Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Anti-Semitism swells in Europe amid Gaza war, says EU watchdog

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A report by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights warns most Jews in Europe fear for their and their family’s safety.

Jews in Europe are facing rising anti-Semitism, partly spurred by conflict in the Middle East, a European Union rights watchdog has said.

Nearly all European Jews surveyed by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) said they had experienced anti-Semitism in the year before the study was carried out between January and June 2023, with such incidents spiking since October 7, when Israel’s current war on Gaza erupted.

“The spillover effect of the conflict in the Middle East is eroding hard-fought-for progress” in combatting anti-Jewish hate, FRA director Sirpa Rautio said. The report was published on Thursday.

“Worrying about their safety and hiding their Jewish identity is still a reality for many Jewish people today.”

‘Do not feel safe’

The FRA report surveyed nearly 8,000 Jews across 13 EU countries – Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

Thirty-seven percent of its respondents said they had been harassed because of their Jewish identity in the year before the survey was conducted in 2023. Four percent reported being physically attacked.

A majority said they actively worry for their and their family’s safety and security.

Protesters hold placards which read "Do not sacrifice French jews" as they gather to condemn the alleged anti-semetic gang rape of a 12 year-old girl, during a rally on Lyon Terreaux square in Lyon, central eastern France, on June 19, 2024. - In the midst of the general election campaign, political reactions are multiplying after the indictment on June 18, 2024, of two 13-year-olds for gang rape, death threats, anti-Semitic insults and violence against a 12-year-old girl in Paris' suburb of Courbevoie. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)
Protesters hold placards which read ‘Do not sacrifice French Jews’, as they gather to condemn the alleged anti-Semitic rape of a 12-year-old girl, during a rally on Lyon Terreaux square in Lyon, France [File: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP]

Fears are especially high during times of heightened tension or conflict in the Middle East, the respondents said.

In France, 74 percent of Jews felt the Middle East conflict affected their sense of security, the highest rate among the countries surveyed.

Across Europe, 76 percent reported hiding their Jewish identity “at least occasionally” and 34 percent avoid Jewish events or sites “because they do not feel safe”.

The most common “negative stereotypes” those questioned encountered accused Jews of “holding power and control over finance, media, politics or economy”.

About 60 percent of those asked said they were not satisfied with their national governments’ efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

‘Dramatic surge’ in attacks

The survey was carried out before the war in Gaza broke out last October, but the FRA supplemented it with more recent reports of anti-Semitism tracked by Jewish groups in 11 EU countries.

All the groups reported an uptick in anti-Jewish hate since October 7, with several reporting a more than 400 percent increase.

“FRA’s consultation with national and European Jewish umbrella organisations in early 2024 shows a dramatic surge” in anti-Semitic attacks, Rautio said. “Jews are more frightened than ever before.”

The fallout from Israel’s war on Gaza has also led to a surge in anti-Muslim hate, rights groups have warned. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) tracked more complaints of anti-Muslim bias in 2023 than in nearly three decades.

“Around us we are witnessing an already tense and worrying situation deteriorate, affecting not just Jewish populations but also Muslim communities,” said Rautio of the FRA.

“In incredibly emotionally charged times like these, our findings are a reminder to spread the message of tolerance, respect and fundamental freedoms for all.”

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