Anti-Semitic attacks surged worldwide in 2014: annual survey

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Anti-Semitic attacks surged worldwide in 2014, with the highest number of incidents occurring in France, according to an annual study published in Israel on Wednesday. The report, by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, said 766 violent anti-Semitic acts, with or without weapons, were carried out around the world last year -- a 38 percent increase over 2013. Arson, vandalism and direct threats against Jews, synagogues and other Jewish institutions were included in the figure, making 2014 the worst year for such attacks since 2009. "The overall feeling among many Jewish people is one of living in an intensifying anti-Jewish environment that has become not only insulting and threatening, but outright dangerous," the study said, citing "alarming reports especially from Western Europe and North America". Anger in Western Europe over Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip last July and August, as well as anti-Jewish caricatures in the media and social networks had helped to turn anti-Semitism into an "almost daily phenomena seen and felt in every sphere of life", the report said. In France, the number of anti-Semitic attacks rose to 164 in 2014 compared with 141 in 2013. In January this year, four hostages were killed in a Paris kosher supermarket in violence that began when Islamist militants carried out a massacre in the office of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly. Britain registered 141 violent incidents against Jews in 2014 after 95 a year earlier. The number of anti-Semitic acts in Germany and Italy more than doubled, to 76 and 23 respectively. In Western Europe in particular, the study said, "the issue is not only a matter of having more security means provided by the respective states, but rather the ability to lead a full Jewish life ... especially under heavy police and even army protection". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stoked controversy in February when he called for "mass immigration" of European Jews to Israel following a deadly shooting at a synagogue in Denmark. Under Israel's Law of Return, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent has a right of immigration to Israel and, once there, can receive Israeli citizenship automatically. (Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Crispian Balmer)