Europe's Jews feel insecure, new EU survey finds

A new survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights has found that hate crimes against Jews are on the rise and that Europe's Jews increasingly feel insecure. The poll, based on interviews with 6,000 Jewish people across eight EU countries, was released to mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against Jews in Germany in November 1938. The study suggests that anti-Semitism is on the rise, with three-quarters of those polled reporting an increase over the last five years and growing fears over online abuse and hate speech. The European Jewish Congress urged EU leaders to act.

Two-thirds of respondents in the survey felt anti-Semitism was a problem, 76 percent thought the situation was getting worse and that anti-Semitism had increased over the past five years, while 46 percent said they worried about being verbally assaulted or harassed in public because they were Jewish.

A third of respondents were worried about being physically attacked, and 57 percent said they had heard or seen someone claim over the last year that the Holocaust was a myth or had been exaggerated.

Jews in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom took part in the survey. The countries are home to 90 percent of the EU's Jewish population. The FRA, which provides expert advice to the institutions of the EU and its member states, noted that 75 percent of all respondents felt anti-Semitism on the internet was a problem, and 73 percent had the impression that it had increased over the last five years.

"In almost all EU member states included in the survey, anti-Semitic comments on the internet emerge as an issue of primary importance to the respondents. These results need to be taken very seriously. They prompt further questions on how to effectively protect fundamental rights in the sphere of the internet while giving due attention to freedom of expression," FRA concluded.

One British respondent said there was now a "phenomenal" amount of anti-Semitic material on the internet, adding: "This is in some ways setting us backwards as now young people are circulating content like the [anti-Semitic hoax] Protocols of the Elders of Zion which had, prior to the internet, pretty much died out."

The report said that although acts of anti-Semitic violence and vandalism gained political and media attention, Jews also faced discrimination in schools and the workplace. "This should serve as a reminder of the need to address discrimination against Jews – both by ensuring effective implementation of existing laws, as well as ensuring that Jewish people are aware of the relevant protection, redress and support mechanisms and measures designed to assist people who have been discriminated against, such as national equality bodies," it said.

FRA called on politicians and opinion-makers to refrain from making anti-Semitic statements and urged them to condemn any such statements when made in public debates.

European Jewish Congress calls on EU to take action

The European Jewish Congress, which had participated in the elaboration of the survey, called on European leaders and institutions to take appropriate action. “We commend FRA for conducting this serious and in-depth study on a matter of great importance," EJC President Moshe Kantor said, adding: "However, the fact that a quarter of Jews are not able to express their Jewishness because of fear should be a watershed moment for the continent of Europe and the European Union. The Jewish reality in Europe is of great concern and the authorities need to deal with incidents of hate and intolerance in a holistic manner to really combat these manifestations before it is too late.”

“We would like to see concrete steps being taken, including creating legislation to specifically deal with anti-Semitism and racism, bolstering law enforcement agencies and ensure a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism, even, and perhaps, specifically, when opinion-shapers and decision-makers engage in these forms of hate,” Kantor declared.

Two thirds of respondents to the survey said that reporting incidents was either “not worth the effort” or otherwise ineffective. “This is the most damning indictment of the report." Kantor said. “European Jewry simply has little faith or trust in the process of law enforcement, legislative or judicial processes on large parts of the continent.”

Read the factsheet about the survey here.

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