EU Vows to Fight Antisemitism ‘In All Its Forms,’ Calling It an Attack on European Values

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Tables and chairs stand in the burned out, Jewish-run Morgen wird Besser bar, in Berlin, August 21, 2020.
Tables and chairs stand in the burned out, Jewish-run Morgen wird Besser bar, in Berlin, August 21, 2020. Credit: Markus Schreiber/AP

The European Union adopted a draft declaration on Wednesday vowing to act for the prevention of antisemitism in “all its forms,” two years after its last resolution on the matter.

“The fight against antisemitism is a cross-cutting issue involving various levels of government and policies at local, national and European level,” Wednesday’s statement said. “Awareness of antisemitism therefore needs to be increased across policies and responsibilities.”

The declaration was initiated by the Council of the European Union, which is composed of government ministers from EU member states, and allows for the coordination of policies.

It called antisemitism “an attack on European values,” and stated that the council was committed to “protecting Jewish life and making it more visible as part of Europe’s identity.”

It continued: “Judaism and Jewish life have contributed considerably to shaping European identity and enriching Europe’s cultural, intellectual and religious heritage.”

The World Jewish Congress, which has long worked with European governments on the issue, said in a statement also released Wednesday that the EU declaration “makes the fight against antisemitism a priority of Europe’s executive branch.”

WJC President Ronald Lauder said: “Europe has a serious and terrifying antisemitism problem, and it’s high time that the European Union, its member states and local authorities direct real resources to it.”

The new declaration, he said, is a “significant step forward in making Europe a better place for Jews.”

Lauder added that “the responsibility now falls on member states to apply the policies and understanding laid out by the European Union in each of their countries.”

A swastika, painted on the wall of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, February 22, 2019.Credit: Peter Dejong / AP

EU countries such as France – which has Europe’s largest Jewish population – and Germany have both seen a spike in antisemitic incidents in recent years.

A new report published last month by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found that antisemitic acts made up more than 20 percent of hate crimes committed in the larger European area (which included all 27 EU member states) last year.

The report said there were 1,704 acts of antisemitism out a total number of 6,964 incidents in 2019, and that Jewish people were over three times more likely to be targeted than Muslims or Christians.

Wednesday’s declaration by the EU council reaffirmed its December 6, 2018, declaration on the fight against antisemitism and development of a common security approach to protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe.

At that time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested that the EU adopt a definition of antisemitism that would have included anti-Zionism as part of antisemitism. Some EU countries, however, were concerned that this definition could prevent criticism of Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories.

In the latest text, the EU council acknowledged expressions of antisemitism in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It stated that it must be combated with complementary public policies, including systematic reporting and recording of incidents, as well as fact-based policy-making. 

It additionally suggested monitoring progress on strategies and education instruments, and a systematic prosecution of crimes motivated by antisemitic sentiments.

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