament spokesman Jaume Duch.
The president of the parliament, Martin Schulz, has been openly critical of anti-Semitism in Europe.
There was no immediate reaction from European officials, but the chances of punishing any country for the results of a democratic election are slim. The EU has never suspended a member state, much less tried to expel one.
Golden Dawn swept into Greece's parliament for the first time in June on an anti-immigrant platform. The party rejects the neo-Nazi label but is fond of Nazi literature and references. In Hungary, a Jobbik lawmaker has called for Jews to be screened as potential security risks. The leader of Ukraine's Svoboda denies his party is anti-Semitic but has repeatedly used derogatory terms to refer to Jews.
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.