Antisemitism in Europe: debate highlights need for education, cooperation

antisemitism in europe
© iStock/SandraMatic

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate today on the proliferation of antisemitism in Europe.

With antisemitism on the rise across Member States – France reports a 74 per cent increase in offences against Jewish people, while Germany has reported an increase of 60 per cent – a survey conducted in 2018 by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights found that around 90 per cent of the 16,500 Jewish respondents were concerned about a rise of antisemitic sentiments throughout the EU; while 30 per cent had themselves been harassed or attacked for being Jewish. Introducing the debate, EESC President Luca Jahier said: “Recent events are showing us that we must not let our guard down and think that the 60 years of peace in Europe can be taken for granted – and although our fundamental rights are enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union, we need to defend them every single day.”

The European Jewish Congress’s Raya Kalnova highlighted the rising risk of violence directed towards Jewish homes, businesses, community centres and places of worship, as well as the danger of harassment against Jews both in person and online, saying: “If [Jewish parents] send their kid to a state school, the kid is a target. If they send their kid to a Jewish school, the school is a target.”

The debate’s participants noted that education is an essential factor in combating antisemitism in Europe, referencing statistics showing that only one in 10 young people were aware of the events of the Holocaust. In some Member States, meanwhile, sizeable proportions of residents said they believed Jews exploited the Holocaust – 50 per cent agreed with the sentiment in Poland, 37 per cent in Austria and 32 per cent in Germany – and in Bulgaria, Czechia, Slovakia and Slovenia between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of respondents said they would not tolerate living next door to a Jewish family.

Joel Kotek of the Free University of Brussels said: “Against all expectations, the conspiracy theory that Jews have too much power is again back in our society, in the media and sometimes even in our parliaments. The Jewish people are declining in Europe. In Poland there were 3.3 million Jews before the Second World War; and now there are only around 20 000. It is therefore important to normalise our relations.”

Jacek Krawczyk, president of the EESC employers’ group, said: “It is our duty to fight any act of antisemitism in Europe, said. It is antisemitism that led to the Holocaust. It is our obligation to preserve the memory of the causes of that enormous tragedy. The EU founding fathers realised this and that is why they started the European project – to make sure that this will never happen again. Eighty years after the Second World War started, it would be a serious mistake to forget this. We should all think of this when choosing whom to vote for in the European elections.”

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