On the rise: Antisemitism in Europe

“COVID-19 has fuelled anti-Semitism in Europe. We need to take it seriously or risk losing the Jewish community, writes Michael O’Flaherty (2021)

Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp, anti-Semitism is alive in Europe. The Coronavirus pandemic has fuelled even more open manifestations of hatred against Jews. And the stakes are high: if Europe keeps on failing its Jewish community, it risks losing it. Then the entire European project will have failed” Michael O’Flaherty is the director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)

“Antisemites tend to portray Jews as both too strong and too weak, as well as the cause of all social problems.

Jews have been blamed by racists for promoting racial equality and by racial minorities for promoting slavery and racism. Jews have been blamed by capitalists for preaching socialism and by socialists for alleged capitalist exploitation.Typical is the formula that rests  on applying simple, false explanations to complex social problems where Jews are the scapegoat.” (quote from ADL org text)

During the pandemic Covid 19, as in previous eras, these ideas  about Jews have been used to  justify exclusion, discrimination, violence and  in the end holocaust. The warning signs leading to this  “crescente” , many times, are far from immediate or obvious. In times of political or economic uncertainty as well as rapid social change,(as  with Covid 19 pandemic), centuries-old antisemitic stereotypes and myths are recycled and adapted to current cultures and concerns.This is an undeniable fact.        

Acording to FRA (European Union Agency for Human Rights) antisemitism as being most problematic on the internet and on social media (89%), followed by public spaces (73%), media (71%) and in political life (70%). most commonly come across such statements online (80%), followed by media other than the internet (56%) and at political events (48%).

I will take France and Germany as an example.. France recorded at least 589 anti-Semitic acts in the last year, an increase of 75% compared to 2020, according to figures released by the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ). Physical violence, in turn, grew by 36%, and of all the racist acts recorded in the country over the last year, 73% were targeted at Jews.

In German, the second larged Jewish  Community in Europe 44% of recorded anti-Semitic incidents were "associated with the coronavirus". Furthermore, in 2020, the country had the highest number of politically motivated and anti-Semitic crimes in all of Europe (2,351) Those acts frequently depict Jews as profiteers and even crisis-causers. 

The 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip last May was a catalyst for racist demonstrations all over Europe  where verbal and physical anti-Semitic assaults multiplied,and Holocaust distortion discourses have found fertile ground.

In the last 2 years, as both the Wold Jewiish Agency and the Kantor Center from Tel-Aviv University alert, the pandemic  had sparked an 18% rise in anti-Semitic hate speech, especially online..Conspiracy theories often blaming Jews for creating or spreading the virus.  Anti-Semitic videos with this profile  become very popular on social media.

Antisemitism sometimes escalated to violent or genocidal levels, but often appears in subtler ways, like those videos or  daily posts in midia/internet where insensitive remarks  are brushed off, or negative stereotypes go unchallenged.

If we don't take action our silence in face of those speech-hate cases will permit others to internalize those messages as “normal”.

The figures above confirm  results of three recent Europe-wide surveys showing Jewish people feel at greater risk, and are experiencing markedly more aggression, amid a generalized increase in racist hate speech and violence in a significantly coarser, more polarized political environment.

We, as democratic  societies, on the personal  or community level, Jewish or not, need to speak out against the so-called oldest hate.In this environment the need to encourage reporting and investigation of anti-Semitic incidents is imperative To be willing and prompt to opposite antisemitism now  we have to get to know him in practice and to know what it is.

For this comprehension  the Kantor Center from Tel -Aviv University (TAU), Israel created an important interdisciplinary academic framework  that offers a platform with material that allow, at various levels, to delve into this theme in its multiple aspects.

About the Kantor Center The Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry was inaugurated in May 2010 at Tel Aviv University. The Center provides an academic framework for the interdisciplinary research of European Jewry from the end of World War II until the present day.   The Center offers a platform for the diverse needs of researchers, students, governmental and civil service personnel, professionals, activists, and the public at large, both in Israel and abroad, and cooperates with European Jewish communities and their leaders. 

The Center initiates, encourages and coordinates research projects, conferences, seminars and publications in the following areas:

  • Historical sociological processes and their ramifications on issues such as identity, education, demography and communal organization of European Jewry;
  • Mutual contacts between European Jewish communities and their leaders vis-Ã -vis local societies, and with other minority and religious groups, in the political and cultural context;
  • Preserving national memory, Jewish identity and the Jewish communal legacy, and analyzing their implications for the present.
  • Worldwide legislation and enforcement in the promotion of minority rights, non-discrimination, and against racism, hate crimes, hate speech, antisemitism, 
  • and Holocaust denial

I will end by saying that complacency nourishes prejudice,and continuing hatred, in the end, leads to death. We have an obligation,to us and the  futur generations, to participate on  common European strategy in the fight against anti-Semitism. We need action, daily actions,  not only in protocols and words.Now is an opportunity to do it.