The European Union’s leaders have been urged to act more strongly against anti-Semitism after a survey among Jews in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Latvia found that the scourge had worsened in the past five years.
Online anti-Semitism notably had worsened, according to the survey, done by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). Based in Vienna, FRA is an EU agency which provides the EU institutions and member states with independent, evidence-based advice on fundamental rights.
The results were released on November 8 2013, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against Jews in Germany and Austria.
The report, which covers responses from 5847 Jewish people in the countries in which about 90 per cent of the estimated Jewish population in the EU live, will be a vital tool for EU decision makers and community groups to develop targeted legal and policy measures, the FRA said.
“Anti-Semitism is a disturbing example of how prejudice can persist through the centuries, and it has no place in our society today. It is particularly distressing to see that the internet, which should be a tool for communication and dialogue, is being used as an instrument of antisemitic harassment,” FRA director Morten Kjaerum said.
“While many EU governments have made great efforts to combat anti-Semitism, more targeted measures are needed.”
* 66 per cent of respondents consider anti-Semitisim to be a major problem in their countries, while 76 per cent said the situation had become more acute over the last five years.
* 21 per cent of all respondents have experienced an anti-Semitic incident or incidents involving verbal insult, harassment or a physical attack in the 12 months preceding the survey. Two per cent of respondents had been victims of an anti-Semitic physical attack over the previous year.
* Under-reporting: 76 per cent of victims of anti-Semitic harassment did not report the most serious incident to the police or any other organisation.
* Under-recording: limited data-collection mechanisms in many EU member states mean that anti-Semitic attacks remain under-recorded.
Anti-Semitisim is considered the fourth most-pressing social or political issue across the countries surveyed, below unemployment, the state of the economy, and concerns about government corruption.
Almost a quarter of respondents said they avoid visiting places and wearing symbols that identify them as Jews for fear of anti-Semitism. This was particularly evident in Sweden, where 49 percent the respondents said they refrained from such actions.
In France, 40 per cent of the Jews who responded said they avoided wearing kippah (yamulkah) in public, followed by Belgium with 36 per cent, the results showed.
In total, 22 per cent of respondents said they avoided “Jewish events or sites” because of safety concerns.
The survey also addressed exposure to stereotypes such as Jewish responsibility for the economic crisis or that Jews are not integrated into the societies of the countries in which they live.
The survey also showed significant differences between countries, which frequently demonstrates their differing histories and traditions, and also patterns of immigration in recent decades.
For example, in the UK, nine per cent of respondents said they had often heard the statement “Jews are responsible for the current economic crisis,” while this figure rose to 59 per cent for Hungary.
The survey found that while in Latvia only eight per cent of survey respondents said the Israeli-Arab conflict had a large impact on how safe they felt, the figure rose to 28 per cent for Germany and was as high as 73 per cent in France.
In response to the findings of the survey, FRA has formulated a number of suggestions for decision makers, including:
* EU member states need to record Jewish people’s experiences of fundamental rights violations effectively and comprehensively.
* Public figures should publicly condemn anti-Semitic statements.
* The EU and its member states must work urgently to find effective ways of combating the growing phenomenon of online anti-Semitisim, for example exploring the option of establishing specialised police units that monitor and investigate hate crime on the internet, as well as encouraging reporting of anti-Semitic web content to the police.
The findings of the Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions survey will be discussed at the annual FRA conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, the country which currently chairs the EU, on November 12 and 13. It will be attended by more than 300 decision-makers and experts from throughout the EU.
On November 7, European Council President Herman van Rompuy, in an address at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht at the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels, strongly condemned anti-Semitism as a denial of European history.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)