This article by Dr.Gerstenfeld was first published in The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and republished here with the author’s consent.
Will the EU develop a serious Strategy against Antisemitism?
For about 20 years, the European Union (EU) has been largely inactive, incompetent, negligent and sometimes evil in the battle against antisemitism. That includes its attitude toward the incitement in several of its member states. In the meantime, Jew and Israel-hatred in the EU have greatly increased.
The EU Commission now seems to want to tackle the antisemitic incitement issue in the coming year. Its work program for 2021 states: “Given the rise in antisemitic violence and hate crime, the commission will present a comprehensive strategy on combating antisemitism to complement and support member states efforts.”1 The EU also intends to adopt a declaration against antisemitism at its December summit. 2
Europe’s lengthy history of antisemitism – well over a thousand years –had its origins even before the notion of Europe existed. No EU strategy against antisemitism can be efficient without a detailed introduction on the history of its lengthy antisemitism. This first of all has to focus on the Roman Catholic Church, but also has to devote attention to individual figures such as for instance Erasmus, Martin Luther, Voltaire, nineteen century early French socialists and Karl Marx.3
The planned EU document has to explain how vile and rabid Christian antisemitism laid part of the basis for the second major wave of this hatred, national ethnic antisemitism and also its most extreme genocidal expression – Nazism.
Since the Second World War, a third mode of antisemitism gradually developed, anti-Israelism. The EU and a number of its member states have participated in it from time to time. All this has to be detailed and illustrated, otherwise no valid document can be produced.
If the upcoming study does not explicitly admit that antisemitism is integral to European culture, it will fail. An important milestone in the distortion of the EU reality of antisemitism occurred in 2003 when the Center for Research on antisemitism (CRA) at the Technical University in Berlin was asked by the European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) to analyze the data and summarize the findings on antisemitism that the European organization had collected.
American scholar Amy Elman detailed the failure in her 2014 book, The European Union, Antisemitism and the Politics of Denial.4 In an interview she said: “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 antisemitism 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.” 5
Gradually studies started to be published on the extreme antisemitism in various European countries. Yet the EU did very little. One milestone of information was the publication of a study in 2011 by the University of Bielefeld. It was carried out on behalf of the German Social Democratic Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. It found that at least 150 million citizens age 16 years and older in the EU embraced a demonic view of Israel.
The study was undertaken in seven European countries. Researchers polled one thousand people per country over the age of sixteen in the fall of 2008. One of the questions asked was whether they agreed with the assertion that Israel is carrying out a war of extermination against the Palestinians. The lowest percentages of those who agreed were in Italy and the Netherlands, with 38% and 39% respectively. Other percentages were: Hungary 41%, United Kingdom 42%, Germany 48%, and Portugal 49%. In Poland the figure was 63%.6
The European Commission should have been shocked by the findings. They showed that a ‘new Europe’ only very partly exists and that the “old Europe of Jew-hatred and antisemitic incitement” is very much present. The EU should have also looked at the consequences of its own contribution to this image resulting from much one-sided criticism of Israel, and looking largely away from the majority support of the Palestinian electorate for the genocidal Hamas movement, as well from its financial support for the Palestinian Authority –, controlled by the second largest Palestinian movement, Fatah — which rewards terrorists who murder Jews. (If the terrorist is killed, their families receive the monies.) The culture of glorification of death is very prominent in the Palestinian worldview.
Furthermore, the EU donates money to Palestinian NGO’s who incite against Israel. NGO-Monitor has pointed out that several of these are terror linked.7 8 The EU also supports the biased UN Special Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). There is no valid reason for the existence of this agency outside the regular UN refugee assistance system.9
In several EU member countries, antisemitism flourishes without the EU even reacting. Sweden is one such case. Its third largest city Malmö was the capital of antisemitism in Europe for a long time. This was mainly due to parts of the large Muslim population there. It was made possible by inaction and sometimes even participation in antisemitic propaganda by the local social democratic administration led by Mayor Elmar Reepalu. Malmö was gradually overtaken as Europe’s antisemitism capital by the much bigger Berlin.10 Another scandalous and so far unique event in Europe was the closure of the Jewish community in the Swedish town Umea due to harassment by local Nazis.11
Spain is another country where antisemitism is imbued at the highest level. The Podemos party denies Israel’s right of existence.12 Podemos is the junior partner in the Spanish Socialist Worker party (PSOE) dominated government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Any serious plan for a EU Strategy against antisemitism should lead to the resignation or expulsion of the Commission’s High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrell, a Spaniard. He told Politico that “Iran wants to wipe out Israel; nothing new about that. You have to live with it.” This is the worst type of appeasement of antisemitism. A man like that cannot have a place in an EU Commission, which claims to have a strategy against antisemitism.13
The EU appointed its first European Commission Coordinator on combatting Antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, in 2015. She does her utmost in the field. The fact that she is not high in the EU hierarchy and has very little staff are yet other indications of the EU’s negligence in the battle against antisemitism.
In past years, a variety of studies have been published about the spread of antisemitism in a number of EU countries as well as the perceptions about it of Jews living there. The relative importance of perpetrators differs between countries. Overall, Muslim antisemitism is dominant. Yet in Germany right-wing antisemitism is more important. The latter is also increasing overall. Left-wing antisemitism largely expresses itself verbally in extreme hatred of Israel.
It is important that well before the work starts, a detailed outline, which includes the items that must be covered in such a study is presented to the EU commission. The question is who can or who will do this? The Israeli government has many other vested interests in interactions with the EU and is unlikely to do so. This is all the more so due to its own incompetence and neglect in the field.
This leaves the issue wide open for major Jewish organizations. Yet these are usually not very familiar with a strategic overall view of European antisemitism.
As the EU Commission has committed to this study, this is a unique opportunity to confront and pressure it to finally come up with a worthwhile strategic document about the battle against antisemitism, the antisemitic past of the continent and an admission of its own huge failures in the field.
4 Amy Elman , “The European Union, Antisemitism, and the Politics of Denial”, (Lincoln,Ne: University of Nebraska Press, 2015)