The past three years have seen a marked increase in the rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world and particularly in Europe. This anti-Semitism has manifested itself in violent attacks and vandalism against synagogues, cemeteries, schools, and other Jewish institutions, properties, and individuals; in anti-Israel rhetoric bordering on anti-Semitism by public figures, the media, and in grassroots demonstrations; and in a widespread tolerance for, or justification of, anti-Semitic sentiments among opinion molders. Dozens of anti-Semitic incidents took place in Germany, France and England in 2003. Many Jewish communities in Europe feel increasingly insecure, and in some countries, Jewish men and boys have been advised to avoid wearing kippot in public in the interest of personal security. Last October, Mahathir Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia, said among other things at the Islamic Summit that, “today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” In Istanbul, Turkey last November, truck bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in front of two synagogues filled with Jews during Sabbath prayers, killing 25 and wounding over 300.
European leadership has been far too slow in reacting to these manifestations, in many cases explaining even violent attacks against Jews as an extension of the Arab-Israeli conflict or as petty crimes, while perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks have not been seriously pursued or prosecuted. A report on anti-Semitism sponsored by a European Union agency was suppressed.
Over the past few months, there have been some positive steps taken in the fight against anti-Semitism in Europe. The Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is preparing for its second conference on anti-Semitism, to be held in Berlin in April, 2004, which will highlight best practices in combating anti-Semitism, and will follow up on the first OSCE conference on anti-Semitism, held in June, 2003, in Vienna. Refreshingly, leaders in a number of European countries have made strong declarations condemning anti-Semitism, and some countries have announced initiatives to counter hatred against Jews in the political, educational, law enforcement, and judicial systems.
The JCPA believes:
- The rise of anti-Semitism globally and particularly in Europe is a significant and serious problem, and one that is deeply troubling given the unique and tragic history of the Jews in that region. This problem has serious implications not only for the Jewish communities of Europe, but also for Israel and the worldwide Jewish community.
- It is important to become familiar and make contacts with key parties within the European political system.
- Recent initiatives to fight anti-Semitism, including the upcoming OSCE conference and specific programs in France, are important and welcome. However, the success of these initiatives will require a sustained and serious commitment to combating anti-Semitism by these governments.
The community relations field should:
- Monitor and expose developments and occurrences of anti-Semitism in Europe, including violence, vandalism, and expressions of anti-Semitic sentiment in the media and government.
- Develop an effective media relations strategy by engaging in a long term, on-going dialogue with newspapers, radio and television stations raising awareness of the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe.
- Encourage the U.S. Administration to continue using its global leadership position to impress upon world leaders the significance of anti-Semitism to the United States.
- Educate local diplomats, media and the community on how incendiary rhetorical assaults on Israel help create a climate in which some individuals believe that their violent attacks against the Jewish community will be tolerated.
- Encourage full investigation of incidents of anti-Semitism and surveys of anti-Semitic sentiment, and encourage accurate reporting of such incidents and surveys.
- Work with non-Jewish and interfaith leadership to increase their understanding of the frequent linkages between anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitism.
- Urge that existing European hate-crime and anti-discrimination laws be enforced to the fullest extent of the law; and urge those countries that do not have such laws to enact and vigorously enforce them.
- Build bridges to Jewish and non-Jewish groups in Europe to dispel misperceptions and improve relations.