Jewish groups say EU anti-Semitism poll is ‘final warning,’ urge Europe to act
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Jewish groups say EU anti-Semitism poll is ‘final warning,’ urge Europe to act

Umbrella organizations say European leadership needs to take urgent steps after massive survey finds 90% of European Jews sense increasing levels of hatred toward them

A member of the Jewish community looks at broken tombstones after a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, eastern France, on February 17, 2015, following the desecration of around 300 tombs. (AFP/Patrick Hertzog)
A member of the Jewish community looks at broken tombstones after a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, eastern France, on February 17, 2015, following the desecration of around 300 tombs. (AFP/Patrick Hertzog)

Jewish groups on Monday urged European leaders to take action after an EU report revealed that nearly 90 percent of European Jews feel that anti-Semitism has increased in their home countries over the past five years, and almost 30% say they have been harassed at least once in the past year.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) issued a statement saying that the report should serve as a “final warning” to the continent’s leaders, and that action must be taken.

“Many European Jews are extremely concerned for the future,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the EJC. “They have lost faith in the authorities, in their neighbors and in their national leaders and this has led not only to a crisis in their relations with them, but are wavering between two extreme actions, emigration and cutting themselves off from their Jewish community.”

The World Jewish Congress laid out a series of steps to be taken to ensure the safety of Jews, and named European political parties and leaders it said bear some of the responsibility for the rise in anti-Semitism.

Moshe Kantor, president, European Jewish Congress (Photo courtesy: Moshe Kantor)
EJC president Moshe Kantor. (Courtesy, Moshe Kantor)

“Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon political leaders to set the tone of what is acceptable discourse in Europe,” said World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder in a statement.

“Leaders of parties with anti-Semitic members must expel them immediately without delay,” he said. “Heads of state must show true and moral leadership in not only speaking out against antisemitism, but with action to root out antisemitism wherever it may rear its ugly head.”

“The results of this unprecedented survey are shocking, but sadly unsurprising,” Lauder said. “How can one be surprised by these results, when in Chemnitz, Germany, anti-Semites practicing the Nazi salute were allowed to march while the police stood idly by; when in France, Marine La Pen, whose father was a virulent anti-Semite was almost elected president; when in Austria and Hungary, the FPO and Jobbik, both of which were originally founded by neo-Nazis, are now the second largest parties and members of the governing coalition; and when in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party.”

People attend a far-right demonstration in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, September 7, 2018 (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Lauder added that European countries need to not only increase physical security around Jewish communities, but that efforts must also be made in the field of education.

The American Jewish Committee also issued a statement on the findings, which it said were a “unique and dismaying perspective.”

“European leaders, who laudably adopted a declaration in Brussels last week to step-up the fight against anti-Semitism, must realize that they have not been keeping pace with the growing problem,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “What’s needed now is enhanced, sustained action on many fronts to ensure that European Jews have a safe and secure future.”

The poll was carried out in 12 European Union member states, and was the largest ever of its kind worldwide.

Of the more than 16,000 Jews who participated in the online survey, 85% rated anti-Semitism the biggest social or political problem in the country where they live. Thirty-eight percent said they had considered emigrating because they did not feel safe as Jews.

Britain, Germany, and Sweden saw the sharpest increases in those saying anti-Semitism is a “very big” or “fairly big” problem. The highest level recorded was in France at 95%. Denmark saw the lowest level at 56%, while Jews in Hungary suggested that anti-Semitism was becoming less of a problem.

British Jews protest against anti-Semitism in Manchester, September 16, 2018 (screen capture: YouTube)

The UK results, experts suggest, may point to a “Corbyn factor” connected to the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the British Labour party.

“Decades after the Holocaust, shocking and mounting levels of anti-Semitism continue to plague the EU,” said Michael O’Flaherty, director of the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which published the research. “In many ways,” he suggested, anti-Semitism had become “disturbingly normalized.”

The research is a follow-up to a 2012 survey conducted by the FRA. The 12 EU countries surveyed — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom — are home to 96% of the EU’s estimated Jewish population. The online survey was conducted from May to June this year.

Anti-Semitic graffiti reading ‘Jewish scum live here,’ on a building in Paris. ‘Notably on the third floor,’ it adds on the other side of the door, above a drawing of a target. (Twitter)

The report was released after a major poll for CNN last month found that one-fifth of Europeans believe Jewish people have too much influence in finance and politics, and a third said they knew nothing at all or “just a little” about the Holocaust.

Nearly half of those participating in the FRA survey said they were worried about becoming the victim of an anti-Semitic verbal insult or being harassed in the next year, while over one-third suggested they avoided visiting Jewish sites and events because they do not feel safe. Forty percent fear being physically attacked in the next 12 months and 3% report they actually have been over the past five years.

While 28% of Jews said they had been subject to harassment at least once in the past year (a figure which rose to nearly 40% in the five years before the survey), almost 80% of those said they do not report serious incidents to the police — often because they feel nothing will change. Seventy percent believe national governments’ efforts to combat anti-Semitism are ineffective, although more than half positively assessed their work to ensure the security needs of Jewish communities.

Illustrative: Nazi signs reading ‘Jews out’ and swastikas are painted at the entrance of a Jewish cemetery in Herrlisheim, eastern France, in this April 30, 2004 photo. (AP Photo/Gil Michel)

“The survey findings suggest that people face so much anti-Semitic abuse that some of the incidents they experience appear trivial to them,” argues the report.

Around 90% of those surveyed said anti-Semitism was most problematic online and on social media. Seven in 10 cited public spaces, the media and politics as common sources of anti-Semitism.

The most common anti-Semitic statements Jews come across regularly, according to the survey, are comparisons between Israelis and the Nazis with regard to the Palestinians. Suggestions that Jews have too much power and “exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” also ranked highly. Such abuse was most commonly experienced online, in the media and at political events.

The survey indicates that those who had experienced harassment — which included offensive or threatening text messages, phone calls, comments, gestures or online messages — and were able to identify the perpetrator were more likely to suggest the culprit was “someone with an extremist Muslim view” (30%) than someone with left-wing (21%) or right-wing (13%) political views.

Rober Philpot contributed to this report.

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