Rights agency: Most incidents of antisemitism in Europe still go unreported

Incidents of hatred against Jews have been evident throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and even though in some countries the number of antisemitic incidents decreased, the main problem remains the same across Europe – most incidents still go unreported, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) said in a report released on November 9.

“Each country collects data differently and some do not collect any data at all. This continues to hamper efforts to effectively tackle antisemitism in Europe,” FRA said.

In its section on Bulgaria, the FRA report said that in 2020, the National Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism and the Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” informed the Ministry of Interior of five antisemitic incidents, two of which were reported to the relevant prosecutor’s office.

In addition, the national coordinator reported to the Council of Electronic Media one case of antisemitic content involving Nazi symbolism in a music video. No persons were convicted of antisemitic crimes in Bulgaria in 2020, the report said.

In October 2017, the Bulgari­an government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism and appoint­ed a national coordinator on combating antisemitism, tasked with the coordination, development and implemen­tation of an action plan on combating antisemitism.

The development of this plan, for the 2021-2025 period, will be preceded by the first-ever dedicated public opinion sur­vey and study of attitudes to­wards Jews in Bulgaria, the FRA report said.

FRA said that antisemitism can manifest itself in the form of verbal and physical attacks, threats, harassment, discrimination and unequal treatment, property damage and graffti or as abusive speech or text, including on the internet.

“Antisemitic incidents and hate crimes violate fundamental rights, especially the right to human dignity, the right to equality of treatment and the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Evidence that FRA collects shows consistently that few EU member states record antisemitic incidents in a way that allows them to publish adequate official data.

This is true despite the serious negative consequences of antisemitism for Jewish populations in the EU, as FRA’s second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews showed, the agency said.

These negative consequences extend to and are evident in society at large, as a number of surveys addressing antisemitism among the general population have evidenced, it said.

“The inadequate recording of hate crime incidents, including those of an antisemitic nature, coupled with victims’ hesitance to report incidents to the authorities, contributes to the gross underestimate of the extent, nature and characteristics of antisemitism in the EU.”

This limits the ability of policymakers and other relevant stakeholders at local, national and international levels to take measures and implement courses of action to combat antisemitism effectively and decisively, or to assess the effectiveness of existing policies.

“Incidents that are not reported are not investigated or prosecuted, allowing offenders to think that they can carry out such attacks with impunity. Victims who do not report their experiences to authorities may also not receive relevant information about available assistance,” FRA said.

The data that do exist are generally not comparable between countries, not least because they are collected using different methodologies and stem from different sources across countries. In several countries, the data collection systems that exist have undergone changes in the course of the report’s reference period (2010–2020), in some cases limiting comparability over time.

Furthermore, although official data collection systems are generally based on police records and/or criminal justice data and sometimes on data that the national equality bodies collect, authorities do not always categorise incidents motivated by antisemitism under that heading.

In some cases, statistics are collected under broad categories that do not allow for disaggregating the data to examine antisemitic incidents specifically, FRA said.

The data that do exist show that antisemitism remains an issue of serious concern and that decisive and targeted policy responses are needed to tackle this phenomenon, it said.

“The effective implementation of these responses would not only afford Jewish communities better protection against antisemitism but also give a clear signal that, across the EU, the fundamental rights of all people are protected and safeguarded,” FRA said.

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