(Brussels, 15 March 2021) The European Jewish Congress, federating the national representative organisations of Jewish communities across the European continent and including all the member states of the European Union, strongly welcomes the Commission’s Anti-Racism Action Plan and the holding of the European Anti-Racism Summit, a seminal event to enhance anti-racism policies in Europe.
As Jews, victims of racism stretching back centuries in European societies, we stand in full solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Black, ethnic and religious minority communities and with all those who are experiencing and have experienced racism, intolerance, and discrimination.
Racism manifests itself in discrimination and hatred based on ethnicity, culture, “race” and religion. Jewish communities experience antisemitism resulting from all these racism specificities. It is for minorities experiencing racism alone to define their oppression and the specific sources of it.
Racism has pernicious effects not only on those directly affected by violent racist acts but also in the structured and continued denial of equality and opportunity to people of Asian and African descent, Muslims, Jews, Roma people and other minority groups across many relevant policy areas. These include but are not restricted to law enforcement, education, housing, health and the labour market.
We therefore welcome initiatives, particularly in the education, cultural and sports sectors, to highlight such forms of abuse and the structural racism, which allows them.
Jews know well the effects of structural and institutional racism having experienced them across European society for many centuries, forced to wear distinctive signs, excluded from educational and cultural institutions and indeed banished from almost every European country over the last 800 years. Even post-Enlightenment, Jews were continually denied expression, organisation and rights, culminating in the mass genocidal act of the Shoah, which wiped out half of European Jewry.
Antisemitism and the structures, which allow it, has far from disappeared from European society. While the physical ghetto walls have come down, there are still key areas in which Jews remain de facto excluded. There are also geographical areas in Europe where the presence of Jews or the wearing of Jewish distinctive signs or mode of dress can and does lead to violent antisemitic attacks.
Similarly, there remain areas of the public education system where Jews experience discomfort, abuse and discrimination in both schools and the higher education sector, while far too often law enforcement structures fail to recognise the centrality of antisemitic motive in violent crimes against Jews.
We are aware that other ethnic and religious minorities have similar experiences, we side with and aim to cooperate with all of them in our determination to address all forms of racism, discrimination and intolerance.
The fight against racism must always start by listening to the lived experiences of discriminated groups and the fight against racism must include at all levels and structures of European institutions the representative civil society organisations of minority groups who should be the driving force behind the agenda of the Anti-Racism Action Plan.
The European Commission and the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council must encourage full and coordinated national action plans against racism.
We look forward to a European Anti-Racism Summit which results in concomitant and real commitments from the Member States in support of the implementation of the Anti-Racism Action Plan.