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For centuries, Jews were persecuted as a religious minority. In the modern era, anti-Semitism has emerged as a political ideology that claims Jews control the world and are to be blamed for phenomena such as capitalism and communism. Anti-Semitism, including the belief that Jews are racially inferior, was the driving force behind the Holocaust. Anti-Semitic narratives, such as blood libel, continue to be heard today. Complex contemporary challenges like the financial crisis or the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians are reduced to placing blame on Jews, drawing on such anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories. Contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism also revolve around the Holocaust, with some blaming the Holocaust on Jews or suggesting that Jews focus on this tragedy to gain an advantage. Denying the Holocaust is one way of expressing anti-Semitism. ODIHR's reporting demonstrates that anti-Semitic hate incidents involve attacks against Jews both on religious and on ethnic grounds. Attempted arson, graffiti on synagogues, assaults on persons wearing religious garments, the desecration of graves and cases of murder have all been reported to ODIHR. Some civil society groups have reported a spike in incidents in connection with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Holocaust remembrance days, and other Nazi-related anniversaries.

Anti-Semitism was first condemned by OSCE participating States in 1990. The OSCE's 2004 Berlin Conference on anti-Semitism identified anti-Semitism as a threat to stability and security in the OSCE region. In Berlin and at subsequent Ministerial Council meetings, governments committed to comprehensively address hate crime data-collection, legislation, law enforcement, prosecution, judiciary and co-operation with civil society.

In many participating States, the use of Nazi symbols and Holocaust-denial are specifically criminalized, leading to hate speech being included in their data on hate crimes. A further methodological challenge is that anti-Semitic hate crime is recorded differently in different jurisdictions. Due to the particular nature of the phenomenon, anti-Semitic cases can be recorded as anti-religious, anti-ethnic or – more broadly – racist and xenophobic hate crime. Several Jewish civil society organizations work directly with the police to monitor anti-Semitic incidents. This innovative practice allows intelligence to be shared and resources allocated to increase the protection of Jewish communities. However, under-reporting is also an issue in the region, with Jewish communities citing a lack of trust in the authorities as a common reason.