European Jewish Congress
The Economist: No room for complacency
EJC in the Media
The Economist: No room for complacency

ALL over Europe, there is concern about an increase in antisemitism, and deliberation over how to respond. Earlier this month the Parisian home of a 78-year-old Jewish community leader was attacked by intruders who shouted: “You are Jews, where is the money?” Along with his wife and son, the man was taken hostage, beaten and robbed, in what the government acknowledged was “an act …directly related to their religion”. Around the same time, the former head of a school in Marseille made waves by saying that when he was in charge he would advise Jews against enrolling, for fear of harassment. 

Meanwhile the Vatican recently co-organised a symposium in Rome on antisemitism and minority rights in the Middle East, at which Tony Blair was the main speaker. The former British prime minister declared:  “There is antisemitism in the East, but also in the West. There are manifestations in European countries, and also in the United Kingdom.”

So how bad are things in Mr Blair’s homeland? On the face of things, Britain is a relatively good place to be Jewish. When antisemitic feelings across Europe are compared, the UK tends to do well. But a new study by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research gives an unusually nuanced picture of opinion in Britain. 

It found that hard-core antisemites, who “express multiple antisemitic attitudes readily and confidently”, amounted to 2.4% of the population, while a further 3% could be described as “softer” antisemites, expressing somewhat fewer negative views. To probe their opinions, respondents were invited to react to propositions like “Jews think they are better than other people” or “The interests of Jews in Britain are different from….the rest” or “Jews have too much power in Britain…” 

The study cautioned that there was a “much larger number of people who believe a small number of negative ideas about Jews but…may not be consciously hostile or prejudiced towards them”. It found that 15% of Britons agreed at least in part to two or more antisemitic propositions, with a further 15% agreeing at least in part to one of them. The researchers’ interpretation was cautious:

“This emphatically does not mean that 30% of the population of Great Britain is antisemitic…Rather the 30% figure captures the current level of the diffusion of antisemitic ideas in British society, and offers an indication of the likelihood of British Jews encountering such idea.”

The report also tackled the sensitive question of how far hostility towards Jews is linked with negative feelings towards Israel. It found the two mind-sets to be correlated, but not co-extensive. Thus 86% of those British people who hold no anti-Israel attitudes hold no antisemitic views either; but among those who hold a large number of anti-Israel attitudes, only 26% are completely free of antisemitic feelings.

Still, there clearly are people who are strongly critical of Israel, but not anti-Jewish, and a somewhat smaller contingent who harbour antisemitic sentiments but have no particular gripe with the Jewish state. As the report puts it, “antisemitism and anti-Israel attitudes exist both separately and together.”

Meanwhile Germany this week joined Britain, Austria and Romania in adopting a working definition of antisemitism drafted last year by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a Berlin-based body. It says:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. 

The definition is controversial. It has been criticised by some British Jews on the political left who argued that it could muzzle legitimate criticism of Israel, and by a leading British barrister who concluded after studying the text, and the accompanying guidelines, that it was both too narrow (it might fail to capture some anti-Jewish conduct) and too broad, in the sense that free speech over the Middle East, for example in universities, might be curtailed.

In its recommendation on how to apply the definition, the IHRA tries to give an idea of how far, in its view, disapproval of Israel can reasonably go. It says that “manifestations [of antisemitism] might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

The European Jewish Congress, which styles itself as the “sole political organisational representative of European Jewry”, hailed the German move as “vitally important”. It would help to change a state of affairs where “astonishingly, antisemitism used to be defined by the perpetrator not the victim”.

Click here to read the full article in The Economist

Monday, September 25, 2017
More News
Al Monitor: Will the Jewish archive return to Iraq?
The US State Department announced on September 10 that the United States would return the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq next year. The archive had been shipped to the United States in 2003, after American troops saved it from destruction by water leaking into the cellars of the Iraqi General Intelligence Service building in Baghdad. The archive includes tens of thousands of institutional documents, books, religious manuscripts, photographs and personal documents of Iraqi Jews.
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Life in Israel
  • First fully disabled-accessible synagogue opened in Jerusalem
    Construction of the first fully disabled-accessible synagogue in Jerusalem is about to be finished, giving disabled worshipers easy access to the compound, with comfortable seating arrangements for wheelchair-bound visitors, Braille bibles and more.

    On Wednesday, October 11, 2017 First fully disabled-accessible synagogue opened in Jerusalem
  • Survey: 60 percent of Arab Israelis have a positive view of the state
    A poll of Israeli Arabs has found that sixty percent surveyed said they had a favourable view of the state, while 37% said their view was unfavourable.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 Survey: 60 percent of Arab Israelis have a positive view of the state
  • Israel's trade with Russia leaps by 25 percent
    Trade between Israel and Russia has grown this year by 25 percent, officials from both countries revealed, amid complications with other Russian trading partners.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 Israel's trade with Russia leaps by 25 percent
  • Israel aims to double the number of people working in hi-tech
    The Israel Innovation Authority aims to double the number of high-tech workers in the country over the next decade, while encouraging companies in older industry to use more technology and become more innovative, the authority said in its annual report released on Sunday.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 Israel aims to double the number of people working in hi-tech
  • 20,000 Gazan lulavs arrive in Israel
    A shipment of 20,000 date palm fronds were transported on Monday from the Gaza Strip to Israel where they were to be sold for use in a traditional Jewish religious ritual during the coming Sukkot holiday, the Defence Ministry said.

    On Wednesday, October 04, 2017 20,000 Gazan lulavs arrive in Israel
  • Israeli intelligence helped to thwart dozens of terror attacks around the world
    The Israeli intelligence community has shared information with other countries over the past two years that has helped thwart dozens of terror attacks about to be perpetrated by Islamists who were in contact with members of Islamic State and Middle Eastern factions identified with Al-Qaida.

    On Thursday, September 28, 2017 Israeli intelligence helped to thwart dozens of terror attacks around the world
  • IDF declares war on smoking
    IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has approved new measures to combat smoking in the military after new data revealed smoking during army service rose by 40 percent.

    On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 IDF declares war on smoking
  • Thousands take part in race commemorating fallen Druze police officers
    Thousands of participants took part on Friday in a race to commemorate the 421 Druze fighters who fell in all of Israel's battles and terror attacks.

    On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Thousands take part in race commemorating fallen Druze police officers
  • Tamar and Mohammed top Israel's baby name list
    The most popular baby names in Israel over the past year were Tamar for girls and Mohammad for boys, the two favourites remaining at the top of their lists for the third consecutive year, according to figures released on Sunday by the Interior Ministry.

    On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 Tamar and Mohammed top Israel's baby name list
  • Syrians express gratitude for Israeli field hospitals
    Dozens of Syrian civilians have written letters of gratitude to Israel and the IDF for establishing field hospitals on its northern border which provided, and continue to provide, medical care to numerous victims wounded in the country's ongoing violent civil war.

    On Thursday, September 14, 2017 Syrians express gratitude for Israeli field hospitals
President's Page Security and Crisis Centre by EJC European Parliament Working Group On Antisemitism