updated 3/2/2009 2:52:33 PM ET 2009-03-02T19:52:33

Anti-Semitism in some European countries appears to have risen since Israel's offensive in Gaza, but it fell during 2007 and most of 2008, a new report says.

At the same time, the study notes that most EU countries fail to compile statistics on anti-Semitism, complicating efforts to gauge the level of animosity toward Jews within the 27-nation bloc.

Monday's report by the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said a number of attacks against Jews and synagogues have been reported by the media in France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Britain since the Dec. 27 start of Israel's three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip, during which an estimated 1,300 Palestinians died. It also cited recent reports of anti-Semitic incidents in Cyprus, Spain and the Netherlands.

'Reason for great concern'
It did not give a total number of incidents but said German authorities recorded 292 anti-Semitic offenses during the fourth quarter of 2008.

In France, home to western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, the Interior Ministry recorded 48 anti-Semitic acts and 65 threats between Dec. 27 and Jan. 26, according to the report.

"This recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents is reason for great concern," said agency director Morten Kjaerum. "While it is too early to draw conclusions, there are indications that this rise could partly be affected by the situation in the Middle East, as well as by the global financial crisis."

The agency said it did not have enough information to conclusively calculate an overall trend in anti-Semitic activity for the period between 2001 to 2008. But it noted that in the countries for which data are available there appears to be a decrease in such offenses in 2007 and most of 2008.

That follows an increase in anti-Semitic activity between 2001 and 2002, between 2003 and 2004 and again in 2006, according to the report. However, it warned against making direct comparisons between countries since statistics are compiled in different ways.

Although the report notes recent examples of anti-Semitic incidents in other EU countries, it only breaks down country-specific data for nine nations — Austria, Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"The agency's data collection work shows that most member states do not have official or even unofficial data and statistics on anti-Semitic incidents," the report says.

Can't compare country data
The researchers noted that even when countries compile information, it often can't be used for comparative purposes because it's collected in different ways.

Often, anti-Semitic incidents do not make it into official records because they are not labeled as such or because victims or witnesses do not report them.

Reed Brody, a Brussels-based spokesman for Human Rights Watch, described anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents as serious and growing problems in Europe and said the lack of statistics was hindering efforts to effectively fight them.

"It's difficult to develop an effective response when we don't know the exact scope and contours of the problem," Brody said in an interview.

The European Jewish Congress said it considered the report's conclusions to be insufficient and announced it was organizing a symposium to produce proposals on monitoring anti-Semitism and implementing existing EU legislation on racism and xenophobia. The symposium will take place in Brussels on March 30.

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