FRA report on experiences of antisemitism presented at European Parliament

The European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism (WGAS), of which the European Jewish Congress acts as Secretariat held a conference presenting the findings of the 2nd FRA Survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The report follows up on the first survey on perceptions of antisemitism conducted by the FRA in 2013, and was based responses by over 16,000 Jews across 12 Member States of the European Union,

The report’s findings attest to rising antisemitism in Europe. About 90% of respondents feel that antisemitism is growing in their country. Almost 30% have been harassed, with those being visibly Jewish most affected. Almost 80% do not report serious incidents to the police or any other body. Often this is because they feel nothing will change.

Over a third of respondents avoid taking part in Jewish events or visiting Jewish sites because they fear for their safety and feel insecure. The same proportion have also even considered emigrating, no longer considering it viable to live a Jewish life in Europe.

In his opening remarks, WGAS Chair Heinz K Becker MEP welcomed the initiative to conduct a new survey, but expressed deep concern at the troubling findings: “Too many Jews experience verbal and physical manifestations of antisemitism in their daily lives, and too few are confident of a European future for themselves and their families.”

“These results must be a wakeup call to all European society. We have a duty to European Jews as our fellow citizens to guarantee that they can live free from discrimination.”

Whilst acknowledging the urgent need for European governments to take action, MEP Becker welcomed the recent adoption of a declaration on the fight against antisemitism: “For the first time all of the institutions of the European Union are working together on the common goal of defeating antisemitism.”

Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, Scientific Advisor at the Fundamental Rights Agency, and responsible for the Survey gave a detailed presentation of the report, stressing one of its main conclusions, that antisemitic harassment has become so commonplace in Europe that it is normalised.

For instance, respondents from Denmark, the Netherlands & Belgium indicated most of the experiences of antisemitic harassment in public, work and educational spaces.

“The survey is the beginning of our work, but not the end of our work,” said Mr. Dimitrakopoulos, “the EU must support the member states better in combatting antisemitism.”

Michael Whine, MBE, an expert at the Security and Crisis Center (SACC) by EJC,  and formerly the Government and International Affairs Director at the UK’s Community Security Trust (CST), paid tribute to the work of Mr. Dimitrakopoulos and the FRA, adding that the results illustrate a worsening situation for European Jewry.

Mr. Whine lamented that in spite of these findings, most EU member states still do not accurately record antisemitic incidents or provide disaggregated data: “There is an urgent need for consistent data, without disaggregated data, you cannot compare like for like.”

Subsequently, Mette Miriam Bentow, a member of the Jewish community of Copenhagen and a witness of the terrorist attack at the city’s Synagogue in 2015, which took place during her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah and which took the life of Dan Uzan.

Ms. Bentow gave a moving testimony of her and her family’s experience following the attack and the ongoing rise of antisemitism, as well as the difficulty of educating the public about the severity of the situation: “We must educate, enlighten and create understanding. We must cure this disease by letting go of our sensitivities and be able to talk openly and honestly about what we experience. We must acknowledge the side of the victims! Our perception matters!”

The conference was concluded by Benjamin Nägele, Director of EU Affairs at B’nai B’rith international, who spoke of Europe’s responsibility to guarantee the security of all its citizens, insisting on the necessity of not dismissing the problem of antisemitism as simply a Jewish problem.

The conference took place just hours before the terrorist attack that took place at Strasbourg’s Christmas market and took the lives of three people, wounding another twelve.

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