One of four Europeans believes in anti-Semitic prejudices
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One of four Europeans believes in anti-Semitic prejudices

Euroscepticism and anti-Semitism in the same billboard. Juncker and Soros in Hungarian anti-migration campaign before the European Parliament elections in May

A new survey published last week by Anti-Defamation League (ADL) shows that century-old anti-Semitic prejudices are still common in some EU Member States.

The ADL global survey on anti-Semitism was first conducted in 2014 and involves 100 countries. In the new survey, carried out between April and June 2019, the American NGO focused on 14 European countries and four other countries with significant Jewish populations (Canada, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil).

The respondents in the sample were read 11 statements about Jews and asked whether they think that they are “probably true” or “probably false”. Respondents who said that said at least 6 out of the 11 statements are “probably true” were considered as harbouring anti-Semitic attitudes.

The Index Score for each country represents the percentage of adults in that specific country who answered “probably true” to a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes tested.

On average, the score in Europe was about 24 %, ranging from Poland (48 %), Hungary (42 %), Ukraine (38 %), Russia (31 %), Spain (28 %), Belgium (24%), Austria (20 %), Italy (18 %), France (17 %), Germany 15 (%), United Kingdom (11 %), the Netherlands and Denmark (both 10 %), to only 4 % in Sweden.

Swedish social psychology professor Lars Dencik told The Brussels Times that the low score in Sweden, despite concerns about rising violent anti-Semitism among extremist groups in the country, confirms other surveys and reflects the attitudes of the Swedish population at large.

“But there are small neo-Nazi groups and radicalized Islamic immigrants who expose a violent anti-Semitism,” he adds. “Although they are few and isolated, they are visible in society.”

Dencik underlines that it is important to distinguish between violent anti-Semitic acts and anti-Semitic stereotypes which still are widespread in some EU countries and may lead to hate crimes.

In his government declaration last September, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven condemned anti-Semitism and admitted that “there is hatred against Jews in our history, among extreme right-wing groups, parts of the Left and in Islamic environments”.

“We notice anti-Semitism among adults and children who have fled to Sweden from countries where hatred against Jews characterize education and government propaganda,” he said. The fight against anti-Semitism and the memory of the Holocaust will be discussed at an international conference in Malmö, Sweden, in October next year.

In most European countries, few blame Jews for immigration problems. However, in Hungary, where the government ran anti-immigrant billboard campaigns featuring Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, 25 % of the population believes that “Jews want to weaken our national culture by supporting more immigrants coming to our country.”

Using the 11-question index that has served as a benchmark for previous ADL polling around the world, the survey of more than 9,000 adults in the sample found that anti-Semitic attitudes in Argentina, Brazil, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine have seen marked increases since the last ADL Global 100 survey in 2015.

The most common stereotype, held by 41 % of the respondents, believe that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the countries they live in”. 23 % believe that “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars”, a statement taken from the notorious anti-Semitic forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion. 32 % blame hatred against Jews on “the way Jews behave.”

While anti-Semitic attitudes held mostly steady in Western Europe, the poll found stereotypical notions about Jews are rising in Eastern and Central European countries, where long-held tropes about Jewish control of business and finance and of “dual loyalty” remain widespread. Many people in those countries also believe that Jews “still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust”.

“It is deeply concerning that approximately one in four Europeans harbour the types of anti-Semitic beliefs that have endured since before the Holocaust,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of ADL.

“These findings serve as a powerful wake-up call that much work remains to be done to educate broad swaths of the populations in many of these countries to reject bigotry, in addition to addressing the pressing security needs where violent incidents are rising.”

ADL did not respond at the time of writing this article to a request from The Brussels Times to comment on the methodology and findings of the survey.

“The ADL study shows that there is a link between public discourse and the prejudices the general public may hold against Jews,” says Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission Coordinator on combatting anti-Semitism.

“As we want to ensure a future for Jews in Europe, it is essential that they can live their lives according to their identity,” she adds and refers to the Commission’s own study in 2018 on anti-Semitism by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

The next meeting on 10 – 11 December of the European Commission Working Group on anti-Semitism will bring together Member States representatives and Jewish representatives of respective country to discuss the nexus between understanding Jewish identity and culture, Holocaust remembrance and anti-Semitism today.

“We believe that all three areas need to be combined to ensure a holistic education about Jewish history in Europe.”

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times