CEJI calls on European Parliament to pass resolutions needed for comprehensive strategy to fight antisemitism in Europe

CEJI calls on the European Parliament to pass the resolutions needed for a comprehensive robust strategy to fight antisemitism and hatred in Europe, and to require Member States to do the same.

CEJI calls on the European Parliament to pass the resolutions needed for a comprehensive robust strategy to fight antisemitism and hatred in Europe, and to require Member States to do the same. Read the full speech of CEJI Director at the Public Hearing of the LIBE Committee on Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Hate Speech (June 29, 2015 15:00 – 18:30):

Intervention on Anti-Semitism and Strategies to Confront it – Robin Sclafani, Director of CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe

The double-whammy attacks in Paris and Copenhagen earlier this year demonstrated, once again, the nexus which exists between anti-Semitism and terrorism. Jewish communities have been highlighting this reality for years, and the attacks in Toulouse and Brussels were not enough to drive this connection home.

Now it is clear that the security of Europe, with its democratic values and fundamental rights, is totally interwoven with the security of Jewish people. These anti-Semitic attacks have served as the canary in the coal mine. The question about how to best assure the security of our people is essentially what brings us to the point of this hearing, to the point of the Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in October, and to legislative propositions which are currently under development.

We were all appalled by the assaults and slogans which accompanied the protests last summer against Israel concerning its war with Gaza. Many who have acknowledged that these slogans, like “Death to the Jews”, went beyond criticism of Israel are still apt to describe the increase in recorded hate crimes during this period as “because of the war on Gaza.” Most people do not understand fully the significance of Israel in modern-day manifestations of anti-Semitism. For example, the following email reflects the kind of anti-Semitism which we at CEJI must confront on a regular basis:

I was very shocked to learn that the X is collaborating with a Jewish institute for reflection on religious beliefs! I thought it was huge! Why would X undertake such collaborations? If you were American, I would have understood. But the X, collaborate with people of a racist colonial state, as if nothing had happened, it kills me.

In case you wondered, the author of this prejudice is a 60 year old Catholic background Belgian male social worker. In CEJI’s experience, this attitude is extremely widespread. The discomfort with finding oneself in an argument about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict prevents many well-intentioned people from taking a stand, and this can result in discrimination and violence against Jewish individuals and Jewish organisations. There are some excellent grassroots educational programmes which aim to help people “draw the line” between legitimate criticism of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism. We talk of the 3 Ds as indicators: Demonization, Double Standards and De-legitimization. It can be a part of anti-Semitism awareness training, and it can also be a part of democracy, civic or political education.

I raise this point not because of Israel, per se, which is actually beyond CEJI’s European mandate. I raise it because peoples’ prejudices and bigotry can often be masked behind it. Blaming Jews for the evils of the world is in the very nature of anti-Semitism. Jews have been accused for communism and capitalism, the Plague, the attacks on 9/11, the economic crisis, and now also IS. Old myths such as blood libel re-emerge again and again in new forms to justify Jew hatred.

If not well-prepared with tools for addressing modern manifestations of antisemitism, history teachers who cover the Shoah can find themselves in a very difficult position. This can result either in an avoidance of the topic, or an ineffectiveness to help pupils learn the lessons of the past. For example, teachers need to be able to respond to conspiracy theories, or parallels made with Palestinians. It is a grave mistake to limit educational approaches for addressing antisemitism to teaching of the Holocaust, or to consider a visit to Auschwitz enough.

It is true that violence against Jews in Western Europe today is largely perpetrated by people with a Muslim background. We all know that there are influences from abroad, and the implications of global communications are an enormous challenge to be addressed. This is why it is essential that the EU and its member states also deal with radicalisation and islamophobia.

These ideas can only be compounded by the anti-Semitism which exists amongst non-Muslims too: from those who could be classified on the far-right, and those on the far-left, and those who are simply indifferent to expressions of anti-Semitism.

Europe needs to deal with its fertility for the breeding of extremisms, as well as the inclination towards apathy. Europe needs to take a multi-faceted, systemic approach to deal with the different embodiments of the oldest hatred.

Six Spheres of Action

1. In order to fight anti-Semitism, a legal definition is needed, like the one that used to be on the website of the Fundamental Rights Agency, approved by the EUMC in 2005. This will provide a basis upon which hate incidents can be monitored and punished appropriately. 2. There needs to be a common approach to hate speech across the European Union, with a shared legal framework for what constitutes criminal hate speech, and a set of guidelines for dealing with that which is non-criminal but nevertheless very dangerous.

  • Internet industry leaders will act if the law says they have to.
  • Also, keep Parliamentary peers in Brussels and in Member States accountable to regulations on hate speech and don’t shy from penalizing those who cross the line.

3. Hate crime monitoring mechanisms can be improved by building on provisions in the Victims’ Rights directive for disaggregating data, such as collecting information on the bias motivations of perpetrators and thus informing educational policies.

  • Police, prosecutors and judges need more training about their obligations on hate crime, and civil society organisations need more help to support victims and keep governments accountable.
  • Encourage cooperation between law enforcement authorities and Jewish communities, including data sharing agreements and the coordination of security measures.
  • Security for all people should be guaranteed by European governments, and that means for Jewish communities too.
  • Infringement procedures should be taken against those Member States who do not implement the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia.

4. The first 3 recommendations are dealing with anti-Semitism after it has already escalated beyond a stereotype. Europe will only guarantee the safety and quality of life for its Jewish people in the long-term through education.

  • Anti-bias diversity education should be infused throughout the lifelong learning process, but also citizenship and democracy education too.
  • Not only should existing curricula and teacher training be evaluated and improved for the issues explained earlier in my presentation, but new curricula needs to be incorporated to deal with related issues such as discrimination more broadly, bullying or religion and belief diversity.
  • Critical thinking skills, empathy, and responsible behaviors on and off line are all part of citizenship education for diversity which should be treated as a core value in the culture of our education systems.

5. Jewish people need to feel safe to share their cultural traditions, to feel pride as a part of European cultural heritage, to walk on the street with a kippa without fear of aggression.

  • Jewish communities should be welcomed to participate visibly in festivals so that their presence in Europe becomes positively normalized.

6. And finally, all of the above can be done with intercultural and interfaith cooperation.

  • Opportunities to work together abound and should be considered as a natural resource. Unfortunately, community tensions resulting from antisemitism and bigotry can prohibit such cooperation. The EU needs to make it a specific as well as transversal objective in its EU2020 strategy, in the fields of economy, education, culture and security.

The fight against anti-Semitism cannot be made by Jews alone. By definition, Jews are not trusted by anti-Semites, our organisations are part of the conspiracy. We can raise the alarm and we can make allies, educate them and equip them to take a stand. Jewish communities and organisations need your support to contribute to an inclusive and democratic Europe in which all people can reach their fullest potential.

We call on the European Parliament today to be an ally; to pass the resolutions needed to support a comprehensive robust strategy to fight anti-Semitism and hatred in Europe; and to require EU Members States to do the same.

Date published: 
29/06/2015