Alarming EU-Survey uncovers widespread Anti-Semitism in Europe

Almost 70 years after the liberation from the inhuman Nazi dictatorship, anti-Semitic beliefs and acts should have been eliminated from European societies as demons of darkest history. Unfortunately this turns out to be an all too optimistic wish. For the first time in EU history a cross-national survey of 5,850 Jews from eight countries was conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The resulting report reveals ongoing insults, discrimination and physical violence against Jews. The findings are hoped to serve as an impetus for European and national decision makers to strive for a peaceful and anxiety-free environment for Jewish communities.

It should come as a surprise that only 13 of the 28 EU member states actually collect data on anti-Semitic crimes; and the scope and quality of the data differs a lot. Therefore an online survey among the Jewish population in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the UK was the only way to analyse living conditions of Jewish communities in a comparable way. According to the FRA roughly 90% of all European Jews live in these 8 countries. Even if the survey is not representative for the whole Jewish population, the bare figures are alarming: Two thirds of respondents consider anti-Semitism a fairly big or very big problem in their respective society; 76% of all respondents think that anti-Semitism has worsened over the past five years in their home countries. Similar results were found for the online sphere.

One in five respondents (21%) had experienced at least one anti-Semitic incident, either verbal and/or physical attacks (4%), during the year before the survey. These experiences create a constant fear of becoming a victim of anti-Semitic discrimination: Almost 50% of the respondents are afraid of insults or harassments; one third lives in fear of physical attacks because they are Jews. However, huge differences occur between the eight countries. While a large majority of French and Belgian Jews worries considerably to become a victim of anti-Semitic incidents, Italian, Swedish and British Jews exhibit lower levels of fear. The German-Jewish community is slightly above the European average.

The FRA developed a couple of recommendations for politics and society: First of all an enhanced cooperation and coordination of all governmental and civil partners is necessary. A systematic European database on hate crimes needs to be established and victims of discrimination should be encouraged to report their experiences. Finally new ways against online harassment need to be elaborated. But public institutions are not the only key players against anti-Semitism, companies should consider religious diversity more often and more concretely. The FRA report found that most anti-Semitic incidents take place at the workplace (11% of all working respondents) or during the application process (10% of respondents who have been looking for work). “Too many people believe in the proclaimed secular reality”, Diversity expert Michael Stuber points out, “Most Western societies are not aware of the implicit Christian norms and assumptions and how these can easily create subtle or concrete forms of bias against, e.g., Jews or Muslims”. Religious aspects should therefore be included in the D&I agenda, especially regarding corporate culture, he adds.