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Poll: Antisemitism is highest in European countries with fewest attacks on Jews

Hungarian Jews celebrate the opening of a new synagogue in Budapest on Aug. 27, 2021. (Cnaan Liphshiz via JTA)
Hungarian Jews celebrate the opening of a new synagogue in Budapest on Aug. 27, 2021. (Cnaan Liphshiz via JTA)

In an opinion poll on antisemitism in 16 European Union countries, respondents from Poland, Hungary and Greece displayed the highest prevalence of hostile attitudes toward Jews. But despite a high level of antisemitic attitudes, those countries rarely see violent attacks on Jews while countries that experience more frequent attacks on Jews are often those showing the lowest rates of antisemitic sentiments.

The survey, published by Ipsos, a polling company, together with the Europe Action and Protection League, a watchdog group based in Hungary, found little correlation between antisemitic attitudes and violent attacks on Jews in the 16 European countries surveyed.

The assertion that it ”would be best if Jews left this country” received affirmation from 24%, 23% and 21% of participants in Poland, Greece and Hungary, respectively. It was rejected by 15%, 26% and 33% in those countries, where only a few dozen antisemitic incidents are recorded annually. A high prevalence of antisemitic sentiments was also observed in other countries with low levels of antisemitic incidents, including Latvia, Croatia and Romania.

In countries where more antisemitic incidents were recorded, the assertion about Jews being unwanted was overwhelmingly rejected and received little support.

In Germany, where a record-high number of 2,351 incidents were recorded last year, 62% of respondents rejected that assertion, and only 7% agreed. Similar trends were observed in France, where 687 incidents of antisemitic attacks were recorded in 2019. In the United Kingdom, where 1,668 incidents were documented last year, 9.2% agreed and 72% disagreed.

Other countries with a low prevalence of antisemitic sentiment but a relatively high number of recorded attacks included the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy.

Some of the countries with a low number of antisemitic assaults have a relatively small number of Jews, as is the case in Latvia and Greece. But others — including Hungary, where about 100,000 Jews live — have Jewish communities comparable to those in countries with a high number of assaults.

Authors of the study, titled “Antisemitic Prejudices in Europe,” said the data challenged the idea that countering antisemitic sentiment, long a goal of Jewish communal leaders and politicians in Europe, would solve the problem of antisemitic violence. “The number of violent acts and the degree of anti-Jewish sentiment are essentially unrelated,” the study states.

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