Anti-Semitism on the Right

A report by a European Union agency indicates that old prejudices are being revived again by new groups

Antisemitism in Budapest | Photo: Yigal Chamish

Antisemitism in Budapest

Antisemitism in Budapest | Photo: Yigal Chamish

Anti-Semitism appears to be gaining ground again in Europe threatening to undermine fundamental European values, according to a recent report by a European Union agency.

Based on data collected between 2001 and 2008, the report, published in February by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (EUFRA) in Vienna, noted “new characteristics,” that combine traditional stereotypes with new types of perpetrators and manners of dissemination.

Causes include the depth of the current global financial crisis, as well as continuing violence in the Middle East, which have resulted in what the writers described as “a perpetuation of discrimination and hate-based violence.”

“History is not forgotten,” said Waltraud Heller, a spokeswoman at the EUFRA. Working toward eliminating anti-Semitism and discrimination will, however, be the true indicators of new European values, the report concluded.

While European governments no longer impose anti-Semitic policies, and have not done so since World War II, “in recent times, anti-Semitism, traditionally associated with the extreme right, has again become more widespread,” Heller said.

Some of the crimes are the work of far-right individuals and extremist groups while the dynamic of the Internet also plays an important role, propagating ideologies and stirring up feelings of resentment.

“Today it is extremist organizations or individuals” who are the perpetrators of these acts, Heller said. They can vary from the “extreme-right skinhead” to the “disaffected young Muslim,” to the “person of North African origin,” or other member of an immigrant population or member of the “anti-globalization” left, the report added.

Along with these developments, the report noted a general increase in anti-Semitic attitudes across Europe in general. Between the 2004 and 2008, for example, there was an overall rise in “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable opinions of Jews in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Poland. In the case of Spain, there was a 25% increase in respondents who had this opinion, totaling nearly half (46%) of the respondents there, reflecting weakening support for Israeli foreign policy and sympathy for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.

Manifestations of anti-Semitism in politics, in the media, and in everyday life have changed in recent years, especially since the beginning of the second Palestinian uprising al-Aqsa Intifada, and a period of intensified Palestinian-Israeli violence, which began in late September 2000.

“The Agency has observed signs that the recent incursion into Gaza may yet again impact upon Jewish communities in the European Union,” the report said.

In addition, the rise in expressions of anti-Zionism as a way to get past the anti-Semitism taboo have become increasingly common among the extreme and populist far right in Europe, the report says.

“Fortunately, European societies are fundamentally different today [from 70 years ago],” Heller continued. “We are embedded in an EU that is also a guarantor of peace and stability.”

These later results, completed between 2004 and 2008, are not encouraging. However due to varying data collection methods direct comparisons between individual member-states are difficult. EUFRA is working with other EU agencies to integrate the processes throughout the EU to provide comparable data.

The organizations are also working to combat discrimination by raising awareness. A statement issued Mar. 21 condemning these acts – signed jointly by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance as well as EUFRA – set an International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and issued a call for political leaders to raise awareness about racism and xenophobia. It also warned against the peril of excluding parts of civil society in an era of financial crisis.

These groups advise governments on how to address civil problems, and help build networks of national and European social service agencies, and raise awareness through educational programs that address anti-Semitism and discrimination.

“Anti-Semitism is an old and deeply rooted phenomenon in Europe. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism did not wither away with the defeat of Nazism, and regrettably it still haunts Europe today,” Heller said.

Because after all, “it is said that silence nourishes oppression,” she said.

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