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September 2, 2021 3:13 pm
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Antisemitic Incidents in Austria More Than Double in First Half of 2021

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Waving Austrian national flags, COVID-19 demonstrators are seen in Vienna in March 2021. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

Antisemitic harassment and attacks reported in Austria in the first half of 2021 have more than doubled since the year prior, led by incidents at anti-Israel protests and demonstrations against pandemic-related measures, according to the Jewish community in Vienna (IKG).

According to the IKG report, there were 562 antisemitic incidents registered during the first half of the year, compared to 257 in the same period in 2020 and 585 incidents for the full year. The actual number of antisemitic attacks is unknown and is estimated to be far higher, the report said.

The Jewish community in Austria said tally was the highest number of incidents since it started the systematic recording of such incidents 20 years ago.

“Even if the numbers seem catastrophic at first glance, they do reflect reality,” said Oskar Deutsch, President of the Jewish community of Vienna. “We rely on the cooperation with civil society, politics and the authorities in order to continue to secure self-confident Jewish life.”

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Most alarming, according to report, were the numerous cases of attacks during the first six months of the year involving insults and threats. There were 58 cases of damage to property, such as antisemitic graffiti, along with 11 threats and eight physical attacks.

“The sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in Austria unfortunately confirms to me that we must continue the fight against antisemitism consistently and uncompromisingly,” said Wolfgang Sobotka, President of the Austrian National Council.

“It is a shame that the number of attacks, threats and insults against Jewish fellow citizens is increasing more and more.”

Sobotka added that antisemitism is not only a threat to the Jewish community, but also “a threat to democracy and society as a whole.”

The vaccination campaign at the start of the year fueled antisemitic conspiracy myths, which found their expression at demonstrations. Rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in April and the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May led to a spike in antisemitic incidents.

In mid-May, a family dressed in recognizably-Jewish garb was pelted with stones in a park in Vienna. Just a few days later, four Jewish girls were harassed, pushed and insulted in an antisemitic manner. And in another incident that month, a man wearing a kippah was insulted by several male teenagers on e-scooters driving past him, who shouted “sh**y Jew” and “Allahu Akhbar.”

For the month of May, the IKG registered a total of 167 antisemitic incidents — the highest figure in the first half of 2021, and a stark increase compared to a monthly average of 49 incidents last year. In June, the number of such cases dropped to 84.

Almost half of the incidents reported were characterized as based on right-wing motives, with Muslim involvement in 71 cases. About 100 cases were associated with left-wing motivations.

Austria’s Ambassador of Israel Mordechai D. Rodgold said the report showed that it was “immensely important” to fight all forms of antisemitism.

“Israel stands in solidarity with the Jewish community,” Rodgold said.

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