European Jewish Association (EJA) General Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin led a briefing for EU ambassadors and officials at week's end, following the release of the most comprehensive survey to date on global anti-Semitism by the ADL, which revealed startling levels across the continent.
Chairing the high-level meeting at the EJA's headquarters in Brussels, with attendees including ambassadors and officials from 18 EU Member States, as well representatives from The Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Belgian League Against anti-Semitism, Britain's Community Security Trust and Jewish communities across Europe, Rabbi Margolin called upon all EU member states to establish central committees, directly accountable to the respective prime ministers, in order to lead the fight against anti-Semitism.
"This meeting is a wake-up call," insisted Rabbi Margolin. “The focus of EU efforts should not only be on specific anti–Semitic incidents, as horrific as they are, but rather on the increasing legitimacy hate groups are receiving from the European public and the rise of extreme right wing parties throughout the continent," he added.
Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center warned of the vulnerability of European Jews amongst other minority groups, as he warned that divisions between minority groups was responsible in part for the startling rise in the number of hate sites on the internet, which he revealed had jumped from one sole site when the Center began recording data in 1995, to 30,000 today.
“This is the fault of member states and their individual governments, as it’s their job to work out to contain hate before it travels to Strasbourg,” he added.
Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands stated that: "Today, there is a strong political polarization, especially in Holland. Radicals from both sides of the political spectrum have become more extreme, and the middle ground is disappearing. I can’t walk a whole day in the street without having at least one person shout the words 'dirty Jew' at me, because I am visibly Jewish."
Joel Rubinfeld, President of The Belgian League Against anti-Semitism spoke of his concern, as he warned the assembly that “all recent reports are sounding alarm bells regarding the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.” Citing statistics from the recent EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report into data from eight European countries which are home to 92% of European Jewry, as well as the ADL survey of anti-Semitism across 100 countries, he insisted that Holocaust Education was insufficient in addressing prejudice in European youth and beyond, rather it was important to “give them the bigger picture in terms of education”.
Speaking of the link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, he continued: “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism. If criticizing Israel’s policies was anti-Semitic, 90% of the Israeli people would be anti-Semites. But there is a fine line – comparing Israel to a Nazi start is crossing that line.”
Mark Gardner, spokesperson, for the UK-based Community Security Trust, spoke of the importance of using existing data on anti-Semitism to lobby politicians to mobilize the fight against anti-Semitism, as he concluded: “The fact that 69% of Greeks think it’s acceptable to tell someone in a survey that they’re anti-Semitic is not tolerable. And it should be the work of groups such as this to turn that around.”
Dr. Eckart Cuntz, German Ambassador to Belgium, spoke of his alarm on viewing the results from post-Holocaust Germany, said: "When I saw the ADL statistic, showing that 27% of Germans are anti-Semitic, I was concerned. It’s important for our societies to become more acquainted with Jewish life, and to be aware of the contribution of Jews to Europe.”
Nadiya Tsok, Deputy Head of Ukrainian Mission, to the EU said: "I cannot imagine such high levels of anti-Semitism across Europe. It is a product of growing radicalization. During recent revolution, the Jewish community was an open supporter and demonstrated the importance of unity in difficult times".
Bernadette Klosch, Deputy Head of Austrian Mission to Belgium, meanwhile stressed the importance of “increasing cooperation with the European Jewish community as there are a lot of right-wing parties in Austria with an anti-Semitic agenda".
EU member states represented at the briefing included Austria, France, Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Cyprus, Croatia, Germany, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Hungary and Ukraine.