Chief rabbis call on EU to investigate anti-Semitism after attack in Venice

Gang of Arab youths reportedly assault, seriously injure American Jewish tourist; ADL has said anti-Semitism in Europe at ‘disturbingly high levels’

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Yona Metzger speaks to the media in Berlin, August 21 (photo credit: Markus Schreiber/AP)
Yona Metzger speaks to the media in Berlin, August 21 (photo credit: Markus Schreiber/AP)

Israel’s chief rabbis on Wednesday called on the European Union to establish a committee to investigate anti-Semitism in Europe.

They issued the call the day after an attack on a Jewish tourist in Venice.

The victim of Tuesday’s attack, an American visiting the Italian city with his family, was seriously injured after a gang of 15 Arab youths assaulted him in downtown Venice, Arutz 7 reported.

“Since [the March 2011] Toulouse massacre we often hear of violent attacks against Jews. They are testament to an underlying problem that requires examination and a solution,” Chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar wrote in a letter to EU President Herman van Rompuy.

Last year, French-Algerian Mohammed Merah gunned down a rabbi and three children outside a Jewish school in the southern French city of Toulouse. He died after a prolonged standoff with French police.

In September, in a Rosh Hashanah greeting, the president of the European Commission warned of a rise in racism and anti-Semitism in Europe.

“At a very difficult time, both economically and socially, when some people, even within Europe, are tempted to reconnect with old demons — populism, racism and anti-Semitism — we need more than ever to uphold, to protect and to promote together our common ideals of peace, tolerance, reconciliation and respect for human dignity,” Jose Manuel Barroso wrote in a message sent to the European Jewish Congress.

The ADL reported last March that anti-Semitism in Europe is at “disturbingly high levels,” with an average of nearly one-third of those surveyed across 10 countries holding “pernicious anti-Semitic beliefs.”

The study found large swaths of the population subscribing to classical anti-Semitic notions such as Jews having too much power in business, being more loyal to Israel than their own country, or “talking too much” about what happened during the Holocaust.

Hungary, Spain and Poland ranked the highest for those holding anti-Semitic attitudes. The poll showed 73% of Hungarians, 60% of Spaniards and 54% of Poles believed that it was ”probably true” that “Jews have too much power in the business world.”

Responding to the statement that it was “probably true” that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country,” responses ranged as high as Spain’s 72% in agreement.

The survey also compared results to a similar 2009 survey, and found that while in most countries citizens’ anti-Semitic attitudes have increased slightly, in Hungary they have jumped sharply (from 47% to 63%). The United Kingdom also saw a rise (from 10% to 17%), while in Austria anti-Semitic attitudes decreased from 30 to 28%.

The “Attitudes Toward Jews in Ten European Countries” survey polled 5,000 adults, evenly divided between Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, over the period of January 2-31, 2012.

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