CEJI's intervention at Roundtable on Antisemitism and Anti-Muslim Hatred at the European Parliament

Robin (CEJI) and Mike (The CST) at ARDI event in EP

February 16, 2016, Brussels. Intervention by Robin Sclafani, CEJI Director on the occasion of the Roundtable on Antisemitism and Anti-Muslim Hatred organized by the Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup and the Working Group on Antisemitism at the European Parliament.

The Framework Decision of 2008 was gold standard for the time. But hatred in 2016 looks different: it has intensified, escalating to extreme forms of violence. It is time to strengthen existing provisions and adopt a new gold standard. I draw your attention to the study commissioned by the LIBE Committee last year on the European legal framework on hate speech which made important recommendations about the transposition of the Framework Decision and development of a comprehensive policy for fighting hate speech and hate crime.

We at CEJI are doing our part to support better monitoring through the European project called Facing Facts. There needs to be more cooperation between law enforcement and civil society so that victims feel more confident to report and so their needs and rights are respected.

In order to effectively confront the challenge of hatred, we must take a systemic approach, involving all the stakeholders.

In this vein, while we welcome the many ways in which the EU has put its money where its mouth is - to integrate the large influx of refugees from a part of the world where antisemitism, homophobia and sexual violence are the norm, to strengthen cooperation with Internet leaders in responding to hate speech online, and to promote educational initiatives which can prevent radicalization, I would like to highlight one issue which needs more attention: anti-bias training for adults.

There is an anti-discrimination contradiction in the targeting of Europe’s youth and newcomers as the “problem” when it comes to democratic pluralism – because they too are victims in a system which has not yet managed to create an effectively inclusive society.

Over the last year alone, CEJI has trained 500 teachers and social workers from integration centers in Belgium, and from our experience and those of the hundreds of other trainers we have trained across Europe, the anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim prejudices of European adults are a barrier to the achievement of the objectives set out in current EU programmes. New curricular tools are insufficient if teachers have not unpacked their own prejudices.

For example, social workers tend to come from an anti-racist orientation, and they generally recognize the need to confront their personal biases concerning Muslims and Islam. Yet in our training on Overcoming Antisemitism and Overcoming Islamophobia, they discover that they also have prejudices against Jews, and even sometimes a great hostility which manifests itself behind the false justification of anti-Zionism. If they are not made aware of such biases, then there is a risk that they reinforce the anti-Semitic ideas of the populations they serve. So we help them to deconstruct antisemitism from legitimate criticism of Israel, to understand where the line is drawn, and for this we have found the EUMC definition on antisemitism very helpful.

The lack of political consistency across Europe on where this line is drawn adds fuel to the fire of antisemitism. We ask you not to shy away from the very tough issues, because, it can be that by actually tackling them, they can be transformed into opportunities for strengthening the Unity of Europe.

Date published: 
03/03/2016