Europe must ensure a future for Jews, says EU official

In visit to Brussels Jewish Museum where 4 people were shot dead in 2014, justice commissioner calls for bloc-wide action plan to combat anti-Semitism

Amid reports of repeated security failures, many Belgian Jews feel their government is leaving them vulnerable. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)
Amid reports of repeated security failures, many Belgian Jews feel their government is leaving them vulnerable. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

BRUSSELS — European states must ensure Jewish people have a future on the continent, a senior EU official warned Tuesday at the site of a notorious anti-Semitic attack.

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova appeared at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, where four people were shot dead in May 2014, to demand a bloc-wide action plan.

In support of her argument, she cited figures showing that 90 percent of European Jews feel that anti-Semitism is rising, compared to one-third of the general public.

“In fact, four in 10 Jews (once again!) think about leaving Europe,” Jourova said. “When Jews have left Europe in the past, it has never been a good sign of the state of Europe.”

As she was speaking, across the city in Brussels’ main criminal court, alleged French jihadist Mehdi Nemmouche was on trial accused of the museum murders.

“After the 2014 attack the Jewish Museum of Brussels became a symbolic place,” director Pascale Falek-Alhadeff told the event.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova listens to a question during a news conference in the Commission Berlaymont building in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2016. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

“But we are also a museum that explicitly chose openness and contributing to building a better and more inclusive society.”

Jourova said the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is “determined to ensure a future for Jewish people on this continent.”

She announced plans to set up a working group to persuade EU countries to formulate within two years their own “concrete” plans to fight anti-Semitism.

She was speaking as survey agency Eurobarometer revealed that only around half of Europeans believe anti-Semitism is a problem on the continent.

The survey took in the views of more than 27,000 people in 28 EU countries and exposed a perception gap between Jews and the broader public.

Only 36 percent of Europeans believe that anti-Semitism grew in their country over the last five years.

People pay their respects in front of a makeshift memorial at the entrance of the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 25, 2014. (AFP/Georges Gobet)

The figure is in “stark contrast” to the 89 percent of European Jews who see the problem growing, according to a previous survey published last month.

EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans sought to remind Europeans of the scourge of anti-Semitism when he visited the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, Poland.

“At a time when hate has yet again become a political tool, our Jewish communities all too often live in fear of being at the receiving end of discrimination, abuse and even violence,” Timmermans said.

“Whenever mutual respect and tolerance are coming under pressure, anti-Semitism will be on the rise,” he said Tuesday during his visit to Poland.

“Therefore it is essential that every European citizen knows and understands to what horrors anti-Semitism has led in our history.”

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