Anti-Semitic hate speech incidents at all time high in Austria, watchdog says


(JTA) — A watchdog on anti-Semitism in Austria reported an increase in hate speech incidents and a decrease in physical assaults last year over 2016.

In its annual report Thursday, the Vienna-based Forum Against Anti-Semitism counted five cases of physical assault of people and 51 vandalism incidents in 2017. The previous year, the same watchdog documented seven assaults and 68 cases of vandalism.

But hate speech cases, including threats and insults on social media, climbed from 375 in 2016 to 402 last year, the report said.

In total, the Forum Against Anti-Semitism documented 503 cases in 2017, which it said in a statement is the highest tally on record. In 2016, the total number of incidents was 477.

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Seen relative to other European countries, the figures in Austria are particularly high, owing possibly to differences in methodology by people collecting the data, in motivation on the part of victims to complain or the actual prevalence of incidents.

Austria has approximately 10,000 Jews.

In France, where more than half a million Jews, the SPCJ watchdog on anti-Semitism recorded in 2016 335 cases. The French interior ministry recorded 311 cases in 2017.

In December, the Freedom Party, a populist rightist movement that a former Nazi founded in the 1950s, entered government as the only coalition partner of the center-right ruling party of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“What we observe is a reduction in inhibitions,” Amber Weinber of the Forum Against Antisemitism told reporters at a news conference in Vienna Thursday. “It has generally become more socially acceptable to make such statements.”