In today’s Europe, nine out of 10 Jews believe that anti-Semitism has significantly increased over the last five years.

Between 2016 and 2017, France – an EU nation that has the largest Jewish population, by far – saw the number of anti-Semitic crimes decrease after a spike earlier in the decade. In 2018, however, the number of crimes that targeted Jews saw a staggering increase, with 74% more incidents recorded over the course of the last year, according to a new report by the French government report.

That report indicated that there were 541 anti-Semitic crimes committed last year against, up from 311 in 2017. Amongst the crimes that specifically targeted Jews in 2018, 81 of them were explicit acts violence or attempted homicide; 102 targeted Jewish-owned businesses, cultural centres or places of worship; and 358 were registered as anti-Semitic threats.

What’s even more striking was that in 2018, 824 sites that were owned or tied to France’s Jewish population had to be provided with additional security by the French police and military.

The government’s report comes in the wake of the latest series of incidents that included blatant anti-Semitic attacks at a Jewish cemetery in Alsace, the French region closest to the German border. In those attacks, a that identified themselves as being associated with an Alsatian neo-Nazi separatist group known as sprayed swastikas on more than 80 Jewish headstones.

According to the French government, the state registered 100 anti-Muslim incidents in 2018, down slightly from the 121 that France’s law enforcement officials said had occurred a year before. This followed a recent trend that dates back by at least half a decade.

The number of attacks on Muslims in 2018 was the lowest that France had seen since 2010 after 182 occurred in 2016 and 429 in 2015, the same year that Islamist terrorists who were French citizens carried out a deadly attack in Paris that killed several journalists at France’s satirical news magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and a group of Jewish patrons who were shopping at a Kosher deli.

The statistics were made public by France’s Interior Minister, Christoph Castaner – the man who oversaw the compiling of the statistics, indicated that the number of attacks that targeted specific religious groups also included 1,063 incidents against various denominations of Christians. Though comparably small, that number revealed that the number of attacks against France’s followers of Christianity had actually increased by 25 cases from the year before.

Encouragingly, the number of racist and xenophobic attacks decreased by 4.2% to 496 cases in 2018 from 518 the year before.

French civil society has mobilised in impressive numbers in recent days as thousands of people have marched across the country in a show of national solidarity against the rise of anti-Semitism in France.

Taking to the street and marching under the slogan “That’s Enough” the demonstrators included former presidents François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. The demonstrations hope to shed light on the disturbingly more frequent and brazen attacks against the country’s Jewish population, which is not only the largest in Europe, but one of the largest in the world after Israel, the US, Russia, UK, and Canada.

Preceding the incident in Alsace, vandals defaced portraits of the late Holocaust survivor and French minister Simone Veil, scrawled the German word for “Jews” on a Parisian bakery, and cut down a tree planted in memory of a young Jew who was tortured to death by an anti-Semitic gang.

Jewish groups have been warning for some time that the rise of Europe’s nationalist right-wing political parties has contributed to promoting anti-Semitism and the hatred of minorities across the Continent.

Crime data from Germany that was released last week revealed that the total number of anti-Semitic offences had risen by 10% over the past year – including a 60% rise in the number of cases that involved violent physical attacks

This, for some, raises questions as to why some in the world seem to hate Jews.

There are, of course, many possible explanations. Whatever the reason, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum says the growing number of attacks, not just in France, but right across the whole of Europe with the rise of the far-right, gives significant cause for real concern that Europe may be returning to one of its darker past habits – widespread anti-Semitism

This content is part of the ‘Religious Freedom’ section supported by the Faith and Freedom Summit Coalition