EJC Director of European Affairs speech at Vienna’s European Conference on Antisemitism 2023

EJC Director of European Affairs speech at Vienna's European Conference on Antisemitism 2023

European Conference on Antisemitism
Vienna – 17-18 April, 2023

“Reporting of antisemitic incidents – how to restore confidence of Jewish communities
in relevant authorities?”

Dear colleagues,
Dear Friends,

I am delighted and grateful for the opportunity to exchange with you today on this
important topic.

I am speaking on behalf of the European Jewish Congress, the representative umbrella
organisation of 42 national Jewish communities across Europe.

Since our inception, 36 years ago, the EJC has been working tirelessly to relay the
concerns of our affiliates to international organizations and national governments, with
the goal to ensure their security and prosperity.

Unfortunately, we are all gathered here today because antisemitism continues to rise
in Europe, sometimes taking extremely violent forms.

Many countries represented here will talk about the high number of hate crimes or
incidents motivated by antisemitism that were recorded by the authorities. In many
cases, this amount is higher than previous years.

But let’s not be fooled, the real picture is much worse than the official numbers.
According to the second FRA survey on the perceptions of antisemitism, 77 % of the
participants did not report the most serious incident to any authority or organisation.
We should ask ourselves the question. Why is that?

The common answers that we hear are the following: What’s the point? Who will
listen? Who will understand? Who will do something about it? I did report in the past
and nothing happened.

This perception needs to change. We need to restore confidence among Jewish
communities when it comes to reporting incidents.

This is why we believe that the Vienna Declaration on enhancing cooperation in
fighting antisemitism and encouraging reporting of antisemitic incidents will make a

The latest FRA Overview of antisemitic incidents showed us not only that member
states use different approaches to identify, or not, antisemitic incidents but the same
goes for NGOs, Think Tanks, and organizations of the third sector.

This disparity and variety of ways to record incidents make it harder and more
complicated for a victim to understand the steps that need to be taken in order to
report an antisemitic incident.

Therefore, we need to work together to agree on a unified methodology to identify
these antisemitic incidents.

The widespread adoption and use of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism have
become a useful guide in identifying different types of antisemitism and most
importantly, recognizing its specific character.

But it’s important to take the definition one step further and use it in this

Only a clear and unified framework will give reassurances to Jewish citizens across
Europe that they will be heard when reporting an antisemitic incident. Being a victim is
already very hard in itself, feeling afraid or helpless to denounce what you had gone
through is a continuation of your suffering.

Civil society organizations and public institutions that record antisemitic incidents must
always be safe spaces for victims and present them with clear, effective, and quick
mechanisms to report their experiences. They must ensure that the victims will be
supported, respected and listened to.

If we go one step further, we must also tackle the issue of proper prosecution of the

If public authorities want to restore the confidence of their Jewish citizens the answer
is to act more swiftly against antisemitic incidents, and develop and apply stronger
criminal laws against antisemitic hate crimes, that must be recognized as such.

The lack of judicial response to antisemitic hate crimes, as happened in France with
the case of Sarah Halimi, left a deep scar on Europe’s Jewish community.

So, the lack of trust needs to be addressed but there is also a strong need to reform
the sometimes very complicated reporting mechanism in place that makes it harder for
victims to understand the process.

Certain reporting systems are long, confusing and not very clear. Some of the available
online platforms are not user-friendly, even more to the old generation. Knowing that a
large part of our community is of old age, they won’t be able to navigate the reporting
websites as the youngest members of our society.

That is why it is vital to enhance formal channels of cooperation and consultation
between Jewish communities, NGOs, public institutions, law enforcement agencies,
academia and international organizations alike.

Stakeholders need to take further steps to establish permanent and regular contact
with Jewish organizations, visit their communities, and talk with their members. Such
contacts will enable the officials working for reporting institutions to understand the
problem from within and see the faces behind the statistics.

This cooperation is fundamental if we want to acknowledge and fight antisemitism in
all its manifestations, and at the same time assess the existent security threats for
European Jewish communities.

We need a strategic approach and the important conference of today, in this beautiful
city of Vienna, will allow us to learn from each other and share best practices.

Finally, I would like to extend our deep gratitude to Minister Karolien Edtstadler and to
Antonio Martino for this important initiative and to Austria, which leads by example
when it comes to fighting antisemitism, preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and
fostering Jewish Life.

It is under its Presidency of the European Council that the first Declaration on the fight
against antisemitism and the development of a common security approach to better
protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe was adopted in 2018.
We know that thanks to these efforts and that of other Member states, Jewish
communities can count today on a European Strategy to combat antisemitism and foster
Jewish life in Europe.

The European Jewish Congress and its affiliated communities salute these extraordinary
achievements and we hope that the Austrian Government will enhance even further its
close cooperation with the IKG under the leadership of our dear friend Oskar Deutsch,
ensuring the flourishment of Jewish life and culture in the country.

Thank you

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