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Anti-Semitism Spikes in Poland — Stoked by Populist Surge Against Refugees

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Poland, a country with almost no Jews.

A new national study conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at the University of Warsaw finds a significant increase in negative attitudes toward Jews since 2014. The research, covering the years 2014-2016, shows that anti-Semitic hate speech is becoming increasingly acceptable and enjoys a growing popularity on the Internet and on Polish television.

The study took actual examples of anti-Semitic statements found in different media and asked respondents if they found these statements offensive. In all cases, the statements were found to be less offensive in 2016 than in 2014. The difference was most pronounced among young people.

For instance, a statement referring to Jews as scumbags was found offensive to 43 percent of young people in 2016, as compared to 66 percent in 2014. The statement was offensive to 69 percent of older people in 2016, as compared to 78 percent in 2014.

The study offers as an explanation that young Poles are accustomed to anti-Semitic statements on the Internet. In the last two years, the percentage of young people with Internet contact increased from 58 percent to 74 percent.

Poland’s organized Jewish community of 10,000 is only 0.1 percent of the Polish population of 38.2 million. More than 80 percent of Poles say they have never met a Jew. Yet, according to the study’s findings, Poles are increasingly unwilling to accept Jews as co-workers, neighbors, or a member of their family.

More than half of Poles – 55.98 percent – would not accept a Jew as a family member, a jump from 45.53 percent in 2014. A third of Poles – 32.20 percent – would not accept a Jew as a neighbor, an increase from 26.70 percent in 2014. And 15.1 percent would not accept a Jew as a co-worker, up from 10 percent in 2014.

The study notes that a sharp rise in Islamophobia has been accompanied by a distancing from other ethnic groups, including Jews.

“The more people are anti-Muslim, the more they’re anti-Semitic,” said Michal Bilewicz, the Center’s director. “They portray George Soros as the embodiment of the Jewish conspiracy that’s helping to finance the influx of Muslims that poses a threat to Christian civilization in Europe.”

Poland’s Sejm (parliament) will receive the report January 25.

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