Swastikas and other anti-Semitic elements have been drawn on vehicles, playgrounds and school walls in New York City. The NYPD launched an investigation, but Yaakov Hagoel, the Vice Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Head of the Department for Activities in Israel & Countering Anti-Semitism, attempted to discover what could lead to the rise of so many anti-Semitic incidents in a major American city like New York.
"This process has been underway for the last 10 years. Each year there are more anti-Semitic incidents around the world. Each year is even more difficult than the previous one. It happens all over the world and the US, and is part of a global process," Hagoel said.
"We're trying to figure out why. There have been major economic problems in the world over the past decade. There are problems with immigrants who come from majority Muslim countries. And there is the combination of classic anti-Semitism which brings about hatred of Jews from the traditional Christian religious motives and which joins with the modern anti-Semitism of Muslims who express hatred of the Jews and the State of Israel."
He said that the US has less anti-Semitism than Europe, "but the trend of increasing anti-Semitism is the same."
He praised US President Donald Trump's condemnation of recent anti-Semitic incidents in the US. "There is no doubt that the trend is global, but should also look on the bright side. The US government responded, President Trump spoke about the need to counter anti-Semitism. This should not be taken for granted."
"We don't see many world leaders putting their cards on the table and saying things clearly. In this matter there should be zero tolerance," he added, praising US Vice President Mike Pence for personally helping to restore a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis where nearly 200 headstones were knocked down.
According to Hagoel, the act of restoring the cemetery is important in a time when Jews are afraid to appear Jewish. "One of the problems is the way again Jews respond, and the response is not good. Today, many Jews do not walk around with Jewish symbols out of fear. In many homes in Europe they have taken down the mezuzahs or moved them inside of the house, because they have such fear of just being [known to be] Jewish."
He said that the WZO and the Israeli government must combat this trend by working to strengthen Jewish identity in the communities of the diaspora in addition to encouraging aliyah. Otherwise "the result will be assimilation."