Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israeli officials and Jewish groups say they are concerned about a flare-up in anti-Semitic attacks since the U.S.-led war against Iraq began last week, and they are encouraging European governments to guard against anti-Semitism prompted by the war.
Anti-Semitic attacks around the world and particularly in Europe have been on the rise since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000 and have reached levels not seen since World War II Nazi, Germany, experts have said.
But since the war in Iraq began, protestors have linked their anti-war and anti-American sentiments to acts of anti-Semitism, Knesset member Michael Melchior told CNSNews.com.
"There have been different attacks in France and in Belgium," Melchior said. "It's not surprising that [there is a] correlation with anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism."
Melchior said one reason is that the war is seen by many in the Arab world as religiously motivated. "They don't talk about imperialism; they talk about crusaders. It's all religious."
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has also mentioned "Zionists" or "Jews" in all his speeches, Melchior said, and he has referred to the Palestinian struggle.
"Anti-semitism in general is growing," Melchior said. There is a good basis for it to grow because stories and opinions can be spread quickly through mass media. The way the anti-Semites see it, it is a "good solution" to blame the Jews for the war, he said.
"Everything is black and white; we're black and everything else is white [in their eyes]," he said.
Earlier this week, the Knesset committee dealing with the issue of global anti-Semitism met and many lawmakers expressed their concern about the growing phenomenon, Melchior said.
The committee is urging governments - particularly in Europe - to take responsibility for protecting Jewish communities in their midst, he added.
Earlier this week, the Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism worldwide, sent letters to the Interior Ministers of Belgium, France and German cautioning them to be alert to the trend in which attacks on Jews or Jewish institutions are seen as an acceptable mode of expression of opposition to the war in Iraq.
"Just this week, Jewish teens were chased and attacked by individuals who were participating in an anti-war demonstration in Paris. In Berlin, a Jewish student was attacked on a busy street," ADL National Director, Abraham H. Foxman wrote in the letter.
"It is essential that your government speak out strongly against such acts of overt hate and make it clear that these acts are not acceptable expressions of political differences and will not be tolerated.
"We urge you to provide enhanced security for the Jewish community and its institutions, and to seek out those who perpetrate these hate crimes and prosecute them to the full extent of the law," Foxman said.