HOW EUROPEAN AGENCIES SUPPRESS KEY ANTI-SEMITISM DATA
Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Amy Elman
“From the year 2000 on, anti-Semitic incidents in many European Union member states increased substantially. They were fired up by the second Palestinian intifada, the anti-Israel incitement at the 2001 Durban world anti-racism conference and 9/11. Admission by official European bodies of this ‘new’ anti-Semitism’s impact, and exposure of the originators was slow and often distorted.
“The European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) was officially established through a European Council Regulation in 1997. Its creation coincided with the 1997 Year against Racism, an outgrowth of the 1994/5 Commission on Racism and Xenophobia (the Kahn Commission). In 2002, the EUMC embarked on a study on anti-Semitism. Its handling of the findings led to an international scandal.”
R. Amy Elman is the Weber Professor in Social Science at Kalamazoo College, Michigan. Her upcoming book The European Union, Anti-Semitism and the Politics of Denial explores the EU’s efforts against anti-Semitism and their consequences.1
“The EUMC requested its National Focal Points (i.e., contacts) throughout the then-15 EU member states to monitor and report on anti-Semitic violence and viewpoints from 15 May until 15 June 2002. It also asked for examples of the best practices implemented by states to prevent and reduce anti-Semitism. After collecting this information, the EUMC employed the ZfA, the Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism (CRA) at the Technical University in Berlin to analyze and summarize the findings.
“The CRA completed its document in October 2003. It found that violent attacks against Jews often rose from virulent anti-Zionism across the political spectrum. Moreover, it specifically identified young Muslims of Arab descent as the main perpetrators of physical attacks against Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues. Many were victims of racism and social exclusion themselves.
“The EUMC did not publish the study and insisted that the one month period covered in the CRA investigation was too short. It also claimed the report was never intended for publication. The CRA researchers commented that their focus on Muslim perpetrators of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist attacks unsettled the EUMC. They stated that this EU Agency had repeatedly asked them to alter their ‘divisive’ findings. After the researchers refused this revisionism, the EUMC shelved their report in November 2003.
“The CRA’s exposure of the EUMC’s suppression of the report led to a scandal which, according to the Centre’s Director, presented the EU Agency with its ‘strongest challenge.’ The CRA also suffered as the EUMC had characterized its research – of which the EUMC itself had established the parameters – as ‘methodologically unsound.’
“In November 2003, a Financial Times article about the CRA report’s suppression by the EUMC led to public outcry. Several European parliamentarians called for the document’s immediate release. In December, the World Jewish Congress published the CRA draft report on the Internet, exposing the EUMC’s manipulation.
“In April 2004, the EUMC released a final, lengthier study. This document reiterated and expounded upon the main points of the CRA report so often that it became difficult to pinpoint all the differences. Nonetheless, the most evident and important distinction was that the EUMC’s final report made few, if any, general statements about the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts.
“That reluctance became especially pronounced when the perpetrators of anti-Semitism were not from the extreme right. For example, the CRA draft report contained an account from Sweden of a public gathering of 100 people in Stockholm to oppose anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice. According to the draft, the gathering was disrupted by between 100–150 demonstrators shouting, ‘Kill the Jews!’ and ‘We’ll blow you up!’ The CRA report stated that many of the most belligerent counter-demonstrators were extreme leftist youth. The final EUMC report deleted this observation.
“By expunging evidence of the extreme left’s role in fomenting anti-Semitism, the EUMC final report could imply that opposition to the far right alone is a sufficient response to anti-Semitism. The CRA suggested this is untrue, because some of the greatest threats to Jews come from the left and involve its deepening alliances with radical Islamists and other extreme anti-Semites throughout the political spectrum.
“Nowadays, the EUMC’s successor, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) also seems reluctant to identify anti-Semitism and classify its perpetrators. In 2013, the FRA disavowed its predecessor’s working definition of anti-Semitism months before releasing its own report on anti-Semitism. Furthermore in a fact sheet summary of the methodology and key findings of the 2013 report (‘Jewish people’s experience of discrimination and hate crime in European Union Member States’) data pertaining to the perceived perpetrators is conspicuously absent.
“The report also offers no differentiation by country on these perpetrators as it does for other data such as those on victims, their concerns, and experiences. In withholding these data, the FRA obstructs information on anti-Semitism’s perpetrator categories that might help mitigate anti-Semitism. This behavior is consistent with its repeated reference to ‘Jewish people’s perceptions and experiences’ of anti-Semitism, and not anti-Semitism as a fact.”
1 University of Nebraska Press, 2015